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Independent video game releases set to brighten up January

Amplitude will be released in January. Image courtesy of Harmonix Music Systems Inc. Drew Nordman


nd so the new year begins, and with it comes a slew of new games. Last year was an absolutely stellar year for

gaming, but with that being said, I believe 2015 will pale in comparison to what 2016 has in store for us. Here are my most an- ticipated titles slated for release in January. A few months ago, I spoke about the then

upcoming release of Rock Band 4; which was met with acclaim by critics and gamers alike. For their next release, developer Harmonix has opted to return to their roots by remak- ing the game that put them on the map. Released in 2003 as a sleeper hit, Amplitude established itself as the golden standard of rhythm games. A tad more eccentric than the straight forward instrument based ap- proach in Rock Band, Amplitude has the player(s) control a "beat blaster" ship across a lane of six tracks. Each color-coded track corresponds to a different aspect of the song, such as vocals, bass, percussion and synth. As the player hits the buttons correspond- ing to the note placement on the track, the notes activate a small portion of the track. If the player successfully activates enough notes in sequence, the track is captured and will play automatically for a number of bars, freeing the player to capture another section. Insanely gratifying to execute, and mesmerizing to behold, Amplitude made you feel like a crazy space-DJ-pilot. Trust me it was amazing. After raising nearly a million dollars on Kickstarter, Harmonix is poised to captivate us once again with

The Witness. Image courtesy of Thekla Inc. Gone Home. Image courtesy of The Fullbright Company.

their reimagining of the series on January 5th for the PS4. January looks to be a killer month for

independent games and Gone Home is one of them. Tis one is a tad esoteric and not so much a game as it is an interactive novel. Te player takes the role of a young woman named Kait lin who returns to her family's new home in 1995 after a trip abroad. Te catch is, she finds the house completely deserted. By exploring the house and examining photos and other items in your surroundings, you slowly unravel the mystery behind your family's disappear-

ance. Though it sounds quite mundane, with masterful writing and remarkable attention to period detail, Gone Home turns the process of exploring a house into a captivating and deeply poignant journey of discovery. Tough you're never stalked by some unseen horror and you never have to shoot any world invading aliens, the game still manages to keep you on the edge of your seat. Look for Gone Home on PS4 and Xbox One on January 12th. Time for a history lesson! Seven years ago,

indie developer Jonathan Blow more or less single-handedly jumpstarted the modern

independent game scene with the release of his seminal masterpiece Braid in 2008. Since then, literally thousands of amateur/ independent developers have followed in his footsteps, and created hundreds of smaller scale but ambitious indie games, revolutionizing the ways games are pro- duced. I could write a whole essay on Braid, and how it changed the gaming landscape, but that's not why we're here. Since 2008, Blow has been hard at work, meticulously crafting the followup to Braid and it's finally here. Te Witness is an open world puzzle game that harkens back to adventure games from the early 90s. Inspired by the likes of Myst, the nameless player is dropped onto a mysterious island filled with a number of natural and man-made structures. Te player progresses by solving puzzles which are based on interactions with labyrinths presented on panels around the island, in tandem with both visual clues around the island and obfuscated audio logs that the player can find. Blow aimed to include as little instruction as possible, wanting to have players come to understand the rules of these puzzles for themselves and com- ing to grand moments of realization and epiphany while exploring the island. Te game will have about 650 total puzzles to be solved, though the player is not required to solve them all to finish the game. If that's not enough of a challenge for you, these puzzles include one that Blow believes that less than 1% of players will be able to solve. We'll see if Blow makes history once again when Te Witness launches on January 26th for PS4 and Windows.

Looking ahead at the Bombers and their new coach A

Marc Lagace

familiar face has returned to the fold for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers — Paul Lapolice is back for his third stint as a coach for the team. Te

announcement was made with a short 19-second video of Lapolice and Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea ink- ing the contract. Both Bombers general manager Kyle Walters and O’Shea seem mighty high on Lapolice, so here’s hoping he sticks around longer than his time as head coach. Lord knows this team could use some more continu-

ity amongst the coaching ranks. As head coach, Lapolice led the Bombers to the 2011

Grey Cup and was subsequently offered a two-year contract extension. Heading into the 2012 season, the future of the club looked bright despite delays at the construction site of Investors Group Field. Te In- stead, he fell victim to the same coaching carousel that seems to occur every two years or so after stumbling to a 2-6 start. He’s since contributed to CFL on TSN broadcasts through his Coach’s Playbook segments, and cemented his reputation amongst fans as one of the most knowledgeable folks in the game. I’ll be honest, I didn’t check out any of the Grey Cup

fun that was going on in town last month, but this news right here has really got me dancing. Paul Lapolice’s firing in 2012 was a horrible mistake, made Joe Mack during his reign of terror as general manager. And if it sounds like I’m being overdramatic, well I was in the stands for the 52-0 Labour Day Classic trouncing,

12 Smart Biz

just days after Lapolice was given his walking papers. Saskatchewan children literally teased us Bomber fans as we trudged our way back to the hotel, and we just took the abuse because… they were right, we sucked. You just don’t recover from an experience like that. The more I think about it, the firing of Lapolice

marked a real turning point in the franchise. Defensive coordinator Tim Burke was promoted to head coach, essentially replacing a rookie head coach with… an- other rookie head coach. And Burke had done great work with the Bombers defence. Swaggerville, anyone? Had the Bombers stuck with Lapolice and let him

coach out his contract extension, he would have been in his fourth season as head coach for the inaugural season at Investors Group Field, which was supposed to be a long-overdue celebration of the Blue Bombers’ lasting legacy in this city. Instead, fans were forced to suffer through what might go down as one of the worst inaugural seasons in a brand new stadium in sports history. Prove me wrong, the Bombers only picked up their first win at Investors Group Field in September (!) and finished with a dismal 3-15 record. O’Shea will be entering his third season as head

Will bringing back Paul Lapolice change the fortunes of the Bombers? Photo courtesy of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

coach — an ominous number for Bomber coaches in the past. If the team struggles again, then 2016 will be a true test of character for Bombers CEO Wade Miller and the board to see whether the guiding philosophy of the club has actually changed. If the club is ready to give talented coaches the time and patience required to build a gameplay and team with continuity and longevity. Because it is far too long overdue.

January 2016

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