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The ever-reliable Indiegames.com notices that Increpare, the devilish mind behind English Country Tune and other mind-twisters, has released MMMMMM, a free spike-laden tribute/alternate take/sequel to Terry Cavanagh’s VVVVVV. It’s a puzzle game about trinket collection and spike avoidance, with success being reliant on forward thinking and, of course, gravity manipulation. I was playing for about thirty seconds before diagonal surfaces were introduced and after five minutes I’d become intimate with more spikes than there are atoms in the universe. Sometimes the rules of a game create a sort of synthesis with my mental workings; in this case the two were at war and I was caught in the middle, hoist by Increpare’s pixel petard. Everyone go and beat it then tell me how rubbish I am.
Developer Terry Cavanagh is at it again. And this time, he's made a social multiplayer game starring cats.
With highly-respected titles like VVVVVV, At a Distance, and Donât Look Back already under his belt, Cavanagh's name is already synonymous with great indie games. His latest release is a free browser-based Flash multiplayer game called ChatChat. It's distinctly unique, on top of being adorable.
ChatChat's only instructions to the player are "be a cat." Players quickly name their randomly-generated feline avatar and then run around the world doing all sorts of cute cat-tivities.
As with much of Cavanagh's work, ChatChat is much better experienced than described. A lot of this is because much of the game's charm comes from discovering its various systems and the possible actions to take. Some might interpret the game's humorous construction, delivery, and subject matter as a subtly backhanded commentary on the current state of mainstream MMOs, but for me, ChatChat's brilliance is in its simplicity. The game basically boils down some of the traditional pillars of an MMO into their core essences, and then wraps them in a framework that most folks can immediately understand. It also lends more weight to the notion that you can have an entertaining multiplayer experience that doesn't revolve around killing things. Except mice, that is.
ChatChat is deeper than one might expect, but don't necessarily expect multiple hours of entertainment. In fairness, however, that doesn't really seem to be the point. What the game does do quite well is get the player attached to their avatar, while posing the question: "What would I do if I were a cat?" There's no combat to speak of, and the game instead allows players to find and explore their inner kitties. It's social, it's strange, and you should probably check it out.
Cavanagh also indicates tentative plans to add a few extra things to ChatChat with the help of fellow developer Hayden Scott-Baron who made the game's crude but charming graphics. "There are a few small things I'd like to add to ChatChat, if @docky is up for doing more artwork. Will have a go tomorrow at CB2 :)," Cavanagh tweeted earlier today.
You can play ChatChat for free on web-based gaming portal Kongregate.
Terry Cavanagh's VVVVVV is a game in love with being a game. The sci-fi tale of six space-dwelling scientists (whose names all begin with the letter V) getting displaced in another dimension is silly, but the bare-bones premise is fitting for the 8-bit retro aesthetic. This nostalgic presentation allows Cavanagh to look at common conventions with a deadpan sense of wide-eyed wonder.
When it's discovered that walking to one end of the screen causes you to emerge out the other side it's explained as "inter-dimensional interference". The first time a scientist sees a checkpoint he suggests it be brought back to the ship to be analysed. Where Atari games like Asteroids and Centipede seemed embarrassed by their stories, Cavanagh builds one to complement the medium's preposterous designs. These analytic musings and low-fi visuals brings to mind classic sci-fi yarns like The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits, from an era when computers were the size of apartments and even the most basic video games were the stuff of dreams.
VVVVVV is sharper and more modern than its inspirations, sidestepping the archaic trappings of actual games from the eighties. The design vaguely resembles Metroid, but where Samus' debut presented players with an open world to explore, it was really only somewhat open, with a series of barriers blocking off much of its real estate until the proper piece of equipment was found.
VVVVVV doesn't bother with upgrades. You only have one ability throughout the entire game. By tapping a button you can flip gravity, effectively transforming ceilings into floors and vice versa. Where most games today lead players by the nose or place locked gates indicating they should be revisited later, VVVVVV's condensed maze is entirely accessible after a brief tutorial. This lack of guidance means you're literally lost in space, but the manageable scale and a bevy of warp point alleviates needless backtracking while you boldly go where no one has gone before.
Whichever way you go, you'll be greeted with fiendishly difficult platforming challenges. Much like Super Meat Boy, nearly every jump requires precision and one wrong move will see your space captain's pixelated body reincarnated at the most recent checkpoint. Thankfully, these are mercifully frequent, cropping up in almost every single screen. It's not unusual to fail dozens of times on a single jump, but the penalty for dying is so minor that it seldom frustrates.
Each area is distinct too, with new ideas offering neat twists on the one-button gravity play. In one section the edges of the screen lead to its opposite end until the correct exit is found, while another offers an escort mission where your charge will run towards you when you're on the ground but ignore your presence entirely when you're on the ceiling (clearly they come from the Arkham Asylum school of observation). Another level places you on a vertical scrolling elevator lined with spikes.
