Humble Bundle has ballooned from a small company offering "pay what you want," charity-focused video game sales to a major player in digital distribution. Humble is taking on Steam's marketplace with the Humble Store, and it's attracting subscriptions with Humble Monthly, a program that delivers a curated selection of games to your digital doorstep 12 times a year.
This month, Humble announced it would start funding and publishing games, starting with seven titles across a range of genres. At GDC 2017, we got our hands on four of them: Staxel, HackyZack, Ikenfell and Keyboard Sports.
Though each game is vastly different and built for disparate audiences, they're all refreshingly creative in their own way.
Combine Minecraft with Harvest Moon and add a dash of Animal Crossing, and that's Staxel. Well, that's a very simplified version of Staxel, the online farming simulator that takes place in a bright voxel-based world. Staxel comes from the studio Plukit and it's a kid-friendly game that offers plenty of depth for adults to enjoy as well.
It's a sandbox game with few limitations; the developers at Plukit have made it as easy as possible to mod the game and share their new worlds with other players. Customize your character with cat hats and wild hairstyles, play a game of broom hockey in the village square and fix up your house on the farm.
"Our game is really friendly," director Bart van der Werf told Engadget. "There's no enemies or anything like that. I think Humble really fits that brand." Staxel is due out via Steam and the Humble Store later this year.
This is a new kind of platformer. HackyZack starts out simply enough: Kick the ball into a strip of gold light without sending it sailing off the edge of the platform (or falling into the abyss yourself). Most platformers ask players to run, jump and duck around obstacles themselves, but the ball in HackyZack adds a new layer to the genre. It challenges players to not only stay alive on a floating walkway, but to keep the ball in play as well.
As HackyZack progresses, the levels get more complex, with spike traps, super-bouncy balls, voodoo balls that control the main ball, and all manner of complicated platform designs. This is a speedrunner's dream, built to showcase split-second reflexes and fancy footwork.
HackyZack comes from Spaceboy and Zack Bell, the creator of the 2015 platformer Ink. It's heading to PC, Mac and Linux in late March.
Imagine you're the sister of the world's most famous magician, but you can't perform magic yourself. Your sister is a young woman who attends the Ikenfell school of magic and she's saved the world countless times over -- but suddenly, she disappears. As her (magic-less) sister, you travel to Ikenfell intent on finding her, only to discover the magic within yourself.
Yes, that's incredibly cheesy. But it's also completely accurate.
Maritte, the main character in Ikenfell, discovers she actually does possess magic, though it showed up at a much later age than usual: 16. Regardless, Maritte uses her newfound powers to explore the school and defeat the beasts inside, all while frantically searching for her sister.
Ikenfell is a turn-based RPG from Chevy Ray Johnston, and it's filled with dialogue, battles, personality and charm (no pun intended). With the help of some friends, Maritte takes on the evil forces around Ikenfell and learns to control the magic inside of her. It's not the Harry Potter or Carry On RPG that fans have been waiting for, but it's damn close. And it's gorgeous, to boot, if you're a fan of pixel art.
Ikenfell is due to land on PC and Mac in summer 2018.
"In a time where new gadgets are invented every day, this is our final tribute to the keyboard before it goes extinct."
That's how the developers at Triband introduce Keyboard Sports, a wildly inventive game that uses the entire QWERTY keyboard as a controller. Press the caps-lock button and the protagonist -- an adorable orange blob of a creature -- runs to that key. Press the delete key and he shoots to the other side of the screen. It sounds simple enough, but for anyone who uses a keyboard as a writing tool every day, it's a real trip to simply pound away at the keys without regard for the functions they usually serve. It's thrilling in a low-stakes, rule-breaking kind of way.
Keyboard Sports developer Tim Garbos says it's a backward kind of experience: The more that someone knows about the keyboard, the more challenging the game actually is. So, forget everything you know about the keyboard by fall 2017, when Keyboard Sports is set to hit PC, Mac and Linux.
Shockingly, there are no plans to bring this one to consoles.
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