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  1. After a live stream from a haunted hospital, Jill has found herself not just investigating hauntings, but dealing with the fact that ghosts are real. Some of them could even use her help, too, but when she tries to do something for a ghost who's been following her, she starts to see some of the more unsettling sides of ghosts in visual novel Perceptions of the Dead 2. Perceptions of the Dead 2 will have you working to find Jill's missing friend, Tyrone, while also doing what they can to help out a spirit in need. Doing this will require a little help from Jill's friends to get the job done, and you can get to know these charming, quirky people while you're all working together. Just be careful of the decisions you make involving these people, as you can accidentally change the course of the story in some dangerous ways with some seemingly innocuous choices. Perceptions of the Dead 2 is gorgeous to behold with some truly wonderful characters and connections between them, offering a narrative treat for those who like stories of friendship and scary things like living in the world of the dead. But with great pals, including some less-than-living ones, is it really all that scary any more? Perceptions of the Dead 2 is available for $7.99 on Itch.io and Steam. For more information on the game and developer Ithaqua Labs, you can head to the developer's site or follow them on YouTube and Twitter. View the full article
  2. With a story born from a Dungeons & Dragons campaign, The Great Gaias offers a thrilling RPG experience with over 60 hours of main story, a city to build, and items to craft. Adventurers will likely feel right at home in this land of cults, ancient prophecies, and roguish heroes. Whenever you're not working to build your own city, that is. A band of sellswords finds themselves caught up in a treacherous journey when taking on a contract from the royal family. Unfortunately, this contract puts a group of sellswords in the middle of an ancient prophecy that will lead to danger and turn-based battles. What's a great adventure without a large group of companions? The Great Gaias appreciates that if you want a good story, you need good characters - specifically, 17 of them (that are playable!). You'll be able to craft your own strategies with this cast and take on hidden bosses that offer some additional challenges. There's tons of optional activities that enhance the experience, and since the game has multiple endings, you may find yourself wanting to delve into a little bit of each in order to secure the best ending, or just hopping back in to continue tinkering with your own city. Surely an RPG to tickle the nostalgia of RPG fans from the SNES era, The Great Gaias is worth a roll of the dice. You can find The Great Gaias on Steam here. You can also check out the developer's website here. View the full article
  3. A short, yet chilling tale presents itself in Roses & Heart. Take control of a weary gardener who is just trying to make it to the back exit to pick up a delivery. Unfortunately, things are not as simple as walking over to the door (is it ever?). Use a mysterious rose to summon a helper and solve puzzles to clear your path... But what will your helper want in return? Using simple controls, Roses & Heart has players completing simple logic puzzles involving buttons, pushing obstacles, and finding pathways with the help of helpers that can be called upon by offering blood to a rose's thorns. Cheerful! Put your brain to the test in the increasingly difficult challenges and see if you can make it through to the other side in one piece. Surely this blood price has no downsides, either. That ominous music probably doesn't mean anything, anyway, right? You can check out Roses & Heart on Itch.io here! You can also check out the developers, Remyripple and Kyrenon Twitter! View the full article
  4. Whether you're reminded of vicious raptors hunting terrified children, placid Brachiosaurus strolling verdant hills, or a scientist reaching elbow-deep into a mound of Triceratops dung, the words "Jurassic Park" can evoke some pretty powerful memories. Jurassic World Evolution reinforces these associations with its take on dino-park management, and all the good and bad that comes with such a brazen endeavor. It can be a bit clumsy at times, but Evolution ultimately finds a comfortable middle ground between establishing deep mechanics and maintaining accessibility for the average dino enthusiast. Your venture kicks off with a warning from Dr. Ian Malcolm--voiced by Jeff Goldblum himself--who ruminates about the inevitability of disaster before dropping you straight onto the first of the game's five main islands. To successfully run your new park, you need to maintain a variety of dinosaur species and build facilities to protect and entertain paying customers. Do well enough and you unlock additional islands for your expanding park, each with a new curveball to keep you on your toes, be it aggressive weather systems, unique financial constraints, or limited construction options. After learning the basics of construction and dinosaur creation, you're introduced to the three divisions that make up your park's staff: science, entertainment, and security. Each division will offer contracts that, when completed, give you cash and raise your reputation with