Those were the days, that was New York

I am some manner of posting-machine today, making up for lost time or something. This one’s fairly short, though; I’m just posting to point out that Platine Dispositif, makers of the best shmup EVER, have released a demo of their next game, a “metroidvania” which I believe is called Chelsea: Bunny Must Die. Go check it out; it’s quite Cave Story-like. Except with less plot. And more rigid and Metroid-like level structure.

Important! When you start the game, you will think that the controls are broken and you can not move right. This is not a bug, it is a feature. You will be able to move right as soon as you pick up the thing just to the left of the starting point that looks like a snowglobe with gears in it. I do not understand why this is. Perhaps someone can explain it to me.

Platine Dispositif also recently released a demo of a new shmup called Dandelion: Starchild Journey, and although I downloaded it last week along with a ton of other doujin game demos, I got really busy and haven’t had time to play any of them yet. I’ll try to check them out tonight and then post about any particularly awesome ones tomorrow-ish.

People have been having trouble getting the Chelsea: Bunny Must Die page to come up, so here‘s a direct link to the demo download.

Get out of this world, and into my car

Apparently every human being who owned a PC and was a teenager at some point in the ’90’s, including me, played Out of This World. I remember that it had a very interesting, polygonal-2D graphic style, and that it was very pretty and very fun but also very very frustrating at times. In fact, the closest analogy I can think of to describe my memories of it is that it was like being kicked in the ribs by a beautiful golden boot. I’ve read lots of mixed reviews of Flashback and Heart of Darkness, the two subsequent and similar games that were developed by the same team, but I think I was always afraid that they’d have more of the kicking and less of the gold, so I never got around to checking them out.

Recently, however (well, actually, a few months ago. I’ve been meaning to write this article for a while), I think I discovered the other golden boot to match Out of This World: Matt Dabrowski’s Between Heaven and Hell. Heavily (and admittedly) inspired by Out of This World, it has that same “kicking in the ribs” sort of difficulty, but it’s also just as golden. The puzzles are excellent, the gameplay is solid (though also very frustrating at times), and the production value is very firmly rooted in “shoestring budget charm” rather than the “shoestring budget amateurness” that shoestring budget games so often have. Dabrowski works with his shortcomings rather than against them: he admits that he can’t draw backgrounds, so he just roughs them out and then smudges them up in Photoshop until they look all neat and oil-painty. He admits he can’t draw people, so he just motion captures himself and a few friends he suckered into helping him with his project. These decisions, either intentionally or accidentally, give Between Heaven and Hell an excellent, unusual, and very intriguing graphical style that fits the setting perfectly, and also stands out amidst the sea of other indie games.

It’s free (which, as usual, simultaneously elates and irritates me), so go check it out!

I hate you, Milkman Nifflas.

It’s hard enough to work on indie PC games in the hopes of making money off of them with beautiful, solid, and completely free games like Cave Story, Eternal Daughter, and Within a Deep Forest floating around, but at least those each took several years to complete. My hopes were raised when Derek Yu, creator of Eternal Daughter, decided to charge for his next game, Aquaria, but today those hopes were dashed to pieces by Nifflas’ release of Knytt — another beautiful, solid, and completely free game — a scant seven months after his last release, Within a Deep Forest. Knytt isn’t nearly as long as its predecessor, and reuses much of the same engine and tiles, but it’s still beautiful, and it’s still well-made and it’s still completely free.

Near the beginning of Within a Deep Forest, there was a little village full of tiny people (actually, there were many little villages full of tiny people throughout the game). In Knytt, one of the tiny people from this village is abducted by a spaceship, which proceeds to crash on a different planet. The little person, who I presume is named Knytt, must wander around a very Within a Deep Forest-like landscape collecting the broken parts of the spaceship, using a Shadow of the Colossus-style beam of light to guide him. The controls are much simpler than they were in Within a Deep Forest; Knytt can walk and jump and climb up and down walls, and the only special abilities are a couple of optional, secret abilities which are not required to finish the game and are primarily there to help you explore.

Go play it now, play Within a Deep Forest if you haven’t already, fall in love with both, and then shake your fist at Nifflas for totally ruining it for those of us who want to try to make money off of our indie PC games.

Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve updated; I’ve spent the last six months deluding myself that if I made a “feature length” “metroidvania” game in Flash that people might be willing to pay for it, even though it’s written in Flash. I don’t believe this any more, so I’m moving on to other projects. If you’d like to check out the demo version of it, you can find it here. I’m also in the process of moving to Portland, Oregon, which has been keeping me very busy. If anyone in the Portland area is looking to hire someone with lots of experience doing unusual things with video game mechanics and working within specific hardware-imposed, budget-imposed, and/or thematic constraints, but who hasn’t had any of his creativity crushed out of him by being a faceless drone at some giant company (that would be me), I’d love to hear about it.

Update: Dessgeega has written a very nice review of Knytt over at selectbutton, in which she uses the recently-coined term “icebergvania” to describe it, which is either awesomely stupid or stupidly awesome. I’m not sure which.