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Posted by Christian Valentin

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After a short hiatus, Screenshot Saturday Highlights is back with historical horror, ancient battles, low-fi survival, and planetary action, across varied genres.

Amityville '76
Amityville Dev | PC
Meticulously recreating the infamous house, Amityville '76 promises slow-pacing atmospheric horror against the backdrop of the famous murder case and location.
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Raji
Nodding Heads Games | PC
Raji takes you to a hand-painted ancient India, pitting your fierce warrior against an army of demons as you wield powerful weapons and magic granted by the gods. Exploration and puzzles complement the fast-paced melee action.
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Pioneers
Eigen Lenk | PC, Mac
A turn-based RPG adventure, Pioneers puts you in the shoes of daring explorers and settlers as they travel to distant lands and brave the unexplored wilderness. Manage stats, gather supplies, decide when to camp or keep delving deeper, dealing with dangerous wildlife and other threats.
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Before The Devil Knows You're Dead
Interactionman | PC
Explore the gothic Victorian-era streets in Before The Devil Knows You're Dead, as a recently deceased man journeys into the afterlife, using ghost powers to solve puzzlers and a cast of the living and dead to interact with.
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Seven
Fool's Theory | PC
Inspired by Thief, Seven unleashes you on the rooftops of a far-future world, sneaking and stabbing with agile grace. Pick your skills and choose whether to quietly approach missions, go for the kill with aggressive combat, or use magic and ranged weapons for distant tactics.
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Rotation
Mikael Borghult | PC
Stranded on a deadly planet that spins fast and faster, Rotation challenges you to survive waves of aliens in fast-paced arcade combat. Special weapons, gear, and other players for cooperative tactics are your only advantages against the otherworldly menace and ever-spinning landscapes.
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The Bleak Cyberpunk Future Of Neofeud

Sep. 21st, 2017 05:01 pm
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Posted by Thomas Faust

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Neofeud's future is not shiny and chrome, it's a tangled mess of clashing styles. In true cyberpunk fashion, scrapped technology meets body modification and robotics. Consequently, the game's art style is all over the place and its music is infused with old modem dial-up sounds. It's such a wonderful, ambitious mess.

It's 2033 and advances in robotics didn't quite lead to the bright transhumanist future everyone envisioned. Conscious machines are humanity's unwanted bastard children. Defective, legally conscious, but unhirable, they are shuffled through public housing and welfare assistance, straining the already overburdened social safety net.

All the while, the 1%, or 'Neofeudal Lords', live high above this landfill in floating neon structures, living the lives of de-facto gods. It is a poignant version of wealth inequality, taken to its extremes. Developer Christian Miller is no stranger to facing this kind of injustice. He describes growing up in one of the poorer areas of Hawaii but attending school in one of its wealthier parts as "living in two worlds, having inequality shoved in your face every day."

Working as a STEM teacher with underprivileged kids further cemented his views on a society where the marginalized struggle while there's a tourism-friendly postcard-paradise not too far away. "Cyberpunk dystopia," he claims, "is already here. It's just [that] human society is very good at papering over the more dystopic parts."

"The world of Neofeud is sort of taking my own experiences and cranking the knobs up to 11. It's a world where the marginalized (robots and chimera part-humans) have to pass a 'consciousness test' to even be *considered* a person, and are easily discarded, disappeared, used for borderline slave-labor, or to prop up a prison-industrial complex. These characters and events are all based on my own experiences, and are much less 'fictional' than one might expect."

In Neufeud, you play as Karl Carbon, an ex-cop turned lowly social worker who has to make sure that the city's robot population gets treated (somewhat) fairly. Things start to go sideways when a renegade time traveller shows up and Karl is drawn into a conspiracy that could very well threaten the strained fabric of Human-Robot-Hybrid relations. And that's just the beginning.

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Granted, a lot of this is "just" good cyberpunk in the vein of Gibson, Dick, and Stephenson. However, the world building is something else. It has a thickness, a density to it. Almost every line of the game's technobabble fleshes out the game world some more. If that's your thing, the game is immensely enjoyable.

Neofeud has a few issues, such as some awkward action sequences and what is possibly the most annoying, offensive character you're ever going to meet in a videogame. You'll know him when you meet him and you'll love to hate him, believe me. Come to think of it, none of Neofeud's characters are really likeable. But then, there's little room for being a good person when the world around you is messed up, I guess.

Still, this is an ambitious, atmospheric cyberpunk scenario and essentially the work of a single person (voice acting excluded). Oh, and it might also be one of the best adventure games I have played in a while, so there's that.

Meanwhile, Christian Miller is hard at work on his next game, Dysmaton, which promises some post-apocalyptic science fiction and an escalating interstellar cold war. Not the cheeriest outlook, but it seems apt considering the fact that we're all headed to hell in a handbasket right now.

Before that happens, you should probably purchase Neofeud from itch.io or Steam. For more information, follow Christian Miller on Facebook or Twitter.

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Posted by Joel Couture

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I Woke Up Next To You Again puts players in a relationship that isn't good for them. Yet everything seems to be fine! You both like each other! You both enjoy each other's company. Yet, something is off about the connection - something that becomes a need that pushes out friends, family, and all other aspects of life just to be with that one person.

I Woke Up Next To You Again offers multiple routes through the story based on what you say to the person you keep waking up next to. Based on what you choose, you'll steadily explore their connection, which seems cute at first, but as the one night stand shifts to a longer connection, the things the protagonist says become more alarming. What seems to be a romantic connection becomes a need, one that becomes toxic to them in its desperation.

