News by Britta S. and Trent P.
Welcome to Digitally Downloaded’s regular catch-up news feature. With each issue we will bring you the best news that you may have missed. Grab the biggest mug you’ve got, fill it with your favourite brew, and catch up with us (and our favourite news anchor, Dee Dee)!
The Falconers: Moonlight brings monster hunting to New Zealand’s rugged West Coast
By Britta S., Contributor
I lived for several years on the South Island’s West Coast, commonly and simply referred to as ‘the Coast’ here in New Zealand. Once you experience it, you know why: what other coast could there possibly be? It seems like a place with time and space out of joint and therefore an ideal location for a story where 19th-century reality and dark fantasy meet. The writer who has come up with the driving concept for this tale —the existence of a monster-hunting organisation called Falconers —is a well-known New Zealand author of interactive fiction, Edwin McRae; for instance, he worked on the Path of Exile script. It was this background that convinced me to take a closer look at his visual novel The Falconers, available on Steam now thanks to Sekai Project, complete with a generous demo to sample.
Normally, I cringe when scenario writers try to integrate some of the more striking elements of NZ culture — oh, look, a kiwi! Or is it … kiwifruit? — willy-nilly into their games/films for exotic flavour. But McRae really knows the Coast and its inhabitants, and crucially, its history, dominated by the gold rush of the mid-19th century. This all rings true, as well as being imbued right from the start, like the West Coast’s famous fog, with an air of mystery and threat. The art work brilliantly captures that authentic 19th-century feel while still being crisp and modern. The main character is a young woman, Cassandra Winter, on her first solo mission as a Falconer to investigate the fabled monster threat called ‘cullers.’ Cassie has the clipped, emotionally buttoned-up speech of a hard-boiled detective, and her verbal sparrings with the locals she interviews are thus sharply spiced, neatly avoiding that common malaise of visual novels: uninspired, dreary dialogue. Story progress choices are plentiful, yet quick and easy to make, keeping the plot moving at a good pace.
The demo ended with a nailbiter fight against a culler and achieved its intended result; I was hooked by the story, practically hyperventilating during the fight scene. I absolutely need to find out what happens, what mysteries are discovered, and how Cassie navigates through the tangle of local politics, human drama and otherworldly doom. I was also really taken with the soundtrack, a haunting combination of piano and strings. For those who fear they may get lost among some of the NZ-specific terms (based on Maori words) vital to the story — fear not, for McRae is working on providing a helpful and entertaining glossary.
Surprise release of Prison Architect developer’s new game
By Trent P., Contributor
Coming off the back of Prison Architect, its developer Introversion Software prepared two gameplay alpha demos. Shown during a Prison Architect video, fans voted against a bomb disarm game to choose Scanner Sombre as a game they wished to see released the most.
Scanner Sombre gives players a lidar scanner, a device which sends out pulses of laser light to measure the distance between surfaces. This unique device will illuminate the surrounding area to give players a visual representation of the game world. The goal of the game is to escape the caves and return to the surface, experiencing the world of the caves and its mysteries as you progress through the experience.
This game was released on Wednesday, April 26 for the price of $11.99 USD. Players be able to pick up the title from Steam, GOG and the Humble Store with a 20 percent launch week discount.
Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth begins this August with Part 1
By Britta S., Contributor
We brought you our first news of the adaptation of Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth in February. Now we have more details, courtesy of Daedalic Entertainment, and the Steam page is also live. The game is still confirmed for PC/Mac/Linux as well as PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, but the big news is that it will be released in several parts: it is only Part 1 that will be released in August. Players can purchase a season pass when buying Part 1. More information about the remaining parts (2 and 3) will be announced at Gamescom in August. There is a total of 21 chapters (seven per part), transmuting the 1000+ pages of the book into an “interactive novel.” This trailer shows glimpses of the beautiful, tradition watercolour-style graphics in the game:
To call The Pillars of the Earth a bestseller is almost an understatement considering it has sold more than 26 million copies to date. For Daedalic, this is its biggest and most ambitious project so far. The developer decided to stick with the genre they have deep experience with and are known for, the 2D point-and-click adventure game. Players will be able to traverse a non-linear storyline with three main characters, and two extras, playable. The game’s designer and author, Matt Kempke and Kevin Mentz, commented that they kept the core story but reassembled the source material in order to provide a new, interactive way to experience the world and characters, and even allow players to change events from the novel.
The Pillars of the Earth will be brought to life with over 200 hand-painted backgrounds, giving a full flavour of 12th-century life in England. The story’s events revolve around the construction of a cathedral, with a monk prior and a builder/architect at the centre of tumultuous changes.
Sega’s “shameful” 1992 cult classic Night Trap returns
By Britta S., Contributor
Does the world need a high-def re-release of the first-ever full-motion-video game? It’s almost as big a question as the one in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, to which the answer is simply 42. A studio going by the name of Screaming Villains is preparing the 25th Anniversary Edition of Night Trap for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. So, instead of ‘new news’, let’s do some ‘old news’: a look back at the trailblazer that was the original Night Trap, launched for the Sega CD system back in 1992. Maybe the past will decode for us what its significance could be for modern gaming.
Night Trap was created in 1986 for a never-released interactive TV platform, and this explains its blatant riff on the schlocky slasher movies of the ‘80s. The ridiculous story brings together five teenage girls intent on spending the weekend partying at home. It is the player’s job to monitor the home and protect the girls from invading vampires by using a system of cameras and traps. Please do watch the announcement trailer, below, for hilarity of a type that seems so innocent by today’s video game standards. But the politicians and public morals guardians of the age did not view Night Trap as a harmless bit of fun, and the ensuing fracas over violent video games triggered a Senate investigation which ushered in America’s Entertainment Software Rating Board.
And there Night Trap could have slumbered on its historical laurels, except that in 2014 the developer Digital Pictures launched a crowdfunding campaign for a “revamp” that missed the goal by a shortfall of about 90%. This raises the curveball question: is there a real demand out there for such a new edition? Or is it mainly the collectors’ market excited about the limited edition via Limited Run Games? So I asked retro gaming historian Chris Scullion and his response is not unexpected: “I’m absolutely delighted to hear Night Trap is coming back. Regardless of what people think in terms of the game’s quality, there’s no denying its historical importance and it’s great that we’ll finally get a definitive version.” I guess we also shouldn’t overlook that the game was a big hit in the ‘90s, selling close to one million copies (that was a lot then) and was later ported to PC and Mac. There is only one way to handle this, I reckon: lots of popcorn!