Heads Run

A game by kass-stwa for PC and Mac, originally released in 2018.
Heads Run is a precision platformer starring an unusual protagonist who is essentially just a little green head that bops quickly along the ground. The game is a follow-up and a refinement of the developer’s previous release, Porter, which starred the same platforming hero. As before, the game is displayed in multi-shade “greenscale” with a grainy CRT-style filter and curved edges.


Where the original game offered 20 short levels, Heads Run offers 50. Every level is designed to allow completion in a matter of seconds, with some of the opening areas offering completion times below 20 seconds. Later levels get longer – and more challenging – requiring that players make efficient use of their full moveset just to survive, let alone make it through quickly.

Ersatz

A game by Paris Stalker for PC, originally released in 2017.
Ersatz is a rhythm-based action platformer featuring a monochromatic protagonist jumping, dashing, and slamming his way through hazy musically-supported environments. The representative music genres – including house, trance, synthwave, DnB, and techno – tend to be beat-heavy, giving the player some insight into world around him, as each level features a bpm measurement, and enemies and objects move, act, and change in accordance with these beat patterns – and build upon the music with sounds of their own – allowing the player to use the timing to dash between waves of projectiles or escape a platform before it suddenly becomes electrified.


The player has a small array of moves with which to tackle a number of challenging environments. First off, he can move to the left or right, and his movement speed is quite slow compared to other platforming heroes. He can also jump, and when pressing DOWN in midair, he can slam downward, allowing him to attack enemies from above, activate switches, and break destructible objects (although playing with a game pad means occasionally pressing DOWN by accident). He can slide under low-hanging obstacles, and he can dash while ducking, standing, or jumping.

Shin Megami Tensei: Synchronicity Prologue

A game by Ladybug for PC, originally released in 2017.
Shin Megami Tensei: Synchronicity Prologue (a.k.a. 真・女神転生 SYNCHRONICITY PROLOGUE) is a teaser and prologue to Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux, which was released for a limited time alongside that game’s Japanese release date. The narrative of Strange Journey Redux centers around a mysterious portal that has opened at the South Pole and a team of investigators who is sent to examine it, only to be pulled into a demon-filled alternate dimension.


Synchronicity Prologue begins with a faux computer desktop and news browser interface, showing several new articles, including a new posting regarding a computer programmer named Mr. Jones who has fallen into a coma, and an article about a black hole forming at the South Pole. Without warning, an email appears, addressing the user as Human, and there is a computer program attached. Disregarding safe internet practices and running the program (there is no other option) causes additional windows to appear showing a map of Antarctica with the South Pole highlighted, along with text about transferring consciousness.

Super Skelemania

A game by Benal for PC, originally released in 2017.
Super Skelemania is a follow-up to the developer’s previous skeleton-themed metroidvania Skelemania. Once again, you take on the role of a skeleton man who finds himself exploring a subterranean world and acquiring powerups that enhance his movement abilities, allowing him to reach new areas. The narrative of the previous game has been excised completely in favor of a largely wordless adventure on a mysterious planet with no further context as to the skeleton man’s motivations or how he came to be on the planet. Even without these trappings, however, Super Skelemania offers a more tightly-designed experience, with improved controls, more detailed environments, and a map system that aids in exploration.


At the start of the game, the skeleton man has a 1.5x nonvariable jump and a somewhat slow movement speed. In addition, he can whip his skull to the left, right, or upward Castlevania-style by extending his spinal cord, allowing him to bash enemies. This is a departure from the previous game where the player had no offensive abilities whatsoever; even so, bashed enemies aren’t killed, but simply fall unconscious. Some of the previous game’s enemies make a return, but they are more vividly designed with the new game’s expanded color palette, as opposed to the single-color enemies and environments from before.

