Adventure News
 


December 2016

25

Dec

Jacob Marley and the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future aren't the only spectres lurking about this holiday season. The others hail from Britain too, though in decidedly more inclement weather. I'm talking about the otherworldly presence in the latest game in the Dark Fall series called Storm Warning.

There's not a dilapidated train station in sight this time around, but a dilapidated seaside pier instead. Completely out of the blue, you are advised by a "mysterious solicitor" that you are now the "last remaining relic of the Bazalgettes." As the lone heir, you inherit the family-owned pier and all its contents and buildings. The problem is, the "antique attraction closed down, for good, in March 1988. It's a ruin! The old arcades, fairground and promenade are derelict; peeling fairground rides, rusting Victorian ironwork and malfunctioning arcade machines, and of course, the ghosts…"


As teased in the game's first trailer, the game comes by its name honestly, as the pier is beset by a "storm rolling in from the North Sea, with high waves and strong winds set to batter the South Coast." Armed only with a variety of ghost hunting gadgets, you have just a single night to investigate the Bazalgette Pier and try to determine what has been causing the "noises, unexplainable raps, taps and voices, centred around the old Edwardian Penny Arcade," not to mention the "physical contact, manifestation and… trouble". Some inquisitive visitors have even disappeared, and rumour has it that "the Pier is cursed, with many of the old inhabitants still walking the deck, over a hundred years out of time." It all falls on you, as the last member of the family, to attempt to break this curse.

There is currently no target release date for Dark Fall: Storm Warning, and given the uncertain status of indie developer Jonathan Boakes and Matt Clark's other games (the Lost Crown series and Bracken Tor), we won't even venture a guess at this point. Still, given the popularity of the Dark Fall trilogy to date, another new horror game on the horizon from the Darkling Room is always welcome news. To keep tabs on the game's progress, be sure to check out its official website.



23

Dec

Normally having to pay for something you could once get for free would be a bad thing, but not when the new and improved version comes with key upgrades and bundled with other good things, as is the case with Crystal Shard's recently-released Adventure Bundle. Comprising Starship Quasar, Quest for Yrolg and Larry Lotter and the Test of Time, this new three-in-one bundle of former freeware adventures includes a number of important enhancements, including graphical upgrades and full voice acting.

Each game is available separately for Windows and Linux through itch.io and Game Jolt at a cost of $3 or (optionally) more, or you can get all three together in the Adventure Bundle through Steam. For additional details and purchase links, visit the Crystal Shard website to learn more.


Starship Quasar


This one you should already know about, as we reviewed the re-release back when it was still simply referred to as Quasar Deluxe Edition. This character-driven sci-fi adventure follows the travails of a spaceship's crew members as they work through strained relations caused by overwork and lack of downtime. Now "the latest argument has proved too much, with each of the crew stalking off to different parts of the ship. To the medical officer, bringing these warring characters back together will be no easy task." Putting players in control of four different characters, this game focuses less on puzzle solving and more on "the personalities of the characters and their interactions."


Quest for Yrolg


A fantasy adventure first launched in 2008, Quest for Yrolg takes a decidedly different approach to the battle between good vs. evil than most adventure games. Rather than play the do-gooder hero, this game casts players in the role of a "minion of darkness" who must defend his master Yrolg the Necromancer while he attempts to summon a mighty demon from deep within his dungeon. Sent to stop him are "three brave adventurers, a warrior, a rogue and a sorceress, come to his lair to disrupt this dark ritual." You must defeat them instead, as "should the heroes succeed, your Master will be slain, his reign of terror ended, and the world shall be covered with flowers and puppy dogs. That must never happen - this time, evil shall prevail!"


Larry Lotter and the Test of Time


Originally called Warthogs upon its 2006 release, you can be forgiven if the name Larry Lotter and the Test of Time sounds vaguely familiar. That's because the game playfully spoofs the Harry Potter franchise, thrusting players into the shoes (and robe) of the eponymous "notorious slacker." It's exam time at the school of magic, and Larry is "about to flunk all of them because he spent less time studying and more time drinking beer. His last hope is to cheat like there's no tomorrow!" In this case, that means using a spell to reverse time, giving him the chance to "do his day over again until he passes."



21

Dec

The RPG Maker engine may soon need to change its name to RPG/Adventure Maker. The latest adventure game developer to usurp the third-person isometric perspective and 16-bit presentation style from the RPGs of yesteryear is One Bit Studio, whose A Long Road Home is due to release just before Christmas.

