When there's something strange and something weird...
When there’s something strange in your neighbourhood, there’s only ever been one team to call. Well move on over Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd, there’s a new kid on the block who dismembers the occult with a sharp wit, solves cases with a jar of laxatives and attacks tentacle monsters with a plunger - Detective Francis McQueen.
Have a read of our full review of Brain&Brain's Burly Men at Sea and you'll soon know we were charmed by its many adventures. Played out through interactive storybook form, with beautiful depictions inspired by Scandinavian folklore, players after a different, quieter experience will find what they're looking for within its animated electronic pages.
Brain&Brain recently announced at E3 2017 that the studio would be bringing its adventures to PS4 and Vita, although a release date has not yet been made available. We'll keep you posted as more news comes to hand. The more platforms on which this lovely game can be experienced the better. This writer actually took it through its paces on Apple TV via the Siri Remote not long ago, and found it a nice fit for that platform also.
Blockbuster mobile indie game Monument Valley very nearly went by a different name reveals lead designer Ken Wong in a new book.
It’s one of the most loved and successful indie games of all time. While plenty of other titles have been downloaded more times than Monument Valley, despite its impressive 50,000,000 result. Very few have done so as fully paid premium experiences. When the rest of the market was going free-to-play, developer ustwo Games remained unmoved, adamant Monument Valley’s gameplay experience was worth a price. And the studio was right.
Following the release of an expansion, Forgotten Shores in late 2014, a few sequel was released last week to iOS devices. (Android is coming soon.) Following the release of Monument Valley 2 has come a new book, available on Amazon and iTunes. The Making of Monument Valley: Secrets Behind the Best Indie Games was put together with help from Grab It and our interview with Ken Wong. Wong was the lead designer and artist behind the innovative gameplay.
We thought we would share with you an interesting quote from the book, to whet the appetite of those who may be interested in picking it up. It relates to the name of the game, or more accurately, what that name could have been. It turns out the developer circled a number of disparate titles before falling on Monument Valley. Here is the exact quote:
“The temporary name of the project was Tower of Illusion, which nobody actually liked. We spent many weeks arguing over a suitable name, with examples being Crow Season, The Garden of Geometric Delights, While She Wandered and Upper Escherlon.”
It’s a bit tacky, but I kind of like Upper Escheron. Tower of Illusion is way too Mickey Mouse, and Crow Season just makes no sense at all given the final product. The Garden of Geometric Delights is a very indie title as is While She Wandered. But ultimately you have to feel the team lent the right way in falling with Monument Valley. 50 million sales can’t be wrong!
A new report into the games released between E3 2016 and E3 2017 shows a horror Microsoft statistic.
It’s been a tough 12 months to be an Xbox fan. It’s not like the console has been gathering dust unused in homes across the world. Far from it. But there’s been little in the way of exciting announcements to rally behind. In fact, outside of Halo Wars 2 - which is in truth just a spin-off title in a niche genre - it’s been slim pickings on the blockbuster exclusive front since last December’s Dead Rising 4. Worse, previously announced prospects like Scalebound and Fable Legends have been cancelled.
The one shining light has been the promise of Project Scorpio, the most powerful console ever made, but the problem isn’t hardware. The problem is software. Xbox needs big blockbuster games consumers cannot get elsewhere if it’s going to bring in new players and prevent jaded fans from being tempted by Sony’s promise of consistent, exclusive blockbusters and VR on PS4.
Now a new report has emerged showing exactly how Sony and Microsoft’s 12-months between E3 press conferences has gone. There’s a tonne of information in the report, but a few of the most notable figures include;
1. Only 9% of the 33 games mentioned in the E3 2016 Microsoft press conference were unannounced prior to the show, one of which was Gwent: The Witcher Card Game. (Sony’s press conference consisted of 63% new games).
2. 70% of the games shown in the Microsoft E3 2016 presser were indie titles. (Sony’s conference contained just 6% indie titles)
3. Of all the games mentioned, only 55% have actually come out. (Sony released 67% of its mentioned games)
I really hope that Microsoft is aware of these figures. This is exactly what is leaving some Xbox One fans – and certainly potential new owners - disillusioned with the console. Microsoft needs to lift that 9% up to 60% or 70%. I’m all for the indies, but they shouldn’t be the lion’s share of the showcased titles – especially given many of them aren’t exclusive.
