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Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet.

Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet is your standard 2D adventure platformer with a lot of bite and a harsh organic style. You’ll traverse, submerge, and blast your way through an infected alien Sun that’s spreading its shadowy organic filth all over the rest of the solar system!

Through the twisted catacombs, lakes, voids, pipes and caves you’ll find may different changes in scenery. All are strikingly coloured and each presenting new obstacles and bosses to thwart. I love the atmosphere between environments. The style mostly boils down to layered silhouetted 2-D gears teeth and lots of spikes. Coupled with impressive visuals, that’s seriously all it needs to be to look fantastic. The spaceship itself is 3-D, which allows for some nice tilting movement while you’re going around corners or dodging incoming projectiles. It makes ITSP look a lot less static than it could have been and doesn’t stick out quite as much as it does in a lot of 2-D / 3-D crossovers.

For its type there’s a surprising amount of gizmos for your space ship to play with. A scanner, lasers, guided missiles, circular saws, shields, grabbing arms, etc. Each is found throughout the adventure and all are necessary to find hidden extra features. The scanner is the key to figuring out what in seven bells you have to do. Given that there’s no text or dialogue in this game either. But mostly you’ll only have to scan new obstacles once to get the hint. After that it’s just a case of using the gizmo or weapon available, or having to come back to that section later once you’ve found said gizmo or weapon. You’ll quickly recognise the task at hand the second time you fly past it. There’s a lot of re-playability in this game. Finding artefacts, concept art, getting all the weapon and shield upgrades, having to track back to access areas previously closed off to you.

I’ve never encountered anything less threatening.

Enemies correspond with their settings, the Organic Zones have plenty of plant-like spore creatures, that sometimes explode.. The Ocean Zone carries plenty of large and dangerous sea life, as expected.. And the Ice Zone which is full of “@$%ing Snowflakes! All are brilliantly designed to mess up your spaceship.. Manoeuvring to avoid or buy time to engage a specifically effective weapon is the only way to evade crashing into a multitude of creatures and environmental hazards.

All Bosses are fixed solidly into their environment, and it’s definitely not a case of blasting every spiky crevice with lasers. Experiments are required to find out how to beat each boss, all the while you looking like a delicious appetizer from some giant toothy gaping maw. Everything needed to finish each battle is within your grasp, knowing what you have to do is half the trick, and sometimes it involves being closer than is comfortable to large and hungry shadow beasts.

The multiplayer feels like more of an after thought to be honest. It’s more of the same takes, only they generate a score and you benefit more from having the extra players to watch your back. However, if multiplayer is your thing, you’re gonna want some physical people to play Local with. Since I’ve seldom encountered another player in the online mode, it’s just not quite captivating enough to hold your attention.

Organic amazingness!

But unfairly, my major gripe with ITSP is its connection to Windows Live. I’m all for signing up to another service if I feel I’m going to get a lot of mileage out of it, however, I’m not personally a Live user. There’s utterly no benefit for me using this service except to link up ITSP’s multiplayer . But I’m more prone to playing these locally with friends than setting up and online match. Which suits me find because there’s seldom anyone else hooked up to the online multiplayer. Not only did I feel reluctant to have to sign up to Live after already purchasing it with Steam, it managed to link up with an Xbox Live account that I’ve never heard of and is certainly not mine. I can only apologise to this user and hope he / she appreciates whatever points I’ve given them while trying to formulate an opinion of the game. To give it credit, I’ve not actually received any junk mail from Windows Live, like I would have anticipated, and it hasn’t actually hindered my experience of the game. It only left me slightly bewildered. I may not be so reluctant to try this again when next encountered.

There may not be a lot original about ITSP, save for its painstakingly animated environments, but that doesn’t diminish its enjoyability. It takes a lot of common features that are fun in their own aspect and gathers them in one place to provide an entertaining, long-lived and challenging gaming experience.


