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Antichamber - Windows (January 31, 2013)

by Sam Derboo - February 24th, 2013

Antichamber Logo

Video games seem predestined to experiment with our intuitions about the physical world, yet for a long time the medium hardly ever went beyond the endlessly looping stages in Super Mario Bros. or twisting corridors in Ocarina of Time, until Portal introduced a fresh concept and thoroughly explored its possibilities. Antichamber seems to strike the same chords as Valve's surprise hit, but on closer look it's a very different experience.

The setup looks like another human experiment type scenario, but there are no definite clues that confirm this. All the player gets in terms of instructions are cryptic life lessons and puzzle "hints" on motivational posters around the lab. The hook for Antichamber is its strong use of non-Euclidean physics and visual illusions - things may be larger or smaller than they appear, many paths lead to the same outcome, and when you turn around, things look entirely different than before. For the first hour or so, Antichamber doesn't really appear as a puzzle game, but is all about exploring and learning the laws of this strange world. While much of it appears arbitrary at first (and some of it is), there are some regularities it that make orientation much easier as soon as one figures out.

Eventually one finds a gun that can suck up and shoot multi-colored blocks to activate switches, build platforms, and more. From this point on actual puzzles with door switches, laser barriers and movable boxes take the spotlight, while the strange physics take almost become background noise for a while (they do make a comeback, though). The aim becomes always getting the next block gun variant, with which the game usually teases the player way in advance. That's also where the game starts to run into some problems, though. Often it is necessary to trace back into other rooms, to get block ammunition for the gun, for example. The area to take into account for solutions also grows bigger and bigger. One can always drop back into the Antechamber, with a map to pick any previously visited location, but that resets all puzzles and empties the gun. Getting from point A from point B can become a real chore with all the non-logical connections, one way streets and dead ends. It's also often not clear whether you can solve a puzzle with what you got, are supposed to try and carry blocks from another area, or need to get a new gun altogether before being able to proceed. Finally getting through a problem feels especially rewarding against the unreal challenges of this intriguing world, if you can make it through the sometimes frustrating meandering in between, that is.

The game needs to be scolded for its interface, though: Controls are hardcoded to the WASD scheme, so as a leftie I can't play more than 15 minutes without getting cramps in my hand. The starting screen also shows a time limit, but when it runs out, the game is like "whatever!" and just goes on.

Homepage


Quick Info:

Designer:

Alexander Bruce

Genre:

Adventure: First Person
Puzzle

Themes:

Abstract
Immersive Simulation
Physics

Type:

Commercial


Antichamber

Antichamber

Antichamber


Edge Grinder - Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC (September 18, 2011)

by Sam Derboo - March 3rd, 2013

C64 Cover

Edge Grinder is a game were you grind along edges. Well, technically it's a horizontally scrolling shoot-'em-up, with lots of alien enemies to shoot at while roaming through a corridor in space. To get that sweet high score, however, the ship has to fly as close as possible along the floor or ceiling - being there keeps the score display counting up constantly. That's almost more rewarding than shooting the enemies (and often offers a good way to dodge them if necessary), since you got only one weapon with no upgrade capabilities at your disposal, and most aliens take a fair amount of abuse before detonating.

As everyone knows, in space they do so without making a sound - although with the Commodore 64 that is much more out of technological convenience than any consideration of the physical realities. The game has no sound effects at all, but a cool SID chiptune. Together with the slightly metallic looking graphics Commodore's 8-bit box was famous for, Edge Grinder takes you right back to the late 1980s.

As a product of the lively C64 coder scene, Edge Grinder is freely available for download. RGCD is also offering a fancy boxed cartridge that flashes multicolored LEDs while playing, but aside from the novelty value it's hard to justify shelling out the 20 British pounds if you're not a C64 fanatic. Edge Grinder is an extremely short game, in fact it consists only of one single stage with no boss, and can be played to the end in less than five minutes. The game is just meant as a nice little score attack challenge, owning a cartridge that glows in the dark is overkill.

Although originally made for the Commodore 64, Edge Grinder was soon ported to the Amstrad CPC as part of the Format War Collabortition (an odd portmanteau of collaboration and competition), which meant to promote cross-platform ports between several 8-bit computers, but Edge Grinder appears to be the only result of that project. The CPC version is very faithful to the original, and even retains the fluid scrolling and a decent rendition of the music - quite a feat on a platform that's infamous for its many weak ports. For some reason the score display has been moved to the bottom of the screen, and the graphics are a bit more colorful than on the C64.

Only the Amstrad CPC later received an upgraded version called Super Edge Grinder. This release featured entirely new graphics (especially the HUD looks very slick) and modified music. But most importantly, at the end of the still sole level now awaits a huge boss. It looks like the gargantuan mouth of a disgusting Giger-esque alien creature, and actually is a pretty innovative way to hone the original game's concept: It spits out more edges for you to grind and accumulate even higher scores. The actual target is a small cannon at its rear part, though, which keeps hovering up and down while shooting at your ship.

