‘Square Heroes’ from Gnomic Studios preview

I'm square and ready to make combat with your friends via cross-platform mayhem.
I’m square and ready to make combat with your friends via cross-platform mayhem.

Square Heroes is a game that I’ve been looking forward to for months now. Although I’m mainly an RPG guy, with interests in RTS and some sports games, my eyes have been opened by some great indie games lately. Many of my regular readers know that even though we report on big companies like Ubisoft and Marvel comics, our love is independent comics, games and music. So, when I found Square Heroes while trolling through Twitter for goodies to review, I was pleased to find this quirky looking indie game.

Cartoon shooter with cross-platform play

Cross platform was one of the features that was supposed to change games as we knew them. Windows and Xbox 360 promised this feature last generation, but it never truly materialized. It seemed like one of those features that would fall by the wayside. Like Smartglass , Cross-platform took a bad seat to features like twitch integration and a renewed focus on VR like Oculus Rift. Luckily, Indie companies don’t always follow the trends and do what they want. That’s the case with Gnomic studios and Square Heroes. Being able to play with friends that have Windows while I fire up my Mac laptop is important. I can’t even count the amount of times I was disappointed to find out I couldn’t play a game with friends because they’re still playing on Windows based PCs. It’s a missed opportunity in my opinion, and I’m pleased to be able to soon encourage my pals to play Square Heroes with me. The co-op options and arena format lend themselves perfectly to this game.

Speaking of teaming with friends, another feature that has been ‘Left 4 Dead‘ is couch co-op. This type of play hasn’t been a hallmark of PC/MAC games, but it’s offered in Square Heroes. Not only can you play LAN or online if you happen to find yourself in a friends living room or bedroom, but it looks like you’ll be able to snuggle in closer than comfortable on your pals futon and really smell those Doritos he had for dinner. I’m not certain about how the couch co-op works with PC/MAC yet, but I’ll find out soon once I take a look at the MAC version that Gnomic provided to me.


I pointed out a few, but here is the full list of features provided by Gnomic.

  • Online and local multi-player, at the same time. AKA couch vs couch gaming.
  • Cross platform multi-player.
  • Unique arms-race gameplay mechanic where chosen weapons are earned during each round by collecting loot.
  • Unlockable weapons and hats with stat-buffing perks.
  • Various game modes including Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Gnome Hunt, Team Gnome Hunt and Survival.
  • Numerous challenging Achievements.
  • Seven stylish 2.5D arenas of doom.
  • Originally scored music and professionally crafted sound effects. ( I really want to start reviewing sound effects and music for games, so I’m going to be paying extra attention to this in Square Heroes)

The Appeal

What do you mean I need legs to be in an arena combat game? Wait, I don't have legs?
What do you mean I need legs to be in an arena combat game? Wait, I don’t have legs?

Again, this isn’t typically my kind of game, but I’m willing to take a look at a game by hard-working indie companies. So, what’s the appeal to me other than it’s independent? I’m a big fan of Castle Crashers, and Square Heroes reminds me of that in a way. The visuals are closer to Super Meat-Boy, but the semi-side scrolling nature and the possibility of co-op mayhem looks fun to me. Collecting “Mountains of loot” as the trailer points out is always a fun time too.

The ability, though apparently simplistic, to customize a character is always a huge draw for me. Creating a custom Nord in Skyrim or creating a neanderthal in NHL 2014 was fun for me, and there’s something personal and engaging about making my own character. I’ll never forget my characters in Fallout-3 and Fallout New Vegas either. My time with my character in New Vegas helped provide me with part of the name of this blog too.

More info and the Blah Blah Blah

Here’s more information on Square Heroes that includes their website and even a video for the game. Please check back here for the latest on the game and for my review that’s coming soon. The game released already on Linux and PC, and I’m waiting anxiously for my MAC version to post so I can dig in. Spread the word about the this blog too, where we make it a point to give unvarnished reviews, news as soon as we get it and some opinions and more fun quirky per square inch than any other game/comics/nerd site anywhere.

