Day 16 - Knytt Underground 



Nicklas Nygren, the developer of the Knytt series, did a very inspiring talk at this year's Amaze festival in Berlin about “Secrets and Glitches”. After showing some tricks from classic video games he revealed places in real life he discovered. Like pictures of hidden little paths he followed in the woods or beautiful little places and doors he found where probably nobody else would have looked for them. He finished his talk with showing some of these examples in his game called Knytt Underground.

Like presented in his talk, Knytt is a huge labyrinth of beautifully crafted rooms, scenery and weird flowery photo backgrounds. In this world you play as a little mute girl, who is extremely talented in climbing walls. Which is also the main fun part while exploring. In every chapter you will get more abilities that help you reach new places in this Metroidvania-like concepted world.



Like in every platformer you have the screens with enemies and passages that you have to jump, bounce, fly or run through in a perfect choreography. But in Knytt these parts are not the only gameplay pieces, they are just rooms you go through once in a while, which makes them somewhat special and fun. In addition to that the character controller is excellent, which is not a given in this genre.



While praising the exploration, I have to admit that I haven’t found any of the achievement secrets, what seems to make me a shitty explorer. But I don't care, because there are enough rewarding things in the game. Especially climbing. And finding new passages you haven’t seen before.
So, if you love exploration and figuring out how to reach new places on your map, this is your game. Get it here.
And if you can't get enough from Nifflas' Knytts, there is a free Nintendo DS version of his Knytt stories, which I also played through while not sitting on the computer playing the Underground version.
And the superb soundtrack is available, too. For free.


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Day 15 - Hotline Miami 

Why do I like Hotline Miami so much? The game is very different from most of my other favorite games. Normally I'm not a fan of such an extreme top-down-perspective, because humans look just strange from above (especially if the game doesn't feature shadows). Also, a game that is action, and nothing but action? I'm not an animal, you know – I want feelings!



But yeah, the game is fun. Pure fun. And that might be the main reason why I don't mind the presentation that much – it's fast, it's brutal, and I don't have time to wonder how this guy actually might look like just because I see his head and shoulders only. Also, the vibrant colors and the shaking camera are like a trip and they make that perspective thing pretty much unimportant.

Also, the gameplay. At some point you might think "wow, it's hard" – but then you try the same scene several times in under a minute. And that's somehow the opposite of hard, because even though you lose your life a lot of times, most strikes are an instant kill and you always feel the joy of a perfect kill. It seldom becomes frustrating. (But sometimes it does. It's OK.)



And even if the story doesn't tell a lot of things or doesn't make meaningful character progression, it's shown in a nice and immersive way, something not a lot of games manage even nowadays. Full 3D characters with realistic facial expressions may look interesting, but always a bit stiff, and they never will transport an emotion like (even crude) drawn characters do, at least for me. The underdog comic style is something I absolutely adore about Hotline Miami, and combined with the drug-like gameplay it's no wonder even I have to like it.
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Day 14 - Splatter 



And now for something completely different. Splatter is, like the name implies, no adventure game but a classic top-down twin-stick horror shooter with zombies. I never played these kind of games before, but I played the hell out of this one.

Maybe it's because we know Thomas Ziegenhagen - the developer of Splatter - since many years through the German amateur game dev scene. Or due to the very German down-to-earth story combined with neat little ideas in gameplay and scenery.

In Splatter you play a young man who just wants to leave the zombie-infested areas and is getting closer to them by accident instead. Soon he will master all kinds of weaponry to shoot masses of all kinds of zombies. You might have heard of this story before. It's the weak spot of the game, but I found a pleasure in reading this German pseudo-philosophical character monologues and interactions whose rough character interaction probably remind me of classic German RPGs like Gothic.



What makes Splatter unique is the love for details like destructible objects, individual characters or the change of environments like the organic farm in the middle of a shootout. Every scene has its own elements like a room full of gas and zombies where you have to find corners with breathable air. Or weird quicksilver creatures that cannot be shot down, but are sensitive towards light. The light system is excellent btw and even important for the gameplay.

I recently did an interview with Thomas. Read about founding an indie start-up in Germany and his struggles with storytelling here.
Or buy the game here.
And watch the trailer here.


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Day 13 - 10 and Alignment 

Just a few hours left, and then there will be the next Ludum Dare! Although not the oldest and by far not the onliest game jam out there, it most certainly is the biggest online game jam, happening three times a year. Right now you can still vote on the theme – and of course plan to participate. I really recommend it, as doing a game in 48 hours (or less) can be a very interesting experience. Even when you fail, you still tried and will be prepared better next time.

But let's not talk about failure, let's talk about Benn! Benn Powell is a member of the Ludum Dare community since quite some time, and what's so special about him is the nature of his contest entries (among other things, of course). He mostly does very minimalistic games, as minimalistic as games can be. For example, he made at least three games with circles only, two of them even with nothing more than full, single-colored circles (no outlines) only, and yet the games are all very different, memorable and fun to play. Just have a look at his Ludum Dare entries.

I really like his last entry, 10. The theme back in August 2013 was "10 Seconds", and Benn decided to ignore it completely – so there you have it, an abstract 2.5D platformer, only using circles with a single color each. You move around and with Space you jump from platform to platform, just to reach the exit of each level. You might wonder, how is this 2.5D – well, just try the game called 10 for yourself. Looking at the screenshot only won't do it justice.



But just because Benn is in love with two-dimensional shapes only, neatly drawn in Flash, doesn't mean he can't do the 3D. For the 7DFPS, another online game jam (where you create a first-person shooter within a week), he made a game called Alignment, and it pleasantly doesn't involve any guns. Instead, it's a yet again minimalistic Portal-esque game about extruding blocks from the floor and walls. A neat touch in this game are the hand-drawn hints and backgrounds.



Both games are free, by the way. :-)
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Day 12 - The Cat Lady 



I never played as many adventure games as this year. And all of them were extremely good, very unique and everything else but the typical point&click adventure. The Cat Lady is one of them and got me when I first saw the trailer. What a weird and original look! Although the design might look a bit crappy on first sight, the collage style makes the whole game very memorable and full of details, which creates a deep and believable atmosphere.

The Cat Lady begins when the 40-year old Susan is committing suicide. But instead of fading away, she arrives in a surreal place that is confronting her with her own death. There she meets a mysterious old women, who tells her if she kills the five so-called parasites (serial-killers), she will regain her life.

While she encounters these people mostly in unexpected ways, you learn a lot about Susan and a mysterious girl named Mitzi, who moves into Susan's apartment. While Susan is a very depressive and sarcastic women, Mitzi is the lively and funny one, which seems to be a facade that the game is going to deconstruct bit by bit.



The Cat Lady is a game with very strong, expressive characters resulting in dialogues that makes them almost real protagonists, completely supported by voice acting.

Every chapter is full of creativity and nice little ideas like playing a cat, being blind for a short time, the flashbacks that show the character's past, the re-awakening or the surreal drug scenes.

Although I don't like this serial killer stuff and some of the parasites, the psychological depth of the two characters made it for me! One of the very few adult adventures supported by a very diverse soundtrack.

Get the game here.
Watch the trailer here.


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