Brandon Boyer

Just trying to live a wild, pure, simple life.

The 20 games you shouldn't miss in 2014

By Brandon Boyer

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Top iPhone indie game devs partner for charity-driven IndieSale

indiesaleiphone.jpg In other holiday charity game bundle news: six indie developers are also working together on the IndieSale, a week-long price drop on truly the best original games on the App Store: Canabalt, Eliss, Drop7, Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor, Osmos and Solipskier. While they can't quite bundle themselves in the same way as the Humble Indie Bundle, what they have done is collectively dropped their prices to 99 cents for the week, and are tracking sales to donate a full third of the proceeds to the Child's Play charity. Like the Humble Bundle, though, they've also added a number of freebie ringtones, soundtracks, wallpapers and extras as incentives, and Canabalt developer Semi Secret, at least, is promising new features for the game if the group can raise at least $10,000. To take part, visit IndieSale, or use the App Store links below to get each game (all of which are wholly worthy of collecting-them-all): Canabalt Solipskier Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor Osmos Eliss Drop7 Indie iPhone Holiday Sale

Humble Indie Bundle 2 adds games from first bundle

HIB2and1.jpg Cory mentioned this campaign when it first launched, but the team behind the charity-driven Humble Indie Bundle 2 -- which lets you pay what you like for five top-tier indie games -- have now added all six games from this year's previous Indie Bundle, if you donate more than the overall average amount. That means that for at least around $7.60 (you choose how much goes to the developers or organizations like EFF and Child's Play), you get eleven games: World of Goo, Aquaria, Gish, Lugaru HD, Penumbra Overture and Samorost 2 from the first bundle, along with newcomers Braid, Cortex Command, Machinarium, Osmos, and the newly released and super-stylized Revenge of the Titans. Further unlocks like this are also expected -- the Bundlers have also just announced that Titans will go open-source if donations reach $1.75 million in the 2 days remaining in the campaign. Click here to contribute! (Humble Indie Bundle 2, illustration by the ever-amazing Nikklas Jansson via Amanita)

Image: Apelad's Pac Man Twitter avatar

pacmanarcadetwitter.jpg

It's not the first or even the second time he's done a gaming themed take on the default twitter-bird, but it is the most interpretive and therefore kind of the best. Pac Man Twitter Avatar [Adam 'Apelad' Koford]

Image: Nintendo of Japan's Mario tease

clubnintendomariotees.jpg Andriasang has closeups of a line of wicked customizable Mario Ts (that chain-chomped heart!) meant solely for members of Japan's official Club Nintendo, and on the same day Tiny Cartridge spots a new ltd. ed. line of Super Nintendo shirts from King of Games/editmode, which have a far better chance of showing up in their English store.

Shadow play: Sony enters the shadow-game ring with echochrome ii

It all started -- it should be noted -- with Steve Swink and Scott Anderson's Shadow Physics, revealed at the Game Developers Conference's Experimental Gameplay Sessions in 2009, and still in production at their upstart studio Enemy Airship (as yet offline, but already with this amazing logo designed by Phil Fish). After that came Lost in Shadow, Hudson's own upcoming fantasy/storybook platforming take on shadow-play. And now, spotted very briefly at E3 in Sony's PlayStation Network reel, but now shining in a stronger light on their PlayStation.Blog, is echochrome ii, an upcoming downloadable that'll use the PlayStation Move motion controls as a flashlight to modify the game's cast shadows to solve yet more puzzle/platforming levels. Sony's take does, to be fair, appear to be a logical next step from their original optical-illusion puzzler echochrome, but it is a curious case of Hundredth Monkey game design, and will be interesting to see how each makes its own mark as they all come to market.

Get These Games (a bit cheaper): Xbox Live Chime, Darwinia, more on sale

This week's 'Deal of the Week's on Xbox Live contain a few former Games To Get names, including charitable music puzzler Chime (above, truly one of the Xbox 360's top downloadables) and Introversion's Darwinia, alongside another top recommendation, the time-shifting action puzzler Misadventures of P. B. Winterbottom. If you've been holding out for whatever reason on any of the above, now's the time to pounce on each.

Ambient touch: Hemisphere Games' Osmos due July 8th for iPad

Above: the first video of multiple IGF award finalist and all around fantastically ambient game Osmos running on the iPad, ahead of its July 8th App Store release date. I've been lucky enough to spend the past couple weeks with a pre-release version of the game and it's quickly become one of my iPad favorites. You'll have to reconfigure your brain slightly to adjust to its particular brand of ambient play: though it shares some of the same basic consume-to-consume-more mechanics as something like Katamari, attempting to approach it with the same carefree knockabout spirit is a quick way to instant failure. Instead, you'll need to more slowly and strategically work your way around each level, looking for openings and playing the waiting game. Hemisphere have more information on the new additions to the iPad version (and the iPhone version to follow a month later), and, coincidentally, Steam has the PC and Mac version of the game currently on deep discount for a mere $2.50 to give it a whirl ahead of time. Osmos for iPad, coming July 8th [Hemisphere]

Hulu due for PlayStation 3 in July, Xbox 360 in 2011

plus-devices-tv.png While it might not quite be on artistic par as Europe's score with arthouse film streaming service MUBI, the announcement of Hulu Plus -- an ad-supported and subscription based alternative to the current TV streaming service -- has also brought word that both the PS3 and Xbox 360 will be getting their own on-dash version. The guided tour of the $9.99 per month service notes that the PS3 version will launch in July with full seasons of current programming (full list here), along with full series archives of shows like Buffy, X-Files and Arrested Development (full list of those here, too). An Xbox 360 version will follow after the holidays. Currently the service is invite only, with the iPhone and iPad viewers already available as a free download on the App Store. Read more about the new service via Hulu's latest blog post, and see the video tour here.

