As part of the Kickstarter, a game pack of 30+ games was on offer, and these were original games from some of the most creative people working in games today. This week, most of that pack was released to Kickstarter backers, and today, its available for a limited time for those who still want to snap it up. For the next twelve days, you can donate $15 over at gamepacks.net to get 23 games right now, and ten more when theyre finished over the coming months.
Weve got our hands on those 23 games, and weve played through them all and are now offering our impressions of each one to you. So, if youre up in the air as to whether this pack is worth your money, please read what we have to say about each game.
ALPHABET (Keita Takahashi + Adam Saltsman)
Alphabet is a keyboard-driven racing game involving the alphabet! Hold down the appropriate key(s) to get each letter on the screen running and release the key(s) to get them to jump, navigating them up hills and over obstacles that include, among other things, their own poop alphabet poop? Okay.
The early levels only feature a couple letters at a time to get you warmed up, but as more and more letters start to enter the race, your hands and your keyboard end up looking more like a game of Twister than anything. To avoid this somewhat, you can use the letters at the far back to push the crowd of letters in front through the course of the level, but this strategy becomes useless if they have to make a jump.
If you didn’t think you had dyslexia before, this game does a good job making you feel like you do. Even for someone who can write out the layout of the keyboard from memory, I felt myself losing track of where letters were at times, especially when I had to use unconventional hand positioning to press ten keys at once.
Scattered throughout some of the later levels are little fruits that will turn all the letters in the race into the same one. This makes it easy to get through a portion of the level with just one key, though the effect is limited!
As cute as this game is, be warned! The song gets old fast. At least, for me. The art is fantastic, though!
CONTROL (Kieran Nolan)
A meta game, hey? Well, I guess there had to be one. I suppose one way you could describe CONTROL is by saying that its a demake of Surgeon Simulator-type controls. Yes, you control a hand using the arrow keys, and pressing the Space bar and a direction, you can direct one of the fingers (or thumb) to press down on its position. Its not that complicated once you know what youre doing, but trying to be accurate on the tiny joysticks and increasingly small buttons is a whole different story.
The game is one of being speedy and accurate with your button presses as youre fighting against energy (lost with every button press) and time. You have to press the buttons that are flashing; otherwise, you make a wrong move and cause the whole game to go into a meta glitch mode with excruciating digital sounds. Things start off easy with the Atari joystick, which only has two buttons, but things soon escalate as SEGA and SNES controls are thrown in front of you, and beyond that, well, lets just say I got there once and soon left with finger cramps.
CONTROL is a pretty cool idea, and its done fairly well, though I do wish it was easier to know exactly where you finger will press, but then, that is part of what makes the game hard as well.
Coureur des bois (Tamas Kemenczy)
WELLthat was an experience. I think I slipped into another dimension that is ruled by mind-controlling aliens that see in black-and-white and hate staying still. You think Im kidding?! Ha! Coureur des bois is a survival game, and as is always the case with games about survival, its bloody hard.
Youre sitting in a canoe upon a river in what seems to be space. Actually, you know what? This canoe might as well be the ferry that goes along the chocolate river in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. You know when all of that bizarre stuff happens in that tunnel? Imagine being stuck in there for eternity, or at least for however long you play the game for.
Your goal is to get along the river as far as possible without dying and being reset to the beginning. Apparently, theres an ending, but heck, I aint going to see it any time soon as I cant even manage to get around the second bend in this river. What is it thats destroying my soul and sending me back to the beginning? Either side of the river, there are hypnotic lions that lock onto you, and if you dont get away from them in a few seconds, they jump on board and spin everything around. Its worse than death. But the game is quite fun, and it gets top marks for being wacky as can be.
Depth (Vince Mckelvie)
Just when you didnt think there could ever be a first-person puzzle game with a clever mechanic that would stretch your mind and left you dribbling with confusion, along comes Depth. The name is a big clue as to what Depth is all about. Theres a series of puzzle rooms that get longer, multifaceted and more complicated as you progress. Your goal is to reach the exit and get into the next room.