Homepage

Super Edge Grinder (Amstrad CPC)

Quick Info:

Developer:

Cosine

Genre:

Shoot-'em-up: Horizontal

Themes:

Space Combat

Type:

Free / Commercial


Edge Grinder (C64)

Edge Grinder (C64)

Edge Grinder (C64)

Edge Grinder (C64)

Comparison Screenshots


Giddy 3 - IBM PC, Windows, Wii, AmigaOS, MacOS, MorphOS, Android, webOS (2000)

by Gendo Ikari - March 12th, 2013

Giddy 3 Logo

He may be not very popular today - a recent Kickstarter campaign for an official 3D revival failed - but the eponymous egg-shaped hero of the Dizzy series of action-adventure games (and several spin-offs in other genres) was practically Codemasters' mascot from the late 1980s to the early 1990s, and maintains a small yet dedicated fan base that produces countless fan games.

The Giddy series was one of the first, with two episodes released in 1993 and 1994 for the Amiga. While the screen flipping was employed by the Dizzy games too, simple graphics and a lack of sound effects betray their amateur origins. The third game, however, which was released for DOS several years later, is closer to a professional product from the golden days of the Amiga: catchy music, crisp pixel graphics with many little details, parallax backgrounds, and multidirectional scrolling that makes the level design feel much less constrictive.

The game stays true to the Dizzy formula of platforming (enemies cannot be fought, only avoided) mixed with many items to collect and use on objects in the scenario, but is less rigid in following it and tries to be more welcoming to the player. Giddy can carry an unlimited number of items, and useful objects are highlighted when he passes over them. Getting lost is also less likely since the game world is broken into five areas. With the exception of a TARDIS (one of a few random pop culture references thrown in) connecting two areas, you can't go back to a previous area from the entrance of the current one, and you're back to the beginning once you leave the fifth. They're not self-contained though, so you'll still have a fair amount of exploring to do, and several parts are not accessible until you have the right items. The final objective, as explained in a simple scrolling text, is the destruction of an alien robot factory.

Giddy 3 (Windows)

The entire game can be completed in an hour, but there are no continues, saves or passwords, so it will take at least a little while to master its small but fun world. Giddy 3 fully captures the spirit of the games it clones - when it doesn't outright refer to them, for example when you can use bubbles as platforms like in Bubble Dizzy - but at the same time manages to smooth out their rough edges, and has certainly aged better than them.

The DOS version is hard to run nowadays - even in DOSBox it remains unstable - but luckily the game has been ported to several platforms in recent years, including Windows, Wii and Android, with additional sound effects and most importantly fully configurable controls (the original control scheme was a bit quirky), making this Reasonably Special Edition the definitive one, although it loses an easter egg that appeared on a monitor in the fifth area when jumping several times in front of it: a demoscene-style intro, complete with tiny scrolling text and commands to alter it.

Giddy 3 (IBM PC)

Homepage

Quick Info:

Designer:

Phil Ruston

Genre:

Platforming

Themes:

Parody
Contemporary: Suburban

Type:

Free


Giddy 3 (Windows)

Giddy 3 (Windows)

Giddy 3 (Windows)

Giddy 3 (Windows)


Perspective - Windows (December 12, 2012)

by Gendo Ikari - April 5th, 2013

Logo

Using changes of perspective in a 3D environment to modify the play area is not a new idea, yet few games employ it because it's difficult to apply, and even then there are often limitations: to name a few, in Super Paper Mario and Fez rotations are 90 degrees only, while in Echocrome you can only rotate the structures on an axis and the mannequin character moves on its own.

Perspective, senior year project of a group of students at the DigiPen Institute of Technology, successfully attempts to go beyond those limits by offering full movement in a 3D area. The game begins with a character - sort of a love child of Mega Man and Tron - on a 2D plane, but he leaves his own arcade machine soon after. With a simple click of the mouse button, control switches between him and a first person perspective entity. Corridors and halls are littered with blue and orange tiles: just decorations in the eyes of the player, platforms to walk on and hurtful lava for the little guy. The objective is to reach an exit gate, but it's not as simple as it looks - literally.

Provided that the guy stays always within the line of sight, the player must constantly adjust the 3D view so that the environment becomes favourable to him. To make a simple example: two blue lines are too distant for the guy when you look from afar but if you hug the wall, the slanted perspective makes the lines appear closer and he'll be able to jump. Is some space too tight for him to fit in? Come closer to the wall and his relative dimension will be smaller than the gap. The game is full of tricks like these, yet it is much simpler than it sounds; controls are kept essential and the transition between 3D and 2D modes is fast and feels natural.

The levels are structured around the rooms of an arcade: every level is a coin-op machine that must be entered and solved; shutters open when all machines in a room are cleared, allowing access to further sections. Later levels introduce moving elements for added challenge, but overall the game isn't difficult, and takes no more than a couple hours to complete. However, aside of the novelty factor, even with no story to speak of there are a couple twists and an ending that are worth the full experience.

Perspective is one of those strokes of genius that video gaming allows us to see every once in a while. Descriptions or still screenshots don't do it justice: it's something that must be seen in motion.

Beware only of reportedly incomplete gamepad support, with certain commands always wired to the keyboard, making the use of some other interface moot. Also, even if DirectX 9 is very dated by now, you have to wonder if such simple (but effective) graphics really needed nothing less than DirectX 11.

Homepage


Quick Info:

Developer:

Team Widdershins (DigiPen)

Genre:

Platforming
Puzzle

Themes:

Abstract
Unique Visuals

Type:

Free


Perspective

Perspective

Perspective

Perspective


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