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25 February, 2017

Indie Game Hellion Looks Dope

Indie developer Zero Gravity has released the space survival game Hellion on PC through Steam, and it looks amazing.

Hopefully you just watched watch the trailer above and have a good idea of the quality indie studio Zero Gravity is aiming for with Hellion. Far beyond what we would usually expect from an indie! In fact, it matches many AAA launch trailers we've seen. The game is out today on Steam, offering a space-set, first-person multiplayer survival experience. Kind of like Left 4 Dead meets Dead Space, perhaps. One of the interesting aspects of the game's design is the laws of the real world it obeys. Zero Gravity established that, "in the Hellion solar system, all in-game objects from planets and moons to ships and stations abide by Newtonian physics and full orbital mechanics." 

What that means for actual gameplay we'll have to find out.

Here is an overview of the premise for Hellion:

A solar system thousands of light-years from Earth, Hellion is the destination of the first interstellar colonization mission of the 23rd century. A million colonists, suspended in cryogenic hibernation, wake up a century later and find themselves trapped in a nightmare. Instead of grand habitats and planets waiting to receive new settlers, there is only evidence of devastation and conflict everywhere with ruins, debris fields and empty stations. With no trace of UN officials, corporate representatives, engineers, scientists or law enforcement troops, and a rescue operation over half a century away, colonists turn to scavenging, stealing and outright violence. Others try to live in a more civilized way and begin uncovering the truth behind the largest disaster in human history.

This is the first game from Zero Gravity, and the developer has aimed very high indeed. Hopefully we will get a review up shortly so we can see whether the game can live up the quality of the trailer. In other space game news, did you here Mass Effect Andromeda is still looking at the Nintendo Switch?

06 February, 2017

Rodeo Stampede Passes 50 Million Mark

The addictive and free iOS and Android mobile game Rodeo Stampede has just passed a major milestone.

Featherweight Games may want to go up a weight division. The little Australian two man indie team, alongside partner in crime and veteran local developer Dan Graf, have a heavyweight hit on their hands. While massive sales numbers are nothing particular new with free mobile games, passing the 50 million mark is still a huge win for such a small little team and one worth celebrating.

Yes it's true; you can make a little game in your home in Australia and go global.

In Rodeo Stampede – Sky Zoo Safari (which is the full name) your goal is to populate a zoo with wild animals, in order to attract more visitors and earn more money. This in turn can be used to upgrade your enclosures. However, capturing these wild animals involves riding your way through nature, leaping from one animal’s back to another in an attempt to tame them. All while trying to avoid obstacles and not fall off. Viewed from an isometric view and with a range of environments and animals to discover, it’s far from the world’s hardest game. However, by combining this addictive, arcade action with a Zoo Tycoon-like management layer has obviously proved to be a big winner for gamers.

In an interview on the GameHugs podcast, developer Dan Graf – who previously worked with other Australian global success stories Fruit Ninja and Jetpack Joyride developer Halfbrick – confirmed that the game has passed the milestone. It is also confirmed on his Linkedin profile. He didn’t confirm how many of those downloads were on iOS and how many were on Android, but he did suggest the game is seeing around 10 million downloads a month.

The game is seeing continuing free updates, too, with the most recent in January adding a new Tundra Zone, 50 more animals and Chinese New Year themed map, animals and hats. The team is also working on an update for Valentine's Day. If you want to see what Rodeo Stampede is all about, you can download it on iOS here.

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.

Get Every Episode:

- Episode 1 - Includes The Making of République (*free sample issue*)
- Episode 2 - Includes The Making of Oceanhorn
- Episode 3 - Includes The Making of Monument Valley
- Episode 4 - Includes The Making of Last Inua
- Episode 5 - Includes The Making of World of Tanks Blitz
- Grab It Episodes 2-5 Bundle
- Episode 6 - Includes The Making of Magic the Gathering
- Episode 7 - Includes The Making of Tiny Troopers Alliance and Midnight Star
- Episode 8 - The PAX AUS edition
- Grab It Presents Nihilumbra - Classics Collection
- Grab It Presents Ultimate Indie Game Reviews Vol 1.

04 January, 2017

Siegecraft Commander for PSVR Confirmed and Delayed, but PS4, PC, XBO Versions Still Coming Jan 17

Exciting upcoming indie strategy game Siegecraft Commander by Blowfish Studios hitting PS4 without PSVR support, for now.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that strategy titles aren’t such a great fit for the visceral experience of virtual reality, but our hands-on session with Siegecraft Commander at PAX AUS proved otherwise. The premise of the game is to take down your opponent’s caste while defending your own. And the way you expand your empire unfolds by hurling new towers out from existing towers into the environment. Doing this automatically forms a wall, adding to your defence. However, strategic placement of towers and the choice of tower – as they each hold different attack and defence units/moves – are key.

