Tag Archives: Grip Games

Subnautica preview

Survival games are ubiquitous at the moment and largely follow the same formula. Subnautica does things a little differently, with the clue being in the title. Indeed, the underwater nature of Subnautica is what makes it stand out from the crowd, and it’s all done so well it’s hard to put it down.

Having suffered a fatal malfunction with your spaceship, you launch an escape pod and splash down on an aquatic planet; you’re intact but severely damaged ship sticking out of the ocean a few hundred metres away. Here you quest for survival begins, encouraging you to search the ocean for materials to craft devices, supplies, submersibles, and habitats in order to keep you alive.

Playing through on survival mode subjects you to starvation and dehydration, making it imperative that you find sources of food and drinkable water amongst the usual building options and exploration. Here’s where Subnautica really shines, forcing you to explore further and further from your escape pod, and deeper and deeper into the ocean, in order to find what you need. This is a daunting and frightening endeavour. An ocean is a monumentally large place to forage within, full of fish and creatures, and not all of them friendly, but a planet sized alien ocean is a different matter altogether. Here the alien environment is so new that everything feels like a threat until you’ve investigated it, and venturing that little bit further from your escape pod taps into your fear of the unknown splendidly.

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Bobbing up and down on the surface you’ll be forgiven for thinking you’re on Earth, but the moment you go beneath the waves the alien ecosystem is clear to see. Brightly coloured fauna and flora litter the alien ocean, drawing you in with their strangeness and tapping into that explorer within us all. Scraps of metal from you ship can be found on the shallow bed, amongst all manner of materials that can be collected, identified and then put to use within your pod’s matter converter. Caves and coral formations entice you in, creatures dart by and encourage you to chase, then you see the shallow bed give way to darkness and the fear of the unknown drowns out that spark of exploration. However, eventually you’ll have to go down there, there might be stuff down there you need, and frightening as it may be, a part of you wants to go down there. A few enhanced oxygen tanks or a submersible later, and you can venture into the darkness and discover what else lurks beneath the waves.

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The ocean is superbly enticing and scary, and with hungry creatures looking to make a meal out of you it only gets scarier the deeper you go. But it’s also extremely rewarding. There’s a lot to see in the depths and building large habitats and slowly conquering this alien world alone is thoroughly entertaining. The day and night cycle brings with it visibility issues to challenge your engineering skills and fear tolerance, as well as stirring new sea life for you to witness, and the bioluminescent glow of the flora is especially attractive. The visual splendor does come at a cost, with the initial load taking several minutes, but fortunately death means an almost instantaneous respawn, and once the initial load is done Subnautica runs smooth and fast.

Indeed, Subnautica is shaping up to be one of the strongest survival games on the market, thanks largely to how spectacularly detailed, vast, rich and different its ocean environment is. Moreover, you can enjoy the alien ocean without the need to worry about food and drink thanks to a creation mode. And whilst the barrier for some will be the lack of handholding when it comes to figuring out how to construct things, this inherent aspect of the genre isn’t going to affect the enjoyment for survival game veteran at all.

Thanks to Xbox and Unknown Worlds and Grip Games for supporting TiX

Q.U.B.E. Director’s Cut review

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At first glance, it’s impossible not to judge Q.U.B.E. as a Portal clone, and while the game may have taken some inspiration from Valve’s puzzler, it doesn’t make it any less of a game.

Waking up with no memory as to who or where you are, a woman interrupts the silence with a radio transmission that paints a disturbing picture – you are alone, trapped onboard a spacecraft that is on a crash course with earth. After warning you of the maddening confines of deep space, the radio cuts out as the voice transmitting the signal goes out of orbit. Upon reflecting on this stark warning, and taking a fresh look at my confines, it’s evident that the sterile environment I was in looks like a padded cell – was I really on board an alien spacecraft?

Your sense of what is going on in Q.U.B.E. will be tested each time a new transmission is received, and to add to any confusion you might have, there is also a rival signal that paints a different picture – but which one will you follow? Is the new voice just a confused astronaut who has gone insane within his own padded cell? It’s a great concept and something I feel that should have been developed further during the short campaign, which climaxes in an ending that lets you decide an outcome depending on how you perceived the narrative.

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Q.U.B.E.’s physics-based puzzles must be bested to prevent the alien ship from crashing into earth – let’s just backtrack a minute – to stop a ship from crashing you must complete a set of block puzzles? That is a weird scenario to comprehend and not something I fully accepted, but there are puzzles that need solving, which is the main reason that most people will download Q.U.B.E.

