God save the Queen, and all thatI know, I know. The whole Diamond Jubilee thing is getting to be a bit of a drag at this point. Let’s just try and forget it’s happening with some completely Queen-free ramblings that vaguely continue onward from my last post!

Soooo. What was it… ah yeah, the thing! Yeah. With the planets and stars and groups of dreadnoughts firing barrages of laser death at each other. That thing. Endless Space! Did you know that it went into beta just a couple of paltry hours ago? You should really check it out on Steam and pay a visit to its homepage to see why it’s causing a fuss. Having played a few hours of the previous alpha version, I can surely say that this could very well be the 4X space strategy game that people have been waiting for since Master of Orion 2 - that is to say, it’s completely turn-based with an interesting 3-phase tactical combat system. Just look at it – even at this early stage, it has a UI that makes a strategy geek like me quiver in delight…

Endless Space - The galaxy view looks pretty whilst also telling you what you want to knowEndless Space - A typical star system will have several planets to developEndless Space - Researching into the warfare branch of the tech treeEndless Space - Just a small gunship. Good for weekend trips to the local wormhole

The developers Amplitude Studios are taking the time and trouble to interact with their fanbase as much as possible with a system they are calling “games2gether”, allowing fans to have a direct say on what the devs focus their efforts on at any given time. It’s an ambitious way of doing things but it certainly seems to be paying off so far, and is just another example of the increasingly popular trend of involving the players at an early stage of the development process.

Today’s beta update adds a cargo bay’s worth of bug fixes and tweaks, online multiplayer functionality, and the remaining 3 missing races, taking the total up to 8. All in all, it’s really quite good, and should only get better as the beta rolls along.

“Oh,” I thought. “This looks different…”

I had just embarked upon a new Roguelike adventure. On a whim, I had renewed my acquaintance with the rec.games.roguelike.announce newsgroup for the first time in an epoch, and lurking within were announcements relating to the usual long-standing suspects – epic saga ToME, fast-paced DoomRL, Rogue-with-mechs GearHead, classic Angband and its variants, and many others. But there were also lots of unfamiliar names, a testimony to the rate at which the Roguelike scene has expanded over recent times. Looking down the list, something drew me toward Brogue by Brian Walker – was it the clever name or the enigmatically plain description? Or was it just the fact it had an unusually solid-looking version number of 1.6? It’s impossible to say. Further investigation was required!

Brogue, a Roguelike game with style

I was looking at a typical ASCII dungeon of hash signs and dots. But this dungeon had colour, variety, and life - not the usual console window of decidedly 8-colour visuals. Yes, yes – not judging a book by its cover is all well and good, but there’s no harm in making a good first impression, is there?

“Cool – there’s plants that block my vision. Let’s try walking through them. Oh, they grow back! Perfect for hiding in! Neat. Wait up, what’s that over there? Oh hello there, mouse control – this takes me back to playing Larn on the Amiga!” Good first impressions indeed. But there was plenty more to surprise me…

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What the deuce has happened in the past month? There’s been a sudden explosion of indie-related bundles from places on the internet that you never thought existed! Anyone would think it was nearly Christmas or something.

Bundles of fun!

A little while ago it was the Indie Music Bundle to titillate your ears with fantastic vibes, but right now you have a choice of not one, or even two… but four different game bundles to check out – and they’re all asking you to pay as little or as much as you like! One is even completely free to download!

Since a couple of them are also supporting charity, now is a great time if you’re just starting to dip in to the world of indie games and are looking to snag some great deals at the same time as helping a good cause. While it’s possible to take the dimmer view that it’s an easy way for an organiser to make a quick buck, that would be pretty unfair – if you believe in the charitable roots behind a couple of these bundles then they’re doing a lot of good at a time of year when it matters the most. Even if a bundle doesn’t donate part of its proceeds to charity, it’s still a good way to get some games you might otherwise have overlooked for an excellent price. Stocking fillers ahoy!

Read on to see all of the currently running bundles that are clamouring for your attention…

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Quote would be sad, tooCave Story+, the PC port of a Mac port of a WiiWare port of a PC freeware game, has apparently come full circle and is now available on Steam. I am a huge fan of Cave Story and, I like to hope, a reasonable person. Like many others I admire “Pixel“ - Daisuke Amaya - for creating the original version and releasing it back in 2004. Aeon Genesis deserve some credit as well for the English translation patch. It is a charming game that has done a great service in boosting the indie gaming scene. That said, I will most certainly not be buying into this thinly disguised cash-in – and I’m actually shocked and quite disappointed that Nicalis had the cheek to go so far down this road.