Gnomic Studios
Based in Perth, Western Australia

Release date:
Oct, 2014

PC / Mac / Linux
Steam Greenlight



‘Instant INDIE’ or ‘Too indie this’

The instant-indie independent thought collection by Indie-and-a-jones
The instant-indie independent thought collection by Indie-and-a-jones

I’m trying out a sort of round-up via various feeds, mostly Twitter. I scour my feed and send out a call for submissions to be included. The submissions include indie comics, indie books and of course indie games. Most of what I include I’d read or play myself, and the rest some of my friends and fans should  dig. Hmm, maybe ‘Indie Dig’ would be a better title. I’ll likely do this in addition to the news/reviews/previews I’m doing, just to make sure some of the great independent content doesn’t get over looked. Remember to share with your friends to help the cause, and use the hashtag #wernd. It stands for unity-We are indie. Thanks, and read on.

Imaginary Cities

Inspired by the surreal accounts of the explorer and ‘man of a million lies’ Marco Polo, Imaginary Cities charts the metropolis and the imagination, and the symbiosis therein. I’d love to focus more on writing and literature. This is creative non-fiction.


Tales of Maj’Eyal and T-Engine4

Topdown tactical RPG rogue-like game and game engine


Another creative Canadian based Developer. Cashtronauts is a twin-stick space capitalist game with one simple goal: get rich. Sounds good to me. 16-bit-ish Borderlands meets Contra? Yeah, I’m down.

World Zombination.

“As if Pixar wrote a love letter to the zombie craze of the oughts.”

That’s my quote btw @rpdgame 🙂

Football Seasons

Football seasons is an IOS card game based on the world’s favorite game-soccer. It’s a pretty deep experience and I’m not sure there is another game like it. It’s from Italian developer Make it App, which is also a game dev. tool.

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Gamercamp 2014

Great for noobs and has some great ticket prices. Seminars and some great conversation. Toronto, Ontario INTERACTIVE & GAMES FESTIVAL OCTOBER 17, 18, AND 19, 2014.



I’m getting this and installing this today hopefully. Grim’s Journey looks fun and well done. Hoping it’s easy to put down, because I REALLY need to get some reviews done. Go now and download.

On Sale! – ‘Letter Quest: Grimm’s Journey’ for PC, Mac + DRM-Free! Save 20%! https://indiegamestand.com/store/1133/letter-quest-grimms-journey/ … #indiegame #gamedeals

Follow Richard on Twitter and Facebook to get more news and exclusive game content.

The Greatest Superhero games of all time!

The defining moment in my superhero loving life was when I was about 8 years old. I remember being in a gas station outside of St. Louis, and I looked at a rack that contained glowing, glossy pages of heros in metal and covered in colorful garb. They jumped off of the page, those heroes. Batman pulling his cape tight to his face. Iron-Man dispatching some armored foe with his beams. Spider-man narrowly escaping the clutches of Doc Ock. My grandpa wouldn’t let me get any of those comics because they weren’t good for young men he said, But their images wouldn’t leave my mind. I ended up spending countless dollars that I scourged and worked for to buy those comics. As I got older, I still loved my comics and yearned to be able to play them in video games.

The early years for video games was rough for fans of superheroes to be sure. Heros like Spidey and Superman just didn’t translate well to pixels and sprites, and we had to grimace and pretend that we enjoyed those early games. They took more fortitude than Superman could muster and more imagination than it took to believe Aquaman was cool. Sorry, I know that was a cheap shot. But as the technology caught up to our imaginiations, games started to be good! The games could help flesh out canon. New things could be introduced like web-slinging over mid-town Manhattan. You could punch down a building with the Hulk. You could finally solve a mystery as the cowled Dark Knight.


Now, just because technology was advancing and games were getting better doesn’t every new superhero game was great. For the longest time, super-hero games were lumped in with movie licensed games as guaranteed stinkers, with very few exceptions. The current generation of super-hero games leaves us in transition with a few great games, and thankfully fewer stinkers. Let’s take a look at the greatest superhero games of all-time, and why we love them. The “Greatest list” consists of console games. Except for the Also awesome section. While


The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction



The Hulk was finally available to us: oh the glorios days of rampant and wonton destruction. Though this game wasn’t deep, or terribly long, you finally were able to punch down buildings, cars, the ground, and leep for miles it seemed. A full host of the Emerald Titan’s enemies made this game an under-appreciated gem. Why haven’t we been able to replicate the joy this open-world game had? There have been other Hulk games with better graphics, but none that contained the gleeful wails of “HULK SMASH!” that Ultimate Destruction caused. You can get the game for a reasonable price on Amazon.com if you happen to have an old PlayStation 2 lying around.


