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Cult County (Renegade Kid) [Cancelled – 3DS, Wii U, PS3, PSVita, PC]

Cult County is a cancelled psychological horror game that was in development by Renegade Kid around 2013, originally announced for Nintendo 3DS at PAX 2013 and later also planned for PS4, PS3, PSVita, Wii U, PC, and Xbox One when they unsuccessfully tried to fund the game on Kickstarter. Their plan for the project was to create an episodic horror tale, something like “The Walking Dead meets Silent Hill 2 from a first-person perspective”.

The team is mostly known for cult-classic Nintendo DS horror titles such as Dementium: The Ward and Moon, plus fun platforming adventures such as Mutant Mudds and Xeodrifter. While they always showed skills and love for Nintendo consoles, their games never sold much unfortunately.

Some details about Cult County can still be read on their Kickstarter campaign page, which raised just  $ 46.736 of their $ 580.000 goal:

“Cult County is an all-new first-person survival horror game that blends the episodic story-telling of The Walking Dead with the classic tension-filled exploration and action of Silent Hill and Resident Evil, presenting an opportunity for fans to help a veteran team produce a new experience that is fresh, exciting, and scary!

Rebirth of the survival horror FPS genre, crafted with fan input.
Story-driven gameplay, featuring memorable character interactions.
Small West Texas town filled with tension, mystery, and scares.
Vulnerable and personalized melee and firearm combat.
Varied cast of creepy enemy encounters and devious boss battles.

You assume the role of Gavin Mellick, whose mother has fallen deathly ill. Unable to reach your older sister, Alissa, by phone you drive the 6 hours across Texas to visit her in person and share the sad news. You return to the small town where you spent your summers as a child with Alissa, at your late aunt’s house. There is a particularly savage dust storm rolling in when you arrive.

Unable to locate your sister, you ask some of the locals for help. You quickly learn about their suspicions of a cultish group that recently moved into town, and the unexpected suicide of Father Pearce. The locals offer very little help finding your sister, and it isn’t long before your search takes an unexpected dark turn, leading you down a road of no return.

You are alone. You are unarmed. You see strange “people” linger on the edge of the dust storm, who seem to be watching your every move. But, as soon as you turn your head to face them, they disappear. Who are they? Where do they go? What do they want?

As you explore deeper into the town, searching for any clues that might lead to your sister, you meet various town folk who offer their own anecdotes on what the “people” might be. Some claim they are just your imagination, and some say they are part of the new cultish group who recently moved into town. One person even goes as far to name them “Dust Devils“!”

With no support on Kickstarter, Renegade Kid possibly tried to find a publisher for Cult County, but without success. After releasing Moon Chronicles and Dementium Remastered on Nintendo 3DS, in August 2016 Renegade Kid announced that it was shutting down. It’s currently unknown if Cult County could be resurrected in the future, but if so we could see it from Infitizmo, the new team created by former Renegade Kid cofounder Gregg Hargrove.

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Spectac (Cauldron) [Xbox 360, PS3, PC – Cancelled]

Spectac was an ambitious cancelled project that was being developed in 2004/2005 by Slovakian studio Cauldron. It was planned to be a prequel to Cauldron’s 2003 game Chaser: a futuristic First Person Shooter similar to Red Faction in tone, set in a time when humanity has successfully colonized Mars. Spectac in turn was to be set before these events, dealing with the hunt for a terrorist group threatening to unleash a viral weapon on the world, and the team tasked with putting an end to their plans.

From what we can tell, Spectac was to be a stealth-action affair, very inspired by other espionage and military-science stealth series such as Metal Gear Solid and Splinter Cell, but played from a first-person perspective. And like in the latter franchise, the player was to make heavy use of sound and shadows for things such as masking their actions or distracting enemies, along with a strong emphasis on climbing, swimming, and other means of infiltration.

Players would have been helped by other team members, in a feature that would show some inspiration from the Rainbow Six or SWAT series. This would add a strategic element of choosing what individual skill sets would be useful in each mission and what paths they would open. This would in turn allow for greater replayability, as not only could a level play out differently depending on what team members are present, but one could also step in their shoes and play from their perspective. A sniper and a security expert/hacker, named Isis and Evac, respectively, would also be available to help the player at all times.

The engine that had powered Chaser (CloakNT) had been upgraded, and its 2.0 version allowed for many innovative features. The Havok physics engine had been integrated as well, and Cauldron was ready to take full advantage of their new technology by allowing for extensive interaction with the environment in Spectac. For example, to use a simple numeric keypad or keyboard, the player would have to physically move the character’s hand in order to press the individual buttons. The same approach would be used if they needed to swipe a keycard to open a door, or use a mouse at a computer terminal, and so on.

The hand-to-hand combat would apparently also use this system to some degree, with different techniques such as neutralizing an enemy by choking or pistol-whipping requiring active player interaction.

Graphically, the game was to take visuals to the next level as well. The geometry was now much more complex, allowing for more detailed models. In conjunction with the aforementioned first person interaction, the lighting would have offered a great deal of immersion as well, filling the levels with dynamic shadows. Spectac looked a bit like F.E.A.R. another game that became known for its rich lighting and physics interaction, developed by Monolith and released in 2005. In addition, missions in Spectact were to take place in locations heavily inspired by real-life landmarks, such as the Hoover Dam.