that division. This unlocks further items and buildings for research, as well as that division's story mission. While contracts are a good source of money in the early game, they come with an odd complication: completing contracts for one division lowers your reputation with the other two. This creates a nonsensical balancing act that, whilst not difficult to overcome in the long run, feels arbitrary in context. Building a good dinosaur park isn't as simple as putting down some fences, incubating dino eggs, and sitting back to watch them majestically take their first steps into the world. You'll need to manage everything from dig sites and DNA extraction to general park maintenance via your rangers--who will fill feeders, fix fences, and keep everything in working order. In an awesome twist, you can manually control the rangers' Jeeps or helicopters from a close third-person perspective, leading to some surprisingly beautiful and memorable moments as you mingle with the great beasts inhabiting your park. If you've played any kind of park management sim before, you'll feel right at home with how everything works thanks to streamlined controls and an elegant UI. Console players can similarly rejoice as controller configurations are surprisingly intuitive, making navigating everything a breeze. With the exception of cash, all your research and item progression is shared across each of the islands, and you can freely move between them at will once they're unlocked. If you've got something you want to research but you're struggling with funds in your current park, switch back to your previous one and spend their money on it instead. Although it would be a time saver to simply let you funnel cash from one park to another, going back to old parks never feels you're like taking a step backwards. Research progression is skewed so that you'll unlock the next park before you've unlocked all the research items in your current one, so you'll always feel like you're achieving something worthwhile, even if that means re-visiting old areas. Interestingly, unlike most other park management sims, you can't speed up the flow of time while waiting for tasks to complete, but it's not as detrimental as it sounds. It's rare that there isn't something in the park needing attention, and more often than not you'll be thankful for the time. Each of the dinosaurs in your menagerie have particular needs--some are placid, solitary creatures who are super chill, while others are quick to go on high alert. Put a herbivore in a pen full of meat-eaters and it will (understandably) panic. Put two aggressive meat-eaters next to each other and they'll probably fight to the death, unless you can get your rangers in there to tranquilize and then separate them both before any real harm is done. Learning the differences between each species is an important part of keeping your park operating smoothly. But even when things are going well, calamity never feels that far away. From rampaging dinosaurs and tropical cyclones to internal sabotage, there's always something ready to trash your hard work. While dealing with these hazards can be exciting in your early hours, the fifth time your Ankylosauruses make a break for it because they don't like being around other dinosaurs can get tiresome. Attacks on park goers can initially be costly; later on, when you've got money to burn, a few lawsuits digging into your bottom line doesn't matter much. But while the lack of surprises and stakes after 20 or so hours is a bummer, it's never enough to take away from the joy of watching your creations live out their lives in structures you've meticulously designed and maintained. Evolution captures the essence of Jurassic Park while being a good park management sim in its own right. When your coffers fill up, you can really cut loose with how you build up your parks across each island. A maxed-out park is a sight to behold as thousands of guests wander the attractions. Hotels let you increase your parks' capacity to house more people, while shops and arcades will keep them entertained for when they aren't gathering in one of the many viewing platforms that line the fences keeping your dinosaurs in. When it's all working, it's like watching the components of a well-oiled machine tick over. Though it's similarly fun, albeit sadistic, to watch a full park of guests scramble for the emergency shelter when you trigger the alarms. If there's one word that could easily describe Jurassic World Evolution, it's "faithful." Taking control of a ranger behind the wheel of a Jeep in the rain and sidling up to a pack of socializing Stegosaurus is as epic as it sounds and is a definite highlight, as is releasing a newly recovered species into your park. Despite the campaign stumbling over itself and losing focus towards the end, Evolution captures the essence of Jurassic Park while being a good park management sim in its own right. View the full article