Even those glowing Orange eyes can't keep me away from playing my Spidey
Even those glowing Orange eyes can’t keep me away from playing my Spidey

 Spider-Man 2

Spider-man finally got a decent treatment after countless misfires with the Spider-Man 2 movie tie-in. Swinging above New York was THE reason to play this game. Sure you could web-shoot guys with globs of webbing, but the feeling of total freedom, the rush of coming feet off of the ground while swinging up and then webbing to another skyscraper is damn near orgasmic.

Now, on the negative side of things, I hate the “modernizing” of the spider suit, the changes in his web-shooters, the texture of the suit and the changing of the Osborn storyline. In fact, I can’t stand the Green Goblin’s suit. Hollywood loves to toy with perfection. They did so much with CGI in the film, they couldn’t design the Goblin’s glider and appearance to be at least CLOSE to the Goblin we all know and despise? with those things aside, this game does get as close as possible to a true Spidey experience. Or, at least it was the first step in a series of them that makes Spider-man games fun to actually play.




The skye, and that nifty glider, belong to Spider-Man
The sky, and that nifty glider, belong to Spider-Man

Spider-man :Web of Shadows
Just look at the image above. You’re webbing…yourself…as Spidey…to a bad guy on a glider…hundreds of feet above the city! Imagine me gleefully yelling this with my voice getting progressively higher pitched. THAT my friends, is the essence of Spider-Man. This game got a bad wrap, and some of the wrap is deserved for being a bit glitchy, a little buggy, poorly paced and rough around the edges. “BAH!” I say to the critics. The game allowed you to team up with Wolverine, the Black Cat, and even Moon Knight. You can even enlist bad guys like the Vulture to help you if you follow the wrong path. Which brings me to another cool element of the game: you have the symbiote attached, or a piece of it, and you can switch between the normal web-head, and a darker, meaner symbiotic enhanced Spider-Man. The story arc branches off and allows you to make decisions that affect not only the overall game, but Peter Parker and Spider-Man. Become villainous and MJ doesn’t react the same loving and  sweet way that she normally does. In combat, you can switch between “light and dark” Spidey, and utilize the RPG-esque branch system to upgrade different combos and abilities.

Giant robot fights, web-slinging and constant battles if you choose them, and even small time crimes and an engaging storyline that actually explores Peter Parker all make this a woefully underappareciated game. It’s available for next to nothing from GameStop and Amazon.com. I highly recommend picking this game up and giving it a go. The Controls can be a little loose at times, and it can be frustrating, especially the Electro fight, but be a hipster and discover something that a lot of folks didn’t with Web of Shadows. I played it on Xbox-360.


There's nothing more menacing and, strangely comforting, than the Frank Miller Batman
There’s nothing more menacing, and strangely comforting, than the Frank Miller Batman


Batman: Arkham City
Easily the best superhero game of all time. This is the only game on the list that I will actually put a number on. The Dark Mother @#$%@#^ Knight. In full effect here is every single thing that you love about Batman. There could be more romance, or more struggles as Bruce Wayne, but we can wait for the comics for that. It’s been said before, but you really do feel like Batman. From the seamless combat system that can make quick work of hordes of goons, to access to the greatest toys a brilliant mind can devise, Arkham City really pays off in so many ways.

The game is overflowing with nods to comic fans, with pictures and unlockables, inside jokes and even some fourth wall things too. Everytime you think you have the game figured out, a character like Azrael pops up. The game leads you along, frustratingly so at times, but always rewards you with another piece of gear, or an upgrade to Batman’s armament. The game features the voice talents of Kevin Conroy as Batman, and an absolutely stellar Mark Hamill as the Joker. Bane makes his presence known, as do many other favorite baddies.

The relationship with Gordon is intact and explored somewhat, and you get a deeper understanding of the workings of the gothic inhabitants and former residents of Gotham In Arkham City. If you manage to hitch a ride on a helicopter, you can see Gotham proper and its skyscrapers looming in the distance. They softly glow like ominous monoliths, and gently whisper to Batman and your darker side. Batman makes uneasy pacts with the devilish denizens of Gotham Asylum and teeters on the edge of both insanity and evil. He always seems to pull himself and us back from falling over though. Batman Arkham City is available for Xbox 360 andd Playstation 3 from most game sellers.

Also Awesome


  • Batman: Arkham Asylum
  • Infamous
  • Champions: League of Legends
  • Freedom Force


What games did I leave off that you think should be on the list? Have a bone to pick with me about leaving off a game? Leave a comment or write me and let me know.


