After taking over a bar, publisher Good Shepherd Entertainment invited anyone who would come to check out their wares. There was a variety of titles to peruse, each with developers on hand and eager to demonstrate where they have been pouring their hard work and determination. Here are the three standout titles:
Black Future 88
Adopting a retro future aesthetic and straddling the graphical line between the blocky characters of the Atari 2600 with the additional detail found in an NES game, and adding in a dash of modern lighting sensibilities, developer SUPERSCARYSNAKES’ Black Future 88 has a unique flavor. The game is a sidescrolling platform/shooter tasking players to fight through a procedurally generated tower to kill its owner. The reason why isn’t exactly on display, so we’ll assume “because it’s there” is the reason for now. Still, the game takes place in a dystopian take on the future, so there’s certainly a good reason.
Players can go it alone, or recruit a friend via couch co-op to tackle the challenges the edifice holds within. Using one of the many different characters, each with their own skills, players will need to explore, jump, and use twin stick aiming controls to remove every last enemy and sentry robot to make their way ever higher. While there is no release date announced, this game is sure to garner a following once it hits digital shelves.
Coming from South African developer Nyamacop, this Unity engine power puzzle/platformer will turn some heads with its gentler take on challenges. Adopting a style similar to Limbo, but with a brighter background and without those darn spiders, players explore levels to collect the three little spheres found within. Accomplishing this requires clever use of the terrain deformation to be able to reach the objects and survive the hazardous environment.
The conceit of Semblance is that everything is made of some sort of clay. The hero is a little rolling blob with the power to raise terrain by bashing upwards into it, or lower the terrain by smashing down. During the demo, the challenge was adjusting the terrain while dealing with beams of light that force the ground back into its original position. Sometimes these impediments were the solution, as we found when bouncing the ground down and having it launch us skyward, Other times, they are the exact pains in the neck they were meant to be. The most fun part about our time with this title was going in blind and figuring out the mechanics ourselves. If someone explained the details in advance, the challenge would have been reduced. Therefore, I’ve accidentally ruined the opening levels. Sorry about that. There will be more puzzles to come when it releases later this year.
Closing out our time at the bar was CreativeForges’ Phantom Doctrine. Fans of Firaxis’ X-Com reboot series are going to be happy here. Taking the tactical gameplay of that stellar title and wrapping it in a cold war spy thriller, players are tasked with unraveling a worldwide conspiracy while keeping their agents in the best gear.
What helps Phantom Doctrine stand apart from its inspiration, other than its setting, is the need to keep agents undercover. As agents complete tasks, they’ll become more visible. If their cover is blown, the danger is real. Spending money to relocate them and invest in a new identity can resolve this, but the more agents are caught out, the more likely the player’s secret hideout will be discovered, which is just bad all around. Even this scenario is salvageable, though resources will probably be lost. Utilizing famous cold war tropes, including the infamous MKUltra program, Phantom Doctrine should please strategy fans and the paranoid alike.