Gaming without your brother

Tag Archives: indie games

Tripleslash Studios Magnetic By Nature: Awakening

From Xbox Live Indie Games Marketplace

On Tuesday night I went to the first (annual?) Utah Game Wars. It was an event for local game developers to get funding to further their projects. Out of I believe a total of 12 submissions for consideration, 8 finalists made it to the evening to showcase their games to judges first, then to any member of the public who registered for the event. The devs submitted their works as either developed (published on any kind of platform, available to the public) or undeveloped (not yet released anywhere), and the public got to cast their vote for a people’s choice award. Developed games could win $10k, undeveloped $15k, and an extra $500 to the crowd favorite.

I didn’t research any of the games before showing up, nor did I read the print and eat the free food that was provided, so it was off to a rocky start when I showed up around 7pm. As I perused the room and listened to developers explaining their projects to people, I was . . . surprised. There was an educational game, a sports stock exchange website, a isometric high fantasy regurgitation for tablets, and other equally equally forgettable games. I was excited to go to the evening because I thought I’d get to see the next Super Meat Boy or maybe something really radical like Hotline Miami or something. Instead, it was all safe, tame, and not very enticing to the stereotypical indie gamer.

Thankfully, the developed game category winner (and people’s choice winner) Tripleslash Studios pulled through and made the whole night worth it for me. Back in the corner of the layout was Magnetic By Nature, developed by a handful of University of Utah students who make up Tripleslash. After a successful Kickstarted seeded them $10k, Magnetic By Nature: Awakening was released on the Xbox Live Indie Games. For 80 credits, I can tell you its a steal. Here was the only game at the event that was by gamers for gamers.

You control a robot in a 2D side-scrolling environment. As the title suggests, your magnetic body traverses the art deco inspired background and a darkened foreground (ala Limbo) by attracting to different magnetically poled spheres. In a word, the whole look is incredibly charming. Although the foreground reminds all of Limbo, the lively backgrounds and obstacles you run by brighten up the gameplay and make the world fun to go through.

Tripleslash Studios Magnetic By Nature: Awakening

From Xbox Live Indie Games Marketplace

I didn’t get a chance to oust a small child off of the demo machine and try the game myself, nor have I purchased the game on the Xbox Live Arcade yet (yet being the operative word . . . I want to buy this game, and I will), but the gameplay seemed to be three primary buttons – jump, attract to a blue magnetic pole, attract to a red magnetic pole, and of course, the analog stick to run forward or backward. Like all great puzzle games, the complexity comes layered into the finesse with which you can navigate spinning sawblades and swirling seas that threaten to end your life, not in the gameplay mechanics.

And if the description and screencaps don’t convince you enough to give this game a shot, then the amiability of the developers should. I chatted at length to two of the gentlemen on the team and they were very willing to answer my questions, hypothesize about the future, and reminisce about the beginning. I was pleased to hear that they have ideas for more games in the future and would love to keep pushing into the industry with their studio, Tripleslash. First priority though, fattening up Magnetic By Nature though. The developers excitement and enthusiasm was infectious as they started talking about sprucing up the artwork and adding more mechanics (one dream mechanic was being able to throw your head and then attract your body to it to get through levels).

I’ve talked about this before but it’s the same every time I get to interact with Good Guy Greg developers – I just want good, nice people to succeed, 100% of the time. Tripleslash Studios are good people, and their victory (including the people’s choice) at the Utah Game Wars just warmed all four chambers of my heart. I hope to watch their meteoric rise with this project and all their future endeavors.

The official website doesn’t work right now but I’ve been assured the Facebook page is a good way to get a hold of the developers if you’re interested. You can also follow their updates on their official twitter account, @TeamTripleslash.


When I read the synopsis of Splice in the back of the PAX program, with the rest of the PAX10 games (ten indie games at PAX, highlighted by industry experts for how awesome they are), I was pretty sure it was going to be over my head. But I had made a goal to try and play all ten PAX10 games before the doors of the convention center closed two days later. Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to play all ten games (I couldn’t find six of them whatsoever, so that’s on you, PAX), but I did get a chance to try out Splice and pick up a coupon code so I could buy it on the cheap after PAX, which I did.

