Kickstart This! The Pre-Christmas Whopper Edition

It’s that time of year again…. When everyone gets anxious about having enough money to afford Christmas presents and keep the heating on… When Z-list celebrities are invited to flick a switch and cast sparkly lights on towns and cities across the globe… When pine trees shudder in fear and reindeer wonder why there are hundreds of cameras pointing at them. But it need not be so glum and terrifying. In the run-up to what has become a period of immense profit for companies, yet an unnecessary burden on the growing number of Scrooges in the world (myself included), it is important to keep everything in check, and offer help to those who need it. Buy gloves for the homeless. Invite your lonely neighbour around for a cup of egg nog or mulled wine. And if you are still in the spirit to bring good tidings, check out the latest Kickstarter game campaigns that need your support.

We have a whopping seven projects to share this month, including the super cute P.A.W.S. – Prime Alien Watch Squad, oddball survival game Dyscourse, the eccentric steampunk detective adventure The Dead Flowers Case, and 2D turn based monster shooter MODUS. Halfway through, things get a little more intense with a throwback to 80s action films in Bullet Bros, tactical FPS assassin title Lonewolf, and finally, the beautifully rendered isometric sci-fi adventure Stasis.

Let’s jingle those bells.

P.A.W.S. – Prime Alien Watch Squad
Immediately winning points for featuring a Lightsaber in their promo video, P.A.W.S. comes to Kickstarter courtesy of Greek game designers Andreas and Christina Neofotistou. The casual strategy game is being developed for iOS, Android, and PC, and sees players take control of the P.A.W.S. members as they battle against alien invaders intent on stealing famous world monuments. The whimsical plot allows the stages to be set in readily identifiable countries around the globe.

The cute cartoony graphics are hand-drawn and beautifully animated, and combine with a simple one-touch mechanic to make this game simplicity defined, yet engaging and addictive enough to warrant repeated plays. Stage length varies from 20 to 60 seconds, allowing players to play on the go, while random generation means you will never play the same stage twice. Different team members have different special abilities: Spiffy the Tigress is fast, while Dusty the Bear can heal others. Bobi-Sue the Squirrel can throw projectiles, and Tycho the Tortoise has a devastating short-range spin attack. Chuck in some additional weapons to the mix, and you have yourself a wicked battle.

The Greek couple are seeking the modest sum of $30,000 in order to fully realise the game, although stretch goals of $40,000 will see an asynchronous PvP mode developed, $50,000 will allow more animations, $60,000 would add finishing moves, $70,000 will see additional stages added, and $80,000 means new enemy units can be created. The game is free-to-play, but a $10 donation will ensure you receive an ad-free version, as well as a P.A.W.S. wallpaper pack. Double this to $20 and the official soundtrack will be added to the rewards received, as well as some in-game AstroCredits. The more expensive tier of $150, limited to 100 people, adds an art book, collectible cards, stickers and t-shirt. A donation of $200 will add a 5cm fully painted figurine of Spiffy, while the top tier of $500 will see you dubbed the Ultimate Pangalactic Hero of the Galaxy, and add a 30cm alien Blob plush, as well as a personal thank you video from the game’s creators.

Dyscourse
“You are Rita and she is you. ” Or so Boston-based Owlchemy Labs tells us. Designed in a similar almost-cubist art-style as the company’s previous hit, Jack Lumber, Owlchemy promise what many have in the past and yet failed to deliver; a story where the player’s choices actually matter, and determine the path Rita takes. Partly because of a lack of voice-acting, and a fully rendered island to interact with, the game can branch wildly from one play through to the next. The story itself centres on a group of plane crash survivors, who must band together to stay alive on the island they have been marooned on. This means foraging for food and supplies while fending off attacks from big nasty bugs and beasties.

Kudos to Owlchemy for putting its money (or lack thereof) where its mouth is and creating the entire Kickstarter introduction video in-game. The company is seeking $40,000 for bandages and handkerchiefs to wipe away the blood, sweat and tears that the long days in development have caused. While the game is almost finished, the Owls need a boost in order to give Dyscourse a detailed polish before it is released on PC, Mac, and Linus. To receive a copy of the game in exchange for a donation, you will need to pledge $15 or more in the Passenger class. For $5 more you could join the Upgraded Passenger list and receive beta access to the game, as well as digital gifts such as the soundtrack, wallpaper and art book.

Climbing to the upper echelons of the donation tree, a pledge of $500 will promote you to First Officer, limited to five lucky survivors. You will receive various physical gifts, including a t-shirt, art book, flask, character pop-outs, and stickers, all within a replica of the retro metal suitcase found in-game. All of the items will be signed by the Owls from Owlchemy, and you will also receive a portrait of you in the style of Dyscourse. Doubling this to $1000 will see you reach the Pilot tier, of which there are only two places. These include all First Officer rewards, plus the chance to design an in-game character. The $2000 tier of Distinguished Pilot is also limited to two people, and it will see you design a custom game item instead. The humorous top prize of Pampered Traveller, limited to the one lucky soul who coughs up $10,000, will see them travel to Boston on their own dime, and then buy the entire Owlchemy team a four-course dinner at the costliest restaurant in the city. Please note this includes no rewards, not even the game.