To progress through the game, you must manipulate coloured blocks with your high-tech gloves to create a path through each room. Every colour has a different attribute; red blocks can be pulled out of the walls and floors to make a column up to three blocks high while yellow ones form a staircase of three blocks. Blue blocks can be set so that they launch you (or an object) up into the air and green blocks must be moved around to help you get to out of reach ledges. In later levels, purple arrows are thrown in that when pressed rotate a section of the room you’re in, which can really mess with your perception.

My favourite puzzles included navigating a green ball through a maze and directing light beams through several different coloured blocks to create the colour of the keystone. Minus the light puzzles, everything in Q.U.B.E. is based around simple physics, and while not mind bogglingly difficult, the puzzles were a joy to play and give a wonderful sense of achievement as you best each one.

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Starting off simple, the puzzles get steadily harder before they suddenly remove the training wheels, allowing you to decide which of the coloured blocks you place on the different surfaces, but I was challenged most during the ten levels of Against the Clock mode – devious time trials that demand precision and quick reflexes if you are to best them to grab the gold medal and top the online leaderboards.

It’s the Against the Clock mode that gave me the most cause for complaint with Q.U.B.E. I found the puzzles within this mode to be far more creative and clever than the whole of the main campaign, it also begs the question that there should also be a level designer for gamers to create their own evil creations to challenge their friends.

Q.U.B.E.’s simplistic design and puzzle mechanics make it an adorable title that steadily gets harder and harder. It’s impossible not to draw comparisons with Portal, especially when the second half of the game includes crumbling chambers, but I had a great time wandering through the blocky world of Q.U.B.E. even if its climax came far too soon. If you enjoy 3D puzzlers, then I highly recommend you pick this up – it’s a great evening’s entertainment!

Thanks to Xbox and Grip Games for supporting TiX

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The Solus Project playable at Gamescom

solusprojectAs we get closer and closer to August’s Gamescom, we are beginning to hear more about what will be appearing at this years convention in Cologne.

 

Teotl Studios, the Swedish developer behind The Ball and Unmechanical for the PC have teamed up with GRIP Digital to announce that their upcoming title will launch as a console exclusive on ID@Xbox alongside the PC release.

The Solus Project, a space survival game, see’s you stranded on an alien planet and in order to save the people of Earth you must overcome the grim conditons and find a way to send a signal home.

The title is scheduled for release on PC and Xbox One early in 2016…

The Solus Project will be playable at the Microsoft booth at Gamescom this August.

Physics-based puzzler Q.U.B.E. lands July 24

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Grip Games have revealed that on July 24 physics-based puzzler, Q.U.B.E: Director’s Cut, will release globally on Xbox One.

In Q.U.B.E (‘Quick Understanding of Block Extrusion’), you step into the moon boots of an astronaut stranded on a mysterious spaceship – I recently remarked on the TiX podcast how everyone seems to be releasing a space game, and while Q.U.B.E. was released way back in 2011, I must admit to enjoying the influx of space titles.

The Director’s Cut promises to be the ‘ultimate edition’ of Q.U.B.E. – many have compared its devious puzzles to Portal, which is quite the accolade. The name of the game is block puzzles that centre around physics – sounds simple right!

There’s platforming puzzles and 3D jigsaw puzzles that demand quick thinking, logic and precision if you are to best them and find your way back home. For returning fans there’s also new levels and modes to take on. Grip Games’ Jakub Mikyska said,

Everyone who became immersed in Q.U.B.E on its first release will be glad to return to face the all-new challenges, while gamers who have yet to experience the mysteries of Q.U.B.E have a treat in store.

Grip Games reveal The Solus Project

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Grip Games like to slip an announcement out every now and again. They can be a little bit sneaky about it too. This time, they’ve teamed up with Unmechanical: Extended developer, Teotl Studios, to bring a new survival sci-fi epic to your console.

The Solus Project is set in the year 2183 where a dying Earth’s last hope crash lands on the uncharted world of Gliese 6143-C. Alone, you have to explore the planet, create beacons and above all, survive.

But are you alone?

The Solus Project is due to be written-up and presented to the waiting world, early in 2016.

Will you enter the Q.U.B.E ?

