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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Day 11 - Hammerwatch 

What's not to like about a bunch of heroes of four different professions in a dungeon filled with vile worm creatures and other nasty enemies? Of course, we all heard this kind of story before, and yes, you have to have some kind of nostalgia virus going on to appreciate it fully, but Hammerwatch is worth it to just try it out even when you don't.

We (the same group of four enthusiasts that played Cube World) downloaded the free beta version and were delighted from the start. Hammerwatch has a nice presentation, with optional fullscreen effects for the extra retro feel (like scanlines) and pixelart to drool about it. It also helps that the gameplay is quick, easy and intuitive, and very rewarding, especially when you disable permadeath. ;-) It's delightful to hack'n'slay your way through the well crafted levels – at least in co-op multiplayer mode. I can imagine that the game is a bit dull when you play it alone, but in my opinion Hammerwatch shouldn't be played alone, just like its spiritual precedessor Gauntlet.

Of course, the game has its quirks, as does every other game. For example there is no story at all – you just get thrown in the dungeon, and you have to figure it out for yourself why exactly you want to kill animals and get a lot of loot from barrels. And I'm sure this is fixed in the buyable version, but when we played the game through (the first dungeon), the end boss didn't have any balancing at all, you just needed persistence. On the other side, even when we respawned constantly and endlessly tried to dodge a giant laser, just to decrease the end bosses' health by a laughable 1% each time - it was fun!

What I really want to try out soon is the level editor that is now included even with the free beta version of the game.
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