Vektor Wars

Our recent videogame past and shooting robots in their roboty face.

I’m enjoying Vektor Wars a lot. I like it because I like running around a neon infused Tron-esque environment shooting robots in the face with my giant and colourful lasers, I like it because it’s dumb-as-rocks FPS action for those moments where thinking is way, waaay too much effort. I like it because it reminds me of another time in videogames.

Vektor Wars could have fallen through a timewarp

I’m not going to say it’s nostalgia, there’s no warm fuzzy feeling, no longing to relive something, no aching heart for a moment in time. It’s not nostalgia. It’s more just a memory. A memory of a time before we’d really cemented the perception of what indie is. Before TIGS, before Cave Story influenced so much that came after. Before wot is indie became tied to 2d, pixel art and puzzle platformers, even though it’s always been so much more and still very much is so much more.

Vektor Wars could have fallen through a timewarp but it’s from a time neglected, ignored. Like so much of our history of indie games that we fail to document clearly, preferring instead a mythologised view of where we are and how we came to be.

It’s the time where Dark Basic and Blitz3d dominated so much of the made at home videogame landscape. A curiously blurry point between the old shareware model and the anything goes of a post 2006 indie world. A time where big budget FPS were piling on the development pounds and the gulf between made at home and made in a studio became unimaginably enormous. A copy of Milkshape and a 3d engine did not Half Life 2 make. It could, however, make a heck of a cool neon soaked environment, yeah? Also asteroids. Lots of asteroids, but that’s another story.

Instead of following the industry at scale, we opened up thousands more possibilities

For a short while, the cool and (vaguely) affordable nature of 3d BASIC variants looked like indie games were charting a different course to the one they took. One where they explored the 3rd dimension in a weird parallel to the 3d obsessed big guns of videogaming and 2d was pushed to casual, to the super hobbyist corners. It wasn’t to last. Dark BASIC never seemed to get the grip it needed, Blitz3d became Max losing most of the easy 3d along the way and then became Monkey and we don’t talk about Monkey. The rest of the indie story well told. It’s not even that the 3d dream died, Unity is ubiquitous now, a port of call for studios and hobbyists alike. We diverged and we diverged towards a more healthy place where 2d and 3d stand side by side. Instead of following the industry at scale, we opened up thousands more possibilities. Including following the industry at scale, natch.

Like I said, I love Vektor Wars precisely because I like shooting robots in the face and it’s a game that’s really good at letting you shoot robots in the face and that’s just fine. There’s no roguelike elements, no procgen, no eternal unlock cycle or any of the trappings of a modern videogame trying to be the most modern of videogames. Vektor Wars is a 3d arcade game where you shoot neon laser robots in the face with neon lasers in a neon laser world.

shoot neon laser robots in the face with neon lasers in a neon laser world

It’s a 3d game that seems to pick up from that weird blurry time between shareware and now, it’s almost the game I hoped someone would make back then but they never did. I’m patient though and we get there in the end.

Ten years ago, I’d have really loved this game. Luckily, ten years on, it’s still the sort of thing I want to play. I guess I’m grateful that someone sorted that for me. Just so I know.

And I must admit, I like that it reminds me of how much we take indie as-is-now as if it’s always been like this when it really hasn’t.

It stops me taking the future for granted.

Super Exploding Zoo

Super Exploding Zoo for the Playstation 4 and PSVita from Honeyslug

Super Exploding Zoo is a game about exploding monkeys, for the PS Vita and Playstation 4

I have a weird relationship with Honeyslug games. It’s sorta not just that I like them a lot (and I do like them a lot), it’s a kids thing.

It started with the Vita and Frobisher Says. Kid looks at it, he’s like “Dad, can I?” and I’m hardly likely to say no to something as ridiculous and silly as Frobisher Says, am I? So I dutifully hand over the Vita and off the kid goes.

“Frobisher Says, find something green”, sneers the voice from the Vita because Frobisher is really, really sneery.

And my kid can’t. He’s completely lost. He’s just pointing the Vita at anything at this point. A stool, a cabinet, a wall. Hasn’t got a clue what to do. Turns out, he’s red/green colour blind and the only reason we found out was because Frobisher said.

A few days after this, it’s tested and confirmed. Thanks Frobisher.

I love Hohokum. But not as much as the kids do

Then there’s Hohokum. Man, I love Hohokum. But not as much as the kids do.