Offering four different endings depending on how players express their obsession, I Woke Up Next To You Again drags players into this feeling of connection within moments using striking art for their chosen partner. The man or woman you wake up next to is cute - their smile disarming. It feels right to care for them, and yet, within moments, developer Angela He shows the dangerous need growing in the protagonist's mind. It's short, yet packs dense emotions and thoughts into a few minutes of play.

I Woke Up Next To You Again is available for free on Itch.io, GameJolt, and Newgrounds. For more information on the game and developer Angela He, you can head to the developer's site or follow them on Tumblr, YouTube, and Twitter.

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Posted by Julia Couture

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Fall Of Light takes the challenge of Dark Souls, but from a dungeon crawler perspective. There is also a touch of ICO added into the mix, with players acting as a father trying to bring his daughter to the last place of light in the world, telling a touching story while players deal with ruthless enemies.

Fall Of Light takes place in a world where sunlight is rare and only remains in one place, and it is there that you have to bring your daughter. Not that it should be your sole destination, as the world is vast and full of secrets for players to uncover. The developers made sure that players who take their time to explore every nook and cranny would be generously rewarded with secrets and treasures to sate their curiosity as well.

In battle, players can choose from 20 different battle stances and 10 weapon classes - making sure players will not feel bogged down by a simple sword and shield. This system is meant to allow a great deal of flexibility, ensuring players have many different options in combat against the game's resilient, intelligent monsters.

A dark world awaits in Fall Of Light, and it's up to you to find the light!

Fall Of Light releases September 28, 2017. For more information, check out the Steam page! You can also check out the developer's website, Twitter and Facebook.

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Posted by Joel Couture

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The Nightmare From Beyond looks to mix Lovecraft horror and 3D platforming, having players guide Sanja through labyrinthine corridors on an alien world as she searches for her sister.

The Nightmare From Beyond seems to take some inspirations from Tomb Raider, Uncharted, and Prince of Persia, placing players in large environments filled with things they can climb, clamber on, and leap off of in acrobatic fashion. Sanja is quite mobile once she gets running and jumping, which allows her to navigate the (sometimes off-putting) geometry of this hostile alien world.

The world itself, though, is a source of unease. Its strange locations, silent temples, and bizarre alien landscapes unnerve as the player works their way through them. They, as well as some frightening visions and the unfolding narrative as to why Sanja's sister was taken, seek to create tension in the player, and not just about whether they'll make the next jump. The Domaginarium excel at creating game worlds that feel like navigating nightmares (see Enola for an excellent example), and The Nightmare From Beyond's strange landscapes and glowing characters look like they may create that same dreamy, eerie feel.

The Nightmare From Beyond is available for $19.99 on Steam Early Access. For more information on the game and developer The Domaginarium, you can head to the developer's site, the game's site, or follow them on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.

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Posted by Joel Couture

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Dujanah's stretches of desert beg for contemplation, as do its myriad events. Following a woman searching for her missing family in a land under the thumb of an intervening force, it leaves the player to question the events and words that unfold, all while trying to find those missing loved ones when they can't help but feel that they don't want to know the realities of what happened to them.

Dujanah casts the player out into a world of clay and hand-drawn art, humor and darkness and the surreal blending seamlessly into an adventure where meaning is found in roaming. Narrative events can occur at random, sprinkled throughout the world through run-ins with various people, creatures, and events as you struggle to find your family. Absurd moments can make the player laugh moments before an empty room promises an unknown dread, followed by developer King-Spooner teasing Let's Players with his own Let's Play of his own game as it's played.

Dujanah is a meditation on revenge, but also on how we deal with tragedy, how ridiculous our existences become, justifications of the horrible actions we take, and the delirious fear that infuses world politics and events. It's a journey through a thoughtful space that encourages players think on it, offering helpful laughter and withering criticism within footsteps of one another. It's a captivating experience, once more captured by King-Spooner's wonderful work in clay, music, narrative, humor, and art.

Dujanah is available for $8.99 on Itch.io and Steam. For more information on the game and developer Jack King-Spooner, you can head to the developer's site or follow them on YouTube and Twitter.

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Posted by Julia Couture

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In newly-released RTS Tooth And Tail, your victories will decide who will become the next menu item. The normally-peaceful animal kingdom has turned to meat for food due to dwindling crop numbers, but the commodity doesn't come easily (as no one wants to volunteer to be the meal), leading to an all-out civil war between four factions that players can control. Using a variety of animals armed with all manner of weaponry, it is up to you to keep your faction off the chopping block.

For those who enjoy dark humor mixed into their strategy games, this is a perfect tail (Get it?). In Tooth and Tail, players will be in control of one of the four factions: The Longcoats, the Commonfolk, the KSR, or the Civilized. In the story mode, players will be in control of the leader of each of the respective factions, leading them to victory through various missions across procedurally generated maps. There will be different units available to aid your cause, such as paratrooper-puking owls and gas-lobbing skunks - their descriptions alone inspiring a very unique RTS. It will be up to you to use these units to complete your objectives and stay alive.

Players who enjoy multiplayer were not left out of the revolution, as Tooth and Tail offers both online and local multiplayer modes. The matches are designed to be easy and dedicate only 5-12 minutes, so players will not feel pressured to dedicate hours to a single match. There's no excuse to not sharpen your claws and test your abilities against more than just AI.

Stay off the menu and see your way to victory in the revolution with Tooth And Tail!

You can purchase Tooth and Tail on Steam and GOG. You can also check out the developer's site and Twitter!

A Quick Chat With Pehesse

Sep. 18th, 2017 03:10 pm
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Posted by Thomas Faust

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Pierre Sylvain 'Pehesse' Coq released his quirky visual novel / fighting game hybrid Honey Rose: Underdog Fighter Extraordinaire one year ago. I talked to him about his latest project, unique payment models, and the state of the game industry at large.

