Ray’s Welsh Games Column: Farringdon Lane & The Vault of Alien Mind Terrors

He’s not Indiana Jones, nor is he James Bond.

He’s Farringdon Lane:  full of 80’s flair, charm and style and he’s got a serious case of Alien Mind Terrors to contend with.

I got to spend some time with this exciting little game at its very early stages and also meet its creator, retro enthusiast and HTML5 extraordinaire, Dan Bridge.

Dan Bridge is a passionate, retro gamer. Like me, he spent a good chunk of his early days playing through Atari 800, Spectrum and Amiga games and learned many life lessons from them. While kids of today get their education from Call Of Duty, World of Warcraft and Trials, we got our kicks from titles such as Rick Dangerous, Turrican, Pitfall and Metal Slug.

Fortunately for me (and everyone else born in that era) Dan and his team, Warpdrive Video Entertainment, are intending to celebrate all four of those titles with Farringdon Lane.

This is Warpdrive Video Entertainment’s first major game release, but Dan has previously helped out on the creative side with other Wii and iOS games. Prior to Farringdon Lane, Dan developed and ran web teams, taking his work all over the world with him. However, his passion has always been games. Trying to work out ways to become more actively involved in the industry, Dan decided to bring his wealthy skillset with HTML5 and its Canvas 2D API across and make a natural transition into browser-based gaming.

As he puts it…

I’ve tons of experience in building things for the web and understanding its limitations. As it is quite limited as a platform that was actually attractive, in that it would immediately impose restrictions and stop us going off on mad ‘hey wouldn’t it be amazing if we had dynamic lighting coming out of the phosphorus on the stalagmites’ type tangents.

As a debut title, the need for Warpdrive Video Entertainment to get something fun, but familiar, out in the public domain is a primary motivator for the development of Farringdon Lane. But Dan also believes that people are underselling the value of the browser as a gaming platform and believes it can (and will be) doing more in the years to come.

The browser is potentially the world’s biggest games console, i.e as a platform that can play games, its install base is unparalled. You’re reading this with one now and it would be just as easy to put my game on this same page so you can play it right away and without installing anything. It makes the whole gaming experience very immediate.

Yes, HTML5 has limitations but it is particularly good at producing 2D tile based games quickly. So if you want to make games that are like SNES/Amiga titles on steroids then it’s perfect and for the time being that suits me down to the ground.

Farringdon Lane & The Vault of Alien Mind Terrors has a mouthful of a title, but with an insane amount of nods to games and films of the past, its obviously meant to. Initially designed as a browser-only game, Dan has just recently become an officially licensed Playstation Vita developer and will also be bringing Farringdon Lane to Sony’s handheld next year.

The game oozes charm from the first moment you boot it up. The title screen glorifies our hero in capital, bold blue letters and provides an accompanying catchy score that you’ll surely be humming days removed from it.

Both in sound and style, the winks to good old-fashioned Sci-Fi B Movies are clear from the outset.

I’m a massive fan of the sort of ‘boys own’ stories. I read the likes of Flash Gordon, Dan Dare and Doc Savage as a kid and all had those very long, crazy titles like ‘The thing that came from plant x to eat our nans brains!” or “Quatermass and the pit”

I’m a big fan of exploration games: Pitfall 2, Underwurdle, Cave Story, Terraria, Manic Miner, Metroid and Castlevania are big influences for me. I wanted to make a game that had that feel but was married to the campy B-Movie vibe.

The team have managed to create something simple, but have stitched it together with a plot filled with twists and turns along the way. Terminals will tell the story as players progress and will even encourage choice, forcing players to make certain decisions

The game is set in the mythical Area 51 Hangar 18 that the Ark of the Covenant from Raiders of the Lost Ark ends up – you know, the massive one at the end that’s filled with millions of other crates? Our hero is called to rescue his old mentor who’s been captured trying to find out more about ‘The Vault’…

Without giving too much away he finds most of the crates have been opened by some unearthly visitors and, shock horror, the contents are being used for no good!

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I’ve only been able to sneak a glimpse at the game in development and at a very early alpha stage, but the Metroidvania influence is already apparent. The character is extremely dexterous and can reach great heights (though not quite as high as a certain green-clothed plumber) and the level of background detail is already at an incredible standard.

After the title screen, the game features a dynamic, action-packed opening sequence that sees Farringdon’s car drive perilously into one of the Area 51 Hangars and explode on impact. Fortunately, our hero manages to escape unscathed. He then proceeds to dust the ashes off his clothes and sprints his way towards the mysterious 18th Hangar his mentor told him about.

Running along, he soon reaches the end of the tracks at the sight of a large open chasm in the floor. Seeing nothing else for it, our hero decides to take a tumble down into the deep, dark nothingness.

Just before Farringdon finishes reciting his last will and testament under his breath, however, our hero somehow manages to land on his feet. Not only is he surprised to find himself still alive but he is equally surprised to find that he’s stuck in a murky, underground tomb full of the re-animated undead.

My demonstration was brief, but I did get to spend some time fighting a few skeletons and exploring some of the environment. The gameplay, physics and mechanics are already well established and engaging, resulting in a very pleasurable gaming experience.

Unfortunately, I only got to spend minutes with the game as opposed to hours, but Farringdon Lane is coming together quite nicely and could contribute quite considerably to the quality browser-based landscape already on show.

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Farringdon Lane and the Vault of Alien Mind Terrors is scheduled for release on all browsers in August. The Playstation Vita version is expected to follow in 2014.

Warpdrive Video Entertainment is a two-man team consisting of Dan Bridge and Lee Cummings. Lee has previously worked on GTA Vice City and produced GTA San Andreas, Bully, War of the Worlds and Star Trek. The game’s art is done by Artur Mirosz who has recently worked on Activision’s River Raid.  

For more updates on Farringdon Lane and the Vault of Alien Mind Terrors, go to the Warpdrive Video Entertainment website or follow Dan on Twitter

About the author

Ray Willmott

Ray is the founder and editor of Expansive. He is also a former Community Manager for Steel Media, and has written for a variety of gaming websites over the years. His work can be seen on Pocket Gamer, PG.biz, Gfinity, and the Red Bull Gaming Column. He has also written for VG247, Videogamer, GamesTM, PLAY, and MyM Magazine,