Feb 25, 2011

You Shall Know The Truth

Jonas Kyratzes, the indie game virtuoso that has already given us (that's me and you reader, just me and you) such unique gems as Phenomenon 32 and has laid the foundation for the Wikileaks Stories project, has finally released You Shall Know The Truth. It's the second Wikileaks Stories game released so far, it's obviously 100% freeware with no added preservatives, it's amazingly yet wisely built around the hidden-object mechanic, and impressively does so much more than you'd expect it to.

This dear reader is a truly artful game; a shockingly proper thing of beauty. If it were of a more physical persuasion I'd put it on a pedestal somewhere publicly for everyone to enjoy. It effortlessly combines writing, sound, visuals and gameplay into a unique whole that no other medium could ever accomplish, especially while simultaneously playing with its constrains.

The problem though is, I really shouldn't say too much and spoil things for you, and that's why I'll just stop here. Better to let you experience the elation of discovering this -most political- game's beauty yourself. I'll give you just one hint: don't forget to try and exit the apartment. Oh, oh, and do explore You Shall Know The Truth for only thus will you be able to actually know its truth. Uhm, right... Here's that link again.

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Feb 24, 2011

Gemini Rue Out on the Streets

Does this post's title read a bit tabloid-y? Do you feel that on-time gaming news coverage is evolving into some sort of Gnome's Lair fetish?  Well, worry no more gentle reader, for this blog only covers the news it sincerely cares about, and that's why I thought I really should let you know that indie, retro-styled, point-and-click adventure Gemini Rue by Joshua Nuernberger and Wadjet Eye Games has finally been released. And, yes, it's as brilliant an indie adventure as you would expect it to be, sporting some amazing visuals, a neo-noir plot and more than a few subtle innovations. Grab it now via the always cozy Wadjet Eye site.

Now, in case you are wondering about how I can be so sure Gemini Rue is a great game, I have to let you in on a small secret: I've already played the review copy to death and absolutely loved it; also expect a review to appear within the next couple of days. Till then and should you still feel undecided, why not give the Gemini Rue demo a try? Oh, and do give my previous Gemini Rue post a quick read too.

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King's Quest III Redux - To Heir Is Human

Finally, the time has come for you, oh adventure-loving and most precious reader, to download and enjoy one of the best freeware adventure games ever released, for King's Quest III Redux has -as was indeed quite elaborately foretold- been released. And though it sadly is the last game the incredibly talented AGD Interactive will release, you uncaring, heartless, game-obsessed bastard will be lucky enough to play through a true gem (and so will the rest of us). Download it right now from this place and don't forget to thank the people responsible for it.

In case you are still wondering what the fuss is all about, know that King's Quest III Redux is a PC/Mac remake of the original KQ3: To Heir is Human by Sierra, that adds a beautiful soundtrack, an excellent voice-over, a sleek point-and-click interface, amazing 256-colour VGS graphics and a ton polish to an already great game. And is it really that good? Well, of course it is! Having already played its review build, I can guarantee its quality, but this very post will not be a review. Oh, no. The review will appear within the week, just to give you time to savor the experience. Go on, get downloading. Here are a couple of tasty pics to further excite you...

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Feb 22, 2011

Eye^Game^Candy: Oil's Well

Having just received my beautifully boxed Oil's Well copy, I thought I'd let you know just what a visually stunning, additively fun and mostly forgotten little gem this 1990 Sierra production is. Well, it is, and its VGA version for our ageing DOS boxes is most probably the best arcade/puzzler this developer ever came up with, though admittedly they did have to remake its earlier 1983 version. Oh, and it would be fair to call this one abandonware. Have a play/look.