  5. Grotoro is all about being a bull and charging into your buddies, knocking them for a loop. However, it's hard to get much traction in space without some form of thruster, but luckily, a hint of indigestion is just what these amorphous animals need to get a little shot of propelling gas in this goofy multiplayer title. Grotoro will have up to four players (or whatever number plus some AI animals) bouncing around an arena trying to clobber one another. You can fire off a shot of gas when you need to propel yourself forward, but just have to aim your shots so they'll slam into someone. The bulls are made of a bouncy substance as well, though, so you can use this to bounce off the stage edges to pull off some tricky shots and thump your friends from an unexpected angle. You don't have to just sit and take their friend's loving charge when they're coming for you, too. A little shot of gas can get you out of harm's way, or you can use it to ram them back, countering their charge. Just try not to think about how much gas is building up all around you from four bulls letting them fly at will to get around. This cute game gets a bit gross if you linger on those thoughts for long. Grotoro is available for free on Itch.io and Steam. For more information on the game and Concrete Games, you can head to the developer's site or follow them on Twitter, Itch.io, Facebook, YouTube, and Discord. View the full article
  6. When the credits rolled on Mario Tennis Aces' Adventure Mode, I vowed to never again laugh at a tennis player having an ugly meltdown on the court. I had felt the volcanic surge of adrenaline that comes when a rally has gone too long. I knew the sense of high alert while trying to suss out which corner of the court an opponent is going to attack next. I have spliced and invented new curse words to mutter when a ball goes out of bounds. Off-beat stages and creative use of characters from the Marioverse ensure that you'll never lose sight of simply having fun, but don't let the adorable exterior trick you; Aces takes its unorthodox tennis very seriously. Mario Tennis' renewed vigor is driven by a suite of new mechanics that force you to make pivotal risk-reward decisions. Special shots are now tied to a meter that fills a little with every shot fired back at your opponent, more so if you're able to charge your swing ahead of time. Once the Energy Meter is at least a third full, a ball landing on your side of the court will be forecast by a glowing star. Initiating a special swing while standing on a star activates a first-person view that lets you aim a powerful Zone Shot. When the Energy Meter is completely full, you can unleash your character's Special Shot. While Specials don't unleash the cavalcade of effects they did in Wii U's Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash, they do fire a lightning-fast ball that requires exacting maneuvers to return without incurring any harm to your racket--destroy your collection of rackets during a match, and you lose. Holding the R button slows down time at the cost of meter, allowing you to stroll over and hit hard-to-reach shots or gain a slight advantage when returning racket-breaking shots. Alternatively, a Trick Shot can be activated by tilting the right stick, which causes you to leap across the court at the last second . You can get away with basic shots during simple face-offs, but in advanced matches the exchange of powered-up strikes feels like a breathless symphony that requires you to be at the top of your game and on top of your options. Even veterans of the series have a little bit of a learning curve to overcome, but Aces' Adventure Mode does a good job of both entertaining you and teaching you how and when to use your new tools. The story itself is ridiculous, but ridiculous in that very specific, quirky way Nintendo has been getting away with for decades. During the Mushroom Kingdom's annual tennis tournament, an evil tennis racket--yes, really--named Lucien takes possession of Luigi and flies off to find five Power Stones that will help him take over the world. Instead of settling for a revolving door of opponents along the way, you're challenged to utilize Ace's new mechanics in a range of unusual scenarios. An average stage might simply challenge you to keep a rally going for a certain length of time, but bosses and puzzle stages require a greater level of ingenuity. You have to figure out how to disable protective barriers, earning enough energy to perform a Zone Shot, and aim at the right part of the court to inflict damage. Bosses also initiate hurdling challenges mid-match that reward precise use of your leaping Trick Shot. Adventure Mode mixes up your objectives from one stage to the next to ensure you're never simply going through the motions to progress. Mario Tennis Aces does what this series has done best, and improves what it's rarely gotten right prior. Aces is more difficult and devious than you might expect, especially in the latter half of Adventure Mode. Though not required, grinding through matches can improve your chances on the court. Win or lose, you earn experience points for every match played, allowing you to improve Mario's speed, power, and agility over time. But no matter how much XP you earn, the only way to make it to the end of Aces' campaign is to master its unique tennis mechanics. Those who persevere will find themselves better equipped and prepared to face anything the other modes have to offer than ever before. Outside of Adventure Mode, you'll find a rather plain assortment of activities: a bracket-based tournament mode, exhibition matches against the computer or another friend, online modes, and the ability to play doubles matches, which can turn into downright anarchy before you know it. Online matches will be the true test of