To do that, though, youll need to make your own path using tiny blue cubes that you can place anywhere in the room, according to the angle and depth you look at them at. That means the closer you get to the cube, when you click the left mouse button to make it appear in the space it appears in from where youre standing, the bigger it will be.
Look, maybe this is a better way of explaining it. You know when people take a picture of someone holding up The Leaning Tower of Pisa to make it look like theyre the same size as it and holding it up? That works because it shrinks 3D space, or the depth of the picture, to make it look like its a 2D image. So the person standing much closer to the camera when the picture is taken looks like theyre the same size as the tower, which is much further away.
In Depth, you have to perform the same action in order to alter the size and position of a tiny blue cube so that it appears where you need it. The game starts off with you placing the cube against walls and floors, using it as a way to reach higher platforms. But later, youll be using it to bounce door-opening spheres into the locks and block deadly lasers that hinder your path. It gets pretty complex later on, and you really have to examine the whole room and plan ahead. Its a very good puzzle game, and it really had me twisting my brain to solve some of the harder puzzles.
If youre really confused and have no idea what Im saying, watch this gameplay trailer, and you should get at least a basic understanding of how Depth works.
Electronic Fortune Teller (Party Time! Hexcellent!)
What’s cool about this game, aside from it being an obvious throwback to 8-bit fortune tellers of days long past, is that it’s actually a ROM that needs to be run on an NES emulator. I happened to have a little .exe buried in My Documents folder, and after I got her started up, this is what it spit back at me. Well, gee, Electronic Sweet-N-Fun Fortune Teller, I’m flattered, but you’re telling me NOT to go on my daily long walk? How’s a freelancer supposed to stay in shape, huh? Not very good advice, but thanks for the compliment!
Electronic Fortune Teller was made by Rachel Weiss, who’s known for her interactive glitch art games and installations for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Soon, she promises to teach users how to make their very own NES cartridge for Electronic Fortune Teller, which is a neat twist.
gamespaceSpacegame (Noah Sasso)
Everything you see in that screenshot above is wonderful, isnt it? I know every single inch. Why? gamespaceSpacegame is a pretty difficult game that requires you to traverse this whole space station to reach the escape pod at the end. And everything is trying to kill you. You start from the very top, bouncing on your bed, which is located in an ecodome, with giant plants and birds. You can also head off to the right and look into your telescope to admire the view. Maybe youre sad that youre not out there in the beautiful nothingness of space.
Whatever your cause, getting out of that space station is of utmost importance, but doing is just so difficult! The first sets of rooms see small robots zooming towards you and brown drips that may fall upon your head, and then theres a ceiling-mounted turret laser that will zap you dead if you stay still.
The highlight is a little further on, when you shove a helmet on and swim through space to enter the space station from the other side, which is the route towards the pod. Its adorable seeing this little fellas legs frantically waving away to move through space; its not easy to control. Every time you die, the timer is reset, so once you think youve got the hang of the route, its time to get through as quickly as possible. Still, with one hit killing you, perfection takes a while to master.
Golden Age: Moths (Resn)
In the time since I sat down to partake in these LA Game Space delights, Ive checked my smart phone, oh, five or six times. What if I get an email? What if theres a funny new cat picture on Facebook? What if someone talks about me on Twitter? I need that self validation. My ego cant take it. Im like a moth to a candle.
Which is the literal point of Golden Age: Moths, a very odd and dreary point-and-click in which youre walking through a park while desperately trying to text your pals. Of course, with very few lights around, the moths are out in full force. Thats okay, though, because swatting them away from your internet device is easy enough, thanks to your mighty hands. This continues for a while, jumping from scene to scene and angle to angle as the story progresses.
Theres definitely a fair amount of interactivity to each scene, and the game does try a lot of new and experimental things with point-and-click gameplay. But what really grabbed me is the bleak atmosphere, which serves as a bizarre of Poe, Gorey, Kafka and all the other weird horror authors out there. Its short and gruesome, and there might even be a lesson in there about cell phone addiction. Maybe Ill tweet about it.