Feb 17, 2011

The Interactive Fiction of Wikileaks Stories

Uhm, no, I wont be doing anything this elaborate.
I am fully aware of the fact that you, yes, you oh treacherous reader, believe that I have forgotten all about that, excellent if I may so myself, Wikileaks Stories project. Well, I haven't. I've been working on that text adventure (interactive fiction) game pretty much non-stop, though not necessarily as intensively I should have. The main problem has so far been that I'm neither an experienced designer of digital ludic pleasures, nor a particularly competent programmer. The relative lack of time is thus only a minor drawback.

Thing is, I may have more or less gotten to understand how Inform 7 works and have even managed to build some rudimentary example games, but I have so far miserably failed to come up with a basic design for the adventure. Actually, I've come up with four of the things, each one fixing on the previous ones problems and radically changing the game's structure. Apparently making a playable story about a real event isn't the easiest thing, though I do believe I've found a way to subtly integrate the necessary plot bits, while making for a hopefully enjoyable adventure. Provided things work out fine, this still unnamed project should be ready within a month or too. Expect further updates here.

On the wider Wikileaks Stories front, things are going rather well. Molleindustria has already released the pretty excellent Leaky World, Jonas Kyratzes' You Shall Know the Truth is almost ready and quite a few still-unannounced contributions are steadily progressing. Oh, and being totally unrealistic, I think I'll have a second, rather more humorous and already -roughly- designed, Wikileaks Story ready within the year too.

Frankly, reader, you should give us a hand too. Spread the word or, better yet, try coming up with something yourself. There really is no rush. Wikileaks keeps fighting for democracy, while revealing new and important stories that have to be made widely known. To help you out and further motivate you, we have already compiled lists of both Game Making and Wikileaks resources.  

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Feb 16, 2011

I Fought the Law, and the Law One

Ben304 has done it again, lucky reader. Yes, he has. This incredibly talented crafter of indie adventure games has just released the first part of the apparently episodic Airwave. You can download the first episode, the brilliantly named and Clash-referencing I Fought the Law, and the Law One for free by following this very link.

The game is a pretty traditional point-and-click adventure with a simplified and intuitive interface, the usual spectacular art and animation we have come to expect from Ben, a fully and rather excellently voiced introduction, an amazing soundtrack and the mandatory and always enjoyable puzzles. Interestingly, this first Airwave installment also sports a unique and -dare I say- fantastic plot. The player is cast as Elodie Major, a tiny indie radio station producer, that has managed to inspire the people of a small town called, well, Wave. All is not rosy though and Elodie has to fight powerful mainstream record labels and keep the station pure and loyal to quality music, while discussing the math behind quality metal songs. 

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Feb 10, 2011

An American Dream

Remember American Psycho? Well, this is the American Dream, that lets you brutalize and use this...

in order to earn $1,000,000 and own all this (and more)...

(a short post on a lovely, free, indie offering, carefully arranged to make you think)

Feb 8, 2011

A Virtual Box of 4 Freeware Games

Silly title aside, this post is a way for me to buy some time, while letting you know of the lovely freebies I've been recently playing. And yes, oh inquisitive and slightly rude reader, I do find the time to play the odd freeware offering between designing that Wikileaks Stories text adventure, preparing a ton of reviews (for your eyes only) and working on a major -possibly the biggest to ever appear on the Lair- feature. Anyway. On to the games:

Tiny Barbarian: A short fantasy themed run-and-hack game with beautiful pixel graphics, amazing animations and a lovely chiptune soundtrack. It's quite difficult, mind, but ample checkpoints and them infinite lives do help minimize frustration levels. Oh, and there are some interesting mechanics thrown in for good measure too.

L'Abbaye des Morts: Locomalito's best platformer so far, The Abbey of the Dead, feels a lot like Jet Set Willy and sports some impressive Spectrum-esque graphics. Despite being an incredibly simple game, it can at times feel very deep and allows for some delightful exploration. The game also sports top production values, a huge variety of surreal bad guys and comes with manual, DVD cover and poster.

