Grow Up
Review

The brilliant clumsiness of Grow Up

There’s a blinking emoticon of a robot waving its arms around. It has the kind of joy that should be reserved for kids at a birthday party, not a loading screen. Once the bar is filled the robot appears again—now in full 3D, a red shell like a Lego brick—but this time it’s animated like a drunk who’s too inebriated to stand. When I push forward on the analog stick it’s as if my small motion has turned the entire planet under its feet. The robot’s arms flail as if reaching for a pole or an edge to cling to.…

Owlboy
News

Nearly 10 years in the making, there’s still plenty of reason to care about Owlboy

Owlboy, which has been in the making since 2007, was at one point a joke. It sat alongside Fez (2012) as retro-sentimental platformers by independent studios that promised a lot, but seemed fated to never come out. “Do you reckon Owlboy will come out next year?” someone might ask. “Haha, yeah right,” might be the reply. Fez did eventually come out after five years of waiting, but Owlboy didn’t—it’s been nearly a decade now. When Jo-Remi Madsen of the Norway-based D-Pad Studio tells me it’s “OWLBOY TIME,” I presume that it is a joke. The concept of Owlboy Time is more a unit…

Lost Words
News

Emotional upcoming platformer turns words into architecture

A child is standing on a scrap of paper. “This diary belongs to Izzy,” she says. As you move her across these words and to the next page, another set of words appear: “I never knew my mum. It was mostly gran who brought me up.” This is Lost Words. It’s a story-driven platformer being created by UK-based studio Sketchbook Games. Led by Mark Backler, a veteran designer who previously worked at EA and Lionhead Studios, the game explores the story of a young girl as she copes with life’s struggles including the illness of her grandmother. In Lost Words, Izzy’s…

On Rusty Trails
News

On Rusty Trails, a videogame about the absurdity of racial prejudice

While On Rusty Trails may look like yet another 2D platformer at first, its creators at Black Pants Studio took it beyond that simplistic impression by enabling a discussion about race through the game’s primary mechanic. “It was one of those days where I read the newspaper and there was an article about guys beating up people for having the wrong skin color,” said Tobias Bilgeri, the game’s designer. “I read another article where a German politician said: we do our best, but the people who come to us have to integrate themselves. Then I thought, even if they eat bratwurst, drink…

hackyzack_concept_2
News

HackyZack is about living with anxiety, but you probably won’t realize

HackyZack is a “shitty metaphor” for creator Zack Bell’s thoughts and feelings on his own past. (“Shitty metaphor” is his phrasing, by the way.) It takes a Super Meat Boy (2010) approach to platforming—its meaning abstracted and then scattered among undeniably crisp platforming challenges. But where it differentiates from other platformers is in its multitasking. In HackyZack, players have to bounce around a plethora of obstacles all while maneuvering different balls to a goalpost. So let’s get to it: HackyZack is about living with social anxiety—trying to escape its grasp by imprinting it onto a person or object that simulates comfort and security. For HackyZack’s…

Celeste
News

Next up for the creator of TowerFall, a game about climbing a mountain

There’s a mountain near my house where I grew up and it was a regular exercise for teenagers to climb up it as the sun fell, and then race back down chasing the light. Since it was a small peak, and since I lived in the foothills of the Appalachians, it seemed like a bent grandfather to the craggy peaks of the Rockies or other, more noble mountain ranges. Certainly, scaling that mountain in its green glory, bears little resemblance to the snow-capped summit that awaits you at the top of upcoming game Celeste. pixel trees underneath a star-lit sky A…

Burrito Galaxy
News

It might be impossible to stop grinning at Burrito Galaxy

When someone talks about nostalgia in videogames, there’s a solid chance they’ll also be talking about Metroidvanias or slick indie platformers. Super Meat Boy (2010) ends up being notable for its tight air control and precise jumps—the weird setting and throwback cutscenes are kind of a bonus. But from what I can tell, the upcoming Burrito Galaxy has nostalgia mostly for the weird worlds games let us inhabit. When the vaguely dissonant squeaks of the soundtrack from the new video started to play, I couldn’t help but grin: it sounds like someone made the Wii Shop Channel soundtrack play a game…

Slain!
Review

Slain! is a disappointing death growl

Heavy metal is the musical and theatrical manifestation of mankind’s lizard brain. It’s an auditory siege that rifles through our ancient and violent nature that was once necessary to survive. This music transmutes those base emotions through myth, metaphor, and performance through modern instrumentation, impossible without electrical amplification. The costumes vary from latex to bullet belts, corpse paint to standard issue black, and on the stage the lights are kept low or flashing. Every note and image is calculated and well-rehearsed, because metal thrives in the extremes and requires complete attention to maintain the shared illusion for everyone at the…

Grow Up
News

Videogaming’s most endearing, clumsy robot is making a grand return

It was a welcome relief amid all the Just Dance-ing and Watch_Dog-ing at Ubisoft’s E3 2016 press conference to see the reveal trailer for Grow Up—a sequel to last year’s charming plant growing/climbing game, Grow Home. BUD, the red, stumbling robot from the first game reprises his starring role, and is tasked once again with clambering across all manner of enormous flora to locate parts of his spaceship, presumably to head home once more. Grow Home was an unlikely hit last year. It was developed by an eight-person team at Reflections (known primarily for their driving games) as an experiment…