Living in the time of dinosaurs is a harsh existence. The great creatures can be wily and, if you are not careful, extremely dangerous. Unfortunately, you cannot always rely on your fellow tribesmen to assist you in hunting them, as a young cavewoman discovers when she arrives at the hunting ground. One of her companions is precariously balanced up a tree, whilst the other has fallen foul of one of his own traps. This is only the start of her problems, as a visit by a strange being will soon have an enormous effect on her life.
Sarah Duffield-Harding and Kostas Skiftas
A small, Flash-based version of SeethingSwarm’s Theropods was made for Adventure Jam 2015. Now shifted to the Unity Engine, the commercial version expands greatly on the original concept. The same low-res pixel art style has been retained, though the characters are still quite distinctive, including the protagonist with her flowing red hair. The demo was set within a smoothly animated jungle, with muddy tracks and towering trees covered in vines. The game is technically fully voiced, though given the primitive setting, all the dialogue is grunted. The music I heard was a slow and simple piece, similar to the late part of the film 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Control is point-and-click, and the initial task appears a relatively simple one. You simply need to catch a small dinosaur to provide meat for the tribe. Sadly, this particular creature seems well aware of humankind’s threat, and fled to a different location each time I approached. The key seemed to be in building a simple trap, and directing my two companions to help drive the dinosaur into it. Except they didn’t seem too bright, the tree-bound one dropping on his face just after the dinosaur left, so getting them to help was a challenge. Fortunately, a bright glow indicates when you are pointing at a hotspot, so at least the bait and parts I needed to build the trap were easy to locate.
A release date is still to be determined. For a sneak preview of Theropods in action, however, a selection of animated GIFs can be found on the game’s website.
The Almost Gone
A young girl is trapped in the limbo between life and death. Imprisoned in this surreal reality, apparently imperfectly drawn from her own memories, she must work to decide her ultimate fate. In the real world, only a single second will pass. When that time is up, which side of the divide will she end up on, and will she help others with the same problem on the way?
Developed by Happy Volcano, The Almost Gone revolves around the subject of mortality. The story was written by Joost Vandacasteele, a writer who has been published in both Belgium and the Netherlands. The game is to be split into several levels, each taking place within a particular location. The demo on display was set in a flawed copy of the protagonist’s home. She finds this place disturbing, as the contents are not quite as they should be and it appears devoid of other inhabitants. A minimalist art style is used, with a limited pastel colour palette. The view is isometric, with two of the four walls of the current location visible. An on-screen button rotates the view 90 degrees at a time, allowing the player to see the other walls, along with items previously hidden behind other objects. The accompanying soundtrack is a sonorous echoing chime that mirrors the minimalist visual style.
Control is entirely point-and-click, including buttons to move between rooms. The demo covered the entire first level, which is already considered complete. There was a great deal of exploration to be done, with a keen eye needed to spot all the useful items around the house. There were also puzzles in the form of lock combination challenges. It is possible that some of these will be adjusted further, as many attendees struggled to put all the clues together. There were also hints of the greater world beyond, with a small tree in the toilet an exact likeness of the one holding the girl’s treehouse in the real world. I was also shown screenshots of later levels, including a more open garden space containing another spirit in need of help.
The second level is almost ready to be implemented, with the final game planned to have four levels in all. The projected release date for the finished game is late 2018. More information can be found on the official website.
Before I Forget
Why did you come? Are you meant to be here at all? There is so much here that seems vaguely familiar, and yet you don’t remember any of it clearly. Perhaps if you look around, it will start to come back to you. Isn’t Dylan supposed to be here as well? Can Dylan help?
Chella Ramanan and Claire Morley
With Before I Forget, 3-Fold Games have produced a game with a subtly disturbing psychological theme. At first I thought the game had crashed on me, as the graphics were blurred beyond recognition. However, a bit of sweeping around the screen soon located the protagonist’s glasses, revealing a first-person view of a hallway. Whilst overall realistic in style, the colours in this hallway had a washed-out look at the beginning. Using a console controller to move down the corridor, I soon found objects that I could interact with, a large label appearing when I was looking directly at any of the generously sized hotspots. Clicking on these caused text-only memories to appear on-screen, though the lettering was very shaky and soon dissolved away. These interactions also caused nearby parts of the environment to become painted in more vibrant hues. Sound initially consisted solely of environmental audio, though a late interaction triggered a pleasant piano piece.
Whilst only a fairly short taster, the demo proved effective in conveying the central concept. It was truly disturbing to be put in the shoes of someone who had apparently forgotten so much of their past life. The thoughts of the protagonist were unsettling, with the peculiar fade-out of the text akin to memories slipping away. This feeling was heightened by the environment itself proving unreliable, with a section where doors that had previously led into rooms suddenly all opening into the same cupboard.
The game is projected to be released in late 2018. More information can be found on the developer’s website.
In 2011, young Abdullah lived in central Syria. Whilst there were some problems, most notably the power cutting out intermittently (and always just before he reached a save point in his game), he had a comfortable life. But as unrest in the country grew, his family became more worried about his safety. So, whilst still young, they set him off on a journey to get out of Syria and find a safer place to live. The journey will not be an easy one, and he will face danger every step of the way.
Based on the real-life experiences of Abdullah Karam, who wrote the story of Path Out and appears throughout the game to deliver personal commentary on his experiences, this is a harrowing real-world tale, only the first part of which has been released so far. The developers, Causa Creations, have used the RPG Maker engine, with the presentation thus having a birds-eye, retro RPG look. This is supplemented with more detailed hand-drawn close-ups of the characters speaking when you engage in conversation. The game also has dynamic lighting effects, with the opening nighttime scene in a forest clearly visible in only a small area around the protagonist. The music also fits well, having a Middle Eastern feel.
Control of movement and interaction is handled entirely through the keyboard. The demo’s opening scene was set later in the journey, at which point Abdullah finds himself abandoned by a smuggler. The forest around him appears to be surrounded by minefields, and the only unmined exit proves equally hazardous. Finishing this section took me back to 2011, and happier times with the boy’s family. I got to meet several family members and go on a fetch quest for a lamp, which required me to get another item first. This served to set up the premise and establish necessary background, giving a solid grounding for the rest of the story.
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The game is available for free on Steam, with future episodes continuing Abdullah's journey through Turkey, Greece and the Balkans to his destination in Central Europe, which will be subject to a small fee to cover development costs. Further information can be found on the game’s website.