~ Scribble

Indie Royale June Bug Bundle

Indie Royale are the guys bravely trying to play catchup to the overwhelming success of the Humble Bundles. The first real imitators on the scene, they’re easily dismissed as a rip-off attempting to cash in on Wolfire’s lucrative model. But that’s enough negativity; what they might lack in originality they make up for in quality. Where Wolfire usually have the bigger-name indie titles, Indie Royale cater more to titles you likely won’t have heard of, but that doesn’t make them any less worth your while.

The current bundle available is the June Bug Bundle, consisting of  PixelJunk Eden, Escape Goat, Noitu Love 2: Devolution, and Auditorium. Thrown in as extras for those prepared to pay a little more than the minimum are the Escape Goat soundtrack and an updated alpha version of Iconoclasts.

The first title, PixelJunk Eden, by Q-Games is only available for Steam (well, you can buy it on PSN but you won’t get that in this bundle) which might be a turn-off for some, but I’d wager the majority of PC gamers have embraced the platform by now. An entertaining and arty title, you play as a small critter called a Grimp, a portmanteau of grip and jump, because those are primarily what it does. Jumping around highly stylised gardens, and gripping to the plants therein, you defeat enemies to earn pollen, which will grow more plants for you to climb in search of items known as Spectra which are described as a “fusion of light and sound”. Collecting these will grow plants in the hub world of Eden unlocking new gardens to explore. If there’s a goal beyond fully exploring all the worlds and growing all the plants, I haven’t found it, but it doesn’t need it. The gameplay is both relaxing and addicting with a techno soundtrack that complements it well. The gardens are a visual treat, vibrantly coloured but usually monochromatic with every level focused on a different colour. The plants too are beautifully styled making exploration very rewarding. It’s not as fleshed out as a bigger title might be, but for a quick casual game I can’t recommend it enough.

Escape Goat makes its début in this bundle. Launching primarily on Desura, one gets the impression its inclusion is there to sell the platform (unsurprising as the guys who run Indie Royale also run Desura) but for those unsold on the platform a DRM-free version for windows is included. A pixel art puzzle platformer, Escape Goat sees a purple goat locked away in a dungeon for the crime of witchcraft. Quickly teaming up with a mouse who is also eager to escape, the dynamic duo set out reclaim their freedom. You find a sheep who informs you that eight of his brethren are also trapped down there and only once all nine are reunited can you all make your escape together. It’s standard jumping, timing and pressing switch puzzles for the most part, with a few extra mechanics thrown in courtesy of your magical mouse friend. The controls default to a Japanese format (zxcv and arrows instead of wasd), which is something that will forever irk me, but that’s a personal gripe and they can be rebound so it’s not worth losing sleep over. All in all, it’s not the most original of concepts (outside the quirky character choices) but still a fun title that will keep you occupied for a while.

Noitu Love 2: Devolution by Joakim Sandberg recently made its début on Steam but Desura and DRM free windows versions are also available in the bundle. It’s a fast-paced, pixel art styled, old-school beat-em-up/platformer. To me, it feels a lot like the old Rocket Knight/Sparkster titles, and that’s no bad thing. You play Xoda Rap, a ponytailed ninja girl in a green hoodie and star of the Peacekeepers League. Your city comes under attack by a robot army and you set off to defeat its leader, Darnicus Damnation. Utilising a variety of ninja abilities you must fight through swathes of enemies, interrupted periodically to fight a boss. The bosses range from robotic dragons to giant armed steam trains to rival ninjas and are all a lot of fun to fight, each requiring different techniques to effectively dispatch. Learning the techniques necessary is half the fun and you’ll routinely get your ass handed to you until you figure out the ropes of each fight. Alas, the game is disappointingly short for a single play through, but harder game modes and scoreboards for each level make for extra replay value for those who want to be challenged or who are more competitive. As part of an extremely affordable bundle though, it’s very hard to find fault with.

