Environmental Station Alpha

A game by Arvi "Hempuli" Teikari for PC and Mac, originally released in 2015.
Environmental Station Alpha is traditional metroidvania, heavily influenced by Metroid and Super Metroid, featuring an expansive atmospheric world and chunky lo-fi visuals. The player takes on the role of a robot and is sent on a mission to explore a space station which was mysteriously abandoned many years ago. While there were no reported survivors, signals have been coming from the station recently which require investigation. The station was designed to house a variety of animal species and biomes, resulting in a wide array of creatures to fight and environments to explore.


Story elements are light – involving a few computer terminals with logs from the station’s former inhabitants – offering some insight into past events and occasionally placing a marker on the map to provide direction to the player’s next objective. Otherwise, the player is free to explore within the limits of his abilities, solve environmental puzzles, discover powerups, and fight creatures and bosses in order to push his way further into new territory.

Titan Souls

A game by Acid Nerve for PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, and Vita, originally released in 2015.
Titan Souls is an action game whose design is very much inspired by that of Shadow of the Colossus. The player wanders the land alone, equipped with a bow and arrow, on a quest to seek out a number of giant creatures. Upon defeating these great beasts, their life essence is removed and absorbed into the body of the player character. Throughout his journey, the player faces off against more than a dozen titans, each of which requires a specific strategy in order to defeat.



Where Titan Souls departs from the design of Shadow of the Colossus is in the fundamentals of combat. In Shadow of the Colossus, battling the colossi was a lengthy struggle that involved luring the creature, making a harrowing climb over and across its body, holding on for dear life as the thing moved and turned, and eventually seeking out weak points in order to stab them with your sword and wear the creature down slowly. In Titan Souls, on the other hand, battles are won or lost in a single strike.

Westerado: Double Barreled

A game by Ostrich Banditos for PC and Mac, originally released in 2015.
Westerado: Double Barreled is an expanded follow-up to a Flash-based game, simply entitled Westerado!, which was released in 2013. As in the original release, the game is an open world action-adventure set in the old west.

The game begins when your mother asks you to help your brother with the buffalo herd. In doing so, one of the buffalo manages to escape the pen and run off, and the opening credits sequence sees the young cowboy chasing the animal across the desert.


As lighthearted as this scene is, things quickly turn tragic as the cowboy returns to his farm that evening to find it ablaze. When he gets closer, he finds that his mother has been killed, and his brother is mortally wounded and lies dying in the dirt. The brother manages only to reveal details about the brim of the killer’s hat, and offers up his gun, asking you to end his suffering, at which point you may opt to take aim and shoot your brother.

Bard to the Future

A game by Battlebard Games for PC and Mac, originally released in 2015.
Bard to the Future stars a “battlebard” in the medieval era who really has to pee. When a pair of goofy guards prevent him from letting it go in the woods, he runs off and finds an anachronism in the form of a blue porta-potty with a digital clock inside. When he steps in and closes the door, the blue box transports him to the present day - not unlike another famous blue box - where he learns that he has been summoned by a wizard… or at least a D&D-playing kid who is playing the part of a wizard, along with his friend, the child barbarian.


Antics ensue as the LARPers set out on a quest with their newfound warrior companion, until they get to their friend’s house, and a battle ensues between the battlebard and a bomb-tossing youth. While it’s questionable what a kid would be doing throwing bombs off a roof for the sake of a game, this plays out like a simple boss fight, with the battlebard waiting for the kid to jump down to the ground so that he can knock the bombs back into him. But things go too far when the battlebard beheads the child at the end of the fight.

Finding Teddy 2

A game by Storybird Games for PC and Mac, originally released in 2015.
Finding Teddy 2 is an action-adventure title, whereas the original Finding Teddy was a point and click adventure. In the original game, a little girl has her favorite teddy bear stolen by a giant spider while she sleeps, and the hapless plushie is whisked away to another dimension. The girl springs into action and gives chase, passing through her wardrobe to find herself in a (non-Narnian) land of magic and strange creatures. She must speak to NPC’s, remember their words encoded as musical notes, and help them with quests in order to eventually retrieve her furry companion. Along the way, she befriends a black cat that looks very much like a traditional black kit-cat clock, as well as a fly wearing a top hat.


Finding Teddy 2 starts out similarly to the first game, with a little girl watching television in the comfort of her home, although her teddy is tucked away safely in the basement… except that when she gets close to him, he floats out of an open door and is once again taken away to another world. This time, however, the girl quests along with her teddy in the new world as he floats along in the air behind her, at least until he is stolen once more. While the new game eschews the point-and-click interface in favor of direct character control, many of its former point-and-click encumbrances remain, leading to a slow and meandering adventure where the player is regularly lost.

Keebles

A game by Burnt Fuse for PC and Mac, originally released in 2015.
Keebles mixes physics-based vehicle construction with reflex-based action and puzzle solving. Games like Fantastic Contraption task the player with building different sorts of vehicles that are capable of making it through an obstacle-laden environment. There, the player spends the bulk of his time working in the construction tool, and then watches the physics-based events play out onscreen. If the design fails, it’s back to the drawing board to make some changes, or to wipe the slate and start over.


