PAWS – Prime Alien Watch Squad

P.A.W.S. (Prime Alien Watch Squad) is a casual strategy battle game for iOS, Android and PC, designed to be simple to learn and fun to play, with procedurally generated battlefields and cute hand-animated sprites and gorgeous backgrounds.. who said strategy couldn’t be cute?

The Kickstarter campaign is seeking a $30,000 funding goal to allow this game to be completed.. it has been in development for 18 months already, with an alpha available for Windows players.

PAWS

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Darkout Beta Preview

Darkout is a sandbox survival game where players explore, gather resources, research and build, while defending themselves against the aliens who come in the night.

Darkout - Jungle Explorer

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Indie Gala 2 – Quick Overview

I grabbed my bundle of shiny new indie games from the Indie Gala 2 yesterday, adding Greed Corp, Roboblitz, Critical Mass, Fortix 2 and Bunch of Heroes to my Steam library, and to my ever-expanding backlog!  So on to trying them out, in no particular order..

Fortix 2 is a reverse turret defense game by Nemesys Games, an indie developer from Hungary.  The aim of the game is to capture the castle by capturing the land bit by bit, while avoiding the dragons, cannons, and other monsters..

I tried out the Fortix 2 demo a while ago, and found the gameplay rather easy.. maybe too easy.  At the time I resisted buying the game in part due to that, but also because of the backlog.. so I was rather glad to see it in the bundle and have a bit more of an excuse to get it 😉

I’m happy to note that the full game includes more difficult enemies, including Blood Bats which travel along the base line, meaning nowhere is safe!  Maps start to contain hazards such as bat caves, which when captured release more bats to plague you.. the added challenge was certainly appreciated!

One small niggle, though.. the game takes your name from your Steam profile, with no option for renaming.  Ordinarily I wouldn’t care, but with a character limit in place, it trimmed my name to “Sir CoffeeScam”!

Vanguard GamesGreed Corp is a turn based strategy, where you need to find the balance between harvesting the land for resources and preserving it. Each hexagon of terrain has a number of layers which collapse as you harvest the land.. these can also be strategically destroyed to throw enemy units and buildings into the abyss!

Combat between walkers is simple.. the larger force on each hexagon wins.. but when it comes to the buildings, you need to look at the layout of the map before doing anything!  Harvesters can be built on any land you own, then on each turn they generate resources out of the terrain they are on, as well as those around them.  However, this erodes a layer as well..

You can use these to sabotage your enemy by destroying the land under them; when a hexagon falls, any buildings or units on it fall too!

I only took a quick look at this game, playing through the tutorial to see how it all works.. I’ll be coming back to this one later, and maybe trying out the multiplayer: you can take on up to three other players across a range of maps 🙂

Bunch of Heroes was next: a four-player co-op shooter by NGD Studios.  Aliens are invading Earth, and summoning a Zombie army to assist them.. and the Bunch of Heroes are our last line of defense! 🙂

There are four playable characters in the Bunch, each with a different special attack:  El Comandante, the Cuban Commander, throws exploding cigars, while Jared Joe, the Quarterback, can make a touchdown for his special move.  Captain Smith, the Duke, can call in a bombing run to assist him, and Agent Liu, the spy, can set enemies on fire!  To use the special attack, you need to kill enemies and pick up the energy they drop.

There are three modes: Campaign, Survival and Timed Mode, with a few different scenarios.  Campaign mode consists of simple missions such as clearing enemies from an area, defending a point for a short time, and rescuing cheerleaders.  I found the cheerleader rescue rather funny, as you have to sling her over your shoulder and carry her..

Aside from screaming when you pick her up or put her down, the cheerleader dances at intermittent points while not being carried.  At one point I died while carrying her, and found it rather funny when she almost instantly started dancing at my corpse’s feet! 😀

The game is designed for four players, and as there are no AI bots, playing by yourself means being somewhat swamped.  After trying the first Campaign, I tried out Survival.. my first attempt was rather brief.. 😉

Roboblitz, by Naked Sky Entertainment, is a puzzle platform shooter featuring a little robot technician who lives aboard a Space Cannon Facility.  The Facility comes under attack from pirate robots led by the MegaNOAD, and Blitz has to get all systems up and running in order to fire the Space Cannon while fending off attacks from the various invading pirate robots.

You start off with only your grabby arms and a spin attack, which is fine for dealing with the Pirate Scouts, but ineffective on larger enemies.  Blitz can also gather collectible Upgradium, which can be used to purchase new weapons: the first of these is the EMP gun, which stuns enemies for a short time, but other weapons are able to destroy them.

