The Shivah: Kosher Edition Review

The Shivah 01In many ways, Dave Gilbert’s adventure game The Shivah, now re-released and re-mastered under the “Kosher Edition” subtitle on Steam and on the iPad, is a game of firsts.

Released originally in 2006, it was Gilbert’s first commercial game, and, in fact, one of the first commercial Adventure Game Studio games on the whole. It’s also where his publishing studio, Wadjet Eye Games, got kickstarted (in a time before Kickstarter). Though the developer had already released other games, for free, like The Repossesser (2001), and Bestowers of Eternity (2003), the game that later became The Blackwell Legacy, it was this game that would become his calling card.

After all, The Shivah was the first AGS game to receive any real mainstream coverage, perhaps in large part due to its mundane, real-world setting, and Gilbert’s writing chops. Some readers may still recall, for instance, Boing Boing’s early snippet of an article on the game. Imagine: This miniature mention was – by far! – the most coverage that the AGS platform had received since its inception in 1999!

And as far as firsts go, it was – quite probably – the first game with a rabbi as its lead. (more…)

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Inescapable Review

Magnetic RealmsInescapable is a Metroidvania-style indie game of admirable constraint and deliberateness. Even for a one-man Amiga homage, it never overreaches in its pursuit of a specific type of gaming minimalism. In this day and age, this in turn creates a style, and atmosphere, that is much its own.

(It helps that Amiga-style platforming is seldom imitated these days. If you can still remember, Amiga games were often half-arsed ports from other platforms, with terrible palettes and clunky controls, bogged down by the constraints of the Atari ST.)

Inescapable 03The keys to understanding Inescapable’s aims are the arts of 1) imitation and 2) limitation. Here, what was once a sheer necessity (say, a hardware constraint), is now a choice, or a decision, that enhances the game’s retro aspirations. Japan-based developer-designer Matt Fielding characterizes the game as being “…inspired by a wide range of classics of the genre such as Exile, Gods, Switchblade, Flashback and even the Dizzy series.”


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Raindrop and the Art of the Kickstarter Pitch

These days, almost all promising, mainstream-enough video game Kickstarters (and, to a lesser extent, Indiegogos) seem to attract enough traction and interest to succeed. Offhand, I am unable to recall one single notable project that would not have succeeded as of late, especially if self-cancelled projects are counted out of the equation.

Alas, one such project is now in great danger of going undeservedly unfunded. Early this month, I tweeted to Andy Kelly how I had – much like him – been absolutely awestruck by Raindrop‘s beautifully-designed Kickstarter campaign:

Their image-laden, equally professional website was no less impressive. According to its developers, Raindrop would be a “a surreal, environment driven, survival game that includes fully explorable levels with intuitive, complex puzzles”.

Below, you can watch their amazing pitch video:


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Anodyne Review

Anodyne, a top-down action-adventure by indie devs Sean Hogan and Jonathan Kittaka, is one that I doubt I would have touched if not for the all-new, shiny, and glittering Steam Trading Cards. (Valve are very, very shrewd.) That Anodyne’s in-game progression is also tied to gathering collectible cards in-game has quite the poignancy to it. Above all, it makes the two a perfect match, and Anodyne was unsurprisingly among the titles that received trading cards during the Trading Cards beta.

Cards or no cards, however, Anodyne does warrant a fair bit of attention on its own merits: It is an infectious, solid action game on the one hand, and a strange, befuddling and rambling one on the other. It is above all a game with the face of Janus, looking to the future and past at once, a hodgepodge of influences permeating from top to bottom, starting with the game’s uncommon visual aspect ratio of 8:9.

Its two-faced nature is surprisingly not off-putting in the least. Instead, I found it nigh-impossible to put the game aside while it remained unbeaten. Anodyne’s cleverly organized, free-form model of progression, and beautiful audiovisual aesthetic beckon the player to continue onwards and upwards until the game is decidedly done. What greater compliment, really, for a video game: Just one more level, one more card, one more bar of health, one more boss! And then: Bang! The game is done, phew, in five to seven hours of gaming (though it can be ran through in three). (more…)

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Primordia Review

Primordia, Wormwood Studios’ dystopian android adventure (and Wadjet Eye Games’ latest foray into publishing,) is a treacherous game to review. It single-handedly put me off reviewing games for a long time – heck, we received our review copy at launch half a year ago, and I’ve subsequently tried my hand at it every now and then, what with it being bundled both in Indie Royale and Groupees.

This is not to say that Primordia is a bad game. Nothing of the sort. It is unquestionably filled to the brim with artistic merit, passion, and conceptual integrity. Yet it also secretes such familiarity, evokes such an extraordinarily vivid sense of déjà vu, that it is impossible for me, personally, to brush it aside and to merely treat the game as ordinary genre-aware homage.


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