Tower 57

A game by Pixwerk for PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, Xbox One, and Amiga, originally released in 2017.
Tower 57 takes place in a “dieselpunk” world where people live in tightly-packed urban environments with huge towers jutting up through crowded smoky streets and colorfully-lit establishments offering gambling, drinking, or just a bit of rest. You take on the role of a team of agents hired to investigate a series of tumultuous events within Tower 57 that threaten to disrupt the entire city. You are told that a man called The Supervisor is behind this, so you must sneak into the tower and take him out to put a stop to a potential uprising… but of course, things are not as simple as they first appear.


At the start of the game, you select a team of three characters from a roster of six. Among these are a Tommy gun-wielding mobster, a scientist with an electric rifle, a police officer, a crazy-looking fellow dressed only in his underwear, an flamethrower-packing Abraham Lincoln lookalike, and a spy. The character select screen shows each of the characters and a video of their special attacks, along with a visual representation their weapons and special items, but with no description or details on how they operate. Players may go it alone or team up with a pal for online or offline 2P co-op, with the second player taking the role of the other three characters.

Project Mercury

A game by Raxasoft Games for PC, originally released in 2017.
Most neo-retro games adhere to the 8- or 16-bit era of console gaming, while only a few seek to approximate the DOS era of PC gaming and its limited CGA and EGA graphics, with standout examples including VVVVVV, You Have to Win the Game, and MURI. Project Mercury falls into this category with its 256x224 resolution, 5-channel chiptune soundtrack, miniscule color palette, and 4-color sprites.


The game begins by explaining that an elite commando unit was sent to investigate strange creatures known as Mercury, but contact with the team has been lost. You take on the role of a laser-wielding warrior on a mission to discover what happened to the team and to put an end to the threat of Mercury. You must dash through eight enemy-filled areas, speed across the landscape on a hoverbike, climb skyscrapers, descend into a Mercury-infested cave, and face off against nine boss creatures, picking up weapons from your fallen companions along the way.

99Vidas

A game by QUByte Interactive for PC, Mac, Linux, Switch, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, and Vita, originally released in 2017.
99Vidas is a beat ‘em up that centers around an ancient artifact that grants 99 lives to the person who holds it. Of course, the power of the 99Vidas is incredibly dangerous in the wrong hands, so a group of fighters have established themselves as its guardians. These guardians were given elemental powers to defend it from evil, but a crime lord manages to take it and use it for his own terrible purposes. You must stop his evil army and take the fight to his doorstep.


You take on the role of one of four warriors: King, with the power of water and ice; Izzy, with the power of electricity; Fries, with the power of earth; and Oak, with the power of fire. Players can go it alone or team up for 4P online or offline co-op, and there are several other characters that remain locked at the outset, eventually allowing for an 11-person roster. Characters are based on a Brazil-based video game podcast entitled 99Vidas; thus the title screen which displays 99Vidas: The Game. The game also features numerous 80’s and 90’s pop culture references and nods to video games of that era.

The Mummy Demastered

A game by WayForward for PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Switch, originally released in 2017.
The Mummy Demastered is a licensed tie-in to a film reboot of Universal’s The Mummy, featuring Tom Cruise in the lead role, Russell Crowe as Dr. Jekyll, and Sofia Boutella as Ahmanet (the mummy). This is Universal’s second run at the franchise following the successful Brendan Fraser-led series that began in 1999 and spawned a pair of sequels, a Universal Studios theme park attraction, the Scorpion King spinoff franchise, and several video games and other tie-ins. The new Mummy film was intended to kick off the Dark Universe franchise, tying together a number of classic Universal Monsters with crossover opportunities in future films.


As part of this new franchise launch, Universal Brand Development worked with WayForward to create a 2D metroidvania “demake” set in the world of The Mummy, rather than a more costly 3D title. As in the film, Princess Ahmanet has risen, and it is up to Prodigium – an agency that specializes in monster hunting – to put a stop to her evil deeds and keep mankind safe from her rampaging supernatural beasts.


Rather than taking on the role of Tom Cruise’s character and replaying the events of the film, you play the part of an unnamed Prodigium operative in full body armor. You explore several themed locales to discover what happened to original Prodigium team that was sent in to investigate, using your arsenal to blast away rats, insects, strange creatures from beyond, and the occasional shrubbery.