Usually I don’t think gamers would be too fussed on the number of titles that get released within a year of the press conference, but this time around it’s different. With so few exclusive blockbusters released in the last year, Microsoft need to not only announce new titles, but rock solid release dates to go with them.
Hit all these markers, and Microsoft will come out of E3 2017 with its chin high and plenty of positive press. Repeat last year’s performance, however, and Project Scorpio won’t save them.
Where to Next?
If you love your science-fiction, and in particular games and universes like Mass Effect, then you should definitely check out Adam Exits. The brand new novel by lifetime gamer Nicholas Abdilla is pulling in five star reviews and will immerse you in a great new world somewhere between Star Wars and Phillip K. Dick. There's more information here, or you can pick it up on Amazon or iTunes now.
If you’re as excited about the release of Monument Valley 2 as us, then why not learn the story behind the series’ creation.
With Monument Valley and its sequel, game design and hardware danced the merriest dance you’ve ever seen. The beautiful, intuitive touchscreen controls work so seamlessly with the unique MC Escher inspired puzzle-solving that it sucks you in and romances you completely. We fell in love with the first game, and are delighted at the arrival of the second.
Episode 3 of Grab It - the innovative, interactive iPad magazine – was home to the world exclusive Monument Valley making of experience. Designer Ken Wong took readers through the entire journey of its creation, detailing the inspirations, the challenges, and a tonne of behind-the-scenes information. If you’ve fallen in love with Monument Valley too, then you should dive in and check it out. You can grab Episode 3 from the App Store here.
In the three years between the two games, developer usTwo has more than doubled in size from 8 to 20 staff. With this extra manpower, Monument Valley 2 retains the same concept of challenging players to move parts of the landscape to open up pathways for its characters, but deepens it extensively. Puzzles expand to offer elements like portals and sunlight, there is a broader range of art styles between the stages, and there is much more meat to the storytelling. With 14 chapters, it’s also a much longer game, tackling one of the biggest criticisms of the original.
In short, it’s everything you want from a sequel. Taking a brilliant concept, plugging the holes and then taking it all to the next level. You can get Monument Valley 2 now right here. And make sure you check out Episode 3 of Grab It – it’s jam filled with other content, too.
Writer: Chris Stead
If you are wondering who we are, we're primarily a digital magazine for the iPad focused on the coverage of indie video games. Run by the former editor of Game Informer, you'll find worldwide exclusives, but also an interactive media experience unlike any you have seen before. If you have an iPad, you should check out the free sample issue at the very least, or enjoy one of our other episodes as listed below.
More details have emerged about the exciting indie sequel Oceanhorn 2: Knights of the Lost Realm for iOS and consoles.
Oceanhorn was a gem. Releasing on the iOS platform way back in 2013, it showed just how console-like mobile gaming could be when pushed to the limit by talented studios. It was, effectively, Legend of Zelda for mobile phones. We featured the game as our cover star for Episode 2 of Grab It Magazine, with a world exclusive making of feature, and in-depth interview and a review. It’s a great way to play catch up if you missed out on the original, and there is a tonne of other content in there to discover.
Hot on the heels of some negative press, Rime developer Grey Box offers an explanation and a freebie.
We’ve been following Rime quite closely here at Grab It. For the most part, that’s because it looks amazing. Stuck somewhere between Journey, The Witness and Legend of Zelda, it’s focused on exploration, environmental puzzle-solving and the mystery of how a young boy got marooned on an island full of ancient ruins. It’s one of those indie games that really turns heads.
Unfortunately, it started turning heads for the wrong reason when the pricing for the Switch version of the game arrived. At $79.95 here in Australia, it was $20 more than the Xbox One and PS4 versions of the same game. Nintendo fans were quick to take up arms – by which we mean sound-off in forums - and Grey Box was paying attention. The developer just sent us the following peace offering:
Are Sony and Microsoft handing Nintendo a competitive edge by not meeting the needs of parent gamers with smaller controller options?
I have a son. I have two actually and a daughter: truly a lucky man! My first born is now five and of an age where we’ve started to enjoy playing games together. As in I play, and he watches. For the most part. With the Wii U and now the Switch, there are experiences like Yoshi’s Woolly World and even Super Mario 3D World he is capable of playing himself. But on Xbox One or PS4, there’s nothing for him. It’s not the range of games that is the problem or their complexity – it’s the controllers.