Treasures of a Slaver's Kingdom: Another game with excellent production values. ToaSk is a brilliant, expansive, humorous and very unique text adventure, that lets you parley with and regard stuff in the cruel kingdoms of the Viraxian Empire. Oh, and it's cunningly pushed as a lost retro adventure, that never actually existed. Especially loved the digital feelies. 

Divis Mortis: This is a rather more traditional piece of interactive fiction, that has players survive the zombie apocalypse. It's tense, dark, gory, realistic and at times humorous. Divis Mortis isn't huge, but do expect to die quite a bit.

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Feb 4, 2011

The Last Express - Part I

I do know that the precious reader of Gnome's Lair has been quite aware of my interest (or is that fascination?) with The Last Express. I have after all been constantly mentioning the thing both via Twitter and Facebook, and have also grabbed a digital copy via gog.com, which I promptly installed. But should I review it? I really don't think so. More than a few excellent reviews and retrospectives for this truly unique, groundbreaking, gorgeous and amazing adventure game are readily available and are way better written than anything I could hope to come up with. That's why I have chosen to do something I've never really done on this blog; namely write a series of posts more or less detailing my experiences through the game.

Here I go now...

Being a traditionalist, I didn't immediately start playing after downloading and installing the game. Oh no. I read through the manual, watched the mostly spoiler free making-of video and even had a glance at the digital version of the Quick Reference Guide. The manual was unsurprisingly the best part, what with it trying to explain the intricacies of the game's non-standard interface and features, while wisely providing minimal only information on the plot and some interesting insights to the Orient Express -the setting of The Last Express- itself.

Robert Cath being all bloody five minutes into the game.
The game itself starts off with an impressive if short intro movie that managed to immediately set the tone and introduce me to the amazing visuals on offer, though intriguingly failed to also introduce me to my apparently Irish avatar and his motives. This lack of knowledge has so far proved an excellent idea, as I slowly get to uncover who I'm guiding (most probably to his doom), discovering his shady -hopefully revolutionary, what with Mr. Robert Cath being Irish a few years before Ireland's war for independence- past and finding out what it is I'm supposed to be doing. As for the newspaper clipping discovered in my pocket, the same clipping that let me know I was a wanted man, was too vague to enlighten me, but intriguing enough to get me hooked.

The game's interface, on the other hand, is rather intuitive and more or less straight forward, despite the rather odd way the inventory works. Also, the fact that The Last Express is played in real time and comes complete with an incredibly handy rewind time feature, allows for complete freedom of exploration, true in-game choice and a relaxed pace. There simply is no anxiety for dead ends, which I thought -and still think- is necessary to enjoy such an investigation heavy adventure.

Action sequences are fiddly, though a smart diversion.
The first few hours are, after all, far from action-packed. As Robert Cath I fought a guy, sneaked around, eavesdropped and enjoyed the excellent French, Serbian, English, African and Russian accents, disposed of a body, got a feel for the train, helped an ageing aristocrat make it through the night, met some surprising characters and even hid in a toilet while waiting for a policeman to leave the train. I particularly enjoyed reading through a 1914 newspaper, that ominously foreshadowed the Great War. 

Importantly I also found out that I'd better get the passenger list, some papers and a certain suitcase from the off-limits luggage compartment. Following characters and trying to either chat them up or spy on them proved quite a bit revealing too, whereas climbing in and out of my cabin's window has not been particularly enlightening though incredibly fun, but, I'll admit, hardly as elating as breathing the atmosphere of the turbulent and politically tense times before the First World War.

A Russian anarchist arguing with a young lady of a Czarist affiliation, a German capitalist that wants to purchase gold, Serbian patriots that had something to do with my deceased (and inelegantly disposed) comrade and some sort of colonial royalty make for an incredible assortment of characters, that turn the confined space of the train into a vibrant setting as lively as you'd imagine it. Oh yes, I might have not progressed as much as I'd hoped, but I'm definitely enjoying myself.

The Last Express' flick-screen engine has aged gracefully.
Continued in the aptly named Part II, that will soon appear.