A Long Road Home puts players in the role of a young man (with any name of your choice) who becomes wounded and separated from his family when they are attacked along the way to their new home. Behind this plot is a secret cult "led by an alien being called Amuna, who is able to travel between the infinite numbers of planes (dimensions)." Having conquered numerous worlds already, she now has her sights set on this one, and aims to use our hero for her own devious ends. If the protagonist is to reunite with his mother and sister, he must venture through "catacombs, secret temples and frozen mountains" while escaping the clutches of the evil invaders.


If that description, along with the birds-eye pixel art display, sounds like the recipe for a combat-heavy adventure, think again. Designer Gabor Domjan is promising a "classic point and click adventure game, with many text descriptions, puzzles and item usage." There will be plenty of objects to collect and often combine on your journey, which will be needed to overcome the many obstacles in your path. The game even allows for simple mouse control, though it supports keyboard movement as well. The lack of combat means a shorter play time, of course, though Domjan still estimates there will be 5-6 hours of gameplay all told.

The good news is that there's a playable PC demo of the game already available (which was released earlier, but recently received a graphical upgrade). The better news is that the complete game is coming hard on its heels, with final launch planned for December 23rd on sites like itch.io, Game Jolt and IndieGameStand. However, a Greenlight campaign is also underway to get the game released on Steam.



19

Dec

Many of us have come to depend totally on our smartphones these days. Everything's on there, from contacts to calendars, messages to music, pictures to puzzle games. Losing one would be a disaster, but that's just what's happens to poor Sam in A Normal Lost Phone, the debut title from French indie developers Accidental Queens. Billed as a "narrative mystery game" and taking inspiration from Her Story, Life is Strange and Gone Home, it uses a unique interface to connect you to Sam's world and encourage you to explore.

Finding a phone lying in the street one day, curiosity gets the better of you. It wouldn't hurt to take a look, would it? Maybe you rationalise it as a way to find out how to return the device, but Sam's whole life is there in front of you, begging to be investigated. Who is this person, and what's happened to them? Depending on your viewpoint, it's either an interesting chance to look through someone else's eyes or a complete invasion of privacy.


The phone is not just the main thing here, it's everything: you're simply presented with its home screen and left to poke around. All the usual suspects are there, including text messages, photos and apps, and you'll need to search through them all if you want to piece together the sequence of events that led up to it parting ways with its owner. While there are some puzzles to solve as well, the focus is on the story, which touches on topics such as coming of age, homophobia, depression and peer pressure. The project began life as a prototype at the 2016 Global Game Jam, which went on to win the Best Indie Game award at Game Connection Europe. For this version, the developers promise new puzzles and apps, more narrative and more polished graphics.

A Normal Lost Phone will drop on the 26th of January, 2017, for iOS, Android, and Windows PC,with Mac and Linux versions coming as well. For obvious reasons, though, the developers recommend playing one of the mobile versions if you can. If you're curious to delve deeper, check out the official website to learn more.



18

Dec

Irish mythology, with its magical beings like faeries and banshees, has long captivated imaginations of people around the world. Scéal (Irish for “story”), a recently-released sidescroller by multinational development studio Joint Custody, taps into the Emerald Isle’s cultural themes to promise a story-based, casual experience.

In Scéal (pronounced “shkeal,” according to the developers), players take on the role of a little girl’s lost soul. She cannot remember her past, including how she died, and thus is stuck in a limbo-like state. In order to rest in peace, she must travel through a magical storybook, reliving events from her past and discovering details about her life. Guided by Fiach Dubh, a raven who escorts souls into the afterlife, the spirit must find three feathers hidden somewhere within the pages of the book before dawn in order to pass into the next life.


The distinctive watercolor art style and gameplay are closely linked. As the girl’s spirit moves through the world, she gradually brings life to the washed-out environment, which represents pages in the book and aspects of her past. Color returns to the world, and the people in the village in which the story takes place come back to life. She can then talk to them in order to understand more about her history and who she is. There are also “enchanted” areas you will have to manually paint, using either a finger (on mobile) or the mouse (on PC), providing an additional element of interactivity to the painting mechanic.

Various quests and tasks will be given by the villagers, who might want you to repaint an area using certain colors, for instance. The shades you can use at any given moment are determined by the girl’s ability to transform into either an angel, for brighter colors, or a banshee, for darker or less-cheerful colors. As you move through the environment using the mouse, buildings and other parts of the scenery will change and shift, in similar fashion to the way popup books move in response to turning the pages. If you move slowly, colors that appear will be more vivid and detailed, while moving quickly through the world will only sketch them in. The game’s music also promises to be distinctive, with Irish-language lyrics and folk-style melodies.