Last but not least, Auditorium by Cipher Prime Studios, available for both windows and mac in Steam and DRM free versions as well as a Desura version. A phenomenally simplistic game, you start with a stream of coloured particles, and by placing a few orbs which exert a force on particles passing nearby attempt to direct the particles to the destination of corresponding colour. Each time a particle hits its goal it will play a note. If the goal is hit frequently enough a small looping tune will form. If all the goals are hit enough the full piece of music will be revealed. It’s tremendously pretty, but often frustratingly hard. On more than a few occasions I’ve finished levels by waving the force fields around fast enough, but it does leave one with the feeling of “that was totally not how I was supposed to do that”. A nice casual game, it’s great as part of this bundle, but lacking any real depth I feel it might struggle to stand alone.

As an extra bonus the updated alpha version of Joakim Sandberg’s Iconoclasts has been included. As an alpha, it’s probably pretty unfair to critique it, so I’ll let you enjoy it as the surprise bonus content that it is.

For the asking price (£3.21 minimum at time of writing) this is an astonishingly good value bundle. Noitu Love 2 alone typically retails for £3.99 and would be more than worth it. To add to it a very solid puzzle game and a couple of artistic casual games makes it a must-have. Do yourself a favour and buy the Indie Royale June Bug Bundle.

The Dream Machine, Claymation Goodness.

Another arty point and click adventure? Ah, gw’on then.. Last one for a while I swear. Here’s a beaut’ from Cockroach Inc.

The Dream Machine is a clay and cardboard styled piece of animated game cake. Some that played video games in the 90’s will recognise the rare style, familiar with other titles like Neverhood and ClayFighter 63â…“.

Mr. Victor Neff and his hormonal pregnant wife have just moved into their first apartment together, and they’re both having weird dreams. This story explores the realm of the unconscious, specifically the dreams of all the tenants in Victor’s building. And the plot device that facilitates this bizarre story? A sentient machine in the basement that feeds on the dreams of the people around it. Victor must face this machine in its own realm to save his fellow tenants and his wife from becoming comatose, and an easy meal for the machine.

The dreams conjured up in the minds of the tenants are gorgeously crafted in equal parts morbid and magic. Advertising for the game generally makes a big deal about how it’s only made of clay and cardboard, and for good reason. There’s a lot of very skilled craftsmanship involved in the making of smoothly rendered claymation, which is quite likely why there are so few claymation games in existence. But given the nature of indie games, having to create games that stand out from the big sellers, it really brings this game into its own league.

I totally don't feel violated at all..

There’s a lot of dialogue in this game, but no voice acting. Being a fan of great voice acting I feel let down that I have to read such text heavy puzzles. I’m not entirely lazy, but having to read through all the text kinda diminished the games re-playability. Exploring the game for the first time gives you a great opportunity to enquire and learn about the different characters, but I wouldn’t want to have to go through this mountain of text a second time knowing the answer to each puzzle but having to blunder through a lot of reading. Though this is a minor criticism in full view of a great piece of art.

Amazingly though, there’s only two devs working on this game, Anders Gustafsson & Erik Zaring, who between them create the sets & characters and program in the animations & mechanics. With some very generous and credited help, Gustafsson and Zaring have revived a redundant and challenging game format and turned it into a mysterious and sometimes disturbing tale.

Just, awesome..

Currently, only three out of the five chapters of the game have been completed. So for the time being this is a game to invest in. You can buy individual chapters separately, though both chapters one and two come together on Steam. Or you can buy all five as a bundle so that your collection becomes complete as soon as the newest chapters become available, and you save a bit of money.
The first two chapters on their own are regrettably short. But I find this forgivable given that as the rest of the game is still under development and it’s not yet finished. I will hastily point out that the third chapter is significantly improved, both in puzzle mechanics and in style. So once all five chapters become available, you’ll find the game is just as long as any other, but twice as enjoyable for its unique visual perspective. Plus you can be very assured that the quality of game can only get better as new chapters are released.

I’ll be eagerly returning to this game once it’s complete.

Available on Steam here, or if you want to support Cockroach Inc. directly, here. But by all means, there’s a demo on both sites, you don’t need to take my word for how awesome The Dream Machine is.