All of this, however, seemed to be just a little too much for Cauldron. Spectac was conceived as a possible next-gen title to be released on PC and the then-upcoming PS3 and Xbox 360 platforms, but apparently even the most powerful computers of the time were struggling to run it in 2004. Possibly for this reason, the project was eventually abandoned some time around 2005, after being deemed too ambitious, and never entering full production.

Cauldron themselves would infamously continue on to create lower budget games in a partnership with the Activision Value publishing brand, such as Soldier Of Fortune: Payback and a string of hunting-themed and war-themed First Person Shooters for the Cabela’s and History Channel brands, respectively. We know the team also worked on the cancelled Project Revolution and Seven Days, before being acquired by Bohemia Interactive in 2014 and renamed to Bohemia Interactive Slovakia.

Article by António Pedro Pinto

Thanks to Chris and Piotr for the contribution!

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Prince of Persia Redemption [Cancelled – Xbox 360, PS3, PC]

Prince of Persia: Redemption is a cancelled reboot of the classic series, that was internally pitched at Ubisoft Montreal (FoxTeam) around 2010 – 2011, just after the release of The Forgotten Sands. The project was mostly unknown until May 2020, when fans finally noticed a video uploaded on Youtube in 2012 by an anonymous user. By looking at this footage, the game looked like a mix between 3D Prince of Persia, God of War, Uncharted and Assassin’s Creed: a cinematic adventure game with huge monsters and time-rewind mechanics.

As wrote by former Ubisoft animator Jonathan Cooper on Twitter:

“Wow – haven’t seen this in ages. Amazing work from animation director Khai Nguyen (For Honor) and team. This target game footage (pre-rendered game pitch) inspired our own pitch for Assassin’s Creed 3 as they did such a great job making it look like real gameplay.

Sadly Ubisoft are generally quicker to cancel Prince of Persia games than others IPs because AFAIK original creator Jordan Mechner still holds license rights so the profit margins are lower. Would love to see a new one though. I’ve always wanted a PoP set in contemporary Iran.”

We can assume The Forgotten Sands did not sell enough for Ubisoft to invest more resources on another title, preferring to focus on the more profitable Assassin’s Creed series.

Thanks to Jason for the contribution!

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Orb (Blitz Games) [PS2 – Cancelled]

Orb is a cancelled puzzle game that was in development by Blitz Games Studios for Playstation 2. Gameplay would have been similar to Kororinpa, Marble Madness, and the Super Monkey Ball series: you had to move a ball around strange mazes, while pressing switches to open doors and resolving other environmental hazards to reach the goal.

The team created a playable prototype but in the end Orb was never completed. We can speculate they did not find a publisher interested in funding the project so it had to be canned to switch resources to other PS2 titles such as Taz: Wanted, The Fairly OddParents!: Breakin’ da Rules and Bad Boys: Miami Takedown.

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Mars Adventure (Sony Imagesoft) [Playstation – Cancelled]

Mars Adventure (AKA “Saturn3054: The Titan Rescue”) is a cancelled action game that was in development around 1994 – 1995 by Sony Imagesoft, planned to be one of their first in-house projects for the original PlayStation. In 1994 Playstation hardware was still a prototype: all of the documentation was in Japanese and 3D console games were something new and hard to develop. Mars Adventure was an eleven-person team project and their first 3D game: unfortunately they were not able to complete it.

Gameplay was inspired by classic Choplifter and it would have been a first / third person, 360° flying game: you can imagine it somehow similar to Descent or G-Police, but its main mission was saving people from aliens. As we can read on Kyle Rode’s website:

“Since I was the only actual game player on the team, I quickly took control of the game design task, and I started to write up the game design document.  At this point, the original Doom was the only game on the market that had any similarity to a 3D game, and it was actually a 2-1/2 D game, at that.  Later, during development, Descent came out, and it was  similar to what we were trying to accomplish.

The basic premise of “Mars…” was “Choplifter/(Fort Apocalypse)” on Mars or Titan or whatever.  The player flew a spaceship around a space colony on Mars, and would rescue the people from the alien invaders.  The spaceship would have a close proximity teleporter, which would suck them up into the ship’s cargo hold.  The close proximity was the reason why the space marines couldn’t just do it from the mothership ala Star Trek.

I liked the idea of rescuing people as the main focus of the game play, instead of shooting up baddies. The act of rescuing would require that the ship stay motionless for a short period of time, while the transport occurred.  This would open the player up to danger from the aliens.  Also, when shooting up an environment, if you weren’t careful, there was always the chance that you might kill some good guys in addition to the aliens.

Unfortunately, the Playstation development kits that we received from Sony corporate in Japan, were a couple of months late, and the documentation was in Japanese.  We even received the dev kits after third-party developers outside of Sony.  Also, the Japanese documentation made them pretty worthless.”

By looking at prototype footage from the game it would have been quite amazing for its time, with huge levels where you could fly in every direction and fluid 3D graphics.

Thanks to RareAlone for the contribution!

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