Jul 29, 2011

VVVVVV: The Nasty Drop

As already mentioned, the excellent platformer that is VVVVVV by Terry Cavanagh now sports a lovely level editor. As mentioned elsewhere, I  thought it would be interesting to actually come up with something using said level editor, as it initially seemed incredibly easy and intuitive to use; shockingly, it actually was. Having grasped the absolute basics in mere minutes (with a little help from this tutorial), I came up with a most ambitious idea. Then, I decided to start off with something much simpler instead and after two days of tweaking The Nasty Drop was ready.

It's a humble and short level focusing on the delicate art of dropping oneself into a rather dangerous pit and, though by no means impressive, I do believe it should be a moderately enjoyable and quite interesting thing to try out, as I've attempted to go for a more, uhm, twitch-arcade feeling really. Beating it shouldn't take over 10 minutes. You can download the level from this place and -should you feel so inclined- leave your feedback either here or at the distractionware forums

To actually play The Nasty Drop, you'll have to copy the "drop.vvvvvv" file to your VVVVVV Documents folder; the one in your standard Documents folder, that is. Oh, and running it with the help of the shiny VVVVVV v.2.0. should be quite helpful too.

Hopefully, the more ambitious idea will soon follow, after of course a few problems of a technical and artistic nature have been successfully overcome.

[UPDATE]: Why don't you grab The Nasty Drop v.1.1.? It's right here.

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Jul 28, 2011

Cthulhu Saves the World Review

I was never particularly fond of JRPGs you know; never even cared for Link's 16-bit adventures on the SNES. Cthulhu, on the other hand, now that is another matter entirely. The lovable Great Old One has always been among my, let's say, top five mythical beasts, a fact that combined with an incredibly cheap price and a high-flying indie flag led to my playing of Cthulhu Saves The World. Oh, and the Breath of Death VII CRPG the developer kindly bundled with it made the choice of buying said bundle even easier. Apparently and after 15 hours of playing with the thing I can say it was a wise choice indeed.

Cthulhu Saves The World is, happily, much more than a retro-styled, top-down RPG with turn based combat. It is a truly funny retro-styled, top-down RPG with turn based combat. It's one of the few games and possibly the only RPG I've played on a PC that sports humour that is actually any good. Really. I verified this with the help of at least three (they were four) male and female test-subjects; they all laughed and thought that the heroic version of Cthulhu the game so obviously enjoys ridiculing is a great idea indeed.
Cthulhu and a groupie about to enter an inn. Typical fantasy fare.
What's more the game itself is rather good too, though definitely not exactly my kind of CRPG. It's pure hack-and-slash with minimal exploration, only slightly confusing dungeons and simplistic combat. If it weren't for the demented plot, the brilliantly hilarious cut-scenes, the hundreds of hidden jokes, the excellent and deep combat system, and the fact that the game wisely rewards gamers with something different every hour or so, I'd have probably given up on it, and would have lost one of the most ridiculous game finales this side of Monkey Island 2.

Oh, yes, also the chance to discover one single gold piece in well hidden chest in one of the later dungeons. How very silly eh? Almost on the same level of silliness of not sporting an in-game map... 
Ah, yes, the obligatory battle-screen featuring Cthulhu, some demonic hounds and a T-Rex.
As an added bonus the graphics are excellent in their retro, pixel-artsy way and the music will definitely evoke that 80s console music feeling; not that I particularly adore it, but, well, some do. And after you beat the game, you'll unlock a ton of extras and new game-modes to make sure your purchase lasts you another 10 to 15 hours. Now, that definitely is what I'd call value for money. 

Verdict: A hilarious, rich, incredibly cheap and actually good RPG. Get it.

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Jul 27, 2011

Humble Indie Bundle the III (starring VVVVVV)

The Humble Indie Bundle is turning into a pretty lovely habit, that periodically lets gamers and gnomes grab some of the best and most interesting indie games around, play them on their Windows, Mac and/or Linux machines without the hassle of DRM and feel good about themselves for the most reasonable price possible: that of their choosing. It is, in other words, a pay-what-you-want affair that let's you grab some shiny, DRM-free games and enjoy them on the platform of your choice, while simultaneously deciding how much of your money will go to charity and how much to the developers themselves.

Humble Indie Bundle 3 in particular will get you Crayon Physics Deluxe, Cogs, VVVVVV, Hammerfight and And Yet It Moves. A lovely selection of games you will surely agree and a pretty balanced one at that too. Platform! Action! Puzzling! Physics! Retro graphics! Innovation! Weird humour! Ah, yes, the pillars of the indie scene. And they've got a trailer to show them off too:

Now, and in case you haven't noticed it yet, you will also be getting VVVVVV. Yes, VVVVVV. The best platfomer since Manic Miner and the same game I had to openly adore in my review. What's more, this is the spankin' new version 2.0 of VVVVVV, that comes complete with some lovely new levels and -above all- a fantastic and equally new level editor. Oh, and Terry Cavanagh actually rewrote the whole game in C++ meaning that it now runs faster and impressively on Linux too. Guess you should read more about VVVVVV v.2.0. over at distractionware.