What are you working on at the moment?

I'm currently working on Pachacuti, a 2D modular action-platformer. I make it using Construct 2, for its ease of prototyping, and target desktop PC for now, with plans for console release down the line if the finished game turns out all right! The game is set in an Incan inspired environment and uses 2D tradigital animation, meaning digitally hand drawn imagery reproducing the workflow of traditional animation. To see it all in motion, you can check out the devlog here.

It's intended to be a small, replayable series of linear levels where the player's choice of playstyle (a heavier focus on platforming or combat) will determine the challenges that they face. It's essentially an "exercice de style", a smaller-scope project where I try to work on the focus and quality of the game, rather than explore new genres, mechanics or concepts.

My dream would be to make it an experience newcomers to the platforming genre would enjoy, and act as a gateway to the breadth of other platformers out there, yet still manage to hold experienced player's attention enough to eventually be run at an event like AGDQ. Admittedly, that's the long term goal, the short term plan is "simply" to make the tightest possible 2D platforming experience I can put together!

What's your strategy for tackling visibility issues when it comes to promoting your games?

In short: make gifs! Animated footage of the game in action, or of work in progress usually has been met with the best kind of audience reaction. There are so many games out there now, people simply have to leisurely scroll down their timeline to stumble upon a few dozens. To catch their eye, it's important to have something that "looks" interesting first and foremost, before diving into the intricacies of why your game might actually be of interest at all.

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I've also been posting about the game's development every step of the way to try and be as open and transparent about the process as possible, both in an effort to engage the audience on a "development journey" alongside me, keep my motivation up, and manage the audience's expectations by sharing the successes and failures, the intentions and questions, the speedy progress and the crippling doubt. [Players'] expectations often become an important factor to handle as early as possible to avoid creating confusion and potentially devastating misunderstandings.

You chose an interesting payment model for your previous game, Honey Rose: Underdog Fighter Extraordinaire. The game was essentially free with paid DLC as a way of supporting you. How did that work out for you, are you happy with the results?

I was looking to develop a player-friendly model where they could express their support towards something they'd like. Unfortunately, while I'm proud of the game and glad of how it was met by some players, I can't count Honey's business model as a success, as to this day, the game has sold an incredibly low amount of copies relative to its number of players (that, on the other hand, is one of the model's wins). On Steam, the game has sold 199 copies for over 20.000 players, which makes for an even smaller ratio of sales compared to traditional F2P.

There are a number of reasons for which the model failed, many of them stemming from the game's quality, appeal and marketing (or lack thereof), so I still believe in the theoretical potential of the model applied to something with a bigger and better track record, but as it stands, I will not be able to attempt it again until my own financial situation gets much more stable. For Pachacuti, I will have to go through the now classic pipeline of crowdfunding and traditionally priced release, and hope for the best!

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What's something you love about the games industry at the moment, and what would you like to see changed?

Unfortunately, I have a pretty sour outlook on the industry at the moment as it seems we are knee deep in controversies, issues and all around negativity stemming from a number of wildly different sources. I'm hoping to participate and help promote a more positive attitude towards all aspects of gaming as a whole, from the way games are made and presented to their critical reading and reception.

It saddens me that we ultimately find ourselves in situations where we're pitted against each other, where devs are afraid of their audience, where journalists are viciously attacked when speaking out and where players are preyed upon by conning monetary practices.

Of course, I don't believe in "too much positivity" as a solution to all issues, but as far as the current climate goes, we need a much stronger push from people who wish to have a positive impact on their favorite aspects of the medium, as silence at this point only helps spread the overall toxicity. It may "just be games", but more than ever, we need good people to speak up and do something, else we drown in the noise and furor from those who only wish us harm.

Thankfully, that's where I'd say there's a positive to look forward to: the tools to make more diverse games are accessible, and the means to communicate about them are widely available, so every one out there can be a force of change and good for the medium if they care to be one. It all starts, and ends, with us!

You can follow Pehesse on Twitter and play Honey Rose on Steam. (And if you like it, you can even be his 200th customer!)

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Posted by Joel Couture

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"In the art house and experimental field of games, it is even more important to have a platform where joy and business come along in the right way. People from around the world come to A MAZE. / Johannesburg to meet the African community to exchange culture and perceptions. Our talk and workshop program is diverse, and builds on the bases of authorship, artistic expression, and African culture." says Thorsten Wiedemann, festival founder and director for A MAZE. / Johannesburg.

A MAZE. / Johannesburg, a celebration of independent games and playful media, is currently taking place in South Africa from September 13-16.

"A MAZE. is a place full of positive chaos, and festival attendees learn to think out-of-the-box. Everything is there, but different. Developers can easily create an international network, do business, meet press, and get visible with their own work, but without the financial pressure of a convention. It's very special to me, as I basically built the festival from scratch in 2012, and the continuity with my local team had an inspiring impact on the game development community in South Africa and Africa."

Featuring workshops and talks, as well as an arcade filled with independent games from African and international developers, it highlights the experimental, powerful work being done in the medium, and its speakers and developers are rightfully proud to be there. We spoke to some of those who would be present for the festival, hoping to learn what it meant to them to be there, and to learn more about the unique work these talented creators have made.

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Cukia 'Sugar' Kimani

"I'm a Kenyan born game developer with an affinity for digital art. I'm best known for Boxer which I made alongside Ben Crooks (which won won the inaugural AMAZE Jo'burg award in 2015). Since then, I co-founded Nyamakop with Ben Myres, where I work as the lead programmer on Semblance. Semblance is Nyamakop's debut title, which is set to release in early 2018."

