When I donated some money to the kickstarter for Brandon Boyer's Venus Patrol project, I donated the amount I did pretty much entirely for the promised reward of an Adam Saltsman (creator of Canabalt and Gravity Hook) game and a Vlambeer (creators of Super Crate Box and Ridiculous Fishing) game. Then, over the following months, I managed to entirely forget about this until a link to two new games appeared in my inbox yesterday.
So instead of spending the day playing the HD remake of Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath (which I strongly recommend you do as well, by the way) I spent the day playing a weird little haunting space game and a crazy over-the-top retro FPS. I thoroughly enjoyed both of them in very different ways. Though, as it's a fairly small group of people who will have access to these games, I am failing to find much at all written about them. So here are some thoughts on Saltsman's Capsule and Vlambeer's Gun Godz.
Adam Saltsman's Capsule is a haunting, lonely deep space journey. The story is minimalist and requires a bit of work on the player's behalf, but my take on it is that you are a lone astronaut flying from station to station, discovering old messages and piecing together a story. Between docking at stations, you fly through the empty void of space with your only screen being your blurry, monochrome CRT monitor. You have control of your ship's thrust, steering, and scanner, and you must navigate to the next station while tracking down fuel and oxygen and avoiding obstacles.
Just like many of Saltsman's creations, Capsule is a simple game with minimalist mechanics that relies primarily on its audiovisual aesthetics to convey its tone and atmosphere. The little refreshing blurs and noise on the monitor are a lovely touch, and the sound design by Deep Sea's Robin Arnott all but make the game. You must play this game with earphones. The sound of myself choking to death, alone in a blacked-out spaceship drifting through deep space is not something I will forget anytime soon.
As lovely as the minimalist design is, it sometimes holds the game back. At first I was unsure if I was in deep space or a deep ocean, and I was originally unaware that I was meant to be aiming for something and not just surviving for as long as possible in deep space. Still, once you know what you are doing and why, there is a lovely and haunting little game here.
Only a few weeks ago I was thinking how I wanted to see a resurgence of the style of early 90s first-person shooters. We've had the new retro platformers and it is time for the new retro shooters. Much to my pleasant surprise, this is exactly what Gun Godz is. It plays like some Wolfenstein 3D/Super Meat Boy mashup. Levels are short but challenging and the par time for each map beg you to replay.
Vlambeer are one of my favourite indie developers, and it all comes down to their skill at producing twitchy games with incredibly rewarding feedback. Everything in rheir games feel good and accurate and anything that goes wrong feels like it was my fault, not the game's. In Gun Godz, every gun feels just right for every opponent. Even the lowly pistol is rewarding to fire. Movement is slick, enemies are fun to fight. The opening levels are a bit slow, but things escalate exponentially until you are facing down burly dudes shooting rockets out of their chests in the middle of an evil RnB publisher's headquarters. Or something.
I'm really enjoying both of these games. Capsule for its chilling, claustrophobic sense of atmosphere and Gun Godz for being such a slick and frantic shooter. If you gave $25 to Venus Patrol and these are just sitting in an ignored email in your inbox, I strongly recommend you download them and give them a try. If you didn't give to Venus Patrol, then hopefully these games eventually get a public release because they are great fun and deserve a play.