Posts Tagged ‘indie games’

Break/Space – break it, but don’t pay for it

26 August, 2017

“To baldly go where no-one has gone before!”

Coming out of my shell (I’m busy, I’ve a real-life job and everything plus … acht who am I trying to kid I’m a lazy fucker. Anyway…) to punt you in the direction of Break/Space, a likeably compact, sci-fi space-faring roguelike for the ZX Spectrum. Originally programmed in BASIC as part of a game jam, it was subsequently ported to machine code and has received a number of updates to iron out bugs and tweak gameplay (as of writing it’s on V1.8). Combat, trading and exploration are all crammed into likeably jolly 8×8-graphic-based grids full of planets, alien ships and anomalys. And it’s free.
More information and downloads here.

Strange, non-Euclidean

7 March, 2016

I got myself a cheap Android tablet last year and I’ve been using it to catch-up with all the

Screenshot_2016-03-07-15-52-46 [151798]

Dat ice diamond, tho’

touchscreeny “mobile” games yer actual young people have been playing. A few of them have stuck out as being both highly enjoyable and annoyingly obscure, hidden away under a tidal wave of pay-to-win tripe, Angry Birds rip-offs and in-app-purchase-saturated strategy games with “Clans” in the title.

Anyway, the first of these is HyperRogue. This brilliant little indie title is based on the classic roguelike set-up but at the same time manages to be unqiue and original. Basically, the player character is thrown into a strange world based around a hexagonal grid which appears to be viewed through a fisheye lens. Gameplay consists of hunting for treasure and killing monsters but, unlike most roguelikes, there’s a chess-like strategy element to the fighting based entirely around who can enter a hex first. For this reason, where you move is important and, because the more treasure you collect in any one world the more enemies start to appear, it gets more and more important to avoid being cornered or surrounded.

The gameplay changes subtly as the player progresses, so collecting ten treasures in any one world will unlock the appearance of orbs which provide special powers; and the player can escape an overly-dangerous world into a new, safer, one with new treasures, monsters and dangers.

Presentation is simple: the graphics are deliberately generic with desert, ice and jungle worlds displayed using the same basic graphics with a few palette changes. This is surprisingly effective, however, and gives the game a similar feel to the early roguelikes it takes as its inspiration. There’s also some atmospheric tunes to accompany the whole thing.

I’ve only sketched the basic outline of all the things you can find in this game and, as with all great games, it’s better you discover them yourself. HyperRogue is available on Android, Linux, OSX and Windows.

Making Willy Harder

27 January, 2016

Fuck your “walk through both kitchen rooms without any of the monsters hitting you”

Everyone who has ever played Matthew Smith’s classic 1984 platform game Jet Set Willy has surely had the same thought –

“What this game really needs is to be less easy. In fact it could really do with being much, much more difficult.”

Well, 32 years after the game was originally published it looks like someone has taken heed because a new ZX Spectrum remix of the original game has been released called Jet Set Willy: The Nightmare Edition.

The goal and map is much the same as the original game but pretty-much every room has been subtly, and sometimes not so subtly, altered to make an already challenging game carpet-chewingly frustrating. In addition to this, there are some other tweaks such as a new “nightmarish” in-game font, extra tunes and a few wee new touches here and there.

Hopefully, these will make up for your pulling all your fucking hair out.

More details and download links at this page here.

My Issyos, your Issyos, a’body’s Issyos

15 December, 2015

Never mind The Star Wars, or Elite: What Should Have Been In The First Version,


“Try my Christmas roasted scarab beetle!”

the release you should all be getting excited about is The Curse of Issyos. Creators Locomalito have an incredibly high hit rate when it comes to retro-style games that actually play as well as the best stuff of yesteryear as opposed to just look a bit like them (#names). This latest game is a scrolling platformer with vaguely Sega Master System/NES-era graphics and the usual great score from Gryzor87. It’s set in the age of Greek myth and is heavily influenced by the likes of the 1960s great SFX/bad acting film Jason and the Argonauts. What the flippety flop are you waiting for? Download it now for free from its website, you silly.

Influential imps

12 March, 2015
Zombies! Not enough of those in games, are there?

Zombies! Not enough of those in games, are there?