As a result the game straddles the divide between more traditional strategy games and tower defence, and has been well received by critics during its run on mobiles.

The game works in both traditional form – controller or mouse and keyboard – and via virtual reality, with the game set to release on January 17 for Xbox One, PC, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PS4. The latter was hoped to have PSVR support, but it was only confirmed with us this morning. Unfortunately we’ve been informed by developer Blowfish Studios that it won't be available for launch. PSVR support will be patched in post-release, but a representative for the company was unable to confirm a release window at this stage.

While no doubt disappointing for those with a PSVR setup, what we’ve experienced so far suggest the gameplay will hold up in the interim with the Dualshock. And obviously owners of other formats have nothing to worry about. Reviews should land in a couple of weeks, and you can read up on how the experience plays in VR with our hands-on preview.

Those who simply cannot wait to try it out, can dive into the original iOS game, Siegecraft, or can opt for its first iOS sequel, Siegecraft Defender.

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.

Get Every Episode:

- Episode 1 - Includes The Making of République (*free sample issue*)
- Episode 2 - Includes The Making of Oceanhorn
- Episode 3 - Includes The Making of Monument Valley
- Episode 4 - Includes The Making of Last Inua
- Episode 5 - Includes The Making of World of Tanks Blitz
- Grab It Episodes 2-5 Bundle
- Episode 6 - Includes The Making of Magic the Gathering
- Episode 7 - Includes The Making of Tiny Troopers Alliance and Midnight Star
- Episode 8 - The PAX AUS edition
- Grab It Presents Nihilumbra - Classics Collection
- Grab It Presents Ultimate Indie Game Reviews Vol 1.

22 December, 2016

République Targeting Nintendo Switch

Indie developer Camouflaj is keen to bring its episodic, dystopian stealth adventure to the Nintendo Switch.

One of our favourite ever indie games is République. Broken into five episodes, the first of which released on iOS devices in late 2013, it’s heavily inspired by the likes of BioShock and Metal Gear Solid. In fact, the developer’s founder, Ryan Payton, worked on the MGS series for some ten years – as well as Halo – and that blockbuster mentality transitions to the game. It was one of the first indies we can remember that tried to really push into that polished, full gaming experience that has now become standard.

The game stars a young girl called Hope, held against her will in a dystopian, totalitarian society called Metamorphosis. You play as yourself, an individual who has hacked into this society and managed to get in touch with Hope. She pleads for you to help her escape, and by viewing the world through security cameras you’re able to guide her past threats and around the maze-like facility. Finding clues, upgrading equipment, eavesdropping and slowly unravelling the mystery around this place also feature heavily. The game looks a treat, has innovative touch-centric controls, a deep lore with plenty to discover and just plain fun gameplay.

After its bow on iOS in 2013, République came to Android in 2014, PC and Mac in 2015 and, alongside the fifth and final episode, PS4 in early 2016 in both retail and downloadable forms. In a recent update to its Kickstarter backers, Camouflaj detailed its plans for the series in the future. This is what it had to say:

“Many of you have asked about Camouflaj’s next project and the future of the République franchise. We’re happy to report that our team of thirty-two are hard at work on numerous projects, including bringing République to additional platforms. It’s always been our vision to put the game in front of as many people as possible, which is why we’re continuing to grow the game’s already long list of supported platforms. Long term, we want to bring the game to the Chinese, Korean, Indian and Middle-Eastern markets.”

“We would also like to expand République to new browser-based platforms and, if NOA [Nintendo of America] supports the idea, the upcoming Nintendo Switch. Throughout all of that, we will continue updating the game on existing platforms, addressing bugs, and adding new features. As much as we’d love to make new episodes, though, we do not have any plans to do so.”

So as well as news that the company is working on a title not directly connected to the existing République experience, the reveal of a Switch release is very intriguing. Hopefully, these plans are rubber stamped by Nintendo. The touchscreen will fit naturally with the gameplay mechanics, that’s for certain.

To find out more, you’re in the right place, too. We had the world exclusive making of feature for République in our first issue of Grab It, which is also our free issue. If you want to know everything there is to know about the game’s origins and the company’s founder, you can read it on iPad here.

If you want to start playing it now, you can get going for free on iOS.

21 December, 2016

BrambleLash Announced as Xbox One Console Exclusive

This co-operative, four-player indie game from Byte Sprite Games is coming to Xbox One gamers in 2017.

There were over 70 Australian indie developers at this year’s PAX AUS, and as you can see from the articles running down the face of our blog, we liked a lot of them. One particular game to catch our attention was BrambleLash by Byte Sprite Games. A couch co-op game, it’s all about working together to chase down various grunts and bosses across a number of colourful landscapes… until it isn’t anymore.