Oh, and you can grab the Humble Indie Bundle here. Almost forgot that link.

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Jul 26, 2011

Delve Deeper: Treasures and Tunnels

Delve Deeper is an excellent game. It's smart, unique, easy on the retro-loving eye and, now that the Treasures and Tunnels DLC has been released, pretty huge too. Fresh off the indie forges of Lunar Giant and costing less than one (rapidly devaluating) dollar, Treasures and Tunnels extends the game with 10 new levels -including the brilliantly named Big Orc Candy Mountains- and 25 brand new relics; that is 50% more Delve Deeper maps, 30% more treasure and absolutely no extra fat. Oh, and apparently each level is custom-tailored to be tackled by different teams of dwarfs, whereas each new relic is designed to influence both new and old maps.

You can download Treasures and Tunnels via Steam; it does obviously require that you own Delve Deeper. As for the people still wondering what Delve Deeper is (besides -as already mentioned- excellent and a game), let me just say it's a turn-based, strategy/RPG affair with lovely pixel-art graphics and board-game influences. Here are a couple DLC piccies to further entice you:

Jul 25, 2011

The Battles of the Three Plains

Seeing that this blog's favourite elderly person has escaped the terrible (yet oddly wine-filled) dungeons of the Lair  and is back in the land of the blogging, I thought I'd celebrate by writing something about wargames, thus reviving an almost forgotten Gnome's Lair tradition. Handily, it was only (very) recently that I ran into the pretty impressive and impressively free to grab Three Plains fantasy wargame too, which you dear and above all cunning reader can also grab by visiting the previous link and providing the site with your email. Haven't received any sort of spam myself just yet, so I do believe it's pretty safe.

Then again, such a tiny risk is definitely worth the enjoyment you'll be getting, especially considering this is a pretty lovely and obviously Warhammer inspired game that doesn't require miniatures, but appropriately demands a table to game on. Three Plains comes complete with all the soldiers, heroes, monsters, war machines, counters and bits of terrain required to play out some glorious battles in equally glorious PDF; all you have to do is print them, stick 'em to paper bases and avoid paying the exorbitant prices miniature manufacturers have been asking those past few years. Not that you -or for that matter I- can't use proper fantasy gaming miniatures should you so wish, but the papery ones do look surprisingly nice...

As for the game itself, well, it really feels quite a bit like Warhammer, meaning you'll have units (complete with flanks and rears) charging each other, heroes tipping the balance and a variety of magic users, fantasy races, mercenaries, magic items, exotic poisons and catapults to spice things up. Three Plains, you see, is already quite a rich game; the well-written main rulebook and more than a few expansions/armybooks such as the Orcs of the Blank Lands one are already available to download and are all that you'll need to start playing. Well, okay, some dice too.

Now, have a look, will you? I'll wait and open a champagne to further celebrate Elderly's return while you're reading and playing with them scissors.  

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Jul 20, 2011

Enter the Sweatshop

The Sweatshop, the inhumane pillar of our modern (and impressively crumbling) economy, is a pretty abominable place to work in. Then again both the majority world and many in the West don't exactly get to choose where they'll actually try and make a living in and sweatshops do produce all those cheaply glamorous bits of clothing many seem to enjoy. Oh, well, this is far from a political blog, but I sincerely do hope the excellent, darkly humorous, oddly enjoyable and very freeware Sweatshop game will shed some light on things. 

You can play it in your very own browser too, preferably by clicking here. The game itself is some sort of rather inspired tower-defense/management-sim hybrid with lovely cartoon graphics, excellent ideas and a ton of little touches. Oh, and it even gives gamers the choice of monstrously, yet sadly realistically, hiring children or having workers work themselves to death. Play it, spread the word and help make people realize them elementary truths.

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Jul 18, 2011

The gnome-tastic AI War Competition

AI War: Fleet Command by Arcen Games is -at its simplest- an excellent sci-fi RTS set in a dystopian future. In reality though, it's much more than that. It's a deeply engaging, innovative, evolving, beautiful and brilliantly designed space strategy game, that gracefully blends RTS tactics with explore, expand, exploit and exterminate strategic thinking. Happily, it also seems to be an indie success story, that proves that gamers can be tasteful beings and one that keeps getting constant updates and some truly impressive expansion like, say, The Zenith Remnant, Children of Neinzul  and Light of Spire

Now, this being a competition post and as you might have already guessed, the time has come for Gnome's Lair to join forces with the benevolent souls over at Arcen games in giving away some tasty copies of AI War and its expansions. Here's what you can do:

1. Leave a comment on this very post and -after a most elaborate draw- win a copy of the AI War: Fleet Command core game. Five copies will be given away; you have one week.

2. Get all social and share something interesting on the Gnome's Lair facebook page for a chance to not only win AI War, but also The Zenith Remnant and Light of Spire expansions. Five AI War & expansions packs will be won and thoroughly enjoyed. Once again, you have one week - make sure you explicitly state the purpose of your share. 