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Cubism is the art technique where an object is taken, analysed, broken up and reassembled in abstract form. Prague has the world’s only cubist lamp post. What’s the link, I hear you ask.

Well, in Q.U.B.E, short for Quick Understanding of Block Extrusion, you have the task of analysing the puzzle, using the special gloves to manipulate and in essence, reassemble the environment, apart from the abstract nature, it’s pretty much cubism in action.

A cross-platform hit when it was originally released, Q.U.B.E The Director’s Cut brings back the original developers, Toxic Games, and this release gets the addition of the Against the Qlock mode, ten bonus levels and an all-new soundtrack to tickle the ears.

The game will also boast all the features of the original game that made it so popular, as you try to make your way out of a mysterious spaceship by manipulating 3D jigsaws, utilising your quick reactions in first person platforming and solving the mysteries ahead of you.

As if all that wasn’t enough, publisher, Grip Games and Toxic Games have released a gameplay trailer for Q.U.B.E The Director’s Cut, which is down for release this summer.

Developer Interview: Grip Games and Terrible Posture Games

Tower of Guns was released on Xbox One on the 10th of April, introducing us to the insane spectacle and experience of a bullet-hell, first-person shooter with Rougelike randomisation and permadeath. We enjoyed it, giving it a solid 80% in our review, and we were fortunate enough to have a chat with Grip Games’ Jakub Mikyska who helped bring the title to Xbox One, and Terrible Posture Games’ Joe Mirabello, the one-man team who developed the game.

This is Xbox: What, in your eyes, made Tower of Guns such an attractive title to add to your porting portfolio?

Jakub Mikyska: Everybody loves a good FPS and Tower of Guns was just so unique and different that it immediately managed to stand out. It was also made using the Unreal Engine, which is currently our engine of choice. The reviews were good, the buzz was there, it was an easy decision. And after getting in touch with Joe, we found out that we are on the same wavelength and our cooperation started.

This is Xbox: There’s a lot going on on-screen at any one time in Tower of Guns, making it CPU intensive. Was it challenging optimising the game for Xbox One?

Jakub Mikyska: It certainly proved to be a challenge. We had to do lots of optimizations to make sure the game runs smoothly. Getting to 1080p/60fps was our goal, with switch to 30fps acceptable only in the most extreme situations. Also, on PC occasional drops in frame rate are tolerable, people are used to that, but on consoles, that is a major issues for a lot of people.

We certainly didn’t want to sacrifice the gameplay and the looks. We didn’t want to lower the number of projectiles or enemies, so we took a long time to make it right.

This is Xbox: Were there any other challenges in porting Tower of Guns over to Xbox One?

Jakub Mikyska: Other than the optimizations, the development went pretty smoothly. There are a few pesky bugs that managed to get through our testing, as well as Microsoft’s quality assurance test, but we have already submitted a patch and it should go live in a few days.

This is Xbox: We see you’ve recently revealed Q.U.B.E: Director’s Cut coming to Xbox One later this year. What can you tell us about that title?

Jakub Mikyska: Q.U.B.E: Director’s Cut is another first person game we are releasing this year. It is not a shooter, but a puzzle-platformer. Quite like Portal. You can manipulate the environment using some seriously sci-fi gloves. The Director’s Cut contains all of the previously released DLC and some other improvements for consoles. We plan to release Q.U.B.E. in early summer, so it is not that far away!

This is Xbox: Are there any other titles you’re bringing to Xbox One that you can talk about?

Jakub Mikyska: We’re hoping we will be able to reveal our next project at the E3!

This is Xbox: How terrifying is it to have released a game that was solely put together by you, knowing that any critique rested squarely on your shoulders?

Joe Mirabello: It’s pretty terrifying! While I’m pretty happy with how the game turned out, I’m also the kind of person who could have kept working on the game perpetually forever, and I knew I had to be realistic about what could be achieved by a mostly-solo developer. I knew I was going to be learning a lot of new things and juggling a lot of hats and that there was a good chance I would never finish unless I looked for very pragmatic solutions to problems. Now I think about it, “terrifying” is a good word for the whole experience of solo development, not just for the release.

This is Xbox: What were the benefits and challenges involved in creating Tower of Guns independently on your own?

