In just a few days, it will be April 1st, which as we all know is International Solemnity Day, so why not loosen it up with a few lighthearted gaming projects from the Geek Haven, a.k.a. Kickstarter’s gaming section? These crowdfunded knee-slappers include first-person bear simulators, your essential introduction to Fractions 2 (which are like fractions but deadlier and more fractionated), a blind take on the classic “game of visual perception,” crowdsourced platformers, and a nostalgically morbid tribute to The Oregon Trail, as well as a few projects of a more serious persuasion. Not too serious, though–these are games, after all.
Bear Simulator: Farjay Studios, the creative team behind Bear Simulator, ask: What is it with game developers these days? Remember the good old days, when games were about anatomically questionable hedgehogs in sneakers, jetpack-wearing opossums in plate armor, or back-flipping dolphins wearing absolutely nothing? These days, it’s human, human, bald frowny guy assuming the “chin down, eyes up” position. Bear Simulator does exactly what it says on the tin: “It’s like a mini Skyrim but you’re a bear,” the Kickstarter page succinctly describes. Be sure to watch the alpha trailer for zombie bear antics. The game will also feature LOST references, animal slaves and a special “Kickstarter Island” to hold all of the stupid backer-requested crap.
The Ancient World: As much as Bear Simulator is Skyrim with bears, The Ancient World by Ryan Laukat (designer of City of Iron and Empires of the Void) is Shadow of the Colossus with cards. What makes Laukat special is that he designs, illustrates and publishes his board games himself, and these illustrations are…I mean, wow. The Ancient World‘s box art instantly evokes its setting, a mythological landscape terrorized by humongous titans. As the leaders of empires who have pledged to liberate the ancient tribes, the players compete to grow and expand their civilization, develop new technologies, and make pacts with the local tribes so that they can wield their strength against marauding titans.
Frog Fractions 2: If you pledge for Frog Fractions 2 by Twinbeard, you will gain download access to a game that “will not be named “Frog Fractions 2.” It’s part crowdfunding project, part touring art exhibit* and part massively multiplayer Easter egg hunt. That’s because if you’ve played the original viral hit Frog Fractions, which is totally just a piece of educational software about learning fractions, then you’ll know that the only thing you can expect out of the sequel is that it won’t be a sequel to Frog Fractions. If you haven’t played the original…what the heck is wrong with you? Do you even fractions??
Pay Dirt: In the runnings for the most unexpectedly ironic Kickstarter project title, Pay Dirt is barely limping its way toward funded status. This is a real shame, because the strategic board game about Alaskan gold mining from the mind of Tory Niemann, designer of Alien Frontiers, looks like as much fun as you could expect from a game that simulates the bitter disappointments of mineral mining in a harsh, unpredictable climate. Centered around its auction mechanics, where players can bid on new equipment and specialists, Pay Dirt also features a cool production-line mechanic for processing your claims and punishing hardships that can disrupt your best-laid plans. I don’t doubt the project will reach its funding goal, but I’d love to see it get overfunded…stretch goals like a “Poltergeist Expansion,” “Steampunk Expansion” and “Alien Frontiers-inspired Expansion” are too tempting to pass up.
Kodama: Channeling the spirits of Okami and LIMBO, Kodama is a hand-drawn puzzle platforming game set in Japan’s Genroku period. Basically, this means a lot of very pretty brushstrokes and some very interesting stretch goals: players can get their likeness depicted on a Jizo statue or one of the fruits of the Jinmenju (lit. “human face tree”), a mythological creature that will feature in one of the game’s boss battles. The gameplay is also intriguing: in Kodama, players control a plant spirit whose size and abilities change depending on his exposure to sunlight and water, both of which need to be taken in moderation.
Board Games: Now Blind Accessible: If you’re reading this, you’re probably not blind. Maybe you know somebody who is; maybe you don’t. In any case, you should pledge your money to 64 Oz. Games’ project to make board games beyond Monopoly more accessible to the sight-impaired. It’s just a good cause and an idea that was too long coming (a combination of braille-printed card sleeves and custom QR codes for cards with longer text), and the list of supported games, which includes Love Letter, Dominion, The Resistance and Eminent Domain, has something to please everybody. If you couldn’t get any personal use out of these sleeves, 64 Oz. Games is also offering their own tactile microgame, Yoink!, which is a variation on SET using special textured cards that is played, get this, blind. With your eyes closed, be the first to assemble a set by feeling out the cards in front of you, or don’t be the last to grab (no peeking!) a marker from the middle of the table after somebody else forms a set.
Choice Chamber: Not content to simply be crowdfunded, Michael Molinari’s Choice Chamber is a crowdsourced, massively multiplayer, audience-centric platforming game designed to be played live over Twitch.tv. While one person plays the game, any number of others can watch and chat in real time, but there’s more to it: they’ll also vote on the contents of treasure chests and the types of magic available to the player, power-type comments to summon game-changing special moves, reveal the coordinates of invisible enemies, and more. Takes “Let’s Play” to a whole ‘nother level.
Westerly: You got Oregon Trail in my cooperative board game…again! This is the second reboot (or the “threeboot”) for Analog Evolution Games’ hi-larious game of westward expansion, but don’t let the numbers scare you off…AE Games has been workin’ their fool heads off reducing the sticker price of the game, upgrading the art and, of course, adding a three-legged pioneer to the wagon train, alongside now-classic (if you backed the first two campaigns) characters like Old Squirrely Bill Dawson. Ford rivers, buy oxen, develop unfortunate diseases and get your legs ripped off by grizzlies with a taste for man flesh. If you get the Kickstarter-exclusive mini-expansions, you can do all this while battling Cthulhu and zombies in your steam-powered hoverwagon.
As always, this is but a small, curated sampling of what Kickstarter has to offer this month. To voice your opinion on the selection and give a shout out to projects left behind, we welcome your comment below.