Outer Wilds begins around a fire, like so many of the best stories do. When you step towards the crackling flames, you're offered a surprisingly whimsical option: press X to roast a marshmallow. Why not? You transform the sugary orb into a ball of flame. When you step back, however, you see that the world is about to get far, far bigger than a campfire, or even a planet. You're sitting at the base of a rocketship, as a nearby engineer explains that you're the astronaut about to blast off into space.[more inside]
All you need are the launch codes, and after a leisurely detour through your home planet where you pick up a few essential piloting skills, you suit up, buckle in, and launch your craft triumphantly into space, ready to explore the wonders of the universe.
Then the sun explodes.
Flash Friday: Intrusion is a 2008 run'n'gun side-scrolling flash game by Russian developer Aleksey Abramenko. Try the demo of Intrusion 2, his 2012 follow-up, finally out after three years of development.
What is Spelunky? Well, it's a game that's "as generous as it is bloodthirsty," with "astonishing creativity and spectacular depth." First appearing as a freeware PC game in 2008, Spelunky (previously) is a hilariously brutal and oddly addicting marriage of roguelike, platformer, and puzzler. A new version was released for Xbox Live Arcade on July 4th, with updated visuals and a warbly soundtrack that recall the days of SNES gaming, as well as a deathmatch mode that's been compared to the mayhem of Bomberman. If you're anything like me, you'll get hopelessly consumed. (Trailer. Original freeware version for PC and Mac.)
Twenty years ago today, the gaming world saw the launch of a truly landmark title: Sonic the Hedgehog. Developed as a vehicle for a new Sega mascot, the fluid, vibrant, cheery-tuned wonderland swiftly became the company's flagship product, inspiring over the ensuing decades an increasingly convoluted universe of TV shows, comic books, and dozens of games on a variety of systems (all documented in this frighteningly comprehensive TVTropes portal). And while in recent years the series has turned out more and more mediocre 3D and RPG efforts, the original games remain crown jewels of the 16-bit era. So why not kick off this anniversary by replaying the titles that started it all for free in your browser: Sonic the Hedgehog (1991), Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (1992), Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (1994), Sonic & Knuckles (1994). Or click inside for music, remakes, and other fun stuff! [more inside]
Portal 2 has finally hit the streets, and despite a somewhat rocky start with their controversial promotional ARG (previously), it looks to be a huge success. Interestingly for such a critically-acclaimed blockbuster, the title's core ideas steam from a pair of concept projects from student design school DigiPen: the original portal system from Narbacular Drop (video - download - previously) and the sequel's physics-altering gels from Tag: The Power of Paint (video - download - previously - previouslier). Combine these innovative ideas with some Lost-meets-Life After People level design, excellent voice acting, and top-notch writing, and it's easy to see why so many people called in sick this past week. But playing the game is just the beginning -- look inside for a collection of easter eggs, story theories, videos, and other goodies from the post-mortem. [more inside]
Minecraft mastermind Markus "Notch" Persson has officially announced his company's next project: a hybrid online board game/trading card system called Scrolls. Spearheaded by Mojang co-founder Jakob Porser (interview) and with backstory penned by Penny Arcade wordsmith Jerry "Tycho" Holkins, the game will consist of turn-based battles between collectible "scrolls," illustrated character cards strategically deployed on an abstract gaming grid. In an interesting inversion of the Minecraft model, the game itself will be free, while updates in the form of additional scroll packs will cost a nominal fee -- a business model gaming analyst Sean Maelstrom decries as "snake oil." Mojang, for their part, is unafraid and even eager to target an untested slice of the gaming market, and is angling to get their playable prototype of Scrolls ready for a possible Alpha release this summer.