The Dead Flowers Case
What do you get when you mix Dishonored with Broken Sword and Professor Layton, adding a dash of Douglas Adams in there for good measure? You get Mando Productions’ The Dead Flowers Case, an eccentric point-and-click detective adventure set in a Monty Python-esque steampunk alternative reality for PC, Mac, and tablets. As the title suggests, you embody the Chief of Police as he investigates a set of murders that threaten to derail the precise mechanical perfection that the world adheres to. The Parisian production company has teamed up with Stephane Halleux, a famous Belgian steampunk sculptor, in order to bring the world to life in a surreal but beautiful way.

In order to solve the heinous crime and the mysteries that lie behind it, players will have to utilise an array of mechanical gizmos, including Big Machine, which looks reminiscent of Colossus, the first electronic digital computer used by the Brits in World War II. Its portable sibling, the Little Machine, is like a steampunk laptop for remote interrogations, while the MecaLens allows you to study the crime scenes through different coloured lenses, each of which reveals specific clues.

The French firm are seeking the small fortune of $290,000 to bring this brilliant world to life. A $15 donation will gift you with a copy of the game for PC or Mac as well as some exclusive wallpapers, while $30 will add the mobile version of iOS and Android to your rewards. Given the involvement of Stephane Halleux, many of the upper reward tiers feature a limited run of his statues, all with a certificate of authenticity signed by the sculptor himself. The higher up the ladder you go, the rarer the statue. A pledge of $1,000 or more will see you become the proud owner of the third statue, the Chief of Police, limited to 100 people, as well as a t-shirt and digital art book, and the previous two statues. Donations of $5,000 or more are limited to 10 people, each of whom will receive a statue of the murder victim, the Mecabrain, lying at his desk, as well as the four other statues which will make a complete set, of which only 15 will ever exist in the world. The other five come from the highest tier of $10,000 or more, which also includes a ticket to Paris, four nights in a hotel, a visit to Mando Productions’ studio, and dinner with the team and artist Stephane Halleux in a famous Parisian restaurant.

As an extra bonus, all the reward tiers for The Dead Flowers Case include free shipping, a rarity on Kickstarter!

MODUS
This 2D tactical, turn-based artillery shooter comes to Kickstarter courtesy of Canadian outfit Imagiro Studios. The story takes place amidst an Earth broken by an alien meteor that crashed onto the planet, mutating the world’s animals into dangerous beasts. When his colony of Tioria is destroyed, a young human pilot named Svat must take control of the giant mechanical MODUS armour and embark on a mission to find other surviving colonies so they can band together and destroy the hazardous meteor.

Imagiro has taken the basics of classics such as Worms or Scorched Earth and given it a Mass Effect polish in terms of story and graphics. The animations for the individual creatures and the MODUS armour are remarkably well rendered for an unfinished game. The levels themselves will not only be about destroying the enemy, but will come with specific missions and goals to accomplish. Although the trajectory shooting, somewhat akin to Angry Birds, makes it a strong candidate for mobile devices, the company is focusing solely on the PC and Mac versions.

With a target of $30,000 CAD in order to push the game through the final stages of development, players can effectively order a copy of the game for a $10 CAD donation. An extra $5 CAD will also bag you some stickers to decorate your laptop, as well as an invitation to the beta access team. Meanwhile, if you wish to be the only player who gets to design their very own MODUS armour, pledge $400 CAD or more. Or if you are a true egotist, donate $1,000 CAD to have your name appear in big letters on the game’s starting screen. Immediate infamy for a fraction of the normal price.

Bullet Bros
An deep-voiced trailer narrator tells us that “The Bullet Bros are not brothers, but they might as well be. You see, they’ve been knee-deep in the shit as long as they can remember.” Cue a montage of the Bros shooting the hell out of everything, destroying everything with vehicles, and even turning a chopper upside down to decapitate their enemies, all to pure 80s electronica music. If you are old enough to remember Contra, and enjoyed Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, this is the Kickstarter project for you.

Bullet Bros is the over-the-top brainchild of video game industry veteran Jason Stokes, who has put an emphasis on fun, keeping in some physics glitches (such as the helicopter) if it made him laugh. Rather than just make a carbon copy of the game’s biggest influence, Contra, Stokes has added some unique features, including vehicle linking, where two vehicles, such as a chopper and buggy, can join together, providing double the destructive power, and allowing the buggy to be thrown as a projectile. The two characters have grappling hooks, which attach to just about anything in the game. Stokes hopes that the final game will feature 50 to 100 driveable vehicles, which will also have grappling hooks to allow them to move up over the terrain.

The initial funding target of $80,000 will allow the bare-bones game to be developed, where 10 is the magic number; 10 levels, 10 bosses, 10 unique vehicles, and 10 pieces of music composed by Fernando Carabajal. While development is focused solely on PC at the moment, stretch goals of $120,000 would see it come to Mac and Linux, while $280,000 will see Stokes hire additional programmers to bring it to the PS3 and Xbox 360. If he reaches another $100,000 after this, they would look to bring it to the next generation consoles, as well as adding 60 levels, 30 new vehicles, and many other extras.