Beautiful visuals and whimsical environments.
Beautiful visuals and whimsical environments.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m really looking forward to this game. I’m anxiously awaiting a review copy. Read the details below released from Ubisoft today.

Ubisoft released today a co-op trailer for Child of Light™, releasing on April 30, 2014.  The turn based RPG set in the magical world of Lemuria will be available for download for $14.99 on Microsoft Xbox LIVE for the Microsoft Xbox® 360 and Microsoft Xbox® One, the Sony PlayStation Network for the Sony PlayStation® 3 and Sony PlayStation® 4, the Nintendo eShop for the Wii U, and Steam for PC and is rated “Everyone 10+.

To all those wandering lost in the dark, may you be visited by a spark.  Reveal hidden passages, protect one another.  Join forces to uncover Lemuria’s secrets, for the darkness is full of dangers.”

Press release


Child of Light is created by a small team of seasoned developers based in Ubisoft Montreal.  Child of Light has been developed on Ubisoft’s UbiArt Framework, a powerful engine that lets programmers and artists bring their art to life by allowing original concept art to be inserted unedited into the game world.  In Child of Light, the effect is that playing becomes akin to stepping into an interactive painting.

Child of Light is a re-imagining of classic fairy tales, inviting players on an epic adventure into the magical painted world of Lemuria.  Players will uncover mysteries, participate in turn-by-turn combat inspired by classic JRPGs, and explore a mystical kingdom.  The game puts players in the shoes of Aurora, a child stolen from her home, who, in her quest to return, must bring back the sun, the moon and the stars held captive by the mysterious Queen of the Night.  Helped by her companion Igniculus the firefly and several unlikely allies, Aurora will face her darkest fears, including dragons and other mystical creatures in this modern take on a coming-of-age story.

Child of Light co-op trailer


For more information please visit:

The small team that worked on Child of Light clearly loves their world.
The small team that worked on Child of Light clearly loves their world.

A letter from the edge

A neon visage and representation of...it's me at a crap casino
A neon visage and representation of…it’s me at a crap casino

If the American dream died before 1971, and its dying carcass lays defaced and graffitied somewhere in a ditch outside of Vegas, then what the hell is happening in Oklahoma? Long the smaller, dirtier and much less trustworthy brother of Texas, Oklahoma has sought, and succeeded, in outdoing Texas when it comes to  fattening and inebriating its citizens, both native and otherwise. Flashy neon and half-lit trailer park gents gently mingle with the unpleasant hint of desperation and millions of social security checks slowly chinking away in slots. MmMmm the smell of poverty. It mixes horribly with the clanging brass from a Dean Martin slot machine I’m playing. I’ll be damned if America doesn’t find you, no matter where you go. On to other things:

The Wolf among Us: Episode 2

Oh the joy and sweet release of playing as a chain smoking has-been of a fairy tale. Hairy, barely able to function from alcoholism and barely battling his darker side, this is something I can relate to. I enjoy playing Bigby Wolf. This tired and worn down version of the big bad wolf serves as sheriff of Telltale Games’ village of fairy tale outcasts and refugees, and does what he can. Or at least what he wants to. Bigby continues his search for a killer, and the second episode starts with a nicely written surprise, and ends with what is likely a misleading cliffhanger.

As I as Bigby continue my search, I run into my old friend Toad and interrogate his frightened son, find out a dirty secret about “Beauty” and am nearly choked by the stream of on-screen prompts to “break this” and “punch that”. The way I played the first episode was along these lines, as I was attempting to instill Maciavellian fear in the masses. This time, I want to play with the sugar cubes a bit and entice my victims, er, citizens and witnesses, and get information a different way. Throw them the proverbial curveball. Bigby is known for strong arming and “beating the shit” and asking questions later, so this new approach seems to have everyone on edge. My own personal philosophy is to “never remove all doubt.” I have succeeded through episode 2.


Wolf Among Us is dark and grimy, and you’ll spend a lot of your time with shitty personalities and shittier environments, so associating with drug dealers, loan sharks and drug addled prostitutes is the norm here. Dealing with them with claws instead of paws has been my choice for a tactic. In episode 1, I left my unsuspecting girlfriend with her jaw drooping when I went to the “wolf-side” and liberated an appendage from someone’s fleshy meat socket. I merely glanced forward without blinking and said; “It’s what Bigby would’ve done. What?? I didn’t lick the wound or anything.” So far, that is the feeling you get from playing episode 2 as well. You feel like Bigby, and you want to do what he would do. Not what grown up bill-paying slacker you would do.