3. Keep your eye on the Lair's twitter account, as 5 promo codes for the Children of Neinzul and 5 codes for the Light of Spire expansions will be posted within this very week.

Good luck!

[UPDATE]: The competition is over. Really. Do check the comments for the winners and contact me to send you the codes. Cheers!

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Jul 15, 2011

250 Indie Games You Must Play - a book review

Even you, oh precious and gentle reader, wouldn't probably be aware of the shocking truth that books are a pretty important part of my life; important enough to have actually turned themselves into a professional (yet far from profitable) endeavor. Why tell you this though? Well, to convince you that I really care both about books and their aesthetics and then go on and let you on in another cosmic truth: 250 Indie Games You Must Play is a truly beautiful book.

The text is excellently spaced, the book is printed in full glorious and -trust me- expensive colour, the cover is brilliant, the attention to detail superb, the font selection wise, the quality of the paper way above average and each page is impressively lovely. What's more, it's a really great book too.

Then again you should have already figured this out from the Mike Rose (he's the book's author and one of the journalists I truly appreciate) interview posted not so long ago, and have already had your very own copy of 250 Indie Games You Must Play delivered. The book is, after all, an amazing compendium of indie games featuring 250 of the most characteristic, successful, artistic and/or brilliant ones. It's a book that could even introduce obsessed mainstream gamers to the amazing and wildly innovative world of indie games, by showcasing their  (the games' not the gamers', mind) variety, the diverse genres they cover, their unique aesthetics and some of their ground-breaking game mechanics. It also happens to be a book that hardcore indie gamers and even developers will both enjoy and find extremely helpful; it's an excellent guide to the brave new world of quality gaming.

Each of the 250 entries included, you see, comes with a screenshot, a short yet informative and very well written review, and a very handy (and simple to type) link to the game. What's more, most of the games included are free to play, and as the book consists of three main parts -namely download games, browser-based games and commercial games- an excellent selection of commercial games is also featured. Among them 250 you'll find everything from 10 second satirical games like Run Jesus Run and Derek Yu's Spelunky to Oddbob's frantic SYNSO collection and the brilliant platformer VVVVVV. I must admit though that I also discovered -and of course played- more than a few games I had never heard of, with Hummingbird Mind and Man Enough being prime examples of the sort. 

Actually, were it not for the amazing selection of titles on offer and my deeply scientific need to play and replay most of them (for research reasons obviously), this review would have appeared two weeks earlier. Oh well, it's too never late I suppose. Here is the link you'll be needing. And if you follow my advice and buy 250 Indie Games You Must Play, you'll even discover what many indie game developers have to say for indie games themselves.

Verdict: An excellent and beautiful book -an essential guide actually- on indie games, that gamers of all persuasions should grab.   

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Jul 14, 2011

Adventure Lantern: the unexpected July issue

Well, it does seem that Adventure Lantern is back for good. Not only did my favourite adventure focused emag make a surprise appearance in June, it's now back with a new short and sweet issue in less than 30 days. I'm thoroughly impressed, I am. I've also sent in a review for the August issue and started preparing one more, just to express my enthusiasm; that's how gnomes function, you see. We get all worked up and enthusiastically write things. It's not a particularly nice sight, but, well, that's nature for you.

Anyway. On to the latest Adventure Lantern issue. It's freeware, comes in a wholesome pdf, is very well put together (as is traditional) and you can download it from the Adventure Lantern site. It comes with reviews of The Next Big Thing, Tomb of Zojir, The Fall Trilogy - Chapter 1, Digital: A Love Story and The Marionette.

Jul 11, 2011

A demo of the City

Ben 304, a creator this particular lair and its reader seem to be incredibly fond of, has been a busy little AGS developer and -a mere 40 days since the excellent <3- went on and released the demo of his latest project: City. You can freely download it here and marvel at its excellent graphics, rich world, subtle political comments, weird cyber-gothic stabs at poetry, brilliant music, witty dialog, interesting characters and elegant point-and-click interface. Oh, and if you simply have to know, this promising piece of work also features the talents of captain Nemo and egalotron. And it's set in some sort of almost dystopian future.

On a totally unrelated note, demo versions of fully functioning cities (metropolises even) might not be the best idea ever, but a demo version of Berlin definitely sounds intriguing. 

Jul 4, 2011

Eye^Game^Candy: B.A.T.

B.A.T. was released for much more powerful platforms than the humble CPC back in 1989, but it was this brilliant 8-bit version of the game that wowed me enough to eventually grab its DOS-VGA counterpart along with my first 286 PC a few years later. B.A.T., you see, was a dark sci-fi thriller sporting mature themes, excellent graphics that wouldn't feel out of place in a graphic novel, a fully programmable in-game digital assistant thingy, action scenes, tons of French quirkiness and one of the earliest point-and-click adventure interfaces ever. Mind you, the chunky 16-color Amstrad graphics still look lovely.