So what do you get in return for your cash? The game itself can be yours for the small sum of $10, as well as getting your name listed in the credits. $40 offers a truckload of extras, such as a digital art book and the full soundtrack, while those wishing for a physical copy of the game with retro cover art will need to donate $65 or more. At the top of the mountain of corpses left by the Bullet Bros is the BAD BRO tier of $600 or more, limited to 10 donors, which allows you to design an enemy character. The $1,000 or more level or BRO BOSS, limited to five players, similarly lets patrons to work with the design team on a mini-boss. The highest tier of $5,000, dubbed BRO-CATION and limited to 10 people, will see you visit Stokes in his hometown of Seattle for a week, shadowing the development team, allowing you to test the game and offer input on any changes. Travel, food and lodgings are all included (as long as you live in the good old US of A).

Lonewolf
Our second title from Canada, this game’s art style is vaguely reminiscent of Ubisoft’s FPS XIII, based on the cult Belgian comic book, which was also turned into a terrible TV show, ironically produced in Canada. This free-to-play shooting game for iOS and Android phones is being developed by shooting fan Simon Hason, who shows off his gun-handling skills in a montage in his introduction video. The game takes a slightly more fantastical approach than shooting at gun ranges, placing the player in the shoes of a trained assassin, whose heavy breathing is oddly disturbing. The game features a variety of missions, all through the scope or aim of a gun. As well as different gun types, the player will have to take account of the range of the shot and environmental aspects such as wind.

Hason’s love of guns, while slightly intimidating, means the game is well researched, and the guns will sound and handle like their real-life counterparts. Although there are currently 24 missions already completed, the additional Kickstarter funding of $9,000 CAD will allow Hason to push that to over 30 main missions and 10 or more mini-games. The low initial target means that there are numerous stretch goals. If it reaches over $11,000 CAD, the game will be scaled up to HD for iPads and Android tablets, while $12,000 CAD will allow animation instead of comic book panels, which is a bit of a shame because they work well.

As the game is free-to-play, donations of $10 CAD receive an in-game credit, while $15 CAD will gift you with some wallpapers for your phone. Pledges of over $150 CAD, limited to 30 people, will receive a bag of goodies, such as custom dog-tags, key chain, t-shirt, stickers, and a digital art book. If you aim for the next tier of $250 CAD, limited to 10 people, Hason will let you design a mini-game for Lonewolf, while the highest tier of $500 CAD or more, limited to only five lucky players, will grant you the privilege of designing your own mission level.

Stasis
This isometric point-and-click sci-fi horror adventure game is inspired by The Dig, Steven Spielberg’s collaboration with LucasArts, which managed to tell a science-fiction story with a mature, adult style and tone. Wishing to give sci-fi point-and-click games the same polish as the sci-fi RPG and FPS genre has recently had with the Mass Effect, Halo, and Dead Space series, South-African developer Christopher Bischoff came up with Stasis. Initially set to be released for Windows and OSX, the game is set in a distant space research facility known as Groomlake. The protagonist, John Maracheck, must explore the facility to find clues in how to save his children, all the while finding more evidence of the true horrors of what has been happening at Groomlake.

The game is partially built, and already manages to channel the best films of this genre, like John Carpenter’s The Thing or Ridley Scott’s initial Alienfilm. The level of detail within the game, from the items you interact with to the backdrops and even structure of the buildings, is something to behold. To add to the game’s eerie aesthetics, Bischoff has enlisted the help of video game composer Mark Morgan, whose credits include titles from the Fallout series, as well as TV shows such as Blue Bloods and Lie To Me.

Seeking a cool $100,000, donors can nab a copy of the game from a pledge of only $19, while adding $5 will also gift you with the soundtrack. For those wishing to play the full game before release, a donation of $59, limited to 200 people, will grant you access to the beta edition, as well as receiving a documentary on the making of the game. At the top of the tier tree, giving $249 or more will provide you with a signed box copy of the game, as well as an exclusive canvas art print, a polo shirt, as well as having your name placed in the game (as a corpse, sorry). The top level of $449 or more will provide all this plus a 3D sculpture of the game’s hero.

This bonanza of games is both beautiful and heart-breaking. It is amazing that so many developers are out there, making these exciting new indie titles, and yet so many needing to turn to crowdfunding sites for funding. Remember though, these guys and gals are not just looking for your money. They know some gamers who love the look of their games simply cannot afford to donate, but you can still help by spreading their projects through your social media streams. It’s like Mother Teresa once said, “Let us not be satisfied with just giving money. Money is not enough, money can be got, but they need your hearts to love them. So, spread your love everywhere you go.”

This entry was posted in Features, Mobile, PC, PS3, Top Story, Xbox 360 and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

In addition to being Warp Zoned’s UK Correspondent, Andrew Rainnie is a screenwriter and filmmaker. You can email him at andrew AT warpzoned DOT com or you can, if you’re inclined, visit his personal website.


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