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Beneath (Presto Studios) [Playstation, PC – Cancelled]

Beneath is a cancelled action adventure that was in development by Presto Studios in mid / late ‘90s, to be published by Activision for the original Playstation and PC. The game was quite hyped at the time: it was presented as a “Tomb Raider” killer, with such lines as “Deeper than any Tomb” and “More dangerous than any woman“. As we can read on The Journeyman Project website:

“Follow the exploits of Jack Wells as he searches for his missing father, a renowned archaeologist, down a mysterious network of tunnels deep into the earth. The game features a cutting-edge 3D engine with support for hardware acceleration and levels full of amazing uncharted civilizations to explore, climb and swing your way through.”

Presto Studios wanted to add more than Tomb Raider in their inspirations, and such names as H.G. Wells or Jules Verne were dropped in old press releases, such as in this one by CNN:

“Is the world ready for a revisionist H.G. Wells or Jules Verne adventure game? Presto Studios and Activision think so. In Beneath, Presto (of Journeyman Project fame) is convinced that Tomb Raider opened a door for third-person adventures, but the earlier game relied upon its good looks and lacked easy input control and depth of storytelling.

So Presto set off to build a game around Jack, a turn-of-the-century (19th/20th) adventurer out to track down his missing father whose expedition to the pole has gone terribly wrong. In the best Wells/Verne tradition, Jack discovers an underground world with an entirely unique social and eco-system. Three societies inhabit the underground – a Troglodyte world, a Morlock world, and an Insectoid world. Strangely, all three are biologically and socially connected, the questions to be uncovered are how are they connected and what are they up do?

Whether beefcake Jack will draw women to beneath the same way Tomb Raider’s Lara captivated men is unknown, but Presto definitely has a grand vision for an adventure game in Beneath. Unfortunately, despite obvious enthusiasm behind their product, the first couple of times Beneath was brought in for demonstration to PC Games, there wasn’t a whole lot in evidence to get excited about. These early alphas were all software rendered, there weren’t any adversaries or creatures and nothing to explore but dingy mineshafts. What’s more, the producers seem somewhat disdainful of the need for 3D acceleration in third-person games.

This week Activision trotted Beneath through the office again and we’re happy to report there’s a lot more there to talk about. First, Glide support was finally added a couple of weeks ago. Direct3D will come later, as well high-resolution versions of Jack, but the difference 3D acceleration brings to the game is enormous. Activision won’t release updated screens, so we were forced to run the accompanying E3 SVGA screens, but we’re happy to report that Presto’s texture work is often stunning in 3D.

[…] Now for the targets. Presto still hasn’t put many adversaries into the game, but at least we got to play with some early giant spiders and earwigs. They’re still pretty stupid, and we’d still like to see how the Morlocks and Insectoids are coming along, but this is still progress.”

Thanks to some previews published in gaming magazines at the time we know that Beneath would have been set in 12 different levels spread over 