Digital Life reviews the year's best locally made video games from up-and-coming home-grown studios.
Ghost Recon Phantoms
Developer: Ubisoft Singapore
Price: Free to play (PC via Steam)
Ghost Recon Phantoms is a tactical shooter which requires you to capture hard points on a map instead of running-and-gunning. To capture a hard point, your team needs to have more soldiers inside the capture zone than your opponent's.
Because the game works on a cover-based system, you cannot charge headlong into the enemy. They will take you out in seconds from behind cover. If the enemy team has already captured the zone, your team needs to devise a strategy to take them out.
Typically, it will take advanced technology to push into your rival's well-defended zone. The recon's cloak ability renders you invisible for short spells, making you ideal for flanking the enemy and taking out unsuspecting soldiers.
But it is the special abilities of the support class - creating a bubble shield that blocks bullets from penetrating, and the Blackout special attack, which unleashes a powerful electromagnetic pulse which temporarily disables all of the enemy's weapons - that make them an essential part of a successful penetration into enemy zone.
The assault class guys have the biggest guns and the heaviest armour. They have two special abilities: One is a special charge attack in which they use shields to knock down enemies; they can also fire powerful microwaves which temporarily disable their enemies.
The recon units are the most fragile but they have sniper rifles to take out enemies from a distance. They also have the ability to scan the surroundings and detect the presence of enemies around them, even those in hiding. This is the only way to detect cloaked soldiers.
The new weapon-modding system offers granular customisation for your favourite guns. Switching to a longer barrel gives your gun greater range but less power. With multiple parts of a gun to customise, you can custom mod your own favourite weapon to suit your distinct style of gameplay.
Ghost Recon Phantoms is a shooter for the thinking man.
Developer: Secret Base
Price: $13 (PC via Steam)
Inspired by side-scrolling classics such as Final Fight, Streets Of Rage and Golden Axe, this beat-em-up game transports a player back to the late 1980s and 1990s, when video game arcades ruled the roost.
Paying homage to its genre, the game does not take itself seriously and is packed with references to pop culture of that era.
You play as one of four heroes trapped in a game convention as zombies attack. Each has his own unique combat style, as well as special moves ripped out of games of the era.
Jackson, for example, with his speed and twin daggers, is inspired by Raphael from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, while Kingston wields a golden axe, just like the hero in the Golden Axe arcade game.
Devil's Dare offers four stages to hack and slash through. Each becomes longer as you progress.
Staying true to its arcade roots, the game ends when you run out of money to continue playing.
Money, an important in-game resource, drops from enemies you kill. As you progress through the game, you will find that you must carefully balance your funds between upgrading your abilities and saving for revives, which get pricier each time you die.
Although the game is short, it offers good replay value, as the levels play differently if you go through them in a different order.
You can also play cooperatively with up to three friends on the same computer, either by plugging in three extra controllers or squeezing together to share a keyboard.
However, not everyone will appreciate the deliberately muted art-style, and its unforgiving difficulty will put off casual players.
A retro hack-and-slash that brings the player back to the 1990s and, like the good old days of arcade games, you need skill to go the distance.
FOR PLAYSTATION 4
One Upon Light
Developer: SUTD Game Lab
Price: $8.10 (PlayStation 4 Network)
It may look like yet another hipster game with its melancholic music and black-and-white hand-drawn art but, surprisingly, One Upon Light has both substance and style.
Developed by the Singapore University of Technology and Design Game Lab, the game, which plays with light and shadows, looks deceptively simple.
There is not a single line of speech and the plot is almost non-existent. You wake up in a crumbling lab and need to find a way out.
You cannot punch, run, jump, slide or use weapons. And stepping into the lighted areas strewn around the dark lab will kill you. So, you have to find safety in the shadows. You move your character around to find the sources of light and snuff them out. Sometimes, simply by flipping a switch or by moving a crate to block out the light.
At first, the gameplay seems simple enough. But the puzzles get harder and harder. The beauty of the game is in its design. It forces you to think and to keep trying different ways to get out of tight spots. The impatient will hate this game. Those who hate to lose will love it.
If you are Albert Einstein, you will probably finish this game in two hours. For someone with average intelligence, such as myself, it took me that length of time to get to the eighth level.
I have been stuck at this level for an hour and it looks like things will only get tougher from here.
Brain-grinding good. The game's excellent design rewards the thinking gamer who does not give up until he finds a way out.