Action sequences are mostly missing from this one. Or, they were for me anyway. The route I took was intimidation, and I reveled like a fat tick in blood in slowly pulling answers from one particular denizen of this world. I highly suggest this game to those gamers, and readers, that don’t have those twitch tendencies to obliterate everything moving on screen. Wolf Among Us is an adventure game, meaning that you’ll get a lot of prompts onscreen about what to do, a lot of choices, and some investigating to do. That is all for this.


It’s G.O.D.D Time

Not sure where to start with my next infatuation, other than the title; Ehmm Theory. It’s a quick and well written comic from Action Lab comics. Written by Brockton McKinney and with art from Larkin Ford, the comic marks off a ton of my checkmarks for a good comic. This, or something similar was also noticed by those bastards at Fangoria, as they beat me to the punch on a review. Good for Brockton and Larkin and I love Fangoria.

Now, where was I? Oh that’s right-Zombie midgets. The first peek I got from Ehmm Theory started in a grave yard, Gabe Ehmm had a talking cat, and punted the puss-filled and maggot munched head of a midget zombie. Yeah, so, there is that. I thought we were moving into a new “Ash” category. Honestly, as a lover of debauchery and chaos, I’m on the ship with that. But, Ehmm Theory takes a couple of twists, and it maneuvers out of cliche territory into full on sci-fi (I’m coining the term Sic-fi right now. I’m f#$%ing copywriting it too you swine.) slash high fantasy, mid-80’s Marvel and early 90’s Image comic goodness with the introduction of some seriously bad-ass and original comic superheroes. I don’t want to say anything more than It’s G.O.D.D time.

Issue 2 has some of the best writing you’ll read, period. I’m not talking twisting and cleverly written time-shifting Star Trek or Whedon convoluted cockney slang shit either. The dialogue is both childish and biting. The back story is evolved, and takes itself more seriously than you would expect from the comic’s start. It pays homage to comic reader’s loves. A talking cat, a gypsy/block country refugee, science, and well timed explosions are all expertly used and their usage turns worn-out conventions and devices on their head. Brockton is nearly as funny in his twitter posts as his comic. Though, he has more time to develop them for his comic. Ol’ Brock as I refer to him now, ( I fancy myself as knowing him now because he’s put up with my incessant questions and posts onTwitter) seems to reside in Chapel Hill, NC. And if you don’t know, if you’re an underground freak, nerd or collector of eyeballs and hardboiled eggs in jars, you’ll know that “Chapel Hill” is code for a southerner that is hip, or gets it. What a coincidence. Enough of that sentimental crap right now-I am an objective reporter.

The art in Ehmm Theory, outside of some beautiful covers, are purposefully understated. Larkin Ford allows a ton of room for the story to breath and seems to be a minimalist when it comes to scenes where there is dialogue. He lets the pedal have ample gas whenever you see “THOOOOM” scrawled on a page however, and is more than capable of delivering sharp and detailed fight scenes or explosions. His close-ups during dialogue are also strong spots in my opinion.

With respect to ordering Ehmm Theory, I’d suggest using comicsamerica.com for physical orders. In fact, I strongly suggest using them. You can get the digital versions in PDF. form from Action Labs if you want them that way. There’s something about holding a new favorite comic in your hand and smelling that gloss, turning those pages and leaving finger prints as you flip them that is intoxicating to me, though. That’s why I ordered a first issue that’s autographed for my own collection. Leave me some comment if you pick up Ehmm Theory. Especially if you order a physical copy…mine hasn’t arrived yet. Oh, and I look a lot like Gabe. Here’s my impression;


What I’m looking forward to

R.B.I. Baseball is back. Or, it’s on its way to coming back. Nearly zero details are out about it except that Major league baseball has the rights and is developing something. If you hear something, let me know. I loved this game as a kid. Can’t wait to hit a bunt home run with McGwire again.

The next installment of The Walking Dead game. It’s a little twisted and a lot terrible that a little girl has to survive on her own and the grim realities she dealt with in the first episode of season 2. It doesn’t sit right with me, but I’m glad to actually like a character. Screw you George RR Martin, the makers of the Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire and even Treme. I know it’s “realistic” and “human” to make people do horrible things, but I spend a lot of time around people so, I get enough reality.

