rAge 2017: home_coded hands-on

Ever since attending my first expo in 2012, I’ve always seen indie and local videogames receive a good level of interest and support at rAge. This year was no different, and the home_coded stand was constantly visited by expo-goers who wanted to get their mitts on some South African titles. I was one of those, and I spent some time exploring a slice of the indie scene.

First off, I’ve got to apologise to Mattador Starfish and WestudioGames for not visiting their booths and checking out Codex Knights and Last Primal respectively. I suffer adult ADHD, and rAge 2017 had a lot of things distracting me. Regardless, you should definitely not follow my example this time by checking both of them out.

Givit Game Studios – The Adventures of Sam Carlisle: The Hunt for the Lost Treasure

While the title is a mouthful, The Adventures of Sam Carlisle is a minimalist 2D puzzle game. The first commercial release by Givit Game Studios, the game tasks you with collecting treasure and avoiding dangers from a top-down perspective. The controls took some getting used to, and at first they seemed sluggish. But as the levels progressed, Sam’s weighty feel began to feel more natural and gave the game a more sedate feel than other 2D indies.

I had some issues with Sam’s hitbox, and against the black backdrop of some levels it felt like I was taking some unfair hits. However, the frustration faded away because the game has a whole lot of heart. The storyline deals with Sam’s Alzheimer’s disease, which affects gameplay and level design as you progress. The game is available on itch.io and will be launching on Steam soon.

Organosphere – Organosphere

It’s a good thing we format the titles of videogames in italics, otherwise talking about Organosphere the game by Organosphere the developer would be mighty confusing. Organosphere is an open-world survival and action game set in Johazardousburg (I see what you did there) during the apocalypse. The player controls a scientist who awakens to a world that nature has reclaimed. Massive roots and branches choke the familiar cityscape, and giant insects roam the streets.

The rAge demo was intended to let players roam around and experience the gameplay, without missions or storyline. The controls were instantly familiar, and the game played intuitively in first or third person. Furthermore, the utter desolation and silence of the demo was highly atmospheric. I spent most of it figuring out how to navigate the city, exploring rooms, and scampering over trees. I was so engrossed that when a giant rhinoceros beetle came bearing down on me, I nearly jumped out of my skin. Organosphere has been in development for five years, and is aiming for a release late this year.

Celestial Games – Moocho Libre

I’ve seen Celestial Games at previous rAge Expos, either exhibiting Toxic Bunny HD, or Battle Arena Drones. This year they had something different, a live game jam where they worked on a 3D fighting game called Moocho Libre. The jam was intended to give expo-goers a look at game development in action, and it produced a neat concept for a fighter.

Moocha Libre pits barnyard animals against each other in bouts of fisticuffs. The 3D fighting was similar to the older Tekken games, and a simple control scheme allowed for combos, juggles, and some cool moves. Because development of the game had literally started a few days before I played it, the game was naturally in an early state. However, it was expressive, fun, and could certainly become a unique brawler given time.

RogueCode – Vicious Attack Llama Apocalypse

Or VALA for short. It’s a twin-stick top-down shooter, where you pilot a quadrupedal mech to battle waves of attacking llamas with couch co-op for up to four players. That was probably the greatest sentence I’ve ever written in my life. The game itself was fast paced, gorgeous to look at, incredibly satisfying, and funny as hell.

The gameplay was challenging but intuitive. The hordes of beasts could quickly became overwhelming, but the zany gameplay and co-op meant that you had a constant smile on your face. New weapon pickups could change your loadout, and the right choice of guns and powerups gave the game some strategic depth. It felt like one of the most complete games at the home_coded stand, and it was just stupid amounts of fun. VALA launches this year on Steam and XBO.

Robot Wizard – Jengo

Undoubtedly, the star of the home_coded show this year was Jengo. It’s a modern point-and-click adventure in the style of the classic LucasArts games of the nineties, and there’s been plenty written about it here on NAG. Jengo sees Jeff, a nostalgic gamer jaded by the modern industry, pulled into the videogame cartridge of the titular Jengo. Inside the game is an entire world, populated by gaming and pop-culture references, that is on the verge of annihilation.

Naturally, this leads to a lot of clicking on things and some puzzle solving. Like the games it is referencing, puzzles are solved by gathering items, combining them in your inventory, and trying to use those items on the environment. There’s also a lot of dialogue that fleshes out the world and characters, and it’s fun to try and spot the references to classic games. It also helps that the writing is witty and humorous, making it a treat to learn more about the crazy world.

The demo didn’t feature voice-acting, and that’s because developer Robot Wizard is still casting voice talents for the final game. Throughout rAge 2017, they ran a #FindingJeff campaign, allowing expo-goers to audition for the lead role, or for another character. Jengo is aiming for a 2018 release, and will be published by Playdius. You can add it to your Steam wishlist so long.

Wrapping this all up, exploring the home_coded stand during rAge 2017 was one of my highlights. There’s few things more exciting and invigorating than seeing exactly how fiercely talented and hard working the developers of South Africa are, and I can’t wait to see what rAge 2018 will have in store.

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