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Feb 1, 2011

A little something on The Indie Game Magazine

You'd have to admit precious reader that The Indie Game Magazine, though definitely an apt title for an indie focused gaming mag, is far from original. Trust me though dear, this simply doesn't matter, for said Indie Game Magazine is a rather impressive and very ambitious attempt at establishing both a professional quality magazine and an excellent gaming site for us indie lovers, while simultaneously remaining a community driven project. Judging by the 14 issues released so far one can't help but feel optimistic about the mag's evolution too.

The latest issue in particular, the only one I've actually read, makes after all for a great read that covers (in its 24 well designed pages) the best indie games of 2010 in a brilliant feature, and offers reviews and previews of a variety of releases for a variety of platforms ranging for the iOS things to Xbox Live and the PC, interviews, opinion pieces and more than a few mentions to Minecraft. The issue, just like every IGM issue apparently, is available digitally, in a properly printed form and for your Apple iThing. It can be grabbed via the IGM site which also sports tons of great indie content itself.

Oh, and here is a short interview with Mike Gnade, editor and founder of the Indie Game Magazine, to further enlighten you:

1. When and more importantly why did you start Indie Game Mag?

The magazine was started October 2008 on a whim. I had been writing about indie games on the web a lot and had all these reviews and a lot of free time on a Saturday. That weekend I slapped together the first issue of IGM and published it to HP Magcloud to test their printing service. I mentioned the idea on a few forums and people gravitated and seemed to like the idea. After I saw the indie community's support, I really dove head first into the magazine. I realized that the indie community needed it's own magazine. There's tons of console gaming, pc gaming, and Mac focused magazines - and indies can get into their pages if they're lucky, but there was no magazine focused only on indie games. Indie Game Mag's purpose is to support the indie developers out there and their games by giving them a media outlet tailored to their needs. The Indie community supported the magazine when it started over 2 years ago and IGM is going to continue to support indie developers for as long as it can.

2. How would you describe the magazine and the site?

The website and magazine are tightly knit. The website has a lot of short posts and indie news that never make it into the magazine. The magazine is really about focusing on larger articles, features, developer interviews and game reviews. Nearly all of the magazine articles eventually make it to the website as posts or exclusive insider content. The magazine and website are focused on reviewing and discovering the best indie games out there - our content is centered around that, but the whole indie community is so interesting and accessible that there's a lot of great articles that come out of interacting directly with the developers as well.

3. Why choose to focus on indie games?

I sort of answered this above, but there are a few reasons why we chose to focus on indie games:
-There's no other magazine out there that covers only indie games.
-Indie Developers are easy to work with. They don't have big PR departments and will gladly send you their games to review.
-It's a niche market that's growing.

4. Who can contribute to the mag?

Anyone can contribute to our website. When we first started out we had a lot of issues with writers flaking out, so we ask that interested people contribute a few stories to the website to prove their interest. The magazine is really open to anyone who loves indie games and wants to write about them - we just make you jump through a few hoops first. Whether you're seeking a career as a game journalist or if you just want some free games to write about, IGM can help you accomplish it. Anyone who takes the time to fill out our application and email us about contributing - will (eventually) receive an email back explaining the process and inviting them to our SharePoint team site. The SharePoint thing is relatively new - but has been a great organizational tool that lets all the writers discuss story ideas, download free games, and upload their stories for the magazine.

5. What has the magazine's proudest moment been so far?

This past summer we raised over $600 for Charity (The Get Well Gamers Foundation) which was awesome. I'm also really proud of our iPhone/iPad app and our partnership with Zinio is great.

6. Any plans for the future you'd care to share?

I would love to make IGM a monthly magazine instead of bi-monthly, but it doesn't make financial sense yet. IGM is always looking to partner with other websites and is exploring a few new partnerships that would expand readership. We also need to get around to making advertising in the magazine easier. That's been on the to-do list for awhile and needs to get done.

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