MidBoss is an interesting mash-up (gods, I fucking hate that phrase but what else am I supposed to say here?) of traditional roguelikes such as Angband and the old Commodore 64 game Paradroid. The player starts in a dungeon controlling an imp with little to boast about other than the ability to possess defeated enemies. So the first thing to do is take possession of a defeated rat, the next-crappest creature in the dungeon after the imp, and from there try to possess stronger and stronger creatures, taking on their special abilities permanently with experience, until eventually possessing one of those BDSM monsters from Dungeon Keeper or something. It’s more simplistic than some roguelikes (not necessarily a bad thing) and the possession mechanic makes it feel suitably unique in a very crowded genre. The isometric graphics are a nice touch too.

Midboss is currently in beta and the developers encourage you to vote for it on Steam Greenlight if you enjoy it. You can find it here.


4 March, 2015


Not the Great British Institution who got a rude phone call from Jonathan Woss and pseudo-political bell-end Russell Brand. This is an “infinite runner” freeware game which runs in a web browser and features a bloke on a skateboard and a proper old-school difficulty curve, no hand-holding for ages here. It’s also got a weirdly enjoyable “horrible” 8-bit style in-game tune which rivals even the title music on Heist 2012 on the Spectrum for, erm, avant-garde-ness.

You can play Manuel by pointing your web browser here. No, I haven’t fucked his grand-daughter.


8 April, 2014

I’ve always had a certain affection for games that have “tiny” sprites. I think it’s because the smaller the characters, the larger the world feels and the less the fog of war (or fog of platforming, or whatever).

Risk of Rain, a brilliant game by Hopoo Games, has tiny sprites but that’s far from the best thing about

Shooty shooty

Shooty shooty

it. Whilst largely a platform shooter it also, like many recent indie titles, uses aspects of Roguelike games including randomised stages, experience with levelling-up and a plethora of collectable items to improve the player’s chances. It also features a novel form of “class” system. The player selects one of a number of survivors from a spaceship crash on a mysterious planet but, at the start, only the Commando is selectable with the others being unlocked once the player achieves certain things. Each characters “class” has four different types of attack and requires different strategies to play, like the best Roguelikes.

It also has a clever difficulty curve with the player being accosted by more and more enemy creatures as the game progresses so that what starts out as an easy fight against a few wibbly-wobbly things turns into running battles with a menagerie of horrible alien things.

The collectables are generally found in chests unlocked using coins (these are obtained from fallen enemies, being pleasingly “sucked” towards the player along with orbs which provide experience) although there are other ways to obtain them. The collectables supplement the player class’s existing abilities and, with a mixture of thorough searching and some luck, the player can become a heavily armed war machine by the time they come across the teleporter which signals the end of the level and, if activated, heralds a huge boss monster (pleasingly, these seem to be randomised).

Risk of Rain‘s main plus is that it’s monsterously addictive and very playable. When I first bought it I decided on a “quick ten minute” game and only exited after over an hour. The random aspects of gameplay and the enjoyable methods of attack/defence as well as the large number of collectables available make each game feel fairly unique.

Are there any problems, though? Well yes, sadly, but hardly any. The main one is the enemy AI. Many of the creatures are monstrously thick and seem unable, for example, to pursue the player over anything other than perfectly flat land, being stumped by a slight change in terrain height. There are some aliens which are supposed to be “sentient” and cunning but all this means is that they can deal with changes in terrain. They don’t, for example, chase the player up ropes or leap small gaps. If they did they would feel more like a worthy foe and not just some slightly clever animal. The enemy are a threat after a while but that’s because there are so many of them. I can’t help the sense of threat and achievement in fighting it off might be better if the enemy were a bit more relentless in their pursuit. The graphics also have a “chunky” 8-bit feel to them and, whilst this is aesthetically quite nice, I kind of want to see what it might have looked like with proper HD sprites.

But these are minor quibbles. Risk of Rain is two of the most important things a videogame can be: challenging and fun. I like, and you should too.

Something vague about the spirit of 8-bit

26 March, 2014

The second life of the ZX Spectrum is quite something to behold. The ’80s British computer, whose life as a commercially-viable platform spluttered out in the early ’90s after an impressive decade as one of Europe’s most popular home computers, has refused to pass into history more than probably any other retro-platform. Whilst there are people still writing games for the Commodore 64, Amiga, Sega Megadrive etc they are not churning them out at anything like the rate they’re churning them out for the Spectrum. Dozens and dozens of new games are created each year, many of them a bit crap, some of fun and a few of them gems. It’s like the ’80s never ended.