Aces' depth, but pre-launch servers being what they are, we still need to spend time playing once the game releases to form a solid opinion of its netcode and the competitive scene. Perhaps the one major and surprising misstep is Swing Mode, where players can swing Joy-Cons like proper tennis rackets, similar to Wii Sports Tennis. At first it seems odd that this control scheme is isolated to a specific mode, but within a minute or two, it's obvious why: playing with Joy-Cons feels too imprecise, and even just executing a simple backhand was a twitchy comedy of errors. It's too bad that the motion controls seem to fall apart so easily, but considering that, it's probably best the option is siloed away. It's not like Aces needs a gimmick like motion controls to win you over, anyway. The Tetris Effect is in full swing here; days after the credits rolled, I still crave the satisfying thwack from a Power Shot, mentally replay matches and imagine how I might do things differently given a bit more focus and know-how. Mario Tennis Aces does what this series has done best, and improves what it's rarely gotten right prior. Fingers crossed that the online support stands up to the rest of the game after launch. View the full article
  7. With its rustic low-poly aesthetic, systemic world design, and partially hands-off approach to combat, Project Shore looks to be an interesting entry among indie turn-based strategy games. As a mercenary company commander, you are merely one party among a larger world in Project Shore. Reminiscent of the tactical RPG Battle Brothers, the fate of your mercenary brethren are in your hands, both in combat through smart orders and equipment and off the field through upgrades and picking your battles and navigating the domino effect of your choice of who to fight and how that influences the landscape. Combat is the core of Project Shore. With up to 18 warriors or more in your unit during a battle, it would be tedious to issue orders to each one as conflicts grow more complex. Instead Project Shore revolves around indirect command. Groups of warriors are divided into "union" to which you order to support, attack, move, hold position, and so on. On a more granular level, "preparation points" lets you fine-tune union behavior and prioritize certain actions, to unleash specific tactics. Project Shore is still early in development; you can find a alpha download on the game's IndieDB page and follow its progress through Twitter. View the full article
  8. With its warm, rustic setting, and an instantly endearing protagonist, the first Unravel had the outward appearance of a happily nostalgic adventure. That initial fuzzy feeling, however, gave way to a series of frustrating puzzles and a story that took some unexpectedly dark turns. In the game's final hours, the poor little hero Yarny was left all alone in a hostile world. What a relief it is to see him in a better place in Unravel Two, the sequel that's notably comforting thanks to the introduction of a second yarnling. Once they meet, Yarny and his new friend immediately hit it off and set out on a new adventure. Similar to the original game, Unravel Two has ethereal slice-of-life scenes that play out in the background of each stage. This time, the literal background story involves two youths making the drastic decision to run away from their hyper-religious families. Yarny and his new partner make their own journey through the small town they live in, inadvertently helping the kids along the way with each new platforming challenge they surmount. Despite trips to more urban settings, the design philosophy and earthy aesthetic that made the first game such a visual treat haven't been abandoned. Aside from some mild industrial chaos--traipsing around construction sites, messing with the ventilation systems in a factory, and the like--much of what you experience is delightfully serene. Once again, we witness the world from Yarny's tiny perspective. You run through misty city streets at night under haloed streetlights. You push toy trucks around backyards on sunny days before riding off into the blue yonder on the back of a swan. You jump across rooftops at midnight, a skeleton city of antennas and vents where only the pigeons are awake. One of the most beautiful areas of the game has Yarny making his way along a stream of rushing water in a creek, letting the tide build up the momentum you need to get a full head of speed up for a jump. There's still such a sense of awe to how tangible and real Yarny's world is, but it never feels like a place where Yarny is in peril. Though it takes place in more challenging environments, it's a world where what little danger there is feels magical, and Yarny has never been able to move through it in as invigorating a way as he can with a partner in Unravel Two. The swing mechanic--where Yarny can latch yarn onto a grapple point and either rappel up and down or swing to launch himself onto a higher point--has returned, but with a newfound kineticism. Many stages push you to swing across multiple wide chasms and tight gaps in quick succession, and soaring and flipping through these trials is always a thrill. There will come times when you have to stop and figure out a way past complicated obstacles, and this is where Unravel Two's co-op nature shines. Obviously, the ideal way to manage two characters is to have a