Impressions of Dynamic Pixels and tinyBuild’s Hello, Neighbor from PAX West 2017

While I was in Seattle in September, I had the pleasure of sitting down with tinyBuild producer Karrie Shirou and play a few games. These games each deserve their own articles, so look forward to my take on the recently announced horror title Pathogen 2, and the insanely fun Graveyard Keeper, both of which will be published soon. For now, I want to focus on a game many people have been playing since the early alpha and following on Twitch for months- the edge of your seat thriller game Hello, Neighbor.

 

Let’s be honest, we have all had a shady neighbor at some point. Maybe they sit on their porch and watch you too keenly while you get the newspaper in your robe. Or have 30 cats and smell funny. Perhaps they hand out floss on Halloween. But have you had the misfortune of a neighbor’s house you can hear screams from? See him locking suspicious doors and having an unusual amount of furniture stacked in odd places? Well, in Hello, Neighbor that is exactly who you live next door to.

Developed by Russian based independent company Dynamic Pixels, and published by tinyBuild, Hello, Neighbor is a scary good time. Welcome to the neighborhood.

I had been following the videos and gameplay for a long time before I sat down at tinyBuild’s booth at PAX West, so I knew what to expect as far as gameplay and the basic goal that I was supposed to try to reach. What I did NOT expect however is just how unnervingly scary Hello, Neighbor is! Generally, horror and thriller titles rely on atmosphere to get under your skin and give you an impending sense of doom. This takes that idea and chucks it out of the window, leaving you with a world that is playfully fun in appearance, and characters that are cartoony rather than dark and menacing. Perhaps the environment and art design is what makes it scary after all, because once you begin playing and realize how difficult it is to sneak around a house with no set layout and a devilishly cunning enemy to avoid, you are immediately on edge.

The concept of the game is that your new neighbor is harboring some dark secret, and for some reason a la horror movie trope, your character is dead set on sneaking in and finding out what it is. The catch is that you neighbor’s home is far from ordinary. This guy must have hired an independent contractor and said, “you know what? I never want anyone to be able to find the guest bathroom, ever,” and the contractor just shrugged and said okay. I commented to Karrie that it was like the famous Winchester Mansion, with doors leading nowhere, oddly shaped rooms, and the way that the house is never the same when you restart the game. (I was shocked to learn I was the only one to make the connection!) As you sneak your way around this weirdo’s house, you have to be careful because he is incredibly aware of where everything in his home is. You move a flashlight? He will notice and begin looking for you. Leave a window open? Better hide. What really makes it scary is there is no set pattern for the neighbor, and he will go wherever he pleases and anywhere he sees or hears something off. I myself had a few instances in which I thought I was far away from him, making as little noise as possible, only to turn around and be face to face with him, Slender style.

You can run, you can hide, but this guy is shockingly smart. He will board up doors and move furniture to block you once he realizes there is an intruder, and if he sees you he will chase you down without hesitation. Busting through doors, windows, and anything else in his way. Just what is this man so desperate to hide? The game is unnerving enough, I may never find out but we will see because I am eager to review it upon its release. Hello, Neighbor is definitely one to look forward to if you are looking for something to keep you on the edge of your seat, and a game that changes every time you start over so that it has a ton of replay value.

Hello, Neighbor will be available on Steam and the Xbox One Marketplace on December 8, 2017 for $29.99 USD, and immediate beta access is available for pre-purchase customers.

Will you be playing Hello, Neighbor, or have you been in the alpha/beta? Let us know on Twitter and Facebook, and don’t forget to follow us for more news!

 

Time to Bust Out Your Switch and Head Back to the Farm- Stardew Valley is Coming to Nintendo Switch on October 5th!

The Nintendo Switch is quickly becoming the go to for indie titles, and one of the best is coming this Thursday- ConcernedApe’s Stardew Valley.

If you are unfamiliar with this 16-bit masterpiece, it was developed by ConcernedApe, which is headed buy the one-man-show Eric Barone. That is right, Stardew Valley was fully created, written, and developed by one individual, and he made a better game than some developed by entire teams. Stardew Valley was originally published by Chucklefish for Steam and released on February 26, 2016. It was the ported to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One by Sickhead Games in December of the same year, following the game’s success on PC.

Those of us who are familiar with the Japanese Harvest Moon and Story of Seasons titles were drawn to Stardew Valley, and pleased to find out that it has the same charm as the classic Harvest Moon games but the gameplay, story, and characters are much more welcoming and captivating than the most recent Harvest Moon titles from publisher and developer Natsume. I myself picked it up for PlayStation 4 while I was down after my car accident, and put over 130 hours in the game in mere weeks. I recall one of the first things I said was, “Man, this would be fantastic on the Switch because I travel a lot.” Well, thanks once again to Sickhead, my dream is becoming a reality in only a few days!