So here’s the story: After a chain of poorly-communicated delays spanning through 2009, the $12 / £10 WiiWare release of the game in North America last year was deservedly well-received but expensive and somewhat glitchy. It included one particularly annoying bug with music playback when the original music tracks were selected instead of the default remixed tracks (which some people – including myself – didn’t like). Not only did it take eight months to get these problems patched out but it took ten months after the NA release for the game to get to Europe. Meh. So far, so mediocre.

Then there was the DSiWare release for portable gamers to enjoy Quote’s adventures. Cool. But a year on from the Japanese and North American releases last November, it still isn’t available in Europe, despite a suggestion from Joystiq it would be out around Q2 of this year. It seems likely that Euro gamers will now never see that version due to the incoming Cave Story 3D for the 3DS (which – who’d have guessed? – has also been delayed). Based on their track record, who knows when the 3DS incarnation will arrive in Euroland…

Surely things can’t get any more ridiculous. But wait! Yes they do!

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Dungeon DefendersIt’s been a long time coming, but the wait is finally coming to a close!

Developers Trendy Entertainment have had something of an epic journey in getting their hybrid 3PS / tower-defence / action-RPG game up and running. Initially created as an Unreal Development Kit prototype before games such as Sanctum or Orcs Must Die loomed large on our collective indie radars, the characterful Dungeon Defenders was slated for a release around this time last year. But suddenly… something happened. Something bad. Yep - Microsoft and a bankrupt third-party publisher happened, that’s what.

Fortunately the Trendy devs were able to keep their heads above water by releasing an iOS and Android miniversion – Dungeon Defenders: First Wave – while the console and PC side of things was being resolved. The wait has been a strain but now we can look forward to the action beginning later this month – on the 18th for PSN and the 19th for PC digital platforms like Steam, Impulse, D2D and GamersGate. No doubt this will bolster the already impressive-looking launch title lineup for Sony’s PSVita handheld, something they arguably need to make people forget the events of earlier in the year…

But I digress. I’m hyped again, even though I didn’t think I would be after having to wait this long (yes, I’m an impatient git who frequently demands instant gratification). Roll on the 19th!

Some people say that random levels suck. I say: You’re wrong. Be a good chap / chapess and toddle off back to playing <insert console FPS here>, would you? And don’t bother arguing about it because Forget-Me-Not will kick some proper indie-fuelled sense into you every time.

Once again it was The Gnome’s Lair that enlightened me with the knowledge of this particularly sparkly treasure, and I can safely say the game’s creator nyarlu labs (also known as brandon and, on Twitter, @cucumberoneye) has played an absolute blinder with this one.

Forget-Me-Not

This game is nuttier than an almond nutcake with cashew and pecan topping. For an unrelated sidenote, forget about the whole game aspect, it’s great fun to just leave running in the background for amusement purposes since it provides an excellent audio accompaniment to whatever you may be typing: As I write this, I am being serenaded by a beautifully bonkers selection of 8-bit noises upon each cursor key tap and each press of the WASD keys…

But, erm, yes. Read on after the break for some words that actually pertain to the gameplay!

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Reprisal: Avenging the lack of decent god games‘Tis something of a story to explain the route I travelled to discover this and one which I will no doubt mention in a future post, but for now I simply have to share my delight at finding such a promising remake.

The Gnome’s Lair led me to Reprisal, an in-development Flash game that oozes style and promise. If, like me, you spent many a happy hour conjuring swamps, earthquakes and pillars of fire whilst directing your lemming-like followers towards crushing those of the opposing god in Populous, you’ll seriously want to check it out - hopefully a certain big company’s lawyers won’t leap at it and drag it off into some dimension of copyright hell.

Even at this early stage the gameplay is compulsive and there’s plenty of time for it to improve further. Follow its evolution through the dev blog and be sure to give the developer, Electrolyte, some support!

It was an extremely long time ago (coming up on three years, in fact) when, like a lot of other people, I first learned of Owlboy through a preview on the Indiegames blog. Although it stuck in my mind with its tremendously catchy music and pleasant, island-in-the-sky airscapes, to my shame I must admit that it only got filed into my “Follow With Vague Interest” folder instead of where it obviously should have been, the “Mash F5 On Homepage Until It Comes Out” folder.

Owlboy

Then, swooping through the internet with such speed and stealth that I only heard about it on a chance browse through Twitter, D-Pad Studios released a teasingly short but sweet demo a few weekends ago! Wonderful but frustrating, since I didn’t get chance to play it straight away – you can, though, by grabbing it right here. Lots of folks have since given it a shot and their views and critique have lead to the possibility that there may be a new, refined demo some time soon.

But rather than wait, I decided to go ahead and write this up anyway – how else can I preserve this blog’s true spirit of being weeks behind everyone else? :D Without any more blather, read on after the break to see how favourably the gameplay compares to the trailers.

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