friend sitting next to you on the couch, controlling Yarny's new ally while you plot solutions. But even a single player can make use of both characters, switching back and forth between the two onscreen with the push of a button. When playing solo, the character you leave behind will continue to hold onto whatever they were holding, meaning you can always place your partner wherever you need them. You can even carry your partner through danger by absorbing them into your own yarn body--mildly disturbing but helpful nonetheless. With its charming yarnlings and a newfound style of platforming, Unravel Two remains welcoming even at its most foreboding. With the two Yarnys tethered together, most puzzles are resolved by forming makeshift pulleys that allow you to create opportunities the environment wouldn't normally afford a single Yarny. Puzzles are typically open-ended and can be solved in a handful of ways. The only real barrier, besides pure logic, can be the game's control scheme. The same button used to jump is used to extend the tether between the two Yarnys, and it's fairly easy to accidentally send your partner plummeting to their doom. Unravel Two is undoubtedly a more welcoming and accessible game than its predecessor, but there are still demanding trials for those who want them, especially with around two dozen extra-challenging stages that are available. With its charming yarnlings and a newfound style of platforming, Unravel Two remains welcoming even at its most foreboding. Sure, a forest fire breaks out in one of the latter stages, but even then, the race to keep ahead of the blaze is fun and frantic instead of stressful. In almost every moment you're given ample time and space to breathe and take in the stunning photorealistic world from the viewpoint of the tiniest creatures. It's a game with boisterous birds, chases through meadows, and most importantly a cheerful partnership with a companion who's always got your back. With only six chapters that run roughly 30 minutes apiece, Unravel Two doesn't last long, but it's a game where the time you have is meaningful, memorable, and downright pleasant from beginning to end. View the full article
  9. Ok/Normal has the player taking a friendly journey with their cloud buddy, looking out for healthy meals, water to stay hydrated, and the medication they need to stay healthy. It's great to take such a journey with friends who are so concerned about your well-being! Except for, well, when things kind of start to go wrong and reality doesn't seem as sturdy as it once was. OK/Normal has you guiding your digital companion and their friend through a world shaped by early low-poly titles, using this PSX look to shift mood and perceptions of reality, evoking a sense of being in a dream whose tone continually shifts. It's a thoughtful journey that can seem almost primally uncomfortable in places, with the visual style evoking a kind of dread that seems to soak into the skin. Still, it's nothing a good meal can't fix, right? OK/Normal takes half an hour to an hour to complete, with lots of to pick up on for those who listen carefully, and even more to take in through 98Demake's excellent use of PlayStation-era visuals (which stick very close to the system's actual capabilities). Ok/Normal is available for $2.99 on Itch.io and Steam. For more information on the game and developer 98Demake, you can follow them on IndieDB, YouTube, and Twitter. View the full article
  10. An expanded version of a Ludum Dare 38 entry, Protolife takes the tower defense and gives it a more deliberate hands-on approach, as you construct towers one-block-at-a-time to withstand the incoming insectoid tide. Reminiscent of Infested Planet's hordes, Protolife threatens to overwhelm with massive flowing groups of alien bugs. To destroy and hold back the infestion, you must manage thinly-stretched resources and build walls and various types of towers and other defenses. But crucially, rather than playing towers directly, you control a builder bot that makes towers block-by-block, with different designs resulting in different kinds of towers and different functions. This more deliberate design means every choice counts since dissembling and repositioning your barriers and defenses takes precious times. It also means you have great flexibility in how your defenses are constructed, especially with how block structures can be connected and built to maximize space. Space management is even more crucial as you mine upgrade crystals and decide where to best utilize them. Protolife is available for $11.99 on Steam. View the full article
  11. It is my firm belief that there will be a dating simulation game for everything imaginable one day. Today, Otters have been added to that list with the creation of Otter Of My Life. Taking place in a high school setting, you'll be able to attend certain classes that suit your interests while forging friendships with lovable otters with intricate lives. You're late for school and you've got a big choice ahead. What program do you want to enter? In Hikori High School, you'll have the option of art, music, theatre, media, or dance. Try not to get overwhelmed and choose which interests you the most, at least for your first playthrough. More interestingly, there are five otter teens to meet, each with their own quirks, hobbies, and love interests. With 6 endings to discover based on the level of friendship with the otters, you'll have to go through more than once to get your fill and learn all about this charming cast of cute animals. You can check out Otter Of My Life on Itch.io here. You can also follow the developers on Twitter here! View the full article