Guilded Youth (Jim Munroe + Matt Hammill)
Guilded Youth is probably the longest game in this pack. Its a command-based adventure game in which you play Tony, a 14-year-old boy who is part of an online guild with a bunch of other teenagers. Hes known as the Thief.
You actually spend most of your time outside of the guild and inside the abandoned Oakville Manor thats soon to be torn down. You go back there several times, bringing members of the guild with you to help get past locked doors and holes in the floor, and to speak to the mysterious teenagers that dine there every night.
Each time, youll find items (treasures) inside the manor and use these to lure others to the manor when you next head back. Youll form relationships with these people in the outside world that dont really get reflected online as everyone sticks to their roles. But in the end, youll have to decide which member you want to give the white wine too, and this will affect the ending you get.
I wasnt that keen on Guilded Youth to start off with, mostly because I find command-based games to be unnecessarily unfriendly. But once you type, help, and find out the basic commands youll need, its quite smooth sailing, and the story is easy to enjoy as a result.
Theres a free version of Guilded Youth you can play here in your browser. The version that comes with the Game Pack has a special feature that youll discover when first completing it.
Inputting (Steve Swink)
Inputting might be the slickest and smartest game of the whole pack. For too long, games have not used the full potential of the keyboard and all of its glorious buttons, and heres Inputting to help remedy that a little.
Its a level-based game in which you move a sphere from its starting position into a green exit. Each level displays numbered or lettered keys that correspond to the object theyre imprinted on. So in the first couple of levels, youll have to use blocks that move in an out to push and roll the sphere across the ground. Some of these blocks form the floor, so you use the momentum of the sphere falling between each of them to guide it.
The game boasts a really interesting way to design levels around how difficult it is to manipulate your fingers across your keyboard. It feels a little bit like playing Twister, but replacing the mat with your keyboard, and the awkward positioning having to match the speed of a ball rolling.
Beyond this, the game has lots of surprises as it continues to challenge you more and more with increasingly complicated and surprising riffs off the games concept. All the while, theres a suited-up tutorial guy who praises you for bringing him to life and begs you not to go. I actually felt guilty for even considering shutting the game down, the manipulative bugger!
Irrational Exuberance (Ben Vance)
Space is big. Space is mysterious. Space is scary. But thats why space is so wonderful, and why Irrational Exuberance succeeds by using it as a backdrop for their mystery playground at the end of the world. Part of me wants to just slap the label of Space Proteus on it, but that would be a bit unfair. Proteus is a vibrant island full of life. Irrational Exuberance takes place on a lonely series of asteroids at the edge of the universe. Everything is blue and black and unearthly, with just the stars and your cursor providing shreds of lights.
But theres a definitely a certain kind of liveliness to your surroundings. As you exploring the landscape by falling from rock to rock, an altogether more cosmic ecosystem becomes apparent. Things move. The landscape shifts and bends. Stars flutter through the sky. Theres definitely life present in this sector of space, but not in the way we know and understand it. Or maybe Im just thinking too hard.
Regardless, its a cool little playground to mess around with, and it definitely feels like theres a deeper mystery to uncover. I imagine it only gets better with the Oculus Rift, which Irrational Exuberance supports. Also, maybe Im completely missing everything, since the instructions inform you to run for your life. Creepy.
I open IZL△GS. A Dell computer is trapped in a broken blue landscape. It sounds like my printer was jamming. I close IZL△GS.
I open the readme.
IZL△GS = an exe.perimental-3D-game-space-album by I♡PRESETS (Rob Ray, Jon Satrom, Jason Soliday). Sometimes, it gets stuck. Sometimes, you fall, become disoriented or distracted. Its a safe space you can always quit or not.
I close the readme. I open IZL△GS. I press the up arrow key. The computer start firing thrusters. This was not a standard issue feature on my old computer. I press Z. A clone of the computer appears. It stands still, as computers typically do. I press X. My computer uppercuts nothing in particular. This is not typical computer behaviour. I note this. I am learning. We are getting somewhere.