Splice was made by Cipher Prime Studios and is currently available in the iTunes app store as well as on Steam for Mac and PC. The marketing copy boasts over seventy levels, and the company also offers a deluxe edition that comes with the soundtrack. That was my first tip off about the music. Just like Catch-22, in the exhibition hall at PAX I couldn’t hear the soundtrack but when a game starts offering their soundtrack along with the game, not as an afterthought months later, you know it’s going to be a good soundtrack.

I didn’t get to talk much to the Cipher Prime guys at the booth because some “big wig” who “voted for their game to be in the PAX10” or something lame like that walked up right when I did. Sheesh. The nerve, huh? /sarcasm. Anyway, I pieced together a little bit of the game play, got stuck on the seventh strand of the first sequence, congratulated them on the game, and left. I finally got around to buying, installing, and playing the game last night.

As for the actual game play, all the player has to do is move around microbial units (sure, that’s what we’re gonna call them) to fit in the frame that the level provides. But when you move one microbe, it effects where the others are and they move as well. You have a limited number of splices, or moves, to get all the microbes to match the shape of the frame. In later levels, microbes get special actions, such as splitting in two to make more microbes, and other actions that are harder to explain. I heard one YouTube reviewer compare the sequences to worlds in a platformer, and the individual strands of Splice to levels in a platformer. So when I say sequences and strands in the rest of this, think of it like that. Strands are levels essentially, and they’re grouped into sequences, which are pretty much only there for organizational purposes. The funniest phrase of this paragraph is “all the player has to do,” because for its simple objective, I found Splice stupidly hard.

My previous admission about how terrible I am at puzzlers still stands. So it shouldn’t be surprising when I got stuck on the same strand of the same sequence two weeks after I played it at PAX. I eventually got it on my own, but it took me so long, it wasn’t even gratifying. I was still shaking my head, like “Man, how could I have figured that out faster?” I got stuck again on sequence two, strand three but not wanting to waste more time (which is how I always view beating my head against puzzles, i.e. as a waste of time), I googled a solution. Thankfully (for my pride, anyway) the reviewer explained some more mechanics of the game so I didn’t have to watch the full solution; I realized the solution now that I understood what the new microbes actually did.

I haven't rage quit Splice . . . yet

I haven’t rage quit Splice . . . yet

I stopped my brief run through at sequence three, strand five. Like all puzzle games I play, it might be awhile before I actually finish this one because I am impatient and apparently an idiot. I recognize the deliberate choice to go minimalist on the game play by not explaining how to play the game, but at the same time, players get nothing to go on . . . For as much as I love progressive gaming, the lazy, puzzler-handicap in me shakes its head at setting up gamers to fail. And it’s more than others. Limbo, for instance, explains nothing. But it’s such a familiar backdrop (i.e. platformer) we instinctively figured out what to do. Splice is breaking boundaries all over the place, so our frame of reference is limited, if not gone entirely for those of us who don’t play puzzle games often enough. I think at the end of the day however, I’d rather developers assume I’m too smart than assume I’m too stupid. This rant is just because I’m mad that I’m really bad at this game.

Far and away though, this has got to be one of the most beautiful indie games I’ve ever played. There isn’t a ton to go on visually throughout the game, it’s true, but again the minimalist art style and controls, as well as a superb soundtrack (officially called Flight of Angels) that I’m going to buy off of Bandcamp in just a few minutes, creates an ephemeral place in which to ragequit. Ahh, how pleasant.

If you like puzzle games, you will love Splice and you should definitely spring the $10 to buy it. It’s only $4 for the iPad, and I don’t see anything telling me that it has any fewer levels, so if you have an iPad, save some dough and buy it in the app store. If you don’t like puzzle games, I think this is still a beautiful enough game that if you like being challenged in non-puzzle games, you’ll appreciate the experience in Splice. Just wait until it goes on sale.


As I alluded to in my first post, I’m graduating from college soon, but unfortunately I still have the hurdle of finals week to jump through. I wrote my first post because it was on my mind and I wanted to at least get things going, but I knew that after that the blog would be stagnant for a few weeks while I wrapped up a hellish semester.