Keebles, on the other hand, has special items that are triggered by the player, and its challenges alternate between passive viewing, occasional input, and direct control over a moving vehicle. Furthermore, levels have layered challenges, so the player must do more than simply make it to the end of the level; he must do so as quickly as possible, and rescue as many Keebles as he can along the way.

Ori and the Blind Forest

A game by Moon Studios for PC and Xbox One, originally released in 2015.
Ori and the Blind Forest is the tale of Ori, an orphaned forest spirit who lives with his adopted mother, Naru. A great deal of care is taken in introducing Ori and Naru in the game’s opening, which mixes cutscenes with short player-controlled sequences. While there is some narration throughout the experience, the two characters do not communicate to one another verbally; rather their relationship and motivations are conveyed through their actions.


The game features lush 2D artwork integrated seamlessly with 3D character models, allowing the developers to create some very expressive character animations, such as Naru scooping Ori up and tossing him lovingly into the air.

Finger Derpy

A game by Mommy's Best Games for Android and iOS, originally released in 2015.
We don't normally cover games that are exclusive to mobile or tablet devices, but we are this time. Why? Well it's all part of our terrible hidden agenda. Otherwise, we're just normal blokes here to tell you about 2D video games...

If you're fan of Mommy's Best Games' many shooters, then you might not have guessed that their next release would focus on horse racing... much less that the game would feature mentally deranged horses with fingers for legs, but such is life when game developers are given license to render their lunatic imaginings for everyone to experience.


You might also find yourself wondering what sort of equine escapades can be expected from this sort of game. Well, basically, you're controlling a horse, but rather than controlling the majestic beast with a controller or button presses, you are instead tapping your fingers rapidly on the screen. Alternating back and forth like you remember from your old Track & Field days will cause the horse to run in a straight line... but you can't just go straight; you need to navigate properly in order to complete a number of objectives.

Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number

A game by Dennaton Games for PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, and Vita, originally released in 2015.
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is the follow-up and narrative conclusion to the original Hotline Miami. While the sequel offers much of the same minute-to-minute gameplay as its predecessor, it is bigger in almost all respects, with more enemy-packed areas, more complex level layouts, more enemy variety, and a range of playable characters with different weapons and abilities. The more challenging gameplay and layered time-hopping narrative assume that you have already murdered your way through the original game.


The original Hotline Miami featured a masked protagonist taking down Russian mobsters in a dingy version of 1980’s Miami. The game challenged the player’s perception of events as its unreliable narrator seemed to be suffering from some sort of mental breakdown. The world seemed unreal, with haunting messages from masked men and strange phone calls that directed you to your next kill… and even the “real” world had an air of surrealism with the same clerk appearing in every store and always giving you merchandise for free.

Aaru's Awakening

A game by Lumenox Games for PC, Mac, Linux, PS3, and PS4, originally released in 2015.
In Aaru’s Awakening, you take on the role of the eponymous Aaru, the champion of Dawn, as he sets out to traverse Lumenox, a world governed equally between four brothers: Dawn, Day, Dusk, and Night. However, it appears that Night has grown ambitious and looks to destroy the others, so Dawn sends Aaru toward Night’s domain in order to bring peace back to the land… but Aaru soon learns that his master’s intentions may not be so noble.


The quality of Aaru’s Awakening that stands out immediately is its beautiful hand-drawn artwork and animations. The world of Lumenox is filled with sharp rocks, twisting branches, glowing pools of slime, and an array of strange creatures. Each of the four areas has a different atmosphere, with new enemies and hazards in each. The detailed visuals do occasionally cause some environmental navigation issues, however, as there is not much to differentiate foreground and background layers.

Oblitus

A game by Connor Ullmann for PC, originally released in 2015.
In Oblitus, you play the role of a diminutive warrior named Parvus (which is Latin for “small”), who has no memory of his past, and no notion of what he is meant to do… except for a voice that he hears in his head, compelling him to seek out a certain area. And so, with his spear and shield in hand, Parvus ventures forth into a dangerous landscape filled with powerful and terrible creatures.


Oblitus is a roguelike, and every death returns the player to the start of the game. (Actually, even success returns the player to the start of the game, although there are artifacts to be discovered that lead the player toward a true end.) Many modern day roguelikes slowly unlock new and more powerful abilities that make it easier for the player to eventually complete his quest, but that is not the case here. The only way to make further progress is to gain an understanding of your enemies and the environment, and develop the skills necessary to survive.

Camera Obscura

A game by Anteater Games for PC, originally released in 2015.
The camera obscura has made a number of appearances in pop culture film, music, and video games. Gamers most likely know its name due to the mysterious apparatus used in the Fatal Frame series to photograph – and attack – ghosts and capture their spirits. It may be unsurprising that this device has little in common with its real world counterpart, but its supernatural properties have grown into a part of our accepted fiction.


In the game Camera Obscura, the object of the same name is used to photograph the world around the player character, leaving behind a ghostly afterimage that may then be interacted with as if it were a part of the physical reality. You play the role of a young photographer attempting to reach the summit of a gigantic Babel-like tower that extends high into the sky, built by an ancient sun-worshiping people.

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