I jet across the landscape. It is tricky at first because the controls dont seem to make sense. I note this. I persevere. The camera swings around as the world shifts to red. I climb a mountain. I am proud. The other side of the mountain doesnt exist. I fall into an ocean. I swim. I fall some more. I fall into infinity. I am sad.
I close IZL△GS.
LA Death Disk (Beau Blyth, Roger Reckahdam Hicks, Robin Arnott)
Its the battle of East and West coast Los Angeles in LA Disk Death! This local multiplayer game supports two teams of either two or four players, and you can keybind for every single player to ensure youre all set up in the best possible manner for you. Even at the main menu, LA Disk Death radiates cool. Theres a fresh hip-hop track playing, with the two main characters facing off each other in their bright jackets and shades, as if they never left the 90s. When you scroll the menu, an uh or yeah sounds just like an hip-hop artist does when he has nothing to say over that part of the track. But hey, it works, and it almost feels like youre creating a song just by scrolling the menu.
The game itself can get pretty crazy as it demands that every player is quick and precise, while giving them full mobility of the entire one-screen arena. A frisbee, or death disk, will be flung down in the middle of the screen, and theres a goal at either end of the screen that the two teams are trying to fling it into. It will bounce off the walls, floor and ceiling, and so trying to catch it in mid-air using a combination of jumps and your jetpack becomes a familiar practice.
You cant hit your opponents with the death disk, although the title may suggest that, but you can knock your opponents flying by zooming into them with the aid of the jetpack. Theres got to be some aggression in there! Once one of the sides has scored enough goals, theyre declared as the winners, and you can try one of the other arenas, of which there are three. Matches tend to last for quite a long time too, so bring your best attention and determination to the game.
Micomonocon (Raquel Meyers, Jens Nirme, Goto80)
It doesnt say so anywhere (as far as Im aware), but I do believe that youll want to gather at least one more person, ideally three more, to play Micomonocon with you. I tried by myself, and I swear its near-impossible to do past the second level. Im not that rubbish, hopefully.
This is a rhythm game just like many of the others in the genre. Letters fall down from the top of the screen, and when they reach a certain point, you have to hit them in order to make the monkeys hit their notes. Oh, didnt I mention? Micomonocon is a game about forcing monkeys to play instruments in order to make money from them. They play Smoke on the Water first, and then it all goes very acid pop.
The first level I managed because the letters were A, B, and C, and the rhythm was simple enough that I could keep up. Level 2 adds a fourth monkey, and the letters get all kinds of crazy and are even obscured a little due to being parts of words that fall down. I couldnt keep up, and in the end, I resorted to hitting every key I could in a desperate attempt to end my suffering as quickly as possible.
a (MOTH) in RELAY (jonCates + Jake Elliott)
Grace Hopper was a Rear Admiral for the U.S. Navy and a computer scientist who, in 1947, popularized the term “debugging” after her colleagues discovered a moth trapped in a relay, the cause of their Mark II’s malfunction. Using the format of a visual novel to combine text, image and sound, (MOTH) in RELAY is a disjointed exploration of the relationship between the three players in this scenario bug human machine.
The combination of words and images are different every time, strings of poetic incoherence intermixed with lines of 1337, broken code and professions of love. I’m not sure what the system behind this randomization is, but it works to stress the structure of this strange narrative rather than the ensuing narrative itself. A beautiful experiment, to say the least.
Pachalafaka (David Calvo)
Drawn with black ink and serene watercolors, Pachalafaka is a game poem that has a sequence of timed and triggered events that youll witness as you fly as a elegant bird across a doomed land in search of her. The music really sets the tone in Pachalafaka, with a classic rendition of slow lounge jazz, which, when combined with the cartoon style drawings, gives the game the same feel of pleasant comedic cartoons from the 1930s.
Pachalafaka isnt as pleasant as one of those cartoons. It actually seems quite sad as this bird isnt able to fly away as the rumbles get louder and louder until the whole screen starts to shake very violently. As this happens, there are small scenes with a bit of text offering slight strands of a narrative, albeit in a deliberately abstract and poetic prose that only suggests events and pursuits.
I suppose Pachalafaka is meant to be played through, and then thought upon afterwards, for as long as you care to ponder the questions that are left in your head.