Springtime means less chance of crappy conditions on the road. Therefore, less chance, albeit slightly, that some jag off in a Benz or Nissan or anything on wheels cuts me off and almost kills me. Seriously people, what the F#$% is wrong with you? Is a blinker a sign of weakness in Dallas? It literally takes 1/1000th of a calorie to use your turn signal, and it’s the least you can do. Why is it required that you do ten miles over in the slow lane? Where are you going that you need to be there so soon? Worried the little lady is breaking into your stash of vodka and kinking out to lesbian porn again? Geesh. Oh, spring also means that baseball is coming. I am of the cheesy sentimental sort like Whitman and others when it comes to baseball. It’s beautiful and its hard men playing a hard game. I don’t give a damn if you think it’s boring. For most of the world sex is boring until the end, or you have a porn subscription, or a penchant for Colorado and California prescriptions and creativity. Delinquents and hyper fools, the lot of you. I play baseball also, and I like the smell of grass that’s been freshly cut, and I do like windy walk on the beach, so lay off.


That’s it for now. Leave me a comment if you’ve made it through this far. My spam catcher is bored at this point.

Regretfully and painfully yours,




Gaming Goulash

Gaming goulash

I’m sitting quietly in my office listening to Guy Clark, contemplating the wasted years and unanswered questions of a life mis-lived. I sip Earl Gray Tea from a cup with the words ” Domestically Disabled” emblazoned across the painting of a pretty socialite. Then I shake it off to realize that I write about video games…and that I’m getting old. Life is about living, and to me, it’s about spring baseball, games and some other random things.

Anyhow, I’m putting together a list of things that I find interesting, or repulsive, or just odd. I’m trying to represent a demographic of men and ladies that prehaps have some nerdy interests and are in their 30s plus, and don’t have the time or inclination to find this stuff. So, here is the said stuff. Smile a silly smile today and do something awesome. Where have you gone Hunter? Where have you gone?

True Detective

I’m sure everyone and their mother is raving about this show by now. I’m not such an elitist that I won’t comment or like things just because they’re mainstream, which this show definitely is not. For the uninitiated, the show is griping, powerful and dark, just like the T-Bone Burnett crafted music and theme song performed by ‘The Handsome Family‘. It is southern gothic goodness. The quirky and slightly off-kilter song jangles along like it isn’t supposed to be there, and images once reserved for a Nine Inch Nails concert flash across the screen.

The show revolves around an expertly designed time shift following two detectives played by Woody Harrelson and Matthew Mcconaughey. Both do an incredible job, and their relationship and interplay together is the best acting I’ve seen. This is no buddy cop nonsense. Both of these characters are profoundly flawed but have redeeming qualities. Those good qualities often take a back seat to the neuroses and psychological issues these men have. The pursuit of what may be a serial killer provides a stage for these to men to act out their search for deeper meaning in life. Bleak, troubling and self loathing at times, True Detectives is soon to be a recognized gem of Americana. I won’t drone on anymore, I’m sure there are much better observations out there to be found. Besides, I have cold coffee and warm bourbon waiting to sip as I bore you with other things.

I Wish I hadn’t seen that?
Fiber optic A@# Sex. Now with more fiber!

For those that like their booties to have fiber optics.
For those that like their booties to have fiber optics.

So, um, yeah. This is really a thing. I’m not sure whether to cringe or, cringe. Genuinely one of those feelings where you don’t know if you should share this or not. That kind of feeling you get when you see a cousin looking more sexy than they should to you. Or, if you’re of the male heterosexual persuasian, you see a thin silhouette of a long haired beauty, only to find out he’s the lead singer of a heavy metal band named Dirk.




Upon Further Review: State of Decay

I’m hoping this section will be a regular part of my ramblings. Many of us don’t have the time and money to go out and get the newest games, and some games go through phases of unplayable buggyness. Sometimes these bugs get worked out, sometimes they don’t and sometimes DLC and some time can give you clarity about a game. The game I’m talking about this week is ‘State of Decay’ by ‘Undead Labs.’ The game company ‘Undead Labs’ is a small game company based in Seattle. Their game ‘State of Decay’ is the epitome of indie cred and workmanship, though they’ve signed on with Microsoft Studio. More of that later though.

