Welcome back to Digital Blend, our weekly look at the world of downloadable video gaming that exists at the fringes of the mainstream. That means we look at the hottest new mobile game releases, downloadable content drops on consoles and PCs, indie darlings that deserve your love and attention, and the best gaming values under $20.
Keep your comments and feedback coming. We want to hear from you! Did you try something you read about here and enjoy it? Is there a particular game you think we’ve overlooked or news you want to share? Any questions you are dying to ask? Let us know! Your thoughts, feedback, suggestions and (constructive!) criticism are welcome, either in the comments section below or directed at yours truly on Twitter, @geminibros.
* Apple is reportedly working on a video game controller for its various iDevices, with an announcement believed to be coming sometime later this month. There’s been no formal confirmation yet, but the word comes from a number of unnamed developers who were in attendance at last week’s 2013 Game Developer’s Conference. Follow-up reports filled in additional details, including some indication that the iPhone/iPod Touch could potentially be used as a wireless controller for iPad games.
* We spent some time at GDC chatting with Paul Trowe, president and founder of Replay Games and the speartip of last year’s successful Kickstarter drive to bring back the classic Sierra game, Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards. Trowe spoke candidly about Larry’s development and of his own attitude toward the rebooted 1987 game’s potential for attracting controversy in a politically correct modern-day world. He also let slip some hints about what’s coming next, including a possible reunion with Sierra founder Roberta Williams.
* Our Replay interview also unearthed another noteworthy bit of information: the rights to the King’s Quest series, that The Walking Dead developer Telltale Games picked up in early 2011 along with Bill Willingham’s Fables, have reverted to Activision. Trowe mentioned that he’s heard from Activision that there’s a plan to do something with the license internally. Whatever may be happening on that front, Telltale confirmed to Digital Trends that the statement is true: the studio is no longer working on a King’s Quest game.
* Another seamless segue! Telltale is preparing to deliver the mother of all crossovers in Poker Night 2, announced on April Fool’s Day in a clear bid to mess with gamers’ heads. The studio’s Sam (of Sam & Max) is joined at the casino table by an illustrious line-up of crossover characters: The Venture Bros‘ Brock Samson, Evil Dead‘s Ash Williams, and Borderlands’ Claptrap. And the dealer? Portal‘s GLaDOS, naturally. Can’t wait for this one.
* One more Telltale item for you. We sat down with Telltale CEO Dan Connors to chat about the state of the union at the Walking Dead studio. The far-ranging chat covered everything from last year’s success story to a general goal of achieving a TV network-like schedule for seasonal episodic content. The interview amounted to our ‘one year later’ sitdown with Connors, who spoke to Digital Trends at GDC 2012 in the weeks before The Walking Dead‘s Episode One release.
* Another GDC gem. We checked out the beautiful Monochroma from Nowhere Studios on the show floor at GDC Play. Featuring a visual aesthetic that is clearly inspired by Limbo and puzzle-platforming gameplay that offers up a reasonable challenge, this is definitely one to watch for. Especially with Nowhere angling to bring the game to PlayStation 4.
* GDC’s IGF Pavilion brims over every year with amazing games, but 2013 really brought out some special titles. One of our favorites was Gone Home, a project in development at the Portland-based Fullbright Company. The small team was founded by a trio of 2K Marin and Irrational Games veterans, all of whom have work experience with games that have BioShock in their title. Founder Steve Gaynor, a level designer on BioShock 2 and lead on that game’s Minerva’s Den DLC, spoke to Digital Trends about the uniquely story-driven concept behind Gone Home.
* More Call of Duty is coming. Earlier this week, Activision announced the next DLC drop for Black Ops 2. Uprising adds four new multiplayer maps to the mix – “Encore,” “Magma,” “Studio,” and “Vertigo” – and a new Zombies map called “Mob of the Dead.” The Zombies add-on seems to be taking a page from the Black Ops map Call of the Dead, which featured Hollywood talents as the main foursome. Mob moves the action to San Francisco’s Alcatraz prison, and the four stars are all veterans of Hollywood’s gangster filmography: Michael Madsen, Joe Pantoliano, Chazz Palmintieri, and Ray Liotta. That’s right, folks: Tommy Vercetti returns to games. Uprising is out on April 16.
* Commander Keen creator and id Software co-founder Tom Hall is now working with PlayFirst, the mobile and social dev behind the hit game Diner Dash. He compares Diner‘s Flo to Commander Keen, explaining that the appeal is the “cute and quirky character-based games” that he started his career with. Hall chatted a bit with Digital Trends as well about what is to come now that he’s installed in this new gig.
Top buys for the week…
We haven’t had an opportunity yet to play Battleblock Theater, but the appeal here can be summed up in one word: The Behemoth. Fine, that’s technically two words. The Behemoth is the dev behind some of the most beloved indie favorites of the past bunch of years, including Alien Hominid and the absolutely delightful cartoon brawler, Castle Crashers. The game features a shipwreck, betrayal, and an army of cats. Do you really need to know more than that?
Terraria was technically released for consoles last week, but since we were off covering GDC it didn’t get a fair shake. We’ve got a review up today that tells the story. It’s easy to write off Terraria as “2D Minecraft,” but that summation also misses the unusual action-RPG that sits at the heart of the game. The console version is a real winner too, with gamepad controls that fit the experience perfectly. It may not be fair to label this one as our pick of the week, but it’s definitely the one we’ve spent the most time playing.
Eric Chahi’s classic sci-fi platformer Another World was given new life in 2012 with a sharp-looking HD-enhanced mobile release. That game has now made its way to Steam as well. It might not be a brand new release, but it’s new on PC this week and absolutely worth playing if you somehow missed the mobile version last year.
Leisure Suit Larry isn’t the only adventure in Replay Games’ lineup. Fester Mudd is a new one from the publisher, developed by Prank, and there’s a really great old-school adventure game vibe here. Think Monkey Island, think any number of LucasArts classics. The graphics, the interface, everything in Fester‘s first episode outing feels like it was pulled into the present-day world from another era. It’s definitely worth a look.