Category Archives: Indie Games

Toejam and Earl Officially Bringing Funky Back

Attention, Funkotronian aficionados: A fourth installment of the adventures of the beloved 90’s duo, Toejam and Earl, is officially in the works — or it will be in a month, assuming the Kickstarter campaign meets its fundraising goal by then.

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90’s underground comic-style promo art courtesy of Nathan Shorts, the team’s lead artist.

Greg Johnson, co-creator of Toejam and Earl and head of his indie team of four at Humanature Studios, has officially set plans into motion for the series’ next game, Toejam and Earl: Back in the Groove. According to the Kickstarter, the game will make use of mechanics popularized by the first and second games in the series — and thankfully, makes no mention of the third other than to say that the project won’t harken back to it.

“Will it be like game one or game two, you ask?  Well… (holding breath)… mainly like game one. We plan to go old school with this one. Fixed isometric camera, 2D sprites, simple controls, and an emphasis on coop [sic] play. It will also pull in some of the more beloved elements from game two… Things like the Jam Out, hidden presents, and buttons and coin meters. Maybe we’ll even be able to bring back the Hyperfunk Zone! … Don’t worry we won’t make you sick and confused with an over-the-shoulder POV camera like we had in game 3.”

In addition, the upcoming game will bring all new elements to the table, such as a 4-player co-op mode, randomly generated levels, character customization, and headwear that modifies the characters’ abilities — or “hats for stats,” as I’ve decided to call them. The project currently has plans for a PC release, but hopes to spread to other consoles once a foothold has been established.

Of course, all of this depends on the Kickstarter reaching its $400,000 goal by March 27th at 3:00 PM EST. Over $150k has been pledged so far, and some truly amazing incentives have me wishing I could throw caution to the wind and empty my bank account. If anyone out there pledges enough to get those TJ&E vinyl figures and for some reason doesn’t want them, my ever-collecting hands are always open.

Obligatory Legal Crap

I am not associated with Humanature Studios and do not own Toejam and Earl — nor does Sega, I learned over the course of researching this article. Toejam and Earl is entirely the property of its co-creators, Greg Johnson and Mark Voorsanger.

I am, however, calling dibs on “hats for stats.” C’mon, that’s catchy as hell.

Winter Is Here: Gaming Holiday Sales

I could’ve made a much better Game of Thrones joke if WordPress would let me use strikeout in the title line…

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The annual Steam Winter Sale has officially kicked off today, and will continue through January 3rd 2014. New games will be discounted each day, and according to the website banner, over 2,000 games in total will ultimately be discounted. Considering how dominant Steam has become in the world of PC gaming, this tends to be one of the biggest gaming sales of the year, and I doubt 2013 will be the exception.

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Xbox Live’s annual Countdown to New Years Sale is also active as of a couple days ago, much to my chagrin. While the sales regularly rotate on XBLA as well, the expired sales are not taken down once they’ve passed, lingering instead to taunt unfortunate gamers that missed checking in. This is why I’ve missed getting Fez on sale for two years in a row.

In any case, Xbox’s yearly game sale isn’t actually limited to games and DLC: Movies, TV shoes, and avatar items have also been known to turn up with huge discounts applied. Now that XBLA operates in real currency instead of points, those discounts will end up looking like even more of a deal than usual.

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In addition, GOG.com’s DRM-Free Winter Sale is currently on its 8th day. Not only are there some great deals on older games to be found, but GOG offers a new “Daily Surprise” for buyers to pick from. Three games are listed with an unknown discount applied, and buyers may choose one each day — but only one. It combines the spirit of the sale with the mystery of wondering what Santa is bringing.

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Origin also appears to be doing a holiday sale — a Winter Warmer Sale, according to Google — but oddly enough they don’t really have any information on their sale posted anywhere on their website. All I can say is that apparently they have some games up to 50% off.

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Kind of amazing considering that EA is the king of marketing.

 

With all of these websites practically throwing games at us, this truly is the most wonderful time of the year for gamers. It’s time for us to get out there and stock up on games to last us through 2014!

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I am in no way affiliated with Steam, Xbox Live, Good Old Games, or Origin, I’m just talking about their discounts. Besides, if I was actually working for Origin, EA probably would’ve fired me for publicly pointing out their massive oversight anyway.

Portfolio Piece: Baker Cat vs. Hellthy Veggies

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Project Length: 5 Weeks (5/4/13 – 6/1/13)
Team: Loud Cat (4 Members)
My Roles: Concept art, Game Mechanics, Character Development, Artwork (Environment, Weapons, Interface)
End Product: Full Game (Android)

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In late spring 2013, I became a member of Team Loud Cat, which to date has been my most successful team. With little more intent than the decision to make a mobile game, we centered on the idea of a chaotic top-down shooter that broke the mold of fighter jets and roaming tanks. After quickly agreeing that junk food vs. veggies could have mass appeal, we settled on a cat as the protagonist, at least partly to honor our team name. Zach Allen, our programmer, nicknamed the project Baker Cat vs. The Veggies.