Indie Games Festival opens 2011 submissions, adds mobile games

tuningigf2011.jpg Finally, I can show off what's been keeping me so preoccupied for the past week (and all morning as well!), as we announce the opening of the 2011 Independent Games Festival and explain all the changes we've prepared for its 13th year. Chief amongst those is the addition of a new category for iPhone/iPad, DS, PSP and all other mobile devices (ie. Android), as well as allowing those mobile games to compete in all categories, as handheld games have matured to the point where they can compete with their PC/console counterparts. Previously, those games were confined to the IGF Mobile competition, which is now entirely folded into the main IGF. But we've also expanded the focus on art/games, with more finalists in the Nuovo category -- a category specifically for more experimental games, like last year's Nuovo winner Tuning (above), from the aforementioned Cactus. Over here I've discussed the full list of changes to this year's IGF (including some inside-baseball type changes to the judging system, of interest particularly to indie devs keen to enter). If you're spurred on to enter yourself, all the submission info you need is over here. Looking forward to a wicked festival this year, and hope to see your game included! 2011 Independent Games Festival Opens Submissions, Adds Mobile Category, Expands Experimental Focus [IGF.com]

Steam offers deep-discount game sale

steamsaleindieplain.jpg PC (and now Mac!) digital download service Steam has kicked off a site-wide sale offering big discounts on everything from AAA to indie, including bundles like the 'Northern Lights' pack (above) -- which includes Crayon Physics, the aforementioned Saira and the excellent UK indie Plain Sight -- and the Best of the Underground pack. Also of note, all the games from Darwinia creators Introversion are bundled for $5, and even recent releases like BioShock 2 and Borderlands are around half off (and available in their own 2K bundle). The Steam store site has the full listing of discounted items, which remain on sale until July 4.

Now available: Game Seeds, the card game about game design

A few months back, I mentioned Game Seeds, the card game created by Utrecht School of the Arts, Monobanda and Metagama to help game designers brainstorm both character design and entire games, by playfully combining their specific mechanics. The post quite happily got far more attention than I would've imagined, and (especially after I'd posted that Monobanda had sent me an early deck of the cards) I was a bit deluged with people wondering how they might also get their hands on the Seeds. So I'm happy to report, then, that as of today the decks are now available for worldwide purchase at €10 a deck. The team have also put together the ridiculously adorable video above to explain how the system works, and have created a new official Game Seeds site for more information on the project. Let us know if and when you create anything with it! Game Seeds [Monobanda]

Rock of Ages: a different kind of art game

While I'm still in the thick of preparing the deluge of words on the good things I did see at this year's E3 (somewhere buried underneath the thick strata of identikit first person shooters were several truly rare shining gems), here's the one game I'm depressed I didn't see: Rock of Ages, the sophomore effort from Chile's ACE Team due for downloadable release in spring 2011. At heart a seemingly simple defense-busting action-physics game, ACE Team (the same as behind recently released [and just as fantastically stylized] first-person beat-er Zeno Clash) has upped their own ante and dressed it as a fully realized art-historical world from the Renaissance, Rococo and Gothic eras. More information should be shortly forthcoming from publisher Atlus via their teaser site here. Rock of Ages [ACE Team]

Missed connections: E3 edition

helghaste3mc.jpg Via my trusty E3 companion Sarah Brin, the missed connections from this year's Expo, for when you really, truly, honestly thought that booth babe (or bro) only had eyes for you:
You were the tallest one of them all, armor clad and looking rather delicious. I don't know- I suppose I have a bit of a costume fetish (and video game boys), but wow. You looked astounding in that gear. I can even begin to imagine what you'd look like without it, nor do I really care. All I am sure of is that I really want you. Seriously, haha. Costumed and masked- your identity is safe. Hell, I don't care which Helghast soldier I get. I just want one of you.
los angeles missed connections classifieds "e3" [craigslist, via Sarah Brin, photo via flickr's ze_bear]

Get Zach Gage's 8-bit iPhone dodger Bit Pilot for free

NYC artist Zach Gage should already be a familiar name both for his accidentally-controversial art/game Lose/Lose (the Space Invaders-alike that deleted a file from your hard drive on every successful kill) and, more recently, Sonic Wire Sculptor -- Amit Pitaru's generative sound app which Gage helped bring to the iPhone. As I mentioned in the writeup of the latter, Gage has been quietly released a steady stream of stylishly low-bit apps for the iPhone, among them block-puzzler Unify, audio toy synthPond and Bit Pilot, an 8-bit asteroid dodger with sound design by chiptune artist Sabrepulse. If you've been waiting for a good excuse to experience what Gage is all about, your chance has now arrived, as Bit Pilot's been set as a free download for today only -- grab it on iTunes here for one of the best tastes of his signature game design aesthetic before the deadline ends. Bit Pilot [Zach Gage, iTunes link]