It’s time for another Mortal Kombat game, and you know what that means: another violent, blood-spewing versus fighter with a roster full of grim-faced warriors who have names ending in A or O, sporting a bizarre Conan the Barbarian-esque setting infused with high technology. It’s like Masters of the Universe as directed by Quentin Tarantino and Eli Roth.
French indie company SolarFall Games is a minute development team working on something that is anything but minute. Umbra is a top-down , action RPG of the hack-n-slash variety. It’s also open-world. It also has free-form character development. It has crafting. It has home building. It has companions. It’s nothing short of gorgeous to look at.
It also has, like, three guys working on it full time, with a further five who work part-time.
Alarm bells? Possibly. The Kickstarter description for the game is ambitious. It’s super ambitious. It’s Diablo III meets Skyrim (The Witcher 3 now?) kind of ambitious. They also only want $225, 000.00 to make the game. Granted, the game’s lead designer has been working on Umbra in some form for the last few years, but the core team of three have only quit day jobs and devoted their full time for about a year now. Still, Umbra is worth checking out and, if it doesn’t go the way of numerous other overly-ambitious Kickstarter projects, could be something truly special. Plus the team is adamant that their $225, 000 goal is all they need to get the job done. Hey, they’d know better than us, that’s for sure.
Right off the bat, the most impressive thing about this game is that it was developed by one guy, who did all of the coding, art, sound and music for the game. One guy! I’ve never heard of Tom Happ before, but he did a great job here. Once you’ve played it for a while and realise how complex the game is, the feat becomes even more impressive.
Super Mario Bros. clones are as prolific as ants in a sugar bowl. Nintendo has never officially released the iconic plumber’s games on the PC (save for third-party edutainment titles such as Mario Is Missing and Mario Teaches Typing) and as such, PC gamers have had to find more esoteric ways of getting their quintessential run-n-jump platforming fix. There is a plethora of cheap knock-offs, which are usually a developer’s first foray into game-making. These tend to be unsurprisingly abysmal, but occasionally we’ll stumble onto a title that gets the formula right: enter 8BitBoy.
The story is certainly something that resonates with many of us: you play the part of an unemployed gamer in his early 30’s, trying to adjust to the harsh realities of adult life. Whilst reminiscing about his childhood and the carefree days in which he’d spend hours just playing video games, nostalgia overwhelms him and he digs out the old game system that has since languished in obscurity. He discovers an odd-looking cartridge and, against his better judgement, boots it up. What happens next will astonish you…