Joe Mirabello: Some of the challenges are pretty obvious; I had to juggle a lot of different duties and multitask and learn a lot of new technologies, but the most difficult aspect of working alone is that its very easy to second guess yourself. When you work with a team you have a sort of shared ‘confidence’ in a project, and when you’re by yourself that’s replaced only with doubt. I developed a lot of tactics to combat my own dips in morale/motivation. Those tactics involved publicly blogging, tracking my hours, going to tradeshows, participating in events with other indies, being active on my forums and on twitter, regularly sending out early access builds, altering my sleep schedule, developing skills to help break up complex tasks…there’s probably a bunch I’m forgetting about. All of it was an effort just to keep myself moving.

On the flipside, I was able to build anything I wanted. I was able to inject myself into the game to a degree I’ve never done before on any project I’ve worked on–quite literally in some places. I was able to say “what if this game gave you a hundred jumps?” On any other project that sort of proposal would have been shot down immediately (not without reason, mind you) but in the case of Tower of Guns I was able to ask myself those questions early and, as the sole gatekeeper, take the time to build an experience around them. Making a bullet-hell FPS? Making an FPS with an emphasis on verticality? Letting the player get to any place in the map they can see? All of these things directly challenged my training as a more traditional game developer. They were each small experiments in Tower of Guns, some more successful than others, but together they made the experience of building the game a really exciting one.

This is Xbox: Do you miss the triple A development process or does the lone wolf method suit you better?

Joe Mirabello: I actually miss Triple A development a lot. It’s a lot of fun to work on a high-profile project, and by and large the developers in Triple A are great people. You basically inherit whole groups of friends when you start at a new company, and there’s really a sense of working on something bigger than yourself when you’re on a large team.

That said, I’ve enjoyed working on my own thing too. I enjoy the fact that I can make a risky weird first-person shooter that no one else would make. I enjoy feeling empowered, even as a solo developer, by the current state of technology in this industry. I like being able to have authorship over an entire project, start to finish. More so, the indie road is still an unknown road to me. I know what I can do as a member of a big Triple A team; I might part of something amazing, and I would certainly improve more in a singular discipline, but it’s much more of a known road. This indie road is still winding along and taking me to new places, where I meet people I would have never otherwise met, have to challenge myself in ways I could not have imagined, and have to spend a lot more time on airplanes!

Perhaps I won’t remain indie forever, but for now it’s a road I’m very curious to explore, and I’m very very fortunate that Tower of Guns has done well enough to afford me the ability to explore it.

This is Xbox: What’s next for Terrible Posture Games – is there anything on the horizon or an idea you’re eager to work on next?

Joe Mirabello: Oh, I’m always working on something. Making things makes me happy. But I’m not quite yet at the point where I’m ready to share my next project yet.

A big thank you to Joe Mirabello from Terrible Posture Games, and Jakub Mikyska from Grip Games for chatting with us. You can read our review of Tower of Guns here.

Grip Games shows off Tower of Guns’ bullet hell

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Grip Games are gearing up for the release of the Unreal Engine-powered Tower of Guns this spring.

They have released a new gameplay trailer showcasing the bullet hell contained within the tower. Seven floors of randomly generated mayhem will await those brave enough to enter, but the rewards will be many.

Take a look at the new trailer below, and await with loaded weapons, the digital release of Tower of Guns, this spring.

Grip Games opens the Tower of Guns

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Grip Games, the publishers behind the frankly brilliant Unmechanical: Extended, have announced a new Unreal Engine based title coming in Q2 of 2015.

Looking like a hybrid of Doom, Quake and any tower defence game you could muster, Tower of Guns looks set to try to revive the classic first person shooters of yesteryear from the comfort of your shiny new Xbox One.

Developed by Grip and Terrible Posture Games, Tower of Guns is the console version of the hit of the same name on Steam. Terrible Posture Games is essentially Joe Mirabello, an artist who has contributed to ‘several’ AAA titles and fancied taking a year out to see what he could achieve. Tower of Guns would appear to be the result and looking at the announcement trailer below, it was well worth it.

The game itself will feature totally random levels, so that no playthrough will be the same, countless weapons, mods and abilities, insane bosses and lots of secret stuff to discover.

Here it is then, Tower of Guns’ announcement trailer, get ready to climb some stairs, lot of stairs.

 

Unmechanical: Extended Review

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Nothing pleases me more than robots. Big robots, small robots, transforming robots, cute little robots with a hint of steampunk and a propeller on their head, all appeal in equal measure. Previously released on Steam, Unmechanical: Extended has such a robot, as mentioned latterly above and he’s just this side of funky.