~ Scribble

Botanicula, Terry Gilliam would be proud.

After reviewing Machinarium a few months back, I felt such an affinity with the style that I was compelled to check out what other works of wonder Amanita Design had previously come up with. And not only did I find a back log of creative gorgeousness, I also prepared myself for their newest release, Botanicula.
But not before trying out the free to play samples on their website. Here I first tried Samorost, a free point and explore game from 2003. From here it’s easy to see where the grass-roots of Machinarium and Botanicula were formed. Even in AD’s early stages as developers, they managed to graft together a scrumptiously unique world. Splicing stock images of organic wood textures, aged gears and valves, overlaid with hand drawn interactables and characters.
Although painfully short and in some areas lacking resolution, Samorost set a nice benchmark for its sequel Samorost 2. You can also play the first chapter of this game for free here, well worth a try.

And now AD pitches its newest characters into a beautifully unforgiving world of tiny point and click adventures. Mr. Lantern, Mr. Twig, Mr. Poppy Head, Mr. Feather and Mrs. Mushroom, a loveable bunch. Set on an adventure to safeguard the last seed of their home tree and to stop the corruption of an evil parasite that’s spreading through their world.


I tripped six kinds of balls playing this game. Be prepared for nothing to make any kind of sense, and to be able to make a lot of seemingly wrong and pointless interactions, with amusing sound effects.. Botanicula takes puzzle solving to a new level by making your goals simple, but how to achieve them very difficult to understand. You’ll be asked to find keys, turkeys, conker babies and a host of other bizarre objects, even where to use them becomes very obvious. But how to obtain said objects.. Utterly incomprehensible and very trial and error based.
Unlike Machinarium, you engage more with your surroundings, hovering and dragging some objects as opposed to just clicking and consuming them. And when most of your environment reacts to your cursor, it becomes challenging to know just where to start, so click, drag and hover over EVERYTHING!
Also unlike Machinarium, you’ll not be given any kind of in-game hints to decipher the cryptic tasks at hand. But cleverly, all interactions count for something in the grand scheme. Throughout the game you’ll be presented with cards for every creature you successfully interact with. And with one hundred and twenty-three cards, you can tell there’s an impressive amount of character design gone into this game. And the more you collect, the more prizes you’ll be presented on completion of the game.


Botanicula is just so endearing! The seer amount of immersion you can have with this game, coupled with a multitude of strange and wonderful characters really gives Botanicula a charm that quickly dissipates the frustration of not knowing where you should be going or how to find what you should be looking for. And instead flips it into curiosity.
The map feature, coupled with basic symbols that roughly sum up what goes on in each map section will quite easily guide you through the twisting maze of branches, roots and general foliage. Without this it would quickly become confusing navigating from place to place. Becoming accustomed to the set up is very easy, it even gets relaxing to play through once you’ve begun to understand the inner workings and methods of the game.

The critters you’ll meet all through your journey have their own little duties to perform, helpful, hindering or just for their own amusement. Constantly check what unique items you’ve procured on your travels, eggs, beach balls, idols, worms, they’re all useful in one way or another and as a bit of a hint, you’ll only be able to drag them off the tool bar once you’ve entered the right scene you need to use them in.

I just don't understand!

Something I’m very glad AD changed about the game play is the speed at which the characters move. Guiding Josef on his journey through Machinarium was at times frustratingly slow. But these critters move very quickly across the map, allowing you to explore much faster.. Easing the irritation caused by not know where you need to be and what exactly you should be doing.

It has the tell-tale flare of AD’s masterful blending of textures, but with a much brighter and cheery atmosphere than its predecessors. Even after a quick play through you’ll come to appreciate the effort AD’s small team of graphic designers have put into yet another master piece. These games really are an art form, akin to something cooked up in the mind of Monty Python’s Terry Gilliam and his legendary cut-out animations.

