Day 18 - Symmetrain 

Designers often have to aspire a symmetric, balanced unity of shapes on artificial products. Although we humans seem to be symmetrical, it is just an illusion, because perfect symmetry is not to be found in nature. Just a human search for perfection.
And I'm not used to find this kind of symmetry in games. That's why the first screenshots of Symmetrain did puzzle me. What is this game about, what do I do with these identical looking screens?

But soon after downloading the game you will develop the compulsion to complete the beautiful landscapes of that are not balanced or doubled. Symmetrain is like a relaxing train ride, where you look out of the window and enjoy all the beauty that passes in front of your eyes. Your goal is to complete the perfection of both sides and re-balance them. Guided by a train - that even has a brake in case the scene passes too fast – you will explore the fantastic landscapes in a combination of infinite runner and 'Find the difference', plaited in an unique game which is excessively exploring travel, remembrance and recognition.

Get the game here.
I think Daniel's action figures are also notable and weird.

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Day 17 - TECNO 

I'm very impressed by TECNO, mostly because of its technical achievement: it's been made with Blitz3D. If you don't know Blitz3D, it's a 3D engine you can script directly with a BASIC dialect (the infamous BlitzBasic). It also comes with a simple IDE. Years ago I used it for some prototypes, and I always liked the ease of use and many of the features it comes with, like robust collision detection and so on. Back then it made 3D game programming finally reachable for me, and that's why I love Blitz3D so much; in a sense, it's the Unity of its time.

The reason why I'm so impressed with this certain game is that Blitz3D uses DirectX 7, which came out 14 years ago. Yet I think TECNO, from 2007, looks pretty cool. It even has physics! The game proves that a pleasant look is mostly due to the artists' skill, not because of the technical capabilities. (Of course there will always be people who would describe it as "ugly", but those won't read this blog, I guess.)

TECNO also isn't the standard pew-pew first-person shooter one might suspect, but actually a much slower paced adventure-FPS with a prominent touch of horror. It really reminds me a lot of System Shock 1 and 2, which always is a plus in my book. Of course you can be a bit grumpy about the somewhat strange interface, and that you can't save anytime, but don't let that drag you down.

I have to confess that I didn't make it very far in the game yet, as I'm still bad at playing horror-themed games without the permanent urge to quit them and watch happy bunnies instead. As the game is free now for quite some time, there is no reason to not at least try it out. I at least was curious already when I saw the colorful yet nightmarish atmosphere for the first time (I just love abandonded space stations).
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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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