Amusingly, the more hazard-prone screens come with their own witty title written by QWOP creator Bennett Foddy. A screen following a dive off a cliff is called "I Changed My Mind, Thelma" and possibly the game's hardest optional challenge is a multi-screen spike-filled corridor entitled "Veni", "Vidi", and "Vici".
VVVVVV premiered on PC in 2010, and this 3DS port is a mostly solid conversion. Having the map simultaneously in view on the bottom screen is a major boon in a game about charting the unknown. Other additions include a selection of user-created levels, some of which are by notable indie designers like Minecraft creator Markus "Notch" Persson. 10 of these were already available on PC, but eight are new to this edition.
Regrettably, there's no level editor (though Nicalis, the publisher of this port, has stated that it would like to add this) and the 3D is underwhelming in a game with primarily black backgrounds. Between that and the pillar-boxed top screen, VVVVVV takes so little advantage of the system's unique capabilities that it's a little troubling it wasn't released on DSiWare for those who've not taken the plunge on Nintendo's latest handheld.
Elsewhere, at the time of writing Flip Mode, which is supposed to mirror the world vertically, is busted and presents the player with a blank screen. This is a well-known glitch that will hopefully be fixed prior to the European release, which is scheduled for this month.
Despite these niggles, this is a fine port of a splendid platformer. Switching effortlessly between sadistic punishment and boundless freedom, VVVVVV provides more moment to moment pleasure in its scant two or three hour campaign than most games do at four times the length. While not flashy, long, or for the faint of heart, those with an affinity for old-school difficulty and newfangled mollycoddling checkpoints will find Cavanagh's tribute to the past could teach its high-definition contemporaries a thing or two.
If the 3DS does nothing more than get a few indie PC greats into the hands of the masses, then I consider it a success. You may remember VVVVVV from its starring role in the Humble Indie Bundle #3, or from its charmingly primitive visuals mixed with a simple yet satisfying gravity control mechanic. Help Captain Viridian find his missing crew and save the day by flipping gravity on its stupid gravity ass. I should write the back of video game boxes.
There are things other than VVVVVV in this week's download as well, but typing out their names isn't quite as entertaining, so I only did it once. You can find those below.
Carmen Sandiego Adventures in Math
Publisher: The Learning Company
Price: 600 Wii points
Bad news, detective! Those vicious villains of V.I.L.E are at it again. This time they've struck Big Ben in London, England! Just when we think we've put a stop to their trouble, they come up with a new scheme to vex us. The Chief wants ACME's best agent on this case, and that means you, detective. So grab your gear-you're headed to London!
Carmen Sandiego is back and only you can foil her V.I.L.E plans. Travel the globe, solve brain-twisting math puzzles, and catch the villain behind the Big Ben Burglary.
Crack the case of the Big Ben Burglary in single-player Story Mode. Perfect your math skills in single-player Practice Mode. Challenge your friends and family to solve math puzzles against the clock in Multiplayer Mode.
In Carmen Sandiego Adventures in Math, you practice your math skills and use them to fight crime. Ideal for grades 4–5, math topics include arithmetic, logic puzzles, fractions and much more!
Price: $4.99 /500 DSi Points
Become a true Cake Ninja warrior. This casual game invites you to slide the stylus across the screen to slice cakes into small pieces like a true ninja warrior. It's very easy to play. The more cakes you slice, the longer you stay around. The longer you survive, the higher your score. How long can you last? You can also challenge your friends to a multiplayer game and find out who's the best player.
Publisher: Magellan Interactive
Price: $7.99 / 800 DSi Points
Create more than 16,000 levels, discover unlimited Daily Challenges and beat the Devil in new mini-games. Slingo Supreme is the sequel to Slingo Deluxe, packed with even more Slingtastic fun. It features a new Supreme mode that lets you build more than 16,000 different Slingo games. It also offers an infinite supply of Daily Challenges, new Powerups (including Reel Nudge and Instant Slingos) and the long-awaited introduction of Devil Mini Games. Now you can finally take on that Devil and beat him at his own game.
There's something terrible wrong in an alternate dimension! Help Captain Viridian flip to find five crew members, 20 hard-to-reach Trinkets and save a dimension on the brink of destruction. It's a space opera in the most unique scale with a style that only VVVVVV can bring to you. Instead of jumping, control the direction of gravity by inverting your gravity and allowing Captain Viridian to flip between the floors and ceilings of the environment.
For adventurers who save the dimension, there's still hours and hours of new gameplay with all-new Player Levels. Test your mettle and see if you have what it takes to beat a collection of levels created by other famous game developers.
Inspired by classic 8-bit days gone-by and now with experience-heightening 3D, VVVVVV will challenge even the most battle-hardened old-school gamers.
Take control of the powerful bionic arm and infiltrate the Empire's fortress. Rad Spencer is a member of FF Corps, an elite group of commandos who serve the Federation. The group is specially trained in the use of powerful wired grappling guns. When the Federation's greatest soldier, Super Joe, is captured while infiltrating the enemy Doraize Army and investigating the development of a powerful super-weapon, Rad Spencer is sent in to save his missing comrade. Take control of Rad and his powerful bionic arm as you infiltrate the Doriaze Army's heavily guarded fortress, navigate 19 levels, fight to save Super Joe and ultimately take down the enemy leader in this classic side-scrolling adventure.