With this much raw talent for story telling without conventional verbal means, it’s difficult not to get drawn into the plot. Another game well done.

You can view trailers and buy Botanicula on Steam here, or direct from Amanita Design’s website here.

Look out for Samorost 3!



World of Goo and Smuggle Truck (Android double review)

Yeah, I bought a new Android phone. And that naturally means checking out a wealth of new games. World of Goo is one. I’ve played it on PC before but never did finish it. And the Humble Bundle guys recently did another lot of Android games so I’ve grabbed Smuggle Truck (also available in an Apple-friendly fuzzy ‘Snuggle Truck’ format) too.

So let’s start with the older title, World of Goo by 2D Boy. I realise I’m over 3 years late to the party here, but it’s new to me and I get to pick what I write about so tough luck. World of Goo is an adorable physics-based puzzle game set in a slightly dystopian world. A planet seemingly run by the massive World of Goo Corporation and inhabited by hundreds of cute goo balls, the goal is to build your way towards, over, around, and through increasingly elaborate obstacles to reach a pipe serving as an exit point in each level. For what purpose? Because the goo balls are curious where all the pipes lead, seems to largely be the justification.

Where are they building to? It must be somewhere good.

The majority of the goo balls have the ability to attach themselves to neighbouring ones allowing you to build structures from them. Each connection has a limited amount of strength and flexibility though, so build too high or too far and you’ll find your construct swaying, or toppling and if you really overdo it, snapping apart. You’ll soon meet different coloured goo balls too which have different properties. Green ones are plantlike and can be detached and reused to build further. Pink ones will inflate like balloons and pull upwards. Clear ones will only ever attach to one neighbour and hang like drool. Red ones are flammable. They all combine to make some really interesting puzzles, many of which will leave you frustrated, but that only serves to make victory sweeter. If ever anything proves just too hard to do though, the option to skip any level is always available. There’s no purchasing skips through microtransactions or earning them through performing well (as many other mobile games seem to offer), if it’s too hard, no worries, just move on. That makes it extremely accessible to anyone.

Kids, never fly kites on cliffsides.

As if the excellent gameplay wasn’t enough, the game has a wonderfully simplistic cutesy style to it that I challenge anyone not to find endearing. Underneath the saccharine coating though, the game has a very dark sense of humour. One notable level being a beauty contest in which the unattractive goo balls must be ground up in order to fill a spike pit so that the attractive goo ball may cross it unharmed.

At £3, World of Goo is excellent value for the entertainment I have gotten from it. My only lament is that there isn’t more of it. You won’t often hear me advocating sequels but I would jump on more World of Goo in a heartbeat.

World of Goo is available on Android, iTunes, Steam, Wii, Desura, GFWL and cross-platform direct from 2D Boy.



And so we move onto our second feature: Smuggle Truck by Owlchemy Labs; a game about driving a truck full of immigrants across the US border to smuggle them into the country. You might know it by another name and there’s an interesting story in that. Owlchemy built the game in its Smuggle Truck incarnation and submitted it to the iTunes App Store. Apple, as you may be aware, has pretty strict regulations on what goes in the App Store, and a game about illegal immigration apparently crossed the line; it was turned down. A quick re-branding was in order. In just a week the immigrants became animals, the border became a zoo and all references to visas and green cards etc. were stripped out and replaced with fuzzy counterparts. Thus became Snuggle Truck. I have to give Owlchemy credit for having the balls to make that move at all. Ultimately though, Google is a little more lenient and allowed both Smuggle and Snuggle Truck on their store, so I’ve been playing the more ‘controversial’ satirical original.

It’s a fairly simple physics/driving game. It’s not original, that kind of stuff has been around since Excitebike on the NES. Drive over rough terrain and obstacles, tilt your phone to lean forward or backwards and try to get to the end in one piece. Of course here you’re not simply trying to get to the end. You’re in a pickup truck and you have nine cartoon illegal immigrants in the back. Go over a bump too fast or lean too far one way or hit an obstacle and some or possibly all of then can go flying. The goal being to get as many as you can across the border as fast as possible, with medals awarded for performance and bonus medals for completing it super fast without regard for your passengers’ well being or for taking your time and getting them all to the end no matter how long it takes.