A fairly short game and budget-priced accordingly, Scéal has been released on Steam for Windows, with an iOS port planned at some point in future. Interested players should check out the official website for more information.



17

Dec

Once upon a time, isometric pixel art graphics were the exclusive domain of the RPG. But given the popularity of such titles as To the Moon in recent years, more and more adventures are adopting this style for combat-free, story-driven games. The latest such title is Rakuen, the debut offering from Laura Shigihara which is due to arrive early next year.

Rakuen tells multiple stories centering around a boy who lives in the hospital but is able to travel to a "fantasy world from his favorite storybook." There he requests one wish from the Guardian of the Forest, but he's told that "in order to receive his wish, the boy must complete a set of challenges that revolve around helping his neighbors in the hospital by interacting with their alter-egos in the fantasy world." Among his fellow patients are "a cranky old man who guards a broken music box with his life while complaining that he never gets any visitors; a young woman in a coma whose husband hasn’t left her side in months; a little girl who laments over a friend she was never able to say goodbye to after growing ill." The more he learns of them, the boy "slowly begins to realize that his neighbors are plagued by secrets and struggles that are mysteriously tied to the strange hospital."


Any aesthetic similarity to To the Moon isn't entirely coincidental, as indie designer Laura Shigihara was responsible for writing and singing the song "Everything's Alright" from that game (as well as composing the music for Plants vs. Zombies). Also like Freebird's popular adventure, Rakuen promises a "heartwarming and character-rich story" in which players "walk a mile in everyone’s shoes as you traverse each character’s life to learn about their unfinished business and help them through it."

Rakuen (the name of the boy's book which means "Paradise" in Japanese) isn't merely an interactive story, however, as it will mix "whimsical dungeons, eerie room escape puzzles, and dialogue-based mysteries that are intricately tied to the story." As you navigate the world via keyboard or mouse, you will also need to "collect items and build friendships to gradually make the hospital a better place", and "go on humorous quests for strange creatures in the fantasy world." Naturally, the game will feature an original soundtrack composed by Shigihara herself.

We don't have too much longer to wait for Rakuen, as the game is currently on track for PC release sometime within the next few months on Steam. To learn more in the meantime and get a sampling of the music we can expect, drop by the official website for additional details. And if you like what you hear, the soundtrack is already available to preorder on its own.



16

Dec

There are potential hazards lurking in any bathroom, but clogged toilets, slippery tubs, and unwanted germs are usually the most dangerous of them. Not so in Elena: Displaced Reality, a first-person exploration game released today about a woman searching for her husband who disappeared without a trace in their own bathroom.

At first it seemed like any other day, as a woman named Anna arrives home to find her husband Lennard in the bathroom. After a bit of detached conversation, suddenly Anna hears a loud rumble and the door flies opens... but no Lennard! Even stranger, a crow flies out and the bathroom now appears as if "nobody had been there for decades." If Anna is going to discover what happened to her husband, she'll need to carefully scour the environment for clues, with the help of a mysterious caller who claims to be a friend and seems to know more than she does.


Originally created as a student project at Stuttgart Media University and described as a 1-2 hour "adventure game / interactive story", Elena is largely exploratory in nature, tasking players with combing every inch of Anna's home to piece together the mystery. You must leave no stone unturned, no cupboard or drawer unchecked, as items and documents can be found anywhere to provide clues to Lennard's disappearance. A first-person experience, the game can be played on standard PC monitors via keyboard/mouse or gamepad, but also offers VR support for Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.

Elena: Displaced Reality is available for download now on Steam and is coming soon to the Humble Store.



14

Dec

Often amateur detective Carol Reed is called upon to figure out whodunit. But in her next case, the victim seems to have dunit herself. But no Carol Reed mystery is ever as simple as it first appears, as gamers will discover when Profound Red is released early next year.

In her twelfth adventure from MDNA Games, Carol Reed is called in to investigate a suicide text received at hotel where her friend works, signed simply "Louise". Since there's no one by that name connected with the hotel, it's up to Carol to track down its mysterious origin. Her investigation soon leads to "a woman in her 40s, who has recently supposedly committed suicide by jumping off a cliff." And yet in retracing the steps of the dead woman's final days, a picture begins forming of "a creative, vivacious woman who prepared games for her boyfriend – not of a person who was about to take her own life." Perhaps the case isn't so cut-and-dried after all.