The charming indie platformer VVVVVV will make it to the 3DS just in time for your New Year's Eve party. You can distract yourself from Ryan Seacrest and the Black Eyed Peas with some gravity-swapping puzzles. The game is scheduled for release on the eShop this Thursday, December 29, at a price of $7.99.
Nintendo (via Joystiq) gave word of the release. The game has already been around for a while in PC and Mac for $4.99 and a free Flash incarnation, but the 3DS version adds a few features to warrant the new price tag. You'll get new featured levels, a real-time map on the second screen, and "surprisingly nice" 3D support according to fellow indie dev Robert Meyer.
Here's what it looked like at IndieCade:
Alright gang, here we go with another wild download code giveaway over Twitter, and this one is extra super special because the codes are for a game that is not even available yet.
But if you're lucky enough to snag one of six codes I'm giving out over Kotaku's official Twitter in the next two hours, you can get your hands on VVVVVV from the Nintendo eShop and start playing it before it comes out next week! It's a gift ... FROM THE FUTURE.
What the hell is VVVVVV? on the 3DS like? Well, you can read up about it here. But go follow Kotaku or, y'know, yours truly and then watch those feeds between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. EST. We'll be giving out six codes, first come, first served. Good luck!
To get to the Redeem Code screen in the eShop on your 3DS: 1. Launch the eShop. 2. Select "Settings/Other" (it is the furthest left in the eShop, or select the Menu tab at upper left, and navigate to "Settings/Other". "Redeem Download Code" is your first option. Select it and enter the code.
Good news and less good news from the Humble Bundle camp today. The happier end of the bargain is that purchasers of the current Humble Bundle 4 now get the base contents of Humble Bundle 3 (i.e. VVVVVV, Crayon Physics Deluxe, Cogs, And Yet It Moves, and Hammerfight) added to their pack. That’s if they’ve bought HB4 already. If they haven’t, they’ll have to beat the average price to get the bonus goodies. The average price is currently $5.17 million. (more…)
The new Humble Indie Bundle is terrific. For a price of your own choosing, you can get indie gems Super Meat Boy, Bit. Trip Runner, Jamestown, Shank and Nightsky, as well as Cave Story + and Gratuitous Space Battles for paying more than the average selling price.
Today, the folks behind the bundle announced that they've added a new batch of games for anyone who pays more than the average price, which is currently at a mere $5.16. So in addition to those seven games, you'll get Crayon Physics Deluxe, Cogs, VVVVVV, Hammerfight, and And Yet It Moves. So, a bunch of games from the last Humble Bundle tacked on to an already killer lineup.
Need more incentive to pick this up? (Seriously? You do? Wow. You are demanding.) Okay then, you'll also get the soundtracks for every game thrown in for free.
I'm not sure what could make this deal more appealing. Maybe if they like… deliver you a pie, to your door. And give you a back massage while you eat it. Before dusting and re-threading the cables behind your TV.
Humble Indie Bundle #4 [Humblebundle.com]
Him:> silent, stoic, patient. “OK.”Me:> jabbering, confused, hectoring. “Go there, what about that, does that look like that?”
A right pair, Jim and I. Entirely inappropriate, surely, to tackle a co-operative puzzle and exploration game together. We did it, though. We conquered At A Distance‘s abstract shape-worlds, and we did it together. And creator Terry Cavanagh (VVVVVV) only had to give us big, fat hints around half a dozen times. Perhaps he was inwardly thinking “these feckless jokers run a website about videogames?”, but outwardly he was patient and understanding, so I’ll presume we weren’t quite the most pathetic pair he saw tackle his brain-teasing wonder.
Right: here’s the main problem with writing about At A Distance. You say how it works, you spoil it. I’m going to take a cowardly middle-ground and obliquely reference key elements without actually shining a direct light on them (and certainly not on how to solve the game), but if you want to go in totally blind to this 30 minute-long co-op indie game that requires two adjacent PCs to play it, stop reading now. (more…)
Following in the footsteps of the Humble Indie Bundle, today only you can buy the Game Music Bundle for as much as you'd like to pay, from $1 to $10,000. (Yes, there is actually an option to pay ten grand.)
The soundtracks include most of the best indie game tracks from the past couple of years, including Danny B's killer Super Meat Boy OST, SoulEye's VVVVVV soundtrack, and C418's Minecraft: Volume Alpha. If you play $10 or more, you'll get seven bonus soundtracks, including the soundtracks from The Binding of Isaac and Extreme Road Trip.
Any way you slice it, that's a hell of a lot of music for very little dough. Even if you're participating in Buy Nothing Day, well… surely $1 towards independent game music composers wouldn't be the worst way to break your fast?
Indie Game Music Bundle [gamemusicbundle.com]