"I've been drawn to A MAZE since my first interaction with Thorsten when he pushed me to give my first Hyper Talk in 2014. In many ways, A MAZE is what kickstarted my career as a game developer. 2014 was my first A MAZE and the first game festival that welcomed me with open arms to the weird and crazy side of game development. Ever since then, I've wanted to make games / playful installations to show at A MAZE and other game festivals around the world. For me A MAZE is special because it celebrates interesting and weird games - things I was never aware of until A MAZE."

"I won't be showing anything this year, which is kind of a first since my entrance into the A MAZE world. I will, however, be speaking on a panel titled "Entrepreneur Mindset in a Digital Space" where we'll chat about the opportunities that are available through starting a business in the creative/gaming industries. This panel is an interactive session designed to engage young creatives and developers into the world of entrepreneurship."

"Ever since starting Nyamakop I've become more aware to the entrepreneurial side of game development and the creative industry. So, this is a great opportunity to share what we've learnt in starting a company and working on a commercial title."

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Kirsten Lee Naidoo

"My name is Kirsten-lee and I'm 19. I'm currently a 3rd year game design student at Wits University. When I was a first year student, I was immediately drawn to the range of games at A MAZE. There were silly games and retro games and just types of games that I had never seen before because the concepts were so creative. And I think that's what makes A MAZE so special. It is a time to celebrate indie games that are different and interesting. Also, it's the perfect time to share your games with designers and experts from different parts of the world, which is like a game design student's dream!"

"I'll be showing a game called Jodio. The game was a second year exam game based on the topic 'Urban' with a setting of Johannesburg. It was a group project worked on by me and 2 other students (Keanu Teixeira and Rohun Ranjith) . It's basically a kind of music-making audio visualizer where you click on parts of environments (which are parts of Johannesburg) and sounds play with accompanying visuals."

"I will also be doing a HyperTalk about how to be 'noticed' as a student in the game design industry in South Africa (A HyperTalk being a strictly 5 minutes or less talk). During this talk, I will be speaking about student opportunities in the Game Design industry and the importance of taking these opportunities."

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Ian MacLarty

"I'm a game designer and programmer living in Melbourne, Australia. Up until very recently I've been making games part time as a hobby, but I recently started doing it full time (as a solo independent developer). I've released about 30 small free experimental games over the last few years such as Catacombs of Solaris, Action Painting, Southbank Portrait, Doomdream and Gonubie Hotel, but also some commercial ones, such as Boson X. My games often have a visual focus and many double as art creation tools."

"I'll be showing my game Catacombs of Solaris - a colorful maze explorer with a sneaky twist. The game doesn't have any explicit objectives and is more about exploring an abstract 3D visual space. Exploration often results in striking images generated by the choices you make when navigating the space."

"I'm also giving a workshop on a tool I made called Vertex Meadow. This is a tool for creating explorable 3D landscapes using a simple paint-program-like interface. It's a way to create atmospheric "walking simulators" in a way that feels immediate and organic. I'll be explaining how the tool works, showing some example worlds made with it and then guiding attendees through the process of creating their own world."

"I'm originally from South Africa and went to the University of the Witwatersrand, which is just up the road from where A MAZE is being held in Braamfontein, so I'm excited to see how the area has changed since I was last there 18 years ago. When I lived in South Africa I wasn't making games and wasn't aware of any game development scene,
but there seems to be a blossoming scene there now and I'm really keen to see it for myself and hopefully make some new friends along the way."

"A MAZE seems to focus more on the cultural significance of games rather than their commercial significance and I think it's important to have events like that. South Africa has such a rich history and cultures to draw on so I'm really excited to see what local creators are making."

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Bracken Hall

"I am a 3rd year game design student at Wits University. I am also one of the founding members of Glitch Face, which runs pop-up arcade parties in Johannesburg. I'm primarily interested in games as social spaces and tools for education or self-expression. This year, I'm showing my local-multiplayer platformer, TRIGGERED."

"This year will be my fourth at A MAZE./ Johannesburg. Ever since my first, it has been the highlight of my year. For me, it's a great platform to show my work and get feedback from super talented people from the South African scene and abroad. There is also so much to learn from what other developers are working on. What is especially important to me, is that it has a South African core, and it's putting South Africa on the global map of game development. We're so geographically removed from the other development hot-spots around the world, and it's great to have them come to us when, for the most part, South Africans don't have easy access to the rest of the world."

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Paloma Dawkins

"I'm Paloma Dawkins from Montreal, Canada. I am a cartoonist and animator and I made a few games including Dream Warrior, Alea, Gardenarium and now Palmystery. None of my games are alike, I'm always trying to achieve a new vibe. I want to make something that doesn't already exist and draw from a different facet of my imagination."

"I'll be showing Palmystery at A MAZE! It's an anxiety simulator. Basically it's like being in some kind of Limbo hell/techno club and all the ghosts are hands or indifferent participants. Nothing really makes sense, its meant to be confusing. I made the game while trying to channel the energy I felt in the air from the US election results in November. The American Dream was looking like some kind of cartoony hell version of itself and I wanted to capture that vibe without being too specific."

"A MAZE is like the *dream* festival, I've always wanted to go to Johanessburg and Berlin. They consistently pick the most interesting games and showcase the best talent. I wish I could talk about all the amazing people I've met and all the great games I've played but I wont be able to make it out because I am currently in production on a new project :( hopefully another time."

"I like the games they pick - giving interesting and challenging games a home is important. It gives me hope knowing that my effort with Palmystery won't go unnoticed."