Refusing to fix what ain't broke, Profound Red follows its predecessors' lead in using a photographic slideshow presentation with simple point-and-click controls, offering a helpful tutorial for new players, a goal-based journal and hint system. Players will once again snoop around scenic Swedish environments, both indoors and out, and converse with the locals (in English) in pursuit of the truth. The developer claims that no previous familiarity with the Carol Reed series is needed to enjoy the new one.

There is no firm release date just yet for Profound Red, but the official website indicates that the game will be available for download on Windows and Mac in January.



11

Dec

While most students are currently looking forward to getting out of school for the holidays, adventure gamers can look forward to getting back into school with the next installment of the Danganronpa series, entitled V3: Killing Harmony.

In the third Japanese murder mystery from Spike Chunsoft (not counting the action-adventure spin-off Ultra Despair Girls), players will find themselves in the company of a new cast of 16 characters who have been "kidnapped and imprisoned in a school." As is customary for Danganronpa, over the course of the game "some will kill, some will die, and some will be punished." In this “psycho-cool” environment where "everyone is trying to survive, [and] nobody’s motivations are quite what they seem", you will need to "use your skills to solve each new murder or meet a gruesome end."


Although the developers suggest that you "forget what you thought you knew about Danganronpa", many of the series staples will return, including the anime-styled artwork, and "fast-paced trial scenes [that] will require lies, quick wits, and logic to guide your classmates to the right conclusions." The cast won't be the only new addition to the game, however, as Killing Harmony promises to include "an abundance of brand-new minigames" in between "the madness of murdered peers and deadly trials".

There is currently no firm release target yet, but look for Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony to hit stores in North America and Europe sometime in 2017, both in digital and physical form.



6

Dec

What we don't know still far outweighs what we do, but with the release of a new trailer and launch target, we now have a little more insight into Giant Sparrow's upcoming What Remains of Edith Finch.

The game's title is somewhat misleading, as Edith herself is actually the last remaining member of "a cursed family in Washington State." So what fate has befallen the other Finches, and why is Edith the only one left? To discover that, gamers will play through a collection of short stories, each telling a different family member's tale. Ranging from the early 1900s to present day, the stories will be "as varied as the family members themselves", but the one common demoninator is that "each story ends with that family member's death."


Unlike The Unfinished Swan, the developer's highly-stylized previous title, What Remains of Edith Finch features crisply-rendered realistic 3D graphics, presented in first-person perspective. Details about the actual gameplay have been kept tightly under wraps so far, as there will be different mechanics involved to suit the particular stories, some of which are hinted at in the latest trailer.

If you like what you see, hopefully you've got a PS4, as What Remains of Edith Finch will be a Sony exclusive when it releases sometime in spring 2017. To learn more about the game in the meantime, drop by the official website for additional details.



3

Dec

If there's one thing The Last Door taught us recently, it's that you can still create a psychologically disturbing atmosphere using chunky, old-school pixel art. With that door opened, what comes next is A Room Beyond, a one-man indie adventure whose third of five episodes has just been released on Steam Early Access.

A Room Beyond puts players in the role of a young man who awakens to find himself "trapped in a gloomy cave" with no memory of how he got there. Occult symbols are dimly illuminated nearby, and the forest outside is "surrounded by deep gorges and thick layers of fog." You'll soon discover that the locals live in "fear of an ominous apparition that creeps through the fog." Now you must help them if you're to "solve the mystery of the murderous fog wanderer and uncover the fate that brings you to this place."


Inspired by Bronnie Ware's 2012 book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying and created by solo developer René Bühling, A Room Beyond promises a "dark, but colorful crime story" in which players "dive into a fantasy world built upon elements of spirituality, occultism and life philosophy." Further inspirations cited by Bühling include the works of Lovecraft and Poe, as well as interactive entertainment like Alone in the Dark, Loom, and The Dig, other games that have successfully established compelling worlds through pixel art.

The debut installment of the five-part A Room Beyond was released on Steam Early Access last year, and is now available as a free demo download. With the latest update, three complete episodes are now available, with the third chapter adding two new areas, plus otherwise "unreachable zones with the new game play modes Swim & Dive." Weather changes are also introduced that provide not only visual variety but new interaction options.

A Room Beyond is available exclusively as a single game purchase, with the final two episodes becoming available to owners as they are completed. The developer expects the series to be complete by the summer of 2017. To learn more about the game, be sure to check out its official website.