Monday, June 15, 2015

Game Review: The Next Penelope

The Next Penelope: Race to Odysseus is the classic tale of Homer's Odyssey... set in a cyberpunk world with futuristic racing.

It's been ten years since Odysseus departed from the kingdom of Ithaca, leaving his reign to the anarchy of an absent leader. Desperate to save the land she loves, and sick of her suitors' unwavering advances in the absence of her husband, Queen Penelope sets out on a journey to find Odysseus—by exploring planets, racing her suitors, and fighting epic bosses.

The Next Penelope is a top-down racing game that appears to have been heavily influenced by F-Zero. It reminds me a little of Super Laser Racer, another such game that was focused on translating the gameplay from F-Zero into a 2D top-down format. That game, while extremely fun, was little more than a bare-bones F-Zero clone. The Next Penelope adds story, bosses, an upgrade system, a somewhat unique weapons system, and a lot of interesting and fun challenges.

This adventure is not particularly long. If you know what you're doing you can certainly beat the game in under a couple hours. However, the strong difficulty curve your first time through and the endgame bonus levels are sure to keep you occupied for a good many hours. If you strive to complete all of the achievements, as I did, you're sure to have your work cut out for you for a while. The nice part? You'll have fun the entire time.

I've always had a love-hate relationship with Greek mythology. I love it for the lore and the mythos, but I hate it for the arrogance, narcissism and stupidity of a great many of the prominent characters. With that being said, I've had a strictly love relationship with this game since the moment the concept was introduced to me. It's Greek mythology... plus futuristic racing! Add that to the insanely fun gameplay, and you've got yourself a beautiful piece of art.

The game was developed by one man, Aurelien Regard. He created the story, artwork and music all himself, and programmed the entire game. It's always a treat when a game this well-polished and well-designed is developed by a single person or a small team. Such a man is more than worthy of my respect.

Overall, The Next Penelope is a great concept, complemented by great gameplay. The artwork is beautiful, and the sweet elrectonic soundtrack is sure to get stuck in your head. I certainly got my money's worth from it, and I can't wait to see what other great projects the developer comes up with in the future.

Check out The Next Penelope: Race to Odysseus on Steam.
It's also in development for Wii U, and may be released on other consoles as well.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Soundtrack of the Month: June 2015

Are you tired of reality? Take a trip to the beautifully hand-drawn world of Falana, and experience the adventure of an amnesiac swordsman, an adorable nimbat, and a talking sword.

Dust: An Elysian Tail is another fine example that video games are truly a form of art. The story, artwork, music and gameplay all come together to create an incredible experience. What's more, aside from sound design, the majority of the game was developed entirely by one man, Dean Dodrill. The amazing soundtrack was composed by HyperDuck Soundworks, with a few additional tracks by Alex Brandon.

In 2008, a groundbreaking indie video game called Iji was released, featuring an awesome, hard rock soundtrack. It was the first project that HyperDuck Soundtrack ever composed as a team. Jump ahead four years, and not only had they become a lot more experienced, but now their music is some of the greatest in the soundtrack industry.

Originally, the soundtrack was to have a style inspired heavily by entries in the Ys series of video games. Eventually a decision was made to majorly rework the soundtrack to have a more cinematic feel to it. This changed the soundtrack from what would have been a great soundtrack to what was ultimately an absolutely incredible soundtrack. The original versions of some of the songs are still included on the album as the "vintage" bonus tracks.

The story of Dust is intriguing, emotional, and often humorous. The player will undoubtedly tear up a number of times. Dean Dodrill has also been in the process of making a movie that takes place in the same universe. This project has been in development for over two decades. Additionally, it's possible that in the future he will create other games that take place in the world of Falana. We can only hope that HyperDuck will be involved in these other productions as well.

Featured Tracks

Track 1: Falana – The title music of the game, and one of four tracks composed by Alex Brandon. When you hear this music, you know you're in for quite a journey ahead. It also shows up every so often for emotional scenes throughout the game.

Track 7: Short Fuse – This is one of three renditions of the boss theme. The other two are Track 11: Deities and Track 17: Heavy Bones.

Track 8: Abadis Forest – Whenever I tell somebody about this game and its soundtrack, I usually send along this song as part of the pitch. I consider it the perfect musical representation of the game and soundtrack.

Track 15: Everdawn Basin – This is the music for the final stretch of the game. It's rather epic.

Purchase the Dust: An Elysian Tail soundtrack on Loudr, Bandcamp, or iTunes.
Or listen to it for free on Spotify or YouTube.

Also check out the trailer for Dust: An Elysian Tail.