Tales From Space: About A Blob

[PAX Prime 2010] Indie Game Roundup

We take a trio of unheralded PSN games for a spin...
Author: Aram Lecis
Published: September 11, 2010
By now you have (hopefully) read our Slam Bolt Scrappers preview, and you know that we found that little game to be about as much fun as we have had since, well, since we learned that our penis was for more than peeing. I might be teetering on the edge of being a "jaded gamer" here, but none of the "AAA" titles I saw at PAX really floated my boat (although BRINK certainly has me intrigued). Thankfully, there was a gaggle of games from independent developers that piqued my interest and drew me in. One of the greatest things to hear as a Senior Editor at a PlayStation focused site is how simply wonderful all the developers felt about working with Sony. A familiar refrain we would hear at these booths when we asked why they were going with Sony was "They were just so eager and helpful to work with us. No one else offered us the support that they did from Day 1". As huge proponents of PSN and of out-of-the-norm gaming, it gives us a warm feeling to know that there is a home for those games that don't fit the traditional mold and offer unique experiences. Let us introduce you to a few of them that are in the works right now.


Retro/Grade - 24 Caret Games

I was busy staring at some Mass Effect cosplayers while JD played Retro/Grade, so I'll let him give his take:

Retro/Grade is a clever one. Imagine a side-scrolling shoot-'em-up. Now imagine that time is running backward, and you need to control maneuver your ship into your own bullets so that you fired them when you were supposed to, while also avoiding enemy fire. Now further imagine that it's all synced up to a bunch of original electronic music. Pretty weird, right? Oh, you can also play it with a guitar controller if you'd like. In practice, it's like a weird rhythm game, and it doesn't quite feel like anything else.

If it sounds familiar, that's because Retro/Grade made the rounds when it was in the IGF (Independent Games Festival), and has been generally kicking around in the form of screenshots and youtube videos for the past couple of years. It's finally nearing release (so far exclusively for the PlayStation 3 via PSN), and it has received a significant facelift, as you can see in the video below. It took me a bit to wrap my brain around what was happening in Retro/Grade, but it was very gratifying to play once it started falling into place. It was definitely one of the more fun things that I got the chance to play at PAX.

BALLS



Hoard - Big Sandwich Games

What do you get when you mix simple resource management, twin stick controls, four players, a board game mentality, and dragons? You would get the upcoming PSP and PSN game Hoard, from Big Sandwich Games. Surprisingly deep for a downloadable title, the game centers around a group of dragons going out to acquire the most loot possible for the hoard. You achieve that goal by burning up caravans, razing towns, capturing and ransoming princesses and defeating an array of overmatched enemies. As you gain more gold, you can upgrade your dragon to be faster, stronger, or able to carry more of that precious gold (you need to return to your hoard on a regular basis to drop off you booty). Strategy comes into play, as you can allow towns to prosper for a bit so they produce more gold and princesses, but allow them too much leeway and they will send ever increasing throngs of knights, archers and mages to raid you hoard and erase you from the skies. The action soon becomes frantic as the landscape becomes dotted with mage towers, castles, roaming ogres and all other manner of obstacles to prevent you from bleeding the land dry. Don't feel like being friends? Hoard is playable cooperatively or competitively. Maybe you don't have three friends lying around? Not a problem, as a variety of single player maps offer unique challenges with tricky terrain, AI dragons trying to heist your hoard, and time-based missions. Hoard is hitting this year on the PSN, so if you are the sort of person who couldn't get enough of the film "Reign of Fire", be sure to keep your eyes peeled for this one!

Tales From Space : About A Blob - DrinkBox Studios

When you sit down with About A Blob, you can't help but feel this is what it would be if someone combined Gish with Katamari Damacy, because, well, that is pretty much what it is! In this two-player side scrolling co-op adventure, a pair of "blobs" need to make their way to the exit by overcoming a variety of obstacles, many of which require you to be a certain size. In order to increase your size, you absorb a variety of detritus littered throughout the environment (very much Katamari-style) and as you increase in size you can absorb larger objects. When playing co-op you can pass objects between blobs, and also use each other to reach higher area that might otherwise be inaccessible. Fiendish puzzles requires both blobs to act in harmony to achieve things that would be impossible solo. As you progress through the game, further powers besides absorption are given to your blob (in our demo we had the ability to become magnetic, both to attract and repel) and levels become more fiendish. While the first level we played was quite simple and short, the second level we demoed was far longer and far more intricate, and we were promised that things would get even more intense we progressed through the game. Color us excited to absorb more info on this game as it nears release.



Raskulls - Halfbrick



While this isn't a PSN title (yet, we hope), it is by our good friends at Halfbrick who have been keeping the PlayStation Minis viable. Essentially a hopped-up Mr. Driller with powerups from Mario Kart tossed in for good measure, Raskulls features that endearing Halfbrick art style and tosses in frantic 4-player gameplay that is great for short bursts and scores of swears directed at your former "friends" who leaped over you at the last second to steal the victory. Write your local congressperson, or at least our friend Phil at Halfbrick, and ask, no, DEMAND, that they work on bringing Raskulls over to the PlayStation. Hey, I hear that those Sony guys are a dream to work with!