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Rohun Ranjith

My name is Rohun Ranjith and I am currrently a 3rd year game design student. I'll be showing 2 games at A MAZE. The first one is 9L17Ch, which is a 2D platformer in which the player has to use a glitch mechanic to solve puzzles and interact with the world. The world is set in a post-apocalyptic cyberpunk context, and the player plays as a cute robot. It is currently my group's 3rd year project. The second game is Jodio, which is an experimental game our group made for class. The game is an audio visualizer, that uses sounds from Johannesburg incorporated in a low poly version of Johannesburg."

"I am really privileged to go to the Wits because they are heavily influenced in the running of A MAZE Johannesburg. So in first year, we had to work at A MAZE, which opened me up to the awesome indie game scene. I think A MAZE is special, specifically in South Africa, because it allows international and local artists and game designers to interact. You can learn so much from all the experienced game developers from around the world and also discover the ones that are in your country. Also you get to be inspired by the great work being exhibited."

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Tim Flusk

"Game development appealed to me as a medium that comprised a whole bunch of aspects from previous media with which I had interacted. Coming into video games quite late (compared to other people), I have always been fascinated with how video games appear to revolutionize telling stories and foster far deeper emotions in people. Specifically, with how much empathy - more so than other media - games can produce between players and characters.
I am a graduate of the University of the Witwaterstrand Game Design course, and am currently employed as a programmer at 24BitGames."

"My talk focuses on the how to subvert well-known mechanics and craft new mechanics to better facilitate marginalized and vulnerable people's stories. The principle behind the need for this is that video game stories have upheld hegemonic narratives and we cannot use those same techniques to tell the stories of the subaltern."

"I have had the major privilege of being able to attend A MAZE since I was studying, as my university is associated with the festival. The festival brings enterprising and creative people together to share experiences and ideas. I am grateful to have an opportunity to share my ideas and, hopefully, find people who could inform my own ideas and even change my mind on some matters."

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Marie Claire Leblanc Flanagan

"My name is Marie Claire LeBlanc Flanagan, and I come from Canada. My background is in weird arts communities (wyrd), alternative education with alienated youth, and many other projects with people who want to build something different and are willing to do the work to make it happen."

"Exactly two years ago I moved to Berlin with a single goal: I wanted to make strange and experimental games. At the time I didn't know anything about games, but I made up my mind and got on a plane for Berlin."

"When I landed in Berlin I poked around looking for people and communities doing interesting work. I found the School of Machines, Making and Make Believe, A MAZE., ARTGAMES, Spektrum Berlin, Berlin Smell Lab, Creative Code Berlin, BerlinGameScene.com, and many other gatherings and creative communities. Berlin is one of those labyrinthian and layered cities where the more you dig the more you find. It's a living ecosystem with 300 layers of graffiti on top and some juvenile skateboarder swearing at the top of her lungs just so she can say the forbidden words. I guess (like anywhere?) some of the corners of Berlin are awful cesspools of posturing but most of it is mind-expanding and bizarre in the best possible way."

"Since moving to Berlin I've made a handful of strange and experimental games and interactive experiences. Usually with my games I'm looking to explore a question, often something personal and embarrassing. Why is life so lonely? Why can't I be understood? Why do I struggle to connect with other people? What does it mean to inhabit this meat body while exploring virtual, digital, and augmented realities? These are all very old questions, but I'm interested in using play to explore them in new ways."

"I often play with new technologies in my games, like VR/AR, machine learning, and computer vision. Right now I'm working on a blockchain game where the core mechanic is an act of trust. I hope that while I slip delightedly into these new technologies I'm also questioning them, stretching them, shredding and collaging them, and challenging what they can mean in our lives."

"At A MAZE. Johannesburg I'm showing my game Closer. It's a cooperative game for two people. Both players share a single playable character which is controlled by their (shared) movements and their proximity to each other. It's a serious game but is also silly and fun, people are jumping around and trying to navigate the difficulty of a shared fate."

"I'll be talking early in the morning on Friday about 'All the worst things.'" It will be a brief adventure through many of the horrible things that I've worked through/continue to work through in the past few years making experimental games. This includes challenges with tech, challenges with humans, and general living challenges. I'm also going to talk about how I deal with these challenges. "

"I'm also doing a workshop on Friday at 4pm. It's for total beginners who are curious about making strange games and interactive stories. It's the workshop I wish I had two years ago. You can sign up for it here."

"A MAZE. is very special. Full disclosure: I work with the Berlin edition of A MAZE. doing experience design. The reason I got involved with A MAZE. is because it's a door anyone can pry open to a wonderland full of magical play installations, experiences, and games. Many of these games can be hard to find elsewhere or are even impossible to play outside of events because they have special hardware and setup. And maybe even more than all this, the festival itself is a place of gathering. It's a space where people come together."

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David Kamunyu

"My name is David Kamunyu, a self taught, solo, indie game developer, based in Kenya, working on my first title The Orchard. My game is to be shipped under my business, Broken Helmet Entertainment. I have been an indie dev for the last 5 (or so) years, which I have spent learning the skills needed to develop my project. The Orchard is the culmination of these skills put together."

"Full disclosure, I will not be able to attend A MAZE this time around, however those awesome guys have assured me that my game will still be showcased regardless."

"The Orchard is a first person, role playing, adventure game, set in an open world, sand box environment. The world is a fictitious Kenyan district and the final product should have several settlements and a working economy. In addition there are survival mechanics, a full day/night and weather system, looting, and a few other mechanics that are still planned."

"As you have guessed, the game is still a work in progress, and is currently in closed alpha. Open alpha (build 1.0) is targeted to be released by the end of the year. Other platforms will be made available as soon as I am able."

"In case anyone is interested (or generally enjoy a bad joke) in reading my ramblings about the processes I follow and thoughts I have (if ever), they can read my blog which I update once in a (great) while."