“Copyright 1985”

What I really like about recent release Leonardo’s Lost Last Invention – a three-part game based largely around platforming and arcade action sequences – is that it’s a bit of a mess and yet a mess in a way that works and feels right. The instructions are a little vague, it’s got a few bugs, and it feels dreadfully unfair in places. It doesn’t work all that well as a game but playing it puts me instantly in mind of dozens of games discovered on compilations, magazine covertapes and 60-minute cassettes with “Spectrum Games” scribbled by a friend in biro across the front. It’s flaky and unprofessional but at the same time charming and intriguing and you kind-of want to keep playing it. At least until you get all the bits of the flying machine and make Leonardo fly. That’s cool.

What am I rabbitting on about? I’m not sure. I think it’s a mixture of nostalgia and respect for the amateur and the eccentric; this is a new Spectrum game which feels like an old Spectrum game in a way too few new games for the platform manage to. Regardless, I recommend Leonardo’s Lost Last Invention even though it’s not very good. Go on, take a chance, it’s free.

The Land of Make Believe

29 January, 2014

“It’s the grail of Spectrum gaming!”

Mire Mare is a game that doesn’t exist beyond a piece of box art left over from the 1980s and a few mocked-up ideas. Despite claims (noisy and numerous 15 years ago, solitary and muted today) that Rare have a dusty cassette/disk/microdrive under lock and key somewhere with a working version of the game on it all the evidence (see, for example, Retro Gamer‘s reasonably thorough examination of the subject a few months ago) suggests that no such “treasure” exists. If Rare really had hung onto a finished game following US Gold’s purchase of the Ultimate brand (as has been claimed) then the time for the company to make the money they most certainly could from it has surely been and gone several times over. There is no Mire Mare, just like there’s no Loch Ness Monster.

And, to be honest, I’m amazed that it’s taken the huge and highly active ZX Spectrum community as long as it has to do the obvious thing – make their own Mire Mare to fill in the gap Ultimate have left.

If we’re being pedantic, this isn’t Mire Mare, it’s Land of Mire Mare. The decision to go with that name is a wise one on behalf of the designer. This isn’t quite making the claim to be a definitive next game in the Sabre Man series; by sticking “Land of” to the start of its title it’s effectively announcing to the world what it is – a tribute, a tip of the hat. Nothing more.

And, to be fair, that’s appropriate. Despite the familiar-looking title screen and even (for fuck’s sake) the QWERT layout of the control keys, this doesn’t feel much like an Ultimate game. It moves a bit slowly for a start, far from the pace we’re used to, and whilst the graphics are pretty good (Sabreman is instantly recognisable) they’re not quite up to Ultimate’s standards. The gameplay issues are partly explained by this being written using Jonathan Cauldwell’s AGD game-creation software (surely the ultimate example of a modern-day Spectrum utility that could have earned its programmer a pretty penny had it been released in 1987) and is therefore bound to the limits of that software. It also, on playing, has numerous gameplay issues not least the very strange way the weapons seem to “work”: collect, press fire, and Sabreman shuffles forward, animation unchanged, destroying any enemies he touches appropriate to the weapon. Come on, surely we can do better than this. It’s like the (excellent) weapon system from Sabre Wulf was chosen as the inspiration and then the work was left half done.

In fact, Land of Mire Mare is, based on my first couple of games, disappointingly average, without the hook of the classic Ultimate games it’s paying tribute to. There are plenty of nice ideas in there – named screens, “boss” monsters, simple object manipulation, but they’re dragged down by the slow pace, the poor weapon implementation and some notable bugs. It’s a good thing this isn’t the real Mire Mare because, if it was, the air from the disappointed sighs from a legion of Spectrum fans could probably power a small wind turbine. And that’s a shame.

Land of Mire Mare is available at all good forum post announcements (i.e. this one).

Not enough sugar in this jam

7 December, 2013

Actually, can someone do this for the actual Spectrum plz?

Speccy Jam is a brilliant idea, of course. But unfortunately, I’ve not been massively impressed with the quality of the games that have actually come out of it so far. Too many seem crude or half-finished and don’t really work all that well as games – Henry Hedgehog, for example, is a below-average JSW clone whilst Bin Em feels like a two-star smartphone game that happens to the use the Spectrum palette. I really like Water Spears, though, which looks, sounds and plays like an actual classic Spectrum game with happy echoes of the excellent Scuba Dive.

Go here and have a shot of the games yourselves.

And whilst I’m talking the Spectrum indie scene, it’s worth keeping tabs on the Comp Sys Sinclair Crap Games Competition 2013 blog. Cassette Fifty, you have so much to answer for. *shakes fist with free calculator on the wrist*