Indie Overload – Part Two

These Robotic Hearts of Mine

When it comes to narratives and storytelling, videogames are still considered to be in their infancy by many, and for good reason. Many games just insist on treading the same ground over and over again with little variation, and some just don’t even bother. That same disillusion with storytelling was a major reason why I was so drawn to These Robotic Hearts of Mine, an upcoming indie game by Alan Hazelden, as it looks to explore a theme not often delved into videogames: love. The game’s appearance and style is very minimalistic, with the story being told through on-screen text and the puzzles themselves delivered in a style very reminiscent of the 8-bit era.

The mechanics of the game follow that simplicity, with the puzzles simply tasking the player with rotating the onscreen gears until all the hearts are facing upwards. The game takes note of how many turns it takes you to complete each level, and provides you with a handy graph afterwards to show how many turns it took on previous attempts. As a great deal of people had already tried the game out by the time I did, I found that after the early missions, I was finding myself drifting further and further away from the ideal amount of moves, and actually wanted to go back to them to improve my results. Turns out I could, as if you go through a level and find yourself getting stuck or accidentally making a wrong move, there’s the ability to simply undo it or reset the entire puzzle. If you do have to opt for the reset, the game does show you all of your moves in reverse motion, which I found rather handy for seeing where I’d managed to go wrong, which made it easier to correct those mistakes the next time around and made the puzzle solving far more enjoyable than most other titles in the genre.

What do you do if you find yourself getting hopelessly and impossibly stuck? Well, I really probably shouldn’t tell you about this, but… there is an option to skip the puzzles… and I took it. I know, I’m a monster! What made this worse was when Hazelden told me I was the only person he’d seen, at that point, skipping any of the levels. Before I give in my puzzle solving badge and gun, please know that it wasn’t because I found any of the levels too challenging or because I’m bad at games, but because of the story.  Sure, it may be told through text, but I found myself kind of hooked to what story there was, as it was something I certainly can’t recall ever seeing in a game before. After all, videogames aren’t a place where one would commonly find a love story, and as much as I want to talk about it, even though I didn’t get too far before moving on, I don’t want to spoil any of it.  Instead, I want other people to play it and see what happens for themselves, just as I’m looking forward to doing when the game is released, which should be in October or November.

Okay okay, it involves a couple in love and a robot they find one day. But now I’ve told you that you have to check it out when it comes out, deal?

Hard Lines

Dom recently joked in his Tekken Hybrid preview about how often he’d find me at the Saint’s Row the Third stands, punching virtual people in the genitals for a few minutes before moving on to something else, but what he didn’t know was that Saints Row the Third was the only way to distract myself from something even more addicting than performing virtual birth control: Hard Lines.  Released earlier this year on iOS platforms, Hard Lines was created by Spilt Milk Studios’ desire to “create a remake of Snake that wasn’t shit”, and in achieving that objective created one of the most fiendishly addictive score attack games I’ve ever played.

Like Snake, the premise is simple. You’re a yellow line trying to collect as many of the bits on the screen to increase your score and your multiplier, but you won’t be the only one as the longer you stay alive, the more opposing lines will appear to deprive you of your place at the point of the leaderboards, which naturally means you have to destroy them. You can go about this one of two ways: either by causing them to collide with your hard line, or by grabbing one of the rarer red bits, which’ll cause your line to become temporarily invincible and smash through the opposition with ease.

While the game supports multiple modes, the one that the iPads were showcasing most was the Survival mode, which simply expects you to gain the highest score you possibly can by staying alive as long as possible, and if the other modes are anywhere near as addictive then I may have to call the rest of my spare time and tell it I’m washing my hair. While I’ve never especially been one for score attack games, Hard Lines drew me in so much that what should amount to a quick pick up and play game had me standing for ages playing over and over again, utterly transfixed with doing better. When I finally forced myself off the iPads to see what else was on the floor, I did all I could to drag any of my friends to check out the game for themselves, and would always come back later on to find they were still plugging away, trying to best it.

However, this was to be my undoing. After introducing Chris to the game, he soon discovered that at that point I held the highest score on the game’s survival mode, causing us to spend several days desperately trying to outdo each other and be crowned the best damn Hard Lines player at the Eurogamer Expo. As the challenge continued, scores got to levels the developers themselves had never seen before (or so they told us), with my crowning moment being the point where I held the high score on both iPads, my supremacy assured. Or so I thought. Remember that anecdote about at the beginning of this section about me disappearing to play Saints Row the Third? I was DDT’ing my thirteenth grandma of the session when Chris arrived and calmly announced to me that he’d doubled my highest score, besting me at the game I had introduced him to, and making me feel more humiliated and hurt than the old lady whose face I’d just smashed into the pavement.

It’d almost be depressing writing about my defeat, but then I think about Hard Lines and how that game hiding away in the indie tent became one of my titles of the show, and I’m instantly happy again.  Hard Lines is already available on iOS systems, and was recently released onto Android, meaning I can get it back in my life and the creators can have a day’s peace as I’ve finally stopped bugging them to ask if it’s out yet!

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  1. Richie rich says:

    Hard Lines was my game of the expo.

  2. Edward Edward says:

    Heh, good choice Richie :D Addictive as heck.

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