"I was introduced to A MAZE by way of a post in one of the local indie dev Facebook groups I am in. I was not particularly optimistic at the thought of being chosen, but I figured "What do I have to loose?" and submitted my work. Though finding out about A MAZE-Joberg was not in any amazing sort of way (pun not intended), I thought it was quite cool that it gave African devs the opportunity to have their work showcased to such a huge crowd. Considering how competitive the game development world is, this is a really great platform to be able to get the much needed publicity and meet other devs and talk shop."

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Matt Cavanagh

Despite being in the South African game dev scene for ages, I have never actually released a full title (unless you count a mobile prototype of Vicious Attack Llama Apocalypse years ago). I started a company doing mobile app development about 5 years ago, and financially it went well, but mobile app dev gets...boring. So, I shifted to working on VALA about 2 and a half years ago, and after about 6 months we stopped app dev almost completely to focus on it."

"Our game, VALA, based on the true events of llamas taking over Santa Llama City, and Llamazon having to slaughter them to liberate the city. It's your standard mass llama-slaughter roguelike-lite-ish couch co-op twin-stick top-down shooter."

"A MAZE celebrates the half of gaming that isn't mass-market-appeal AAA-cookie-cutter goo. Also, there are cool people giving talks that I can fan-boy over."

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James Earl Cox III

"I'm James Earl Cox III, normal height boy with green hair who just made 100 games in 5 years (what a feat!). The majority of my games push for awkward, tense, raw experiences. They can be fun, but usually that's not the aim. They can all be found on my site. Since making 100 games in 5 years, I've been focusing on my brother's and my company Seemingly Pointless. We've won an award or two, and it is very impressive!"

"I'm honored to say I have two games at A Maze this year: the second videogame from Seemingly Pointless, MOLOCH (zero) is a worker management game that forces the player to decide between efficiency and decency; and Temporality, a contemplative war game. Two very different tones in two very different games."

"A MAZE is magical. It treats games like experimental art and appreciates playful nuance. I have yet to met an attendee who hasn't enjoyed A MAZE. While I won't be at Johannesburg this year, I will be attending the Berlin event and am very much looking forward to it."

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Diaa ElHak Guedouari

"My names is Diaa ElHak Guedouari, you can simply call me Diaa. I have been making tiny games by myself since 2008. I've always tried to focus on implementing short games with good design and satisfying user experience. Meanwhile, I participated in many competitions and Game Jams, won several awards including "Excellence in Gameplay" in the International Mobile Gaming Awards (IMGA - MENA)."

"I will be showcasing one of my works, Lamp of Truth, a short monochrome platformer about a blind old man who uses magical lanterns to materialize/enlighten what surrounds him."

"A MAZE is what drew me to come to A MAZE ... I mean, it's A MAZE-ing. The best part of the show, is the game developers gathering from all over the world to discuss their lifelong passion, game development. Being their feels more home-like than home itself."

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Karina Pop

"My co-creator Alex Duncan and I are game people based in New York City. We met in graduate school at the NYU Game Center a few years ago. I'm a freelancer and indie developer; I've made games for Sesame Workshop and
just came back from the Stugan Accelerator, working on my game 10 Mississippi. Alex works as a game designer and developer at Looking Glass Factory--a Brooklyn-based company that makes holographic displays--and also teaches game studies and game development at various schools in the New York area. His own creative practice often engages with representations of nature and non-human animals in digital spaces. Space kitties count."

"We're showing our game Space Kitty, a physical/digital arcade shooter. Encroaching dogliens (dog aliens) want to attack the Almighty Space Kitty. Players use the flashlights on their phones to zap the on-screen dogaliens
before the Space Kitty loses its 9 lives. It's a small experience and we've found that players have a blast clambering over each other, strategizing the best way to arrange themselves to rack up a high score."

"We were drawn to A MAZE because the spirit of the show resonates with us as creators. A MAZE shows games and has talks that explore new territory, it spotlights pieces and people that are doing extraordinary work. Getting the chance to be a small part of that experience is really special."

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Bahiyya Khan

"My name is Bahiyya Khan. I am 22 years old and currently doing my honours in Game Design at the University of the Witwatersrand. I have also completed an undergraduate degree in English Literature last year. (I decided to do a dual degree in game development and English Literature since it combined both of my strong fields of interests)."

"I only started really being interested in games in my second year of my degree. In our first year, we only focused on board games which I did not enjoy as much. I love making games about stuff that I think are important and I wish existed. I have made games about depression and the patriarchy and being queer and suicide."

"I have a game called after HOURS (an FMV game about molestation and mental illness) which is currently being shown at A MAZE and I have also done a talk there called 'Crying in the Club: How to Make Games Despite the Crushing Weight of Being Alive'. I also helped Marie Claire Flanagan on her workshop, 'A Kind of Play'."

"A MAZE is special because of how intimate and personal it is. You can actually make genuine friends there and you don't feel like an outcast because of how welcoming everyone is. It is a warm and cultivating experience."

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Mukenge Kim Chulu Amina

"My Name is Mukenge Kim Chulu Amina, I am a Game developer and game designer based in South Africa. I build mainly educational games and entertainment games. My studio is called Kimard Studio and I worked on Armel, which is a game about a musician playing inside his composition after being reduced to the size of his music sheet. The demo is available on Itch.io and the full game will be released soon."

"At A MAZE I am speaking about players and developers Expressing themselves in through games. The talk is all about finding the issues we have in Africa, and how we can turn their seriousness around to bring a playful light to them."

"A MAZE is a festival I have always wished to attend and, to do even better, contribute to. I have been trying to submit one of my game to it for the past 2 years for the exhibition but it was not ready yet. This year, at least I could contribute by sharing my thoughts on this topic, which came about after a game based on political issues in South Africa erupted and the game got featured on the Sunday Times after being published on the Android store."

