Indie Jeff's Weekly Pick: Catapult for Hire
by Jeff Mattas, shacknews.com, Dec 18, 2011 2:30PM PST
Indie developer Tyrone Henrie of pixelMEGA Games has been hard at work developing his debut title Catapult for Hire for some time now. Recently, he was kind enough to share a PC preview build of the game with me, and I'm happy to report that the game is coming along quite well. Aside from it's numerous, clever implementations of the art of catapultry, Catapult for Hire is a game that hearkens back to the vibrant art and childlike discovery reminiscent of the 64-bit era.
Heading up the game's roster of personality-filled characters is the knightly protagonist Sir Knottingsforth. Times are tough in his medieval fantasy world, with an economic downturn that's resulted in a lack of kingdoms worth conquering. Because of this, the enterprising hero decides to make his fortune as a freelance catapulter. However, contrary to what one might expect, Sir Knottingsforth quickly finds himself undertaking a number of different tasks for the game's incorrigible denizens that involve far more than simply turning structures into rubble.
Henrie told me that the preview build of Catapult for Hire was primarily structured to provide a good cross-section of many activities players can expect from the game. With that in mind, I hopped from location to location on overworld map after a brief tutorial section. Once entering a mission area, the presentation and gameplay switch to three dimensions.
I'm pleased to report that mechanically, using the catapult is quite easy to grasp. Players can adjust the angle, power, and direction of their shots, a prospect made less frustrating (but not too easy) by visual indicators of the shot's general trajectory before it's fired, as well as the path of the previous shot. Catapult for Hire then takes this basic art of firing a catapult and infuses a pleasantly-surprising amount of whimsy via different objectives, events, and projectile types.
Bunny rabbits--unlocked early on--can be fired as test-shots, since they aren't heavy enough to do any real damage. Bombs can be detonated when they reach their targets, lanterns can be launched to illuminate dark caves, and there's even a fishing lure that can be fired into lakes to catch fish. Having trouble with a tricky shot or need to use the wind to your advantage? Attach a deployable parachute to your ammunition.
Certain events even sport unique ordinance, like the numerous "ball"-types available for catapult golfing. Often times, the player is rewarded more generously for a great performance, and the monetary compensation can be used to buy things like upgraded catapults or ammo. Those examples just scratch the surface, and each of the diverse missions that I sampled proved to be creative and fun, in its own right.
Furthermore, each of the missions is wrapped in some legitimately-funny, dialog-driven story sections, and I caught myself grinning like an 8-year old kid through most of the experience. The game's retro-style soundtrack (composed with Mattias Gerdt) is also pure awesomeness.
There's also a fort-building mechanic, in which players can build up Sir Knottingsforth's home base with things like new walls and structures. Based on the preview build, it wasn't entirely clear to me how this fort-building mechanic will factor into the final product, as it seemed a little divorced from the mission-based proceedings. Though entirely speculative on my part, it seems like it could be a good basis for some sort of siege-defense mode.
In short, Catapult for Hire is already shaping up to be a very enjoyable adventure that deftly plumbs the depths of its unique concept in a lot of fun ways. It's a game that I would not at all have been surprised to find out was being developed by a studio like DoubleFine, as it shares much of the instantly-endearing intangibles, humor, and creativity so often found at much larger independent studios. The fact that Catapult for Hire's development is ostensibly a one-man effort makes it all that more impressive.
Catapult for Hire doesn't have a release date or price-point yet, but we'll let you know as soon as it does. The game was also recently shown off to the public for the first time at MineCon as a featured selection, and Henrie has planned to release it digitally for PC, Mac, and mobile platforms.