Pix the Cat

A game by Pasta Games for PC, Mac, Linux, Xbox One, PS4, and Vita, originally released in 2015.
Pix the Cat is an arcade-style action game starring Pix, the big-headed blue cat who got his start in Arkedo Series 03 - Pixel! on Xbox Live Indie Games. Since then, the pixelated puss has visited other platforms via a port of his original game and the release of Pix’n Love Rush on mobile devices. In his first outing, Pix explored a traditional blocky platforming environment designed to mimic LCD-based titles, only with considerably more vibrant visuals. In addition to hopping and bopping on enemies’ heads and unleashing “meow.wav” projectiles, Pix could also enter individual blocks and move around in a zoomed-in world… and this concept carries over into his latest adventure.


Pix the Cat begins with only an Arcade Mode available, although there are three other modes that become available as the player reaches certain thresholds in the arcade mode: Laboratory, Nostalgia, and Arena.



Arcade Mode
There is only one level available at the start of the game, in the form of the Starter Grid, which explains the basic rules and then drops the player into the action to figure things out. Eventually, the player opens up the Main Grid (which is key to opening the other modes), and skilled players will eventually unlock the Dessert Grid, which drastically increases the challenge with more complex layouts and loads of enemies. Per arcade conventions, the rules are simple to understand and difficult to master, and the challenge increases with every bit of progress the player makes.

Spud's Quest

A game by Mouldy Toof Studios for PC, originally released in 2013.
At the start of Spud’s Quest, Spud lies sleeping in his bed when a talking frog bursts in through the ceiling and asks for his help. Apparently the frog is actually Prince Charming, and he has been changed into the hopping green creature by an evil wizard… a wizard that he accidentally freed when opening a mysterious chest in the mines under the town. Spud tells the frog that he had a dream where a voice called to him, telling him about an ancient evil that has awakened and taken someone prisoner.


The frog prince asks Spud to help him get into Redwood Castle to speak to his father, the king, but he can’t gain access to the castle because of his condition. When Spud asks why the frog can’t simply explain who he is – given that he can talk – he says that he doesn’t want anyone to know what has happened to him. And so, Spud agrees to help and sets off on a journey to help his friend, and ultimately to save the world.

Outland

A game by Housemarque for PC, Mac, Linux, PS3, and Xbox 360, originally released in 2011.
Outland tells the tale of an unnamed hero who is plagued with visions of the past. He seeks out a shaman who explains the origin of the world, which was created by two sisters, one of light and one of darkness. Eventually the sisters decide to destroy their creation, but they are stopped by a lone hero and sealed away for ages. As the sisters begin to rise again, so too is the soul of the hero reborn, and he must build his strength in order to face the sisters once more.


When the player leaves the shaman’s tent, he has only a very basic set of movement abilities, allowing him to perform a variable 2x jump, as well as walk, run, ledge grab, and wall jump. Wall jumps are executed in a slightly different way than in other platformers, as the character sticks to the wall for several seconds, giving the player a great deal of time to execute a second jump, which is often required in order to dodge sprays of projectiles.

Nuclear Throne

A game by Vlambeer for PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, and Vita, originally released in 2015.
Nuclear Throne, known during some of its development as Wasteland Kings, is a post-apocalyptic roguelike shooter featuring a colorful cast of characters blasting their way through hordes of enemies across the Wasteland to eventually reach the titular Nuclear Throne. There are no humans, nor any indication of what has happened to them; instead, the world’s remaining life forms are mutants, and survival means exposing themselves to more radiation in order to gain advantageous mutations to aid them in combat.


The Wasteland has randomly generated layouts, spawn points, and weapon/item drops spread across seven themed areas. There are 15 levels along the main route, but there are also numerous hidden levels – with unique themes – and these levels are often discovered by accident, as unlocking them often requires a very specific set of criteria.