"The show can grow bigger and I think it is growing. It is a great way to meet up with other experienced developers, learn and share."

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Posted by Joel Couture

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A mother fox trying to find her missing cubs. A man reconnecting with his childhood and his father after a time of loss. These stories will connect as players control the fox on a heartrending, but poignant, journey across a beautiful woodland in The First Tree.

Players will explore an ever shifting wilderness, walking through woods, through fields of blowing grass, across still ponds, and into the moonlit night, taking in their surroundings while finding pieces of memories that belong to the man. In this way, both of their stories come together over the course of the adventure, creating a connection through familial ties that will bring their sad, but powerful journeys together.

The First Tree is short, but its exploration of death and coming to understand it is no less heart-wrenching in its duration. So don't play it before work just because you have some time. Unless you like your co-workers asking what you've been crying about, that is.

The First Tree is available for $7.99 on Steam. For more information on the game and developer David Wehle, you can head to the game's site or follow them on YouTube and Twitter.

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Posted by Thomas Faust

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You there. Take a break. I'm sure you've earned it. Relax. Be a bird. Fly around for a while.

I'm sorry, what? A bird, you say? Indeed. Fugl lets you explore its lovely voxel landscapes as one of our feathered friends.

It has no goals, no gamey stuff in it, it's just you, a bird, flying around and exploring the world. There are a few not-so-secret features and some stuff that's not really apparent at first, but that's entirely for you to find out.

Most of all, it's a relaxing, maybe even meditative experience. Imagine Minecraft without any interaction whatsoever, just world exploration and those soothing tunes in the background. I'm interested to see if this finds a large audience. People on the loud, noisy Gamescom show floor seemed to be fascinated by it, in any case.

The game is in Early Access for now, so features are still being added and technical kinks worked out. More importantly, there are mobile and VR versions planned for early next year. Portable Fugl sounds like a great fit, and if there's one game out there that I want to play on VR, it's this one. Just imagine being that bird. Wonderful.

But enough of this, Fugl is really something you need to experience for yourself. That's the whole point. So go out there, little birdy, go out there and flyyy.

You can purchase Fugl from Steam for $9.99. For more information, visit the game's website or follow developer Johan Gjestland on Twitter.

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Posted by Christian Valentin

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Careful placement has always been one of the most aspects of mastering chess, and in the upcoming puzzle game Placement, it's quite literally the core of the game, taking the rules of chess and crafting tight logic-based challenges where placement of your pieces is the key to success.

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Each stage is a miniature chess grid, often with marked tiles where pieces can't be placed. Your solution is bound by a single rule: pieces must be placed such that they are only protected once. Protecting your pieces in chess means using the range of a piece's move to overlap with other pieces, thus preventing your opponent from capturing.

Placement wrings tricky puzzles from that rule and varied collections of pieces; one stage may only feature a number of rooks, forcing you to consider vertical and horizontal space, while another can provide a mixed selection, where king, knight, bishop, and others must be precisely set to avoid overlapping withing the small grids.

Placement is releasing on September 26th, on Steam. You can find developer Albin Bernhardsson
on Twitter.

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Posted by Joel Couture

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Bannerman is heartless in its violence, pitting players against clever opponents who will carve them up if they fight carelessly. Blocks, parries, and knowing when to deliver that one precise strike is all that will keep players alive, but even as players struggle to survive in a war-torn world, acoustic guitars and folk instruments will create a soothing, yet poignant soundtrack to back up the gruesome acts players must undertake.

Bannerman follows a man-at-arms who was believed to have been killed. Upon rising from a bloody battlefield, he finds his lord's banner is missing, and sets off through the countryside to find it, battling against whatever warriors stand in his way.

Those battles are going to be rough, though. The protagonist is but flesh and bone, so a few sword strikes or arrows will take him down. This means players will have to carefully protect themselves while gauging their opponent's movements, all animated using rotoscoped animation and an attention to historical weapon detail. Players can unlock a bunch of new moves and abilities to make fighting easier, but it will still be a slow, methodical dance, where players will have to pry at any weakness they can find.

And it will all be accompanied by gorgeous, soothing, and sad music. Using traditional instruments and folk guitar, players will be given a calming soundtrack that is jarring when compared to the bloody violence being committed on-screen. Bannerman looks to make players really soak in the cruel acts they're willing to commit, with the slow pace and beautiful music forcing their focus on their lethal movements. Bannerman promises a thoughtful play experience, and one that offers some enticing challenges as well.

Bannerman is available for $14.99 on Steam. For more information on the game and developer Armitage Games, you can head to the game's site, the developer's site, or follow them on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.

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Posted by Joel Couture

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Well...sometimes. More often than not, the fact that you have to chain together all of your robot -stomping jumps in a single combo, or that you only have about five seconds to do it without getting zapped with electricity or clobbered by a giant fist,
means taunting and a return to the start in platforming game show Fist's Elimination Tower.

A 150-story obstacle course awaits potential contestants on Fist's Elimination Challenge, presenting players with a bunch of jumping conundrums. To get to each new floor, players have to beat all of the robots on a given floor, but as soon as you stomp on one's head, the floor kinda gets electrified. So, if they wish to live, players need to link up those jumps without touching the ground. Pesky thing is, there's all of these huge fists in this tower, and they have a tendency to surge out and punch folks. Hence the title.

Still, successful players can win swell hats, which is always worth risking your life for. And besides, you get a ton of potential contestants to control while trying to tackle the tower. So, why not expose yourself to potential electrocution and crushing death for some snazzy headwear now, huh?