I’ve got two kids now and there’s a massive age gap between the pair of them. Sort of what happens when you’re told there won’t be any more so you throw caution to the wind and hahaha, turns out that’s not necessarily the case after all.

So there’s the younger one and the older one and there’s many years between them. Hohokum shuts the pair of them up. I’ve never seen the likes before. Eldest cruises around with his kite thing whilst the youngest stares in awe of what’s on the screen, sometimes they swap but mainly he plays the game, she watches. Quietly. They both do this so quietly.

Nothing, and I’m not even exaggerating here, nothing else has ever managed this. Especially not for an hour or more at a time. It’s ridiculous. Hohokum, it’s so good it shuts kids up who never shut up from about 10 paces. And I do love it too and not just because it hushes the kids although I’d be a liar if I denied that it certainly helps.

Myself, I enjoyed Passing Time a lot and I’ll be sad to see it disappear when PSM goes under soon and I try not to play Kahoots because you end up singing that bloody theme song and make it stop.

OK. Just play it one more time, it’ll be OK.

Alright, it’s not just a kids thing, it’s a me thing.

But I am looking forward to tomorrow when I get to show my kid Super Exploding Zoo because I know, I just know, he’ll love it too.

To be honest, I’m not entirely sure how you couldn’t. It’s got penguins that explode and if ever there was a thing to make you love a game unequivocally, it’s exploding penguins right? No questions. Hush at the back.

It’s a game where you explode penguins, where monkeys use dynamite, where crocodiles valiantly lay themselves down before you to make a bridge, it’s a game where even the hub is a joy as your animals career around the place exploding the zoo up because what else would animals in a super exploding zoo do but explode a zoo?

It’s a game where you have to stop a monster from licking your egg whilst you’re not looking. Nobody wants a monster licking their egg.

Nobody wants a monster licking their egg

You stop the monster from reaching your egg by getting together a gang of exploding animals and exploding them on the monster until the monster is exploded him/herself. There’s a hatchery where you throw exploding animals at an egg to break an egg to get another exploding animal.

Look. It’s really good but you know the best thing about it that isn’t the game bit? It’s the sound effects. They’re perfect. I’m not sure if you could have got more fitting noises recorded for exploding animals if you tried and it’s just really hard not to grin whilst your playing it because a) you’re exploding penguins all over the shop and b) when you do, they sound fantastic. If real penguins exploded with such joyous noises, I’m not sure if I could stop myself. I’d be arrested in no time, I swear.

Norman Stanley Rob, you have pleaded guilty to the charges brought by this court and it is now my duty to pass sentence. You are a habitual penguin exploder…

I guess I like games that can make me smile. Partly because so few actually do. Not proper full on “this makes me so happy” grins. So it’s nice that Super Exploding Zoo keeps that Honeyslug tradition up of finding me things to smile about.

And like I say, I can’t wait to see the kid’s face with it tomorrow. Will he like to pop penguins just like his old dad? There’s only one way to find out.

Lullaby For A Heartsick Spacer

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Man, I’m so tired y’know? Between kids, cats, caring, making games and life, it really wears you down at times. I sat there a week or so ago and tried to wrestle with how long it had been since I last had what most normal human beings would call a comfortable night’s sleep and I came up with “around 4 years”.

Maybe that’s why Lullaby For A Heartsick Spacer resonates so much?

I can totally empathise with the idea of just wanting to be somewhere, anywhere, quiet and just lying down for a nap. And if that’s in a cave in outer space, well, if that’s what it takes, right? But it’s not just that, I know it’s not just that. It’s the whole games as peaceful things too. We’re long overdue exploring these avenues and for me, doing just that is the best thing to come out of the new wave of people adding to what-videogames-are.

Lullaby For A Heartsick Spacer then. It’s a game where you go and sleep when you want to, where you want. In space.

Deadeye

Whilst the gallery shooter has never been the most populated genre of shooty bang explosion things, the rarity of finding a decent one makes the few that do exist all the more precious. That most of the really good ones of recent times are pretty much lost from the mainstream (or will be lost when this last generation wraps up the servers in time) and the few that seem to creep through these days come with shops, upgrades and all the boring trappings of gotta-hook-them-all, the disappearance of a really good one from the net is a thing that depresses me a tad.