I liked the variety of puzzles, spread across different areas which you can access at will, but I found the controls and movement occasionally quite poor.

Blitz’s item handling wasn’t as accurate as I’d have liked, and in getting close enough to pick some items up, I found myself bumping them away instead.  More frustrating was the jumping: in particular, I found jumping into one certain pipe in the Coolant Tower was more miss than hit, with a miss causing Blitz to get stuck on the edge, holding on by the arms.  After a few misses in the fan room, and having to go back to try again, this annoyed me enough that I decided to move on to the final game in the bundle..

Critical Mass, a 3d action puzzler by Manic Games Studios!  There are four modes: Classic, Survival, Meditation and Rush, but the core gameplay is the same in each.. destroy the mass by creating colour combos of four or more blocks.  Simple to understand, but difficult to master! 🙂

I tried Classic first, and quickly realised that this has the makings of an addictive game.. winning a level means proceeding to the next, slightly more difficult level, while defeat means retrying the level.  In this mode, the camera zooms in during play until the whole structure shakes and destroys itself.. producing a combo pushes the camera back and gives you just a little more time, while Survival ‘rewards’ a combo by throwing more blocks into the fray.  Rush mode times your efforts, with the object to clear the mass as quickly as possible, and Meditation is the calm, thoughtful mode where you can aim for the biggest combos on the board, without distraction.

The bundle came with music as well, and I have to note I don’t really listen to game music outside of the games themselves.  However, games without music wouldn’t be the same, so it’s good to see some support for indie music too 🙂

XCOM: Enemy Unknown

XCOM: Enemy Unknown is a reimagining of the original turn-based strategy originally released in 1993 under the title UFO: Enemy Unknown, by Culture Brain and MicroProse.

In the original game, the player manages X-COM, a secret organisation set up to deal with the threat of extraterrestrial invasion.  Through the game, you meet and fight different aliens, learning more about them and their technology, before preparing an assault on the alien’s base.  This was followed by a number of sequels and compilation releases, but the original was the most popular and successful, winning IGN’s #1 PC Game of All Time in 2003, 2005 and 2007, as well as high positions in the Best Computer Game of All Time by PC Gamer across several years.  The game and X-COM series have a large fanbase, including some of the Firaxis team.. so the new game will have a lot to live up to!

XCOM: Enemy Unknown is a strategy game, and as the commander of X-COM, you are faced with handling the global response to the invasion of Earth: resource management, research and development of new technology, and defense, including management of  the soldiers themselves, although Firaxis have said they are removing some elements of micromanagement which they considered tedious and uninteresting.

Another XCOM game is being developed by 2k Marin, developers of BioShock 2.  Titled simply XCOM, this is a first person shooter and takes place earlier than any other game in the series, when the aliens are just making their first attacks on Earth.  This game was to be published in 2011, but has been delayed.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown is under development by Firaxis Games, published by 2k Games, with release scheduled for late 2012.

Duke Nukem Forever

Duke Nukem Forever, long thought of as the ultimate vapourware, is finally on the way, and a demo is available via Duke’s First Access Club.. I got a key thanks to my copy of Borderlands 🙂

I played Duke Nukem 3D back when that was new, when my access to multiplayer back then was via LAN.. which meant very few people to play against.  This led to frustration, as I knew nobody else who wanted to play as often or for as long as I did, especially if I did too well.  There was a good selection of weapons, steroids for speed boosts, multiple routes around the map and little secret areas.. and the jet pack and a hologram device used to pop out a hologram of Duke as a distraction were fun and great for getting the jump on a rival, and usually the reason for me doing so well.

The game had very little in terms of story.. aliens invading, humans being mutated, Duke being the only one able to save the world..  so the single-player was about shooting aliens and mutated pig-cops, with Duke’s random comments and references to popular films here and there too.

So.. the demo.. starting off, I find myself being taught how to use a urinal..
Done with “pissing around”, as the first joke has it, I decided to try interacting with everything else I came across.. a little indiscriminately.. which is how I found myself flinging poo in the shower room.  Duke wasn’t too happy.. “What am I, a chimpanzee?”!

The graphics are better than I expected, though I guess they’ll have been undergoing tweaks throughout development, and the sounds are pretty good too.. but the jump animation.. uh, wow.  Disappointingly bad. 🙁

Outside of the shower block there were soldiers preparing themselves for the enemy.. they ran off as I headed towards them, leaving me to discover that I could draw on the tactics whiteboard while the remaining Marine cheered me on.