Perfect Stride (Arcane Kids)
Remember the 90s web kitsch of Geocities? Remember Counter-Strike surfing maps? Remember Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater? Add these things together, blend in some washed-out, dreamy electropop by artists with triangle symbols in their names and the neon skater look of Zineth, and you’ve got an idea of what Perfect Stride by Arcane Kids has to offer.
Nestled somewhere between 90s internet nostalgia and the modernized glitch art of today, Perfect Stride is a “first-person maximalist skater,” and it is damned good-looking. It’s also really fun, though the controls take some getting used to. “The controls are hella hard, and we like it that way, so shut up,” says the official description. I’m down with that.
The game starts you out in a dingy bedroom with a jokingly mislabeled Crystal Castles poster, an old TV next to a box for Thirty Flights of Loving and an empty table that says, WHERE THE EFF ARE MY EFFING CIGARETTES? Upon reading this, the door swings open, and you’re free to jump out of the building and down into a triangular void, which takes you to the menu screen.
I suppose the “objective” of Perfect Stride is to find your effing cigarettes, but really, it feels fine as a surreal explorative skating game. I haven’t delved too far into its dreamy realms, but right from the start, I’m reminded of the open-world peculiarities of Second Life, especially the virtual art servers vast expanses full of strange, digital monuments, low poly statues, corrupted objects with ugly textures and other bizarre virtual landmarks.
Exploring (skating) the world of Perfect Stride feels a little like that, and a little like exploring ancient relics of the internet, abandoned websites with gaudy tiled backgrounds, Courier and Comic Sans, rotating .gifs of flaming skateboards and desolate guest books.
Vaporware: The Game.
Just by the look alone, Perfect Stride is one of our favorites.
Poocuzzi (Plateau of the Galaxy)
Poocuzzi is a game about secretly pooping in your Jacuzzi. Its also about catching the other players, who are also trying to poop in the Jacuzzi. You do this by wandering over, fishing up the evidence and then rubbing it in their faces. Points are gained for pooping everywhere, but also for shaming others that are doing the same. It all seems a bit hypocritical to me.
Mind you, the keyboard controls dont really do the game justice, and it doesnt work with fewer than four people. Holding the key keeps your shame inside. You poop by slowly letting up on your poop key without the other humans crouching around the keyboard noticing. Its a clever fix to the controls and makes the game rather stealthy, since its much harder to see someone letting go of a key than it is to notice them pushing it.
So the controls work fine, sure, but what youre really going to want is the
custom made butt pad peripheral, which binds the poop key to the seat of your chair. Then you can only poop by leaning or shifting your weight, making the game even more authentic. So grab your old Atari sticks and solder yourself a butt pad, because thats how a real Poocuzzi pro plays. After five rounds, the highest scoring player wins, if you can call bathing yourself in shit a win.
spiralsky (Brenna Murphy)
In a distorted digital landscape, across a neon grid youve been travelling, you encounter an outpost. spiralsky has you wander into a pipsquealing structure of forms, all overlapping and turning inside each other. Their colors are merged so much that it just looks like sludge. You enter the spiral fortress to explore and walk upon the steps at the center to look around at all the sentient lifeforms exchanging data and communicating in ear-shattering volumes and pitches. Its like being inside a broken radio and hearing a cacophony of distorted voices and distress signals.
Inside the outpost is a place that doesnt really suit you, but youre curious and amazed by what you see. Clearly, after youve been travelling through the ever-stretching grid terrains, having something different for your eyes to stare upon is welcoming and resting. But its so strange and otherworldly.
spiralsky is a short first-person exploration of a living outpost full of odd creatures and spiral structures. You can stay there for as long as you want and feel the connection that exists between the beings in that place.
Sunshine (Ian Gouldstone, David Surman, Paul Callaghan)
This is the weirdest fucking thing, but its pretty clever tooI think. I had no idea what to expect when playing Sunshine, and even now, I dont know what it was, though the description does a lot to explain the angle it was developed from. Here:
Sunshine refers to a place and an idea the suburban birthplace of artist Leigh Bowery and Australias image as the Land of Sunshine.
