Indie Review - MolyJam
Usually when somebody starts a parody account on Twitter they confine themselves to, well, parodying their subject. However, sometimes what starts as an affectionate send up can end up becoming something quite different.
@PeterMolydeux is a parody account. It gently mocks the famous game designer Peter Molyneux - who made such classics as Populous, Theme Park, Black and White and the Fable series. Molydeux (as Molyneux) tweets different game ideas – “You are a bin, by day people are throwing litter in you but by night you use that litter to highlight issues in the city through modern art” or “You are a pigeon who must go around the city trying to persuade business men not to jump off buildings by retrieving items from their home” - that urge game developers to “think outside the box”. They stress emotion over action and innovation over repetition. His assertion is that games have become too standardised, too cold and too safe. He says that creativity is being stifled and that gamers are suffering because of it. The thing is that, after a while, people stopped looking at this as just somebody imitating Molyneux and started to think “some of these ideas are interesting, what if we actually made some games using them?” and eventually MolyJam happened - announced by the man himself in this video
MolyJam was a massive gaming meet up. Game designers, developers and people from all walks of life came together in many different places around the world, for 2 days, and built games based on Molydeux’s tweets. The result was (at last count) 302 very different offerings; all for free, and all available here.
As you can imagine, things can vary wildly from game to game, even when the inspirational tweet is the same. Some are unfinished and most will occupy you for less than ten minutes - but all are interesting. My personal favourites are Amour Parkour (two lovers run across an urban landscape until something special happens), Huggy Bear! (which details the emotional effect on a bear of being too strong to hug people) and The Shadowland Prophesy (an amazing cel-shaded RPG, with lasers!). Taken together the collection provides a cornucopia of innovation and creativity. Be prepared for things not working quite as you expect, but if you approach it with an open mind then it will reward you with something that is truly different.
I would like to think that MolyJam will live up to Molydeux’s claims and change at least some of the ideas in the industry. But even if it doesn’t, it has shown that some genuinely beautiful games can come out of thinking a bit differently, trying new things and generally taking the mick out of a gaming legend. Go and have a look!
The Republia Times
Have you ever wanted to work for an Orwellian propaganda agency? Have you ever fancied having your family held hostage by a dictatorship, with their safety dependent on your work performance? Probably not, but if you do fancy it then The Republia Times gives you such an opportunity. It puts you in the position of Editor of the aforementioned publication, just after a change of regime. Your job is to quell unrest, increase the readership and ensure that your kidnapped family remain healthy. You pick which stories to cover and how to place them on the page in order to produce the desired effects on the brainwashed populace - with targets and (literal) deadlines regularly set. Tension quickly builds and before long you’ll be manipulating public opinion with the best of them. The game is played in your browser, costs nothing and is well worth a look.
Get it here
One to Watch - Xenonauts
X-Com (or UFO: Enemy Unknown as it is known in Britain) was released in 1994. Created by legendary games designer Julian Gollop it is regularly voted as one of the greatest games ever made. It mixes real time and turn based combat, strategic and tactical gameplay, character progression, research, manufacturing and a whole lot more to create something quite unique. There have been many attempts to duplicate the game’s success over the past 20 years, but none have really managed it. The good news, however, is that that may be about to change as there are a couple of very promising projects on the way. Firaxis have their well-publicised, big budget “re-imagining” in the pipeline but Goldhawk Interactive have also been beavering away on Xenonauts for the past couple of years. Xenonauts promises to be the most faithful of the two to the spirit of the original, it still uses time units for example, and is clearly being made by people who are massive X-Com fans. Using such a revered game as the basis for your project is always going to be risky, but Goldhawk are making all the right noises and, from what we’ve seen of the game so far, they appear to be doing a great job. As is usual with these things you can support the game’s development by pre-ordering on their website. This gives you access to the current development build, and the finished game at a reduced price. More importantly it helps Goldhawk realise their vision for what is looking to be a very promising modern take on an all-time classic. Could this finally be the game to do the original justice? Let’s hope so.
Cost: £14.99 / £19.99