The rare endangered mooseramp.

Cliffs, explosives, falling rocks, huge jumps and moose are all the kind of things standing between you and the border. If you want to replenish your supply of immigrants, rather bizzarely, occasionally a baby will be launched into the air, the game will briefly go into slo-mo and you can attempt to catch the baby in the back to increase your immigrant count by one. The baby seems entirely unfazed by this entire process, even if you fail to catch it.

The whole thing is a satire of the American immigration situation. It’s all executed with tongue very thoroughly in cheek and has elicited more than a few laughs from me. There’s even a ‘legal immigration’ mode wherein you can sit in a waiting room and wait 19 years in real time to be approved for immigration (What happens in the game if the full 19 years elapses? I’m incredibly curious). It’s incredibly addictive, especially going back to get all the medals. There’s a good amount of content available, with user generated maps available online making the amount of gameplay available nearly limitless. Each run usually takes around 30-40 seconds too, so it’s fantastic to pick up and play briefly, or during a quick skive from work in the bathroom. The only real gripe I have is the menu interface. My phone has a reasonably large screen and the font is microscopic and nigh impossible to click on making level selection far more challenging than it has any right to be.

Less controversial!

Snuggle Truck is free on iOS with microtransactions to unlock bonus cosmetic features or £3.99 on Steam with all features unlocked out of the box. Smuggle Truck and Snuggle Truck are both £2.51 on Android. All in all it’s very good value for money, you’ll get plenty out of it, even if just while sat on the porcelain throne.

Smuggle Truck is available on Android, the official site is here.

Snuggle Truck is available on iTunes, Steam or Android, the official site is here.



A Stackingly Good Adventure

Take a dash of silent movie, a pinch of theatre, mix well with a Dickensian and Borrowers-esque world inhabited solely by Russian Matryoshka dolls and blend it all together with Tim Schaefer’s classic style of humour. Bake well at gas mark 6 and you’ll get Stacking, by Double Fine.

Oh, you wanted me to elaborate more than that? Fine, here goes. Set in the industrial age, you play Charlie Blackmore, the youngest child of a large family. Charlie’s father mysteriously disappears and the family falls into debt. In order to repay it, all the children are taken away to be put to work, with the exception of Charlie, who is considered too young to do any real work. You must set out into the world to reunite your family and as a convenient aside, put an end to child labour.

Shoestring budget productions presents...

Every single character in the game, including both people and animals, take the form of russian stacking dolls (hence the game’s title). Charlie, being so small has the unique ability to stack himself with any larger doll (which is pretty much everything but mice) granting him special abilities. Every character has a unique action; these can take the form of a wide range of things, from punching things, to sipping tea or breaking wind or shouting loudly. By combining the relevant abilities correctly you will solve puzzles allowing you to progress. Every puzzle has multiple solutions and whilst only one is needed to be found in order to progress the story, and it’s usually straightforward to manage at least one, half the fun is in going back and attempting to solve it via all of usually three to five different ways. For example your very first challenge is to break into an exclusive club. (MINOR SPOILER ALERT) This can be done by stacking with a nearby woman, seducing the guard then unstacking and quickly running behind him and into the club while they are occupied. Or alternatively, find a mechanic carrying a wrench, stack with him and use his wrench to remove the cover to an air vent then walk inside via the air ducts. There’s one more but I’ll leave it out here in order that some mystery should be preserved. (SPOILER ENDS) For the truly dedicated there are further challenges beyond the main story arc and a set of lesser challenges described as hi-jinks usually involving using a character’s action on specific other characters around the world. The cynical may say this is a cheap way to drag out the length of an otherwise somewhat short game, but I find they’re a fun little diversion.