The game allows, or even encourages, you to betray your fellow team member when the stakes are high for a shot at victory. The only way to chase down the enemies is to tether with your friends. This causes a line to appear between the two characters and by moving about the screen you can sweep this deadly line across enemy forces. If your partner is in trouble, or to quick leap them across the screen, you can also use the tether to yank them over a large distance. There are other little environment specific moves you can pull off, like wrapping your tether around a pole to increase your area of effect.

Two teams of two can occupy the play space at once, and every time we walked past the booth, a crowd was laughing at the on-screen antics as they cut through the enemy forces. However, the ability to switch team members allows you to betray your friend when you feel the time is right. Stabbing friends in the back is the hallmark of any great couch co-op game and on this, BrambleLash delivers.

BrambleLash is due in Q1 2017 and has been announced exclusively for the Xbox One on console, while also appearing on Steam for PC. We’ll provide more information as it arrives. For those of you who own a PS4, perhaps check out Symphony of the Machine, which is coming exclusively to that console also in early 2017.

20 December, 2016

Stirfire Studios Hints at Freedom Fall 2

Australian developer Stirfire Studios is best known for its vertical platformer Freedom Fall, and the studio isn't done with the world yet.

Stirfire Studios was one of the star attractions in the indie zone at PAX AUS this year, showing off its new VR game Symphony of the Machine. We got a chance to play the game, and also interview managing director Vee Pendergrast on her attitude to accessibility in gaming with VR. As part of that chat we touched on her first game, Freedom Fall. The colourful, humorous vertical platformer was one of our favourites on release. The game was like the anti-Mario. It began with the hero already getting to the top of the princess' tower and ready to rescue her... only to find out she was a bit touched in the head. The goal was therefore to escape from her clutches, getting down the tower as quick as possible. On the perilous journey, notes she wrote on the wall provided plenty of giggles. It's a style of play that has since been utilised by the mega hit Downwell.

Freedom Fall came out way back in 2014, so will there be a sequel? This is how the conversation went:

Freedom Fall was a favourite of ours; how has that game’s reception impacted the studio and what chance of a Freedom Fall 2 in the future?Freedom Fall was not a huge commercial success, but that is really what made the industry and media sit up at take notice of us and it did well critically. As we come from Western Australia, I think a few people were surprised to see a product like that come out at the time. But WA has since had a few more success stories. The quirky dark sense of humour that was a central theme of that game will be returning in future titles and we do want to explore the world of Freedom Fall a lot more. Lisa Rye, Freedom Fall’s creator, has done a lot of world-building in her spare time and there is a lot of material to work from. All of it makes you laugh and feel a bit worried at the same time.

You can play Freedom Fall now on iOS, PC, Xbox One and PS4.

18 December, 2016

Symphony of the Machine Announced for PSVR

Stirfire Studios' Symphony of the Machine was already revealed for the HTC Vive, but we can confirm the title is also heading to PS4 and the PlayStation VR.

Australian developer Stirfire Studios, who is best known for the great vertical platformer Freedom Fall, is working on a great puzzle game for virtual reality formats. In an apocalyptic world, you are given the opportunity to bring life back to the desolate landscape. You stand in a tower built by some ancient civilization, and by manipulating the beam of light that travels through its centre, you can solve puzzles to control the weather. The further you progress, the more items you unlock to help you guide the light into locations around the tower.

I played the game on an HTC Vive, and found it quite enjoyable. There is little hand-holding, which leads to a great sense of reward as you figure out how each item can alter the course of the beam, and the opportunities that opens up. Especially as you conceive of new combinations of items. Using the now standard point and press to transport technique for movement, I was impressed by how accurately you could interact with the world. Picking up items in each hand, and rotating them, feels incredibly natural. And while everything unfolds in a small, contained playing space, the variations I saw in the weather help spice things up.

After playing the game, I got chatting to managing director Vee Pendergrast, and the topic soon turned to her passion for accessibility in gaming. She sees VR as a big opportunity to expand what is possible, so I took the chance to interview her for further insights. During that interview, she confirmed that the game is also coming to PSVR, stating:

"The PSVR is certainly building up to be the most accessible device that meets our requirements from a price perspective. For the PSVR version, we adjusted the game for seated play, which is of course part of the Sony experience, but we were also very conscious about how this affected the movement and positioning available in-game."

A release date is set for Q1 2017, but we will keep you posted on an exact date.

21 September, 2016

Discover Some Great Secrets in the Latest PC and Android Humble Bundle

Hidden object adventure games are the focus of the latest PC and Mobile Humble Bundle.

The latest PC and Android Humble Bundle has landed, with the theme of the bundle being hidden object adventure games from Artifex Mundi. At the time of writing, forking out $5 will net you 8 games from Artifex Mundi’s catalogue with more titles to be announced in the near future. Normally, these games would set you back $119 if purchased separately.