Fist's Elimination Tower is available for $4.99 on Itch.io and Steam. For more information on the game and developer Impostor Cat Games, you can head to the game's site, the developer's site, or follow them on YouTube and Twitter.

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Posted by Julia Couture

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From flirting with the Merchant in Resident Evil 4 to cozying up to refrigerators, varied visual novels have been working to satisfy every craving you might have. Snow Cones Episode 2 is no different, letting you go on a second date with your ice cream crush and enjoy a night on the town.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Snow Cones dating sim, the first episode was fairly short, but full of activities to go through with the ice cream duo. You could even go to the petting zoo and pat a human! Players will be able to enjoy the adventure for free with episode one, but in order to continue the duo in episode 2 - a small fee is required.

In episode 2, players will be able to continue the saga on date 2 with an adventure at the movies which is sure to be full of the same cute charm that episode 1 had. You'll have to dress up for your date and, as an ice cream cone, that can get pretty tricky when it comes to choosing a good topping! Perhaps you'll even get to encounter a mallow pup on your date!

If you want a little dash of cute added to your day, follow the story of the ice cream cones in Snow Cones!

You can purchase episode 2 of Snow Cones on itch.io here! You can also check out the other developer's games here!

Gamescom 2017 Roundup, Part Two

Sep. 9th, 2017 07:11 pm
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Posted by Thomas Faust

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The best thing I overheard at Gamescom were lots of people telling their friends to visit hall 10.1 - because that's where you go to play those cool indie games. Here are some noteworthy games from the show floor and a few upcoming titles that were shown in the business area.

Symmetry (Sleepless Clinic, 2018)

A spaceship crash lands on an abandoned, frozen planet. The survivors scrounge for resources to repair their base and just try to survive in this hostile environment. And then the hallucinations start... apparently, the crew is not alone. Someone, something is out there, and it's not friendly. Symmetry impresses with its lovely, low-poly art style and its pretty cool color scheme. There's lots of micromanagement while you order your people around, and the addition of a story sets this apart from your regular survival sim. It can also get pretty grim, but what else are you to do when one of your crewmates is dead and there's no Matt Damon to bring you potatoes? Yummy.

Guns, Gore & Cannoli 2 (Crazy Monkey Studios, 2017)

Vinnie's back, and he brought a friend this time. Who's Vinnie, you ask? Oh, just your run-of-the-mill mobster, fighting other gangsters, zombies, and assorted bad guys in this action-platformer sequel to the 2015 game of the (almost) exact same name. It's a weird mash-up of different styles, somehow jumping from 1930s mafia aesthetics to zombie apocalypse to D-Day, but it somehow works and it plays quite well. The run-and-gun mechanics with some slight platforming thrown into the mix felt incredibly juicy and polished. This one might fly under people's radars just because it is such an odd mixture, but it's definitely worth a look.

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Unforeseen Incidents (Backwoods, 2017)

It's all about dark secrets and deadly diseases in this classic point and click adventure. A mysterious plague is spreading, and only our hero, small-town handyman Harper Pendrell, can somehow put an end to the grisly conspiracy surrounding it. This certainly looks and feels like classic adventure gaming with some unconventional character design, which is meant to say that it looks quite promising.

Ruiner (Reikon Games, September 26)

Ruiner is dark, gritty cyberpunk that makes Hotline Miami look like a children's birthday party in comparison. Its killing sprees play out fast and nasty, with you picking up discarded weapons, dashing around, and generally bringing the pain. The game's tough and twitchy gunfights didn't quite win me over at Gamescom, but given enough time and patience, I can definitely see the appeal in that endlessly repeating cycle of killing, dying, and trying again.

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Flotsam (Pajama Llama, 2018)

If you like survival strategy games but are tired of yet another one where little dudes are chopping down trees to build some houses, you are going to love Flotsam. Forget all about those trees, because the world is flooded and your tiny ragtag group of survivors have to make do with whatever the currents carry their way. Build stuff from scrap and learn to recycle while fending off strange sea creatures and trying to survive at sea. I got some hands-on time with an early build and it's probably going to be a while until this one gets released, but if you're looking for a survival game that shakes things up a bit, keep your eyes peeled for Flotsam on the horizon.

FAR: Lone Sails (Okomotive, 2018)

I wrote about how much I like the style and atmosphere of FAR: Lone Sails before, but this time I actually got to play a new build and I loved just about everything about it. Eager to learn more about the deserted world she inhabits, main character Lone sets sail into the unknown, encountering light environmental puzzles on the way. You also have to keep the engine of her weird vehicle running, hoist the sails, and generally make sure that everything's working and nothing's on fire. FAR might turn out to be a rather short experience, but that doesn't keep it from being one of this years (admittedly numerous) Gamescom highlights.

(header picture courtesy of Friedrich Hanisch)

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Posted by Joel Couture

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If you have ten minutes and a thirst for frontier justice, grab your mouse and hop into the shoes of Bonnie Starr, farmgirl turned gunslinging vigilante in Dead Horizon a (sort of) adventure game where a fast click is all that'll keep you breathing.

Drawing from NES light gun games and classic shooters like Mad Dog McCree, Dead Horizon will have players working through Bonnie's story of redemption. Players will need to quickly click on their foes, even if there are a couple of them wanting them dead, blasting sidewinders and desperadoes as fast as they can. Miss, or be a little too slow on the draw, and that's it for Bonnie.

Dead Horizon is short, free, and offers a great story of Wild West action. Really no excuse not to settle in and give it the ten minutes to drag you into its sharpshooting story.

Dead Horizon is available for free on Itch,io and Steam. For more information on the game and developer 14 Hours Productions, you can head to the developer's site or follow them on YouTube and Twitter.