My last day of classes was on Wednesday and my first final is on Saturday. The intelligent person would have spent the past two days writing his or her research paper. Unfortunately, I am not the intelligent person.

Yesterday I tried out AirMech which is in alpha testing in the Chrome web browser, so it’s free! I didn’t do my homework, so I’m not sure if Carbon Games plans to keep the game free or not. Anyway, it’s fun enough, but almost exactly like League of Legends except you’re a robot/airplane instead of a mythical creature . . . I’ll probably keep it in my Chrome apps but I doubt I’ll revisit it any time soon. Having said that, I love everything indie, so props to Carbon Games for putting out a good product in a popular niche that people are playing a lot these days.

After I gave AirMech a run through, I tried out the Command & Conquer: Tiberium Alliances browser game (also free and in beta testing right now). I never actually played Command & Conquer back in its hey day so I don’t know how much of this iteration is just the old game put in browser, but for a C&C virgin like myself, so far it’s been fun. Lots of base building, not a whole lot of action so far, but you get to battle other players and join alliances with others as well so I think it has some potential to be entertaining enough.

And then earlier this afternoon I saw a Kotaku headline about Shigeru Miyamoto toying with the idea of making a sequel to A Link to the Past for the 3DS. My nostalgia gland went into overdrive as I thought about how fun that game is to play, and how (you guessed it) I never finished it so it’s on The List! I played it for about 6 hours tonight and got through two castles in the dark world before I realized a) I should write about this and b) I need to sleep.

NOSTALGIA

NOSTALGIA

I think it would be pointless to review this game: everyone should play it, it’s incredibly fun and is just a well-made game with an engaging story. If you don’t play it . . . I almost said something really rude, but I’ll keep that to myself. Just play the game. What I do feel like sharing though are impressions as I delve back into this world.

A) Wow, Twilight Princess was really just a remake, huh? Dark world, light world? I recently heard someone say they hated the Zelda series because everything is pretty much the same, and actually, I had to acquiesce to this person’s point. However, I say if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Obviously people love the rote gameplay of Zelda (including myself) so more power to Nintendo. The last Zelda series game I played was Twilight Princess so it has been cool to see the origin of a lot of the ins & outs of TwiPri (is that a thing? I don’t want it to be but I’m gonna leave it) in ALttP (that can’t be a thing, but again, I’m just gonna abbreviate).

B) That music! As it all started up again I was loving it! Bobbing my head, chair dancing, making syllabic noises along with the instrumentals! And then I realized every theme is no more than 12 bars repeated, over and over and over . . . Granted that’s true of a lot of videos games now, and particularly a lot of earlier video games. But still, it’s an interesting comparison between music now and then. And who am I kidding, I still love it. NOSTALGIA.

C) I watched my brothers play this so often that I know where everything is even having never beaten it before. It’s fun pretending that I’m really good at video games.

How did people ever find this?

How did people ever find this? Granted, it's kind of random so logic would say "just try to bomb it" but man, the no-crack-in-the-wall bomb spot . . . good thing I remember my brothers blowing it up.

D) You guys, I am really bad at video games. Throughout the quests for the 3 pendants and even all the way up to fighting the wizard in the light world, I was cooking! I don’t think I died once, I was just going to town on all of those baddies. Then I hit the dark world dungeons and I died about a million times. Give or take a few hundred thousand. Seriously, I am bad. I’m confident I’ll get better but man. There was much swearing. And much wishing I could mod armor or something modern gaming-ish like that for Link. Although I gotta say, the Master Sword with full health is always a fun combination.

2nd Crystal Dungeon Boss

This clown took me way too long to even get to, and I feel bad about myself because of it.

E) The modern gaming notion of hording and checking every nook and cranny for potential items is great to apply to older games. I was grass cutting and bush whacking in every frame and got 999 rupees in no time. And then I bought the Zora flippers and spent the rest of my dough increasing my bomb and arrow maximums, and then I got 999 again.

Anyway, that’s all for now. My “official” ALttP post will be up once I finish the game but, in an effort to actually pass my final exams, that may not happen for a week or so. If you have any commentary or questions about Zelda, AirMech, or C&C, leave a comment!