  12. Kabounce will have you pinging all over a map of bumpers and flippers, bouncing off of every surface as fast as you can in order to shift the objects in the field to your color by smashing into them, and keeping your opponents from doing the same by smashing into them. Up to four players can locally hammer into one another, or eight players online, all joining in on some high speed rolling at once. You can whip around the field, guiding your ball as they build up speed and try to strike various targets all over the course. Hitting something changes it to your team's color, and this also works on something your opponent has already hit, so you'll want to get in the last blow on every one of the bumpers and other objects on the course. With some handy powers and other useful abilities, you can hopefully knock your opponents out of the way while you're at it, taking over these futuristic pinball tables by force. Not all ball will look the same, as you can unlock many, many customization options for your spherical character, giving them shades, floaties, and other silly decorations. You can then have these creations battle your friends and online foes, or tackle the game's time attack mode, working through complicated courses. Feel free to join friends on other platforms, too, as Kabounce offers cross-play between PS4 and PC. Kabounce is available for $14.99 on Steam and $19.99 on the PlayStation Store. For more information on the game and developer Stitch Heads Entertainment, you can head to the game's site or follow them on Discord, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. View the full article
  13. Calling all adventurers in seek of their next big challenge, Incredible Mandy wants you to brave its puzzle and boss gauntlets! With eight levels to prove both brain and brawn, players will be tested with all manner of challenges across varied, colorful worlds. After all, when it comes to saving someone, it's usually not easy, and Incredible Mandy is full of hurdles to overcome to save the one you care for. In this brightly-colored sci-fi world, you play a young man who wants to save his sister. The only problem? He must overcome some really bad dreams to do it, each with their own set of puzzles and foes. Luckily, the dream worlds have given him a fair fight and you'll be able to defend yourself with a bright sword of light. You're going to need it against some of the large bosses that appear at the end of each dream, too, facing all manner of monstrous plants, laser-shooting machines, and other irate wildlife. Can you best the 8 dreams and save your sister, or will you just be (oddly) daydreaming about your own clumsy demise? You can find Incredible Mandy on Itch.io here. You can also check out the developer's Discord server! View the full article
  14. Ever catch yourself humming along to the background music of your favorite game? One Hand Clapping would love to put your voice to use! Using your microphone and headphones, sing away to the world of One Hand Clapping and watch as it changes to reflect your song. One Hand Clapping is all about sound and how a simple hum could brighten up your day, having you sing along with characters in the game to overcome danger, make friends, or reshape the world around you. In the hostile city, you'll have to prove yourself with your melody by hitting cues and not getting too microphone shy. If you're not too inclined to sing your heart out, you're welcome to hum or whistle, too. Any little musical note will change the world around you for the better. If you want to enjoy a soft-hearted musical journey, or if you just want to relive your RockBand glory days, try One Hand Clapping. You can check out One Hand Clapping on Itch.io here! You can also follow future developments on Twitter and Facebook! View the full article
  15. Adrian takes players into the trenches of World War One, tasking them with delivering a message to Colonel Coreau after communication has been cut off due to German shelling. While doing so, players can talk to the soldiers who've been trapped in this cruel stalemate for years, learning about the experiences they've had as they sit in perpetual fear, anger, and sorrow. Adrian lets players deliver their message through the gloomy, foggy trenches, stopping to talk to the faceless soldiers about their experiences as they make their journey. In doing so, they can learn about their personalities and feelings surrounding their lives, getting to know the people who might never make it home as they wait, constantly on edge, for an enemy push into the tiny hole in the dirt that has been their home for years. Showcasing the people affected by the horrors of this particular war, Adrian looks to capture the humanity in war time, and the incredible mental cost paid by those who have to live in constant fear that their lives are about to end. Adrian is available for whatever you wish to pay on Itch.io. For more information on the game and developer barta, you can follow them on Itch.io. View the full article

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