Billed as an adventure puzzler that combines platforming, memory, logical and linear thinking puzzles, Unmechanical: Extended will slowly draw you into its world of flesh, rock and steel. You are a little robot that has been kidnapped and you are tasked with solving all of the puzzles put before you in order to escape.

After a short intro where you are shown how your floating character was kidnapped, or should that be robot-knapped, you are dropped into the most basic of control and feature tutorials. This, as it goes, is not to the detriment of the game, as the controls themselves are very simplistic. You can move around the arena with powered propeller flight and you can manipulate objects and even pick them up if small enough with a nifty little tractor-beam.

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The game starts you off trying to escape from the underground complex you’ve been pulled into. The initial puzzles are simple and are probably designed to make those self-same controls second nature and give it a nice gentle difficulty curve to start you off. During these early levels, you are introduced to the interactive nature of the environment you find yourself trapped inside. Switches can be thrown, electrical wires have to be reconnected, weights and measures are explored. The variety of the puzzles themselves is commendable from the outset.

These initial puzzles also get you used to the graphics of the environment. This is a sumptuous, dark, steampunk-inspired environment. Sometimes, indeed, the environment is too dark and it becomes difficult to determine exactly which switch, rock, girder or even door you’re supposed to be headed for. That being said, the graphics are ideal and central to the game itself. They are brilliantly animated and very well rendered. The only problem you may face is which parts of your surroundings are actually interactive.

The loose parts of the scenery that you can lift respond to gravity as well, giving you the all-new problem of inertia when moving some items, especially when they need to be stacked, and as your tractor-beam allows them to swing, pendulously, getting them in the exact place can be quite tricky. The object of the puzzles varies, from moving light sources to different placements, to redirecting laser beams, to simply loosening large items to crash through a locked door. All help towards the ultimate objective of escape.

The levels themselves are a mixture of cavernous to small, all filled with the variety of puzzles already mentioned. Some of these are almost organic and others are industrial to the point of being dangerous. They all feel ominous, to the point of being oppressive. It’s like a digital version of 90s game show, The Crystal Maze, without Richard O’Brien, the crystals or the frankly daft contestants. These contestants inevitably got confused and came out. Get confused in Unmechanical: Extended and you can fall back on tapping the help button. This was the most frustrating part of the game for me. The hints, if you can call them hints, are mostly a question mark in a thought bubble. Sometimes they work and they’ll give you a graphic of what you might want to try, but mostly, you’ll simply get the standard Crystal Maze contestant response, the confused look.

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This means you are generally left to your own devices to try to solve the puzzle you’re working on solving. You’ve no idea if you’re doing things in the correct order, or indeed if you’re even manipulating or moving the correct objects. This can have the effect of making you immensely proud of having solved such a tricky conundrum. Adversely, it can leave you tearing your hair out in frustration as nothing you try opens the door, releases the light for transport or activates that tricky switch. The fact that there are no time constraints for the most part is of benefit but doesn’t lend to the urgency you should be feeling to escape. It all feels very pedestrian.

Musically, the game has a constant background track that, while unobtrusive and complimentary to the setting, is largely bland and uninspiring and could have done with being a little more varied, to inspire some urgency at the very least. The sound effects are done well, with the moving parts of the scenery all clanking, whirring, beating & sploshing away happily.

Playability for the game as a whole, is just about right. The puzzles are not all blatantly obvious, which would simply spoil the game, but neither are they so difficult that would make the game simply unplayable as a challenge. The simplicity of the controls adds to the ease of playability for the game. Your little robot responds well to your movements and unless you’re trying to place something precisely, you can guide it pretty much wherever it needs to be with a certain amount of precision and ease.

Unmechanical: Extended, overall, is a funpuzzler with a variety of challenges set in a well animated and graphically dark world. While the controls are easy to master and simple, the lack of an accurate help system lets the game down slightly. There are many levels to challenge you and the updated and improved version of the original Unmechanical comes with the added bonus of a console-exclusive story episode – queue the “Extended” part of the title – this new set of puzzles focuses on rescuing a robot friend who has also been robot-knapped by the underground system.

Throughout this game you’ll uncover secrets about your captors and discover a couple of endings, all while solving those tricky puzzles. Should you pick it up? Yes, it’s not your run-of-the-mill puzzler and while it’s not perfect, it is a very good game in its own right. Go for it.

Thanks to Grip Games for supplying TiX with a download code.

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