Skyhill – Preview

World War III has come and gone and, as one of the few survivors, you opted to hide out in your fancy-ass penthouse at the Skyhill Hotel while things settled down. Life was good until you noticed your supplies were running out. When you headed downstairs, you discovered that mutants had filled the building, and the only way to fight them off was to craft weapons while you solve puzzles to get out.

skyhill03In Skyhill, you control one person (multiple characters are said to be in the final version) and trek from room to room, scavenging for supplies and fighting mutants. In shelves, drawers, and on desks you will find weapons and other objects that you must craft together to get past puzzles. In the demo, you are blocked by a security door and must first put together a card scanner, a battery, and a code book in order to program a card to get past.

Making your way through Skyhill is dangerous. Everything is out to kill you (which is easy to do), and your stamina is weak. It’s clear that your character did not spend those three months in blissful relaxation working out. Every action depletes your stamina bar, and food, which restores stamina, is in scarce supply.

I finished the demo after a number of attempts, most of the re-attempts being due to a low amount of stamina. Your reward is to be treated to “Ain’t He Sweet” by Annette Hanshaw for some bizarre reason.

I experienced an amusing bug that I couldn’t recreate. After one of my deaths, the character spawned outside of the building. He couldn’t go anywhere and when he tried to move to new floors, he just jogged in place.

One final note: I really liked the music of the demo stage. I walked a way for a bit while the Unity player loaded and came back, wondering if I had left a music player open. Nope, it was just a pleasing game soundtrack.

What Worked: In combat, you’re given a likelihood percentage of landing a targeted attack that does X amount of much damage depending on where you hit. This leads to a risk vs. reward system that actually feels rewarding.

skyhill01What Didn’t Work: The demo may be overtuned. While I enjoy a challenge, running out of stamina so quickly was a huge source of frustration. I’m not quite sure the system needs to exist at all but it’s hard to be certain when one is given such a small window to see the game from via the demo.

About the Game from the Dev: Skyhill is a roguelike story about staying alive when there is no reason to. It’s been developed for PC, MAC, LINUX and mobile devices.

Developer: Mandragora

Game Website: Skyhill (Demo)

Release Date: When it’s ready.

Always Sometimes Monsters – Preview

Always Sometimes Monsters (“ASM”) is a game about the choices we make in our everyday lives that have a profound impact on us in ways we don’t notice. Here, you’re chasing after the one who got away, and you have one month to raise funds by helping people around town, picking up odd jobs, and networking to get across the country to stop their wedding.

ASM01ASM offers the player an experience that will be almost entirely distinct to them. Depending on whom you talk to, when you talk to them, and what you ultimately decide to do about them, the game plays out differently. Almost every action has a consequence (good, bad, or something in-between) that affects the outcome of your journey. Will you help a little old lady clean her apartment or help a friend set up for his concert? Will you blackmail a doctor to save your friend’s girlfriend, who you hate with a passion?

In my playthrough, I worked at a tofu factory, wrote some articles, walked in on a couple having sex, and met the devs of the game as they sat in a cafe. Something nailed here is that I felt bad whenever I discovered that I could no longer help someone out, like I let them down (sorry people who lost their homes to a development project).

With a storyline that molds to whatever you make of it, Always Sometimes Monsters toys with your morality along your journey to the end in ways that make you go happy or wretch with disappointment at yourself. It’s fun! (Oh, and you can finish the game in three minutes if you want. You’ll see!)ASM02

What Worked: I have never experienced a game quite like this before, and it was very memorable. ASM pulls at the heartstrings and allows you an enormous amount of freedom while still keeping you within the confines of the story it tells. Oh, and thank you to the devs from the bottom of my heart for not giving us an incredibly small inventory.

What Didn’t Quite Work: The in-game time flow of time can be confusing. You don’t know exactly how long each event you’re doing is going to last, so you don’t know if you have time for things you want to do that day. The clock, which resides inside your inventory, can also be difficult to read as it has a meter that fills once you do something story-related. It wasn’t until I understood that I’m not going to be able to go back and help both Friend A and Friend B that I finally felt better about advancing. Unlike Harvest Moon, you can’t squeeze out a bit more time to both harvest and talk to townspeople. You only get to do one or the other, and then it’s the next day.

About the Game From the Devs: The game was largely inspired by a cross-country backpacking trek called Gamer Unplugged where ASM’s writer and co-creator, Justin Amirkhani, traveled around America meeting game developers in an effort to figure out what made them satisfied and happy with their craft.

I did some digging and found this in-depth article on Polygon about the trek here: http://www.polygon.com/gaming/2012/7/23/3177525/a-unplugged-gamers-cross-country-journey-of-introspection. It’s a fascinating read.

ASMlogo

Developer: Vagabond Dog – http://www.vagabonddog.com/

Game Website: http://www.alwayssometimesmonsters.com/

Release Date: May 21, 2014

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