The announcement was made this morning on StardewValley.net by Mr. Barone himself, after Chucklefish CEO Finn Brice teased the news on Twitter earlier this morning. The game will be released on the eShop on Thursday, October 5th for $14.99 USD.

Will you be picking up this gem on the Nintendo Switch? And is it your first time buying it, or are you already a fan? Let us know on our Twitter or Facebook page and make sure you follow us on both because we will be reviewing Stardew Valley on the Switch in the coming weeks!

Impressions of my Sitdown with Route 59’s Necrobarista at PAX West 2017

Last month at Pax West in Seattle I had the pleasure of sitting down with Route 59’s Justin Kuiper, writer behind their upcoming PC and Switch title Necrobarista. The game is a visual novel set in a “supernatural café where the living come to mingle with the dead.” The team is set in Melbourne, Australia, and they are taking their visual novel to a level that most developers do not by making it a 3D world with optional point and click exploration, which you can use to gain more insight on the characters and world.

According to Justin, the concept and gameplay came before the storyline did. They wanted to make an immersive three dimensional visual novel like gamers have not seen before. The drive behind the story was simply that they wanted to tell the stories that could come out of a café in which the dead are given the chance to live for awhile longer. The overall idea is interesting, and once you actually get in the game you are captivated almost instantly by the mysterious barista Maddy and the shady characters around her. I was left wanting to know more about her and why she is making deals with the dead in the basement of a café, and I still think about where the story will go often. Needless to say, Necrobarista is a title that I am very eager to play when it releases.

While I spoke with Justin, he placed a lot of emphasis on how “games are good at providing atmosphere,” and that Route 59 is very specific about the setting of Necrobarista. I had to agree with him because it is difficult to become deeply involved in a game with shallow settings and poor atmosphere. Look at titles like Silent Hill, Dead Space, or Fallout. The atmosphere sets the story, and gets the player captivated in integrated into that game’s world. There is no mystery in a world that cannot provide a lingering sense of the unknown. Though Necrobarista is not a “horror” title, even after being told by Justin that is not a scary game I could not help but feel on edge but I did not know what this world was all about, or why the café had such an eerie and important feel to it. And this most certainly was not a bad thing because it meant that the developers are doing exactly what they are promising- providing atmosphere.

I played Necrobarista on a laptop while at Route 59’s booth, but I am eager for the Nintendo Switch release because I truly enjoy titles that allow me to just lie back and push a couple of buttons while a story plays out before me. It is like watching a film or reading a book, but visual novels allow for a unique sense of involvement. We see a lot of visual novel style games in Japan, so it is always exciting to see a western developer dive into the genre. Necrobarista has four core team members working on its production, and their passion and devotion shows in the game, even while just playing a demo.

Will you be playing Necrobarista, and will it be your first time trying the visual novel genre? Let us know on Twitter or Facebook, and don’t forget to follow us on both for more news regarding this title, and be on the lookout for our review next year!

Necrobarista hits PC and the Nintendo Switch early 2018.

Capital One and Sony Have Teamed Up to Bring Gamers a PlayStation Visa Card

The blog on Playstation’s website announced a partnership with Capital One that turned into a PlayStation rewards Visa credit card, and it has really great benefits. With no annual fee and 0% intro APR on purchases until March 2018, cardholders can earn 5x points for purchases made in the PlayStation store or on PlayStation and Sony products, 3x points on mobile phone bills, and 1x points on all other purchases, you can really get more bang for your buck on the things that you already buy.

Big spenders can earn even more benefits, as Capital One is offering a 50% statement credit on 12-month PlayStation Network subscriptions when you spend $3,000 within a year, and 10% statement credit for subscriptions to PlayStation Music, PlayStation Now, and PlayStation Vue. After being approved for the card, you will receive a code for $50.00 to the PlayStation Store once you make your first purchase. 

The PlayStation Rewards Visa from Capital One is a great idea for those who tend to stick with Sony branded electronics, or are big PlayStation fans. If you purchase a lot of games, especially digital, you can earn a lot of reward points for doing what you already love. You can apply for one here, and begin building up your points immediately once you receive the card. Oh, and once you are approved and set up your account with Capital One you are able to choose from different game designs for your card! Who wouldn’t want to pay bills with Sackboy grinning at them?