Visually, Stacking is very charming and original. The Dickensian world is complemented by everyday objects like matchboxes and spoons making up the scenery making it feel as though it is all taking place within The Borrowers’ world, or perhaps more appropriately, an elaborate dolls’ house. Cutscenes are rendered in the style of a silent movie, but with theatrical backdrops and scenery being flown in from above and spotlights picking out characters as though one were watching it on a stage. So ultimately, yes, there’s quite a number of different themes and styles in there but they all work together to make this game something really unique.

I think he plays a key role somewhere

As with any title associated with Tim Schaefer, Stacking is also backed by an eclectic sense of humour. Anyone familiar with the likes of Monkey Island, Psychonauts, Grim Fandango or Brütal Legend will be right at home. The game is one of a number of titles to have been conceived during the development of Brütal Legend. The Double Fine team, in order to alleviate burnout from working on the title for so long, were given two weeks to work independently on anything else they wished. This seems to have been a very positive process as a great deal of originality has come from it.

At £11.49, it’s not the cheapest indie title you’ll ever find but the extra DLC mission, The Lost Hobo King, is thrown in for no extra cost in the PC version, which is always a nice bonus. If you burn through the story only bothering to solve each puzzle one way (which isn’t too hard) there’s a chance you might not feel the title’s worth the asking price, but for those who enjoy exploring and finding all the secrets there’s plenty to keep you entertained for a while.

Stacking is available on Steam, XBLA and PSN. The official site is here.



It’s 3am & I’m still dying in Limbo.

This week I bring you another game to make your eye sockets salivate. A fantastic noir styled 2D puzzle platform from Playdead, it’s LIMBO. This game is made of soft focus, black and white, silhouette amazingness.

There’s very little plot to this game, and I gather that what little story there is to tell is mostly implied subliminally. Instead it excels in suspending you fully in it’s shadowy atmosphere. A nameless boy wakes up in a forest (give him a nudge or he will lay there for longer than is awkward) and with only the motivation to survive, he must work his way through a darkened and unfriendly world.

For most of the game you’ll find yourself alone, which is fine because any other living thing in Limbo wants your boy dead. From giant spiders and mind controlling larvae to trap setting children. But mostly you’ll be alone, very, very alone. With an unsettlingly minimal soundtrack (Fans actually requested that it be released on iTunes!) you will find yourself regularly in a state of suspense, even more so when you’re sat playing in the dark, which of course is the only way to play horror games.

Like with most 2D platforms you have the simple choices of left, right, jump, and interact with push and pull. This game doesn’t need complex controls to make it challenging, so very little time is needed to get to grips with actual playing.

Limbo is a world full of horrific ways to die. It does not fall short on impalement, drowning, decapitation, crushing, grinding, bear traps, electrocution, being burned alive.. Chances are, if it’s got pointy corners or you can fall in it you’ll have to figure out how not to die that way the next time. Because every time you make a mistake in Limbo, you’ll pay for it with your boy’s life. Thankfully, to ease frustration, you have an infinite number of lives to discard and the convenient check point system means you’ll never be more than a short jog away from where your boy was last brutally mutilated! So don’t be disheartened.

Explore the environment. The way forward isn’t always just running to the right, and it’s seldom ever backtracking left. Although the game has a beautifully seamless flow in the environment, the puzzles themselves are sectioned into very small, numerous challenges and obstacles, giving you enough space to figure out everything you have to work with to move on. But of course part of the challenge is figuring out exactly what you can and can’t interact with, and since everything’s in silhouette, finding that elusive mechanism for moving forward becomes less and less obvious as the game progresses. And also the order in which events have to happen in each puzzle become more and more elaborate, especially when changing gravity is involved..

This game prides itself on forcing you to think differently about each puzzle you encounter. Even in the early stages of the game you’ll be presented with challenges that seem bleak and impossible when first attempted, all because you didn’t notice you could interact with that scraggy vine or that small piece you could’ve move over there. Again, persistence is key.