‘State of Decay’ is the game I’ve been waiting for since I picked up a controller. I’m a fan of good horror movies like most of what George Romero put out, the ‘Army of Darkness’ franchise as well as ‘ Shawn of the Dead’ and some others. So, this game speaks to me. The game tasks you with building and maintaining a community of survivors, scavenging to get by and definately destroying the undead. The game is story-light, but what’s there is actually pretty good. The game throws out multiple scenario possibilities for the cause of the apocolypse, but doesn’t get its hands dirty with reasons. This game is more about the little morsels you retrieve about how life was before and what real people will need to worry about. It’s about the distressed American dream and the remainder of it’s unkempt carcass. The day to day, one day at a time philosophy takes hold here as you must maintain not only food, ammo building supplies and gasoline, but also the dynamics of the survivors you choose to let into your community.

Although the game starts you off as a character named Marcus with a nearly inept and nerdy friend Ed, the purpose of the game is to play as the community. You’re able to switch from one survivor to another that you’ve befriended, and the light RPG elements allow you to customize and power up multiple attributes to build a strong community. Some of the survivors you encounter will have certain drawbacks, such as a drinking or smoking habit that will slow down their progression. Having someone that is a lush and also “drank a lot” with the “skill” of beer pong is a funny device, but also adds even more depth. The main game starts days after the fall of humanity, or the disease that has taken hold in at least the general area, and you’re tasked with finding a community, securing that communities safety and then finding a way to escape Trumball Valley.

The first addition to the game is the downloadable content “Breakdown.” This mode is like groundhog day meets the living dead. In short, the mode is all about finding a home, sacking the valley of everything that it has, building a group of powerful and useful survivors and then “escaping.” Escape happens in the form of finding an RV and moving to a new place. That new place turns out to be more of the same place you just left. You essentially hit the restart button, this time starting from scratch with no home, stranded and this time with higher difficulty. Resources become more and more scarce and the hoardes that walk the streets and fields become faster, more aware and harder to deal with in general. This is offset by unlocking special characters called “heros” when you meet certain challenges like killing 50 zombies with a rifle etc. Although ‘Breakdown’ is less about story, I found it more compelling because there was an invisible progression. It seemed like there was a chance to save my ragtag group of smokers, drinkers and jerks. Even if it is an illusion, it seemed like there was hope. You play a part in making that fight for hope one worth fighting.

‘State of Decay’ certainly has its share of bugs. There is nothing more frustrating than sneaking silently around a hoard of flesh eaters, making your way past a zombie that is a towering hulk of a hillbilly to make it into a shed, and then have a zombie phase through the wall to chomp on your tasty head parts. Draw distance and images taking forever to render are a pain as well. There are vehicles in the game you can drive, and sometimes you’ll be chugging along doing 90 mph on the way back to your ranch, when suddenly a vehicle appears in your path, crashing up your sweet grill and bumper. Although the game has its moments of intense frustration, if you can look past the games limitations and see what a small team was able to do with small resources, brains and incredible amounts of creativity, you’ll find a remarkable experience. ‘Undead Labs’ was working with a tiny budget and took a ton of chances and risks. Talk about pulling a Macguyver. This team took duct tape and toggle switches and made a detonator for a nuke.

I have to acknowledge the studios online forums at undeadlabs.com as well. It’s one of the most helpful and interactive I’ve seen. I’ve been lurking there since the game came out, and the staff like Undead Brant, Undead Sanya and Undead Nicole are constantly involved with the community. The forum page ‘guns’ is the most active, and the team gleans information from the community to add guns and other weapons to the game. The gun selection is absurdly extensive, especially considering that the game only costs 20 bones and is an arcade game on Xbox Live. Speaking of Xbox, the ‘Undead Labs’ team just signed some sort of super-secret mega deal to develop more games for the media and computer titan. Things are hush hush, but it looks like the team will be able to finally make their much anticpated game ‘Class-4’ that is said to be an MMO based in the same universe. Things are fluid, so don’t quote me on that last part. That brings me to an item of contention and a ton of disappointment on my part-the game is single player only. This game screams and begs for co-op, but allas, it was too much to do.

cost: 20 dollars on Xbox Live and PC
DLC: yes, 6 dollars.
Suggested for old guys and gals? For sure. Especially if you have some time to invest. The game has a permadeath feature and actually simulates when you’re not around. Look into it for more information. Seriously. Now where are my fiber optic manties?