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And so it is with Deadeye, a Redpoint game previously available from the now mainly dormant web magazine Way Of The Rodent over ten or so years ago, it’s a pitch perfect take on the Galaga/Galaxian theme with one eye on more modern ideas of precision and risky scoring. To its credit it’s a game that fits right at home in the great arcade gallery shooter pantheon, only slightly dated by its use of 3d rendered art.

But as is the way of the internet, despite making the occasional brief return, Deadeye has been lost to time as Redpoint:The Music kinda took its place. (As a sidenote, Redpoint:The Music is really, really good and you should check it out.)

It’s a bit janky round the edges being so old now and I didn’t have much joy getting the fullscreen version running in Windows 8 but the windowed version still works and looks and plays just fine.

So let’s not lose Deadeye from the internet and to time.

Download and play the game for Windows.

We Are Doomed

We Are Doomed is one of my fave shooters of the past few years and it’s out now on the Xbox One and PS4. Steam version follows next week.

I love We Are Doomed a whole lot. So much so that six months ago I described it as “one of the best arena shooters ever made” and I’m not willing to change that judgement in any sort of hurry. I’ve long argued for the game as pop single, I’ve talked on here about the game as prog record, We Are Doomed is the videogame as Emeralds.

And that’s kinda OK, you know? I am absolutely OK with this. Even if I am being a bit unfair because the soundtrack is very much its own brand of ambient-wibbly-prog-synth stuff and it’s very, very good in and of itself without some idiot on the internet trying to draw comparisons.

The unfortunate thing about We Are Doomed is that whilst it looks spectacular when you’re playing it, I don’t think this really translates too well into a video or a trailer. Not really singling We Are Doomed out for this either, I guess. It’s a thing with arena shooters. So I’ll just say trust Matt Lees on this, he’s not wrong.

For me, the thing I like about it most is that it’s a game that makes the most of not very much. It’s pure in a way that videogames aren’t really allowed to be nearly enough. There’s no fluff or filling with progress based unlocks and whatever other tat people decide to throw in to keep people hooked. It’s just a very good videogame and it’s content to be that. I dearly wish more games were content to be that, y’know?

I don’t need to be tricked into coming back to a game if the game’s just bloody great, ta. I’ll remember it and still play it for years to come. Not really sure how we forgot this is a thing that can happen. It’s certainly a thing I wish the new Geometry Wars had remembered but hey ho. You can’t have everything.

So yeah, We Are Doomed. Go play that. It’s great. I’ve been playing it on and off for six months and it’s only got better in its new incarnation so I guess I’ll be playing it on and off for years to come.

Chef

chef

I don’t know what happens if you do anything but poison the customers because I am a terrible human being but Chef is a great little mildly interactive film/game thing that lets you poison your customers.

I’ll never find out if there’s other options because, well, it’s far too tempting to just poison all the customers, yeah?

via Jupiter Hadley.

Captain Forever Remix

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There’s a lot of things I really enjoy in Captain Forever Remix. The way it transforms a curious retro styled sci-fi experience into a sister vs brother game is most definitely the biggest but ultimately, I’m also always going to be a sucker for really pretty things and Captain Forever Remix *is* really pretty.

It doesn’t really come off too well static but the spawn in sequence is a blink and you miss it nice touch, especially when you zoom the camera in. Then there’s who you fight. I got into a fight with a dog and lost. It’s not the first time but I think it’s the first time since Saboteur on the Speccy that it felt a bit like I’d just embarrassed myself. That’d never happen with cats, you always know you’re onto a losing streak with them.

It’s all done with a very playful This Is Make Believe On A Saturday Morning thing which lends the whole game a really joyous tone even whilst your carefully built modular craft is trashed by a goldfish. It’s probably worth mentioning that it has some great looking explosions too.

Captain Forever Remix goes into Early Access in a few hours and is pretty much everything I’d hoped it would be. It paints a very human face on a previously cold and clinical videogame and in doing so makes it all the better.

Δ

Matt’s Δ (Delta to its friends) is what you get when you cross the Star Wars trench run with Douglas Trumbull’s 2001 Stargate and throw in a healthy dollop of Warp-esque sounds. In other words, it’s an incredibly astounding looking and sounding thing.

It’s currently 360 only and available through Microsoft’s XBLIG service but I’ve got my fingers crossed for ports in the near future. I mean, just look at it. Look at it. That deserves to be on anything and everything that can run it.

OK, you can stop looking for a few minutes now. And relax.

(apologies for the lower quality video than I’d like, for some strange reason YouTube refused to play nice with it so I’m kinda stuck with that for now)