Releasing in May on PS4, PC and Xbox One, the Nintendo Switch version of upcoming indie adventure Rime has been pushed back to later in 2017.
The upcoming indie adventure game Rime by Tequila Works is a title we have been keeping a close eye on. It has been in and out of developmental hell like a yo-yo over the last four years, but is finally nearing a release. On May 26, the game will land worldwide on PS4, Xbox One and PC. The Nintendo Switch edition was always set to be released later, but all reports had it still hitting a June release window. Until now.
We can confirm that Rime has been officially placed in a Q3 2017 release window, which spans anywhere from July to September. Rime’s Australian distributor, Five Star Games, sent us an email today with its upcoming release schedule, showing the new release window for the game. It also confirmed the previously reported $20 price hike on the Xbox One and PS4 versions.
More details have emerged about the game that almost was when the director of God of War joined forces with Mad Max creator George Miller.
Indie developer Dan Graf is currently achieving great things with his mobile title Rodeo Stampede - which has now passed 50 million downloads - but his career stretches back over a decade. It includes time spent not only making games, but also teaching and making films. During a recent episode of the GameHugs podcast, Graf spoke in-depth about his origins as a game developer and some of the incredible places it has taken him. One of those places included Dr. D Studios, the company founded by Mad Max creator George Miller.
Graf was introduced to Miller by a fellow staff member while working at the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS) in 2008. Following the blockbuster success of his film Happy Feet, Miller had just founded Dr. D Studios, a digital animation house. During the podcast, Graf detailed how he came to work for Miller, and their initial meetings prototyping a Mad Max game. Here is what he had to say:
How did you meet George Miller?
I was very lucky to get an introduction through one of the staff members at AFTRS. George wanted to meet me partially because of my background making games, but more because I was sitting in this space between games and film. And what I did for George was I showed him Shadow of the Colossus (PS2 – Team Ico). I said, “I didn’t make this, it was made by someone way cooler than me, but I hope you can see the potential here for the way film and games can converge.”
[I showed it to him] because it is pure cinema, but it is interactive. It’s David and Goliath; it’s Godzilla; it’s King Kong - yet it is interactive. It has all the nuance in camera direction, score and emotional impact. So I said to him, “this is the future of games, you should do this with Mad Max.” And George said, “stay awhile, let’s have lunch.” Which then turned into dinner and at the end of it all he shook my hand and asked, “when do you finish film school?” To which I answered, “whenever you want George!”
So that was a wonderful opportunity as he offered me a job. But I forgot about games after I immediately started as I was so sure he was going to make a Mad Max game. And he invited me to some meetings where I met Cory Barlog, the God of War director, and I thought, “this is really going to happen, they are going to make this game and it’s going to be massive.” But none of that eventuated while I was there. None of it eventuated in Australia. It all happened overseas and it happened a long time after I left [in 2011].
So this was Dr. D Studios right, part of KMM?
KMM [an Australian film production company] existed when I joined the company and was about 30 people. Dr. D was formed shortly afterwards, and I was shifted across to that like most other people. Then Dr. D grew from 30 people to 600 people, and that was an interesting shift to be part of.
It was always difficult for me to establish the difference between KMM and Dr. D; was Dr. D a game studio?
Dr. D was exclusively a film production company part owned by George Miller, part owned by a tech company called Omnilab. It was set up with a lot of ex-Animal Logic people, and I think a lot of the baggage and negative head space of people who wanted to leave behind something they didn’t like came to Dr. D and it festered. Founding a company on peoples’ disenchantment and displeasure in a different company is not going to create a good foundation.
Where to Next?
Looking for a great read? Author Nicholas Abdilla has just released his new sci-fi novel Adam Exitus through Amazon and iTunes today, and it’s one for sci-fi fans. The first entry in what will be a 10-part series, it’s based on the author’s own original comic strip, and it’s reminiscent of the work of Philip K. Dick and Timothy Zahn. Filled with imaginative alien technology, strange creatures from far-off galaxies and one of the greatest vessels in sci-fi history, Adam Exitus is worth checking out.