I left this room and headed out down the tunnel, where I got a glimpse of the enemy before he fired a rocket into the tunnel and collapsed it.  In the next corridors I met more marines and was given a dual-rocket gun before being let out onto the field to face the Cycloid, a one-eyed rocket-firing beast which is meant to represent the final boss from Duke Nukem 3D.

I felt like I ran out of ammo a little too fast during the fight, and although more ammo was available via airdrop onto the pitch, I felt like I spent too long running.

After knocking the Cycloid down I was able to climb up onto him and pull out some tubing from the back of his head.. killing him resulted in a slightly gruesome opportunity for a goal kick with the eye..

This led to a short cutscene which slightly irritated me as it featured a pair of bimbos kneeling before Duke, wiping their mouths.
This was a bit too gratuitous for my liking..

Back in Duke Nukem 3D there was a bit of a controversy over the “exploitation” of women.  There were strippers in various locations in the game.. 2d sprites if I recall correctly.. which if shot would be replaced by falling money, or in one case, by an enemy.  There were also a few XXX posters and porno shops, and Duke was supposed to be some kind of babe-magnet.. but it certainly wasn’t anything to take seriously.

With Duke Nukem Forever, it seems they’re using the strippers and seedy side of the game as a selling point.  I’m not overly bothered if there is sex or prostitution in my games, but being put in the role of a man receiving a BJ.. I feel more like I’m being forced to watch some guy’s fantasy than playing a video game.

Next up was a driving segment with a monster-truck and a turbo button.  Pressing space allowed four-wheel driving, and tight turns..

Running the pig-men down may or may not have been the intended way of getting through the level, but it was fun and fast.  Once I ran out of gas for the truck though, I hit the two-gun system.  There were plenty of weapons laying around, but aside from my pistol I was only able to have one of those at a time, meaning more running around if I wanted to play with a different gun.

The shrink-ray was pretty cool, and I liked being able to stomp on the shrunken enemies.. however, when it came to the explosives I got annoyed with having to press ‘3’ to throw the pipe bomb.. perhaps this is something that can be mapped to another key.

A ship was the boss for this section, and again I found myself having to run around more than I wanted, looking for pipe bombs and hiding behind rocks when the EGO (health) meter got too low.

Overall, I felt a bit disappointed with the demo.  It lacked excitement.  If this demo is representative of the full game, then it’s basically going to be Serious Sam without the hectic fun of swarms of enemies.. in that case I’d stick to Serious Sam..

Portal 2 ARG and Defense Grid: The Awakening

Portal 2 was supposed to be released on the 19th April.. however, an earlier release date was suggested over the last week, as a pile of clues have been discovered by fans dedicated enough to go looking for them.

I am not one of those people; while I love the fact they’ve done it, I don’t have the time or knowledge required to root around with codes, convert random numbers to images and access encrypted files.  Seriously.. even if I had the time I wouldn’t even know where to start, nor whether I was even going in the right direction.  Instead, I’m content to keep an eye on the Valve ARG wiki..

The Potato Sack Pack appeared on Steam last week, and I just took it as an opportunity to grab a few more cheap games, but it was another part of this rather clever play by Valve!  The info gathered so far points to Portal 2 being unlocked when an unspecified amount of play-time has been reached on the various games in the pack.

There is also a potato-collecting mechanic involved, with collectible potatoes hidden in the games and elsewhere: one can be collected simply by joining the ‘nelipot’ Steam group.  The ARG Wiki people have discovered that more potatoes increase the rate that the GLaDOS@Home bars fill up.. so really, the aim of this game is now: collect potatoes and play indie games 🙂

I won’t be idling in any games overnight, though.. while it’s mentioned on the Wiki as a way of adding the the cause, I consider it to be too close to cheating when the ‘aim’ is to play.  I have similar reservations about using the login details posted for collection of potatoes as well..  I’m just going to play the games.

I was gifted Defense Grid: The Awakening on Friday: a tower defense game with a twist.. when the invading aliens reach your base that’s not it.. they steal a power core and attempt to leave the base with it.

Killing the alien results in the core being dropped.. it will try to make its way back to base but can be grabbed by another alien en-route.

The Meteor tower is my current favourite.. long-range, great damage when it hits.. though I like the laser too, especially when upgraded. 🙂