Do you feel any more clued in? Nah, nor me.
You move a dog left and right across a moving glitch-image. At first, a single piece of fruit falls from the top of the screen, and its here you make your first decision as you attempt to gain an understanding of the game. Either you try to avoid the fruit or you collect it. I went with the latter, and it seemed like the dog was hurt by it, with a whimpering sound and a stressed, brightly-colored frame flashing before my eyes.
I tried collecting the next piece of fruit to see if the dog would react the same way, and it did. Okay, then, maybe I have to avoid the fruit, then. So I tried that, and this time, the fruit added to the odd music in the background quite pleasantly.
After a while, the screen filled up with fruit, and it became impossible to dodge. I was very confused by this time and had no idea what it was I was supposed to do. Turns out thats kind of the point of the game. Heres the rest of the description:
A playable picture, Sunshine deconstructs casual games and the idea of systemic feedback and reward.
Hm, interesting. I suppose I can it as a deconstruction, but mostly, its a compelling, if very confusing, visual interaction.
To My Favourite Sinner (Molleindustria)
Youre supposed to play this one with two people, and you should be fine with kissing each other, because thats part of the game. One person takes WADS, while the other is on the arrow keys. When you start To My Favorite Sinner, youll have a passage from Dantes Inferno read out to you in Italian. Its pretty great. The context of the game isnt as great.
Youre two lovers trapped in the second circle of hell, and your sin is lust. Both of you are trapped within a cyclone, and all you want to do is be together and share a passionate moment of kissing. So you attempt to move against the wind and come into contact, and when you do, the game pauses for a moment and shows the lovers kissing; the horrible sounds also die off for a few seconds.
The idea is that when you get the two lovers to kiss, youre supposed to kiss in real life too. I played by myself, and it was a bit weird.
Yet another two-player game to be played with you and a partner. Theres not much to uu, and so it probably wont last you very long. Each player has a single key to press: the one on the left gets Q, and whoever is on the right gets P.
The idea is to push the central column of colors over to your opponents side, and doing so will score you a single point. Its a game of wit and psychological tactics. Holding down your key will start your power bar charging, but ONLY if the other person has pressed their key down too.
When both keys are pressed down, youll see the red power bars flickering up either side of the screen. Once this happens, youll want to let go first, and that will push the colored bars closer to their side. Eventually, it will end up turning into rapid button-pressing, but there can be some cute moments when both of you are waiting for the other to press their key, and you share a quick glance of eye contact and follow up with a giggle at the silly competition youve wound up in.
VideoHeroeS (Santa Ragione)
I used to work at a library, and one of my favorite parts of the job was recommending books or movies to curious and indecisive customers. Even after my job at the library, recommending new material to friends and strangers alike is great fun, whether it be books, music, games or film, which is probably why I was drawn to the premise of VideoHeroeS. In VideoHeroeS, you play as an employee at a video store who must sift through an odd collection of film classics and obscurities and try to make informed suggestions to picky patrons.
Make a good suggestion, and you make money! Make a bad one, and you risk being fired. VideoHeroeS is a lot of fun, especially if you love discovering new movies and challenging your knowledge. Skater Girl wants a boring experimental movie about alien porn? Muscle Dude wants a thriller involving insects? Killer-Alien. Lobster Man From Mars. That One Movie with the three-titted alien? Total Recall. Sad Lady wants her dad to stop dressing like a clown? Um you lost me there. Here, have this unlabeled, unboxed VHS.
After playing this game for a while, you start to familiarize yourself with the films in the collection, even if you’ve only heard of a couple. Using the mouse, you can zoom in, pull movies out, examine the covers and even read the summaries on the back. You’re not timed (I don’t think), so you can peruse the tapes for as long as you want. The requests will start to pile up, but after rummaging through the entire collection, looking for a movie about crime-fighting animals for Out of Touch Dad, or a giant monster movie for Angry Old Man, you can start making mental notes of relevant movies for future customers or even check off a bunch of current ones in one go.