I found it helps to gauge the distance your boy can jump, don’t let the game fool you. During your journey the camera will pan in and out, under the guise of letting you view more of the area, but being so absorbed in the surroundings can throw your judgement when it comes to the distance you think he can jump. If you’re not sure, take a running leap of faith.

Despite the sometimes horrific trials you’ll have to endure in Limbo, I’d recommend this game for people who don’t usually enter into the genre. It’s bold and different, it’s challenging and innovative and also it’s just plain fun. And even with its difficulties you can just put it down for a week and come back to it exactly where you left the room to find a corner to cry in..

So I say, enjoy the ambiance and animation, be daring with your jumps and above all, enjoy the wet squelchy noises when you inevitably run into something you shouldn’t have..

There’s even a free demo on Steam, you have no excuses. Play here!


~ Scribble

It’s 3am & I’m still playing Machinarium.

Set in a lovingly hand painted mechanical city, Amanita Design’s point-and-click-style adventure boasts a stunning array of scenes for you to indulge and drool over. Each frame allowing you to interact with seemingly unconnected objects which, when combined in the correct sequence of events, allows you to progress forward.

Your robot hero, Josef (named after Josef ÄŒapek) must travel through the outs and innards of a rusted city. Armed only with the ability to consume and regurgitate useful gubbins at will and extend or contract his body to reach objects and switches at different heights. The goal to is to combine all manner of resources to open ways to the next frame as well as to solve classic arcade style puzzles. Along your urban adventure you’ll meet a plethora of amazingly designed characters, each robot unique and all play a small part. Some you’ll aid by running errands and others you’ll thwart with cunning puzzle mastery.

Starting out in the game, you’ll have a simple introduction in how to interact with the world around you. If you can reach it, and it’s of importance, then pick it up or fiddle with it. No matter how seemingly useless that stick is or why you have to make that large extractor fan angry.. Just do it.. I didn’t find a single item or interaction pointless after discovering its use. And it’s all very entertaining watching everything fall into place, this game is filled with individual animations for everything Josef has to work with.

The games intriguing approach to story telling relies only on thought bubbles, there’s no pretending that these robots have any kind of limited facial expressions or ability to talk conventionally. But nevertheless, this unique take on story telling allows for a charming and simple way of conveying the plot. And the visuals more than make up for holding your interest. After all, what could be more simple or fulfilling than a robot struggling to save his kidnapped lady-bot and defuse a bomb strapped to the highest spire in the city. A timeless cliché that doesn’t diminish the games charisma or distract from the feeling of accomplishment on completing each puzzle.

The game’s inbuilt walkthrough feature is something I’ve not come across before. A locked book icon in the top right hand corner of the screen links you to a frustratingly slow and merciless mini-game in which you have to manoeuvre a key to shoot spiders and avoid crashing into bricks. Hitting either will force you to start again or give up. But once completed, the book yields the the steps you have to take to move forward. With the game’s curious style of puzzles this book can be a saviour if endured. There were a few times at 3am when my feeble mind couldn’t handle the complexity of navigating different sized lines or squares through mazes. And so turning to the book helped ease the progression and flow of the game somewhat. As menial as this feature is, it forces you to really think weather you need the extra help or not. Which is a step up from games like ‘The Secret of Monkey Island’s Help Button. But to be fair if you can complete that game without that button chances are you’re not very well equipped to deal with how banal the world really is.. As a bonus, when you unlock the book you get a lovely hand drawn step by step guide to what you need to do in the particular frame you’re in. Be warned though, if what you need to do isn’t in the frame your standing in, you’ll have to move on and start the mini game again in a different location.

My only real gripe with the game is how slow Josef walks from place to place. But that stems from years of playing fast paced hack and slash games, where if it’s not dead in two minutes you’ll be eaten alive.. But give this game some patience and you won’t be disappointed..

Developed over three years on a shoe-string budget of $1000, this game has been built with the care and attention of some astonishing people. To sum up, Machinarium is gorgeous. It’s delicious for your eyes, and a puzzling treat for your brain. Go play it!