Hidden object adventure games is a genre rarely talked about in mainstream gaming circles. But these games have a surprisingly large following, with developers like Artifex Mundi building their entire catalogue on the genre. And doing so very successfully and competently, might we add. We’ve previously played, reviewed and thoroughly enjoyed games like Nightmares from the Deep: The Cursed Heart and Nightmares from the Deep 2: The Siren’s Call (read our review here).

Admittedly, I’m quite late to the party on this one but I also recently discovered a site called Bundlestars, offering similar bundles and a store front like Humble Bundle. Bundlestars has a number of bundles you may want to check out, including its own hidden object bundle featuring 14 games for just $2.50 from Cryptic. I also nabbed the ‘Nemesis Bundle’, which includes stellar titles like Risen 3, Killer is Dead and Broken Sword 5 for just $4.99. And so the backlog grows ever larger.

Stephen Mitchell

20 September, 2016

Pirate Adventure Duke Grabowski Gets Release Date But There’s One Final Hitch

Pirate adventure Duke Grabowski sets sail on October 6 without the previously promised DRM-free version.

Venture Moon Studios has announced that its Monkey Island-inspired swashbuckling adventure Duke Grabowski will be hitting Steam on October 6. The news will undoubtedly be met with joy from fans, with the successful Kickstarter project initially to have been delivered a year earlier. For more information on this promising pirate adventure, you can read our Preview of Duke Grabowski which also made our recent Top 10 Upcoming Adventure Games.

However, there is one final kick in the pants for some Kickstarter backers. Due to restrictions imposed by publisher Alliance Game Studios, a DRM-free version of the game will no longer be offered. The developer is hoping to set something up later on GOG or Humble Bundle, but are unable to make any promises at this time.

This decision has kicked the proverbial hornets’ nest on the Duke Grabowski Kickstarter page. A number of backers have already demanded refunds, stating that they only backed the project on the premise that they would be receiving a DRM-free version. Fortunately, Venture Moon Studios is extending an olive branch to these backers promising that it will gladly refund any pledges. Nonetheless, this will undoubtedly leave a bitter aftertaste for those backers who have been patiently waiting several years for the game to be delivered. That being said, Venture Moon Studios is doing a better job of managing the fallout from this issue than Comcept has on the mismanaged Mighty Number 9 Kickstarter project.

Duke Grabowski: Mighty Swashbuckler! will hit PC (Steam-only) on October 6.

Stephen Mitchell

16 September, 2016

The Woes Continue for Mighty No 9 Kickstarter Backers

Three months after its release, Kickstarter backers of Mighty Number 9 are still waiting for their pledges to be fulfilled.

It’s not looking pretty for Kickstarter backers of Mighty No 9. After years of smoke and mirror theatrics, miscommunication and multiple delays, Mighty No 9 released in June to relatively insipid reviews across the board. That in itself is a kick in the pants for fans who threw down their hard earned cash, understandably thinking that their investment was a good one with industry stalwart Kenji Inafune at the helm.

But even three months after Mighty No 9’s release, the managerial missteps and shady practices continue. Backers that pledged for 3DS and PS Vita versions remain out in the cold. No word has been forthcoming from Comcept on when the handheld versions will be available, or even the development status of these versions. Some backers are even still waiting on their keys for platforms that have already been released.

It is also painfully clear that many backers who pledged for physical rewards are yet to receive their loot. A brief perusal of the comments on the Mighty No 9 Kickstarter page reveal that backers from every tier from $60 up are still waiting for word on the status of their physical rewards. Some delay might be considered acceptable given the complexity involved in the organisation and distribution of said rewards. But these physical rewards were initially promised to be with backers by April 2015 (yes, a year-and-a-half ago), which should not have been held up by delays to the game itself.

Comcept has shown a surprising stubbornness to not engage with backers on the game’s Kickstarter page. Instead, the company continues to roll out tedious updates about the latest fan concept art competition or behind-the-scene documentary videos. But no mention of the issues that backers actually want answers to. Even though every update from Comcept is met with rabid and disgruntled comments from backers, the silence is deafening.

If you ever wanted the perfect example of how not to run a Kickstarter campaign, look no further than Mighty No 9. Both Inafune and Comcept have lost a lot of credibility with the mismanaging of this campaign. Especially so, when it was discovered that Inafune had turned his attention to other games including Red Ash and Re-Core. For more information on these games, you may wish to read What Does Inafune's Presumptuous and Disingenuous Red Ash Kickstarter Say About Gamers? and ReCore: Can It Survive the Curse of Comcept?

Gamers do not forgive or forget easily.

In the mean time, Mighty No 9 Kickstarter backers remain sitting miserably on the sidelines. With no word on when the 3DS/PS Vita versions will release or when physical rewards will be shipped, there is very little good news. And even when those versions are released, the game that awaits them leaves a lot to be desired.

Stephen Mitchell

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