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Baker Cat vs. Hellthy Veggies is the most adorable bullet hell gamers have ever seen. Players take on the role of the Baker Cat, who’s had enough of this ridiculous health food craze and is determined to bring delicious baked goods back into the public spotlight! Employing the use of donuts, cookies, cupcakes, and frosting, Baker Cat progresses through either a farmer’s market or an organic farm to eliminate the veggies — and it’s just as well, because it seems like the vegetables are getting a little out of control…

Both adults and children enjoy this exciting cute-’em-up, which offers a refreshing mix of challenging gameplay, catchy music, and fun characters and environments. Baker Cat is available free for Android via the Google Play Store.

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The Psychosis of Braid

When Jonathan Blow’s masterpiece Braid debuted in 2008, the gaming community had a lot to say about it. Many were impressed with the game’s clever mechanics, while others found themselves intrigued by the perplexing story elements. Others were taken by the surreal, painting-like art style. And then there were folks that didn’t like it at all, finding it to be pretentious or difficult or simply uninteresting. Whatever the feedback, there were hardly any blogs, communities, and classrooms that weren’t mentioning Braid in some way or another.

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One of the particularly striking elements of the game is its use of symbolism. The game manages to simultaneously present a very exact yet ambiguous message, largely through the many texts available to the player before each level, and secondarily through subverted visual storytelling. However, I’m not here to wax philosophical on the prose, which has already been scrutinized to pieces by the internet. I’d rather examine something else in the game — something so miniscule that I never noticed it for five years, but so profound that it sent me on a hunt for other pieces of the puzzle.

(Spoiler warning for those that have not played or completed the game.)

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Mighty No. 9: A Mega-Redemption

It’s barely been 12 hours since the Mighty No. 9 Kickstarter project hit the internet, and the project has already raised half of its $900k goal. Headed up by the legendary game designer Keiji Inafune, the project is essentially a new Mega Man game wearing an absurdly thin veil.

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For now I’m just going to call you “Not-Rock,” okay?

Of course, this should come as no surprise for anyone familiar with Inafune’s background. A former Capcom powerhouse, Inafune is the creator of the Mega Man series. Not only was he responsible for the character designs, sprite art, logos, packaging, and manual of the original game, but he went on to father the series for decades afterward. It wasn’t until late 2010 that Inafune announced he was leaving Capcom to “start his life over” after comments that he had been unhappy at his job for some time.

Mighty No. 9 has definitely left Mega Man‘s fans rejoicing. Capcom has taken a lot of heat over the past couple of years due to perceptions that they’ve been giving the Blue Bomber the shaft and disregarding their fans. While every company has to deal with that every now and again, Capcom’s been facing the fire for quite a while now. In my opinion, the cancellation of Mega Man Legends 3 was the final straw.

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Beer-Battered Fish: The Demise of Fez II

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For those that haven’t heard, an internet slapfight took place last Saturday between Marcus Beer (aka the Annoyed Gamer) of GameTrailers.com and Phil Fish of Polytron (the indie company that created Fez), which ultimately resulted in the abrupt cancellation of Fez II and left a lot of onlookers blinking and staring. I hesitated to write about this right away in the hopes that it was going to blow over once the heat of the moment passed, but it’s been two days now, and there’s no sign of change.

So, let’s take it from the top.

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My Little Pony: Litigation is Bullshit

With the EVO Championship Series making a bang over the weekend, it’s hard not to reflect over fighting games you love — or in my case, games you would’ve liked to love.

Earlier in the year, EVO left the coveted 8th game slot open in favor of a donation drive. Rather than pick the final game themselves, each game was given a page whereby supporters could ‘vote’ for their desired title via charity donations. The money raised went to fund breast cancer research, and the title to pull the most donations would take the final game slot. One of the games on the list quickly pulled ahead of all the others. That game was My Little Pony: Fighting is Magic.

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I… I need this game in my life.

My Little Pony: Fighting is Magic is a fan-made creation of the dev team Mane6. It originally started as a joke image, but MLP fans are known for nothing if not their extraordinary devotion. The game has been in production for the last two years, with occasional screenshots, demo videos, and playable torrents floating around the internet in that time. It’s been noteworthy for its exceptional art and animation, move sets detailed to each character’s personality, and its ingenuity in building a fighting format for quadrupeds — something yet to be experimented with in the world of gaming.

That is, of course, until Mane6 received a cease & desist order from Hasbro just weeks before the initial release.

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Double Fine’s Double Cross?

In the spring of 2012, Tim Schafer’s game development company, Double Fine Productions, made history with its outrageously successful Kickstarter campaign. While he’d only hoped to raise $400,000 to create a classic point-and-click adventure game, the swell of support not only reached the goal within 8 hours, but exploded well beyond all expectations. In the end, Double Fine received $3.3 million in donations from eager backers.

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With games like Psychonauts and The Secret of Monkey Island on his resume, who wouldn’t throw this man money?

However, it’s for this reason that public opinion is beginning to shift against Schafer, who said in an announcement to his project backers that the game was over-budget and behind schedule. This has come as a shock to much of the internets, considering that Double Fine received over eight times the projected budget. Some critics cite this example as a cautionary tale against crowdfunding, and recommend that investors think carefully before forking over their money to projects.

The question on everyone’s mind is, how can this situation have even come about in the first place? Double Fine received more than enough capital to move forward with their project, so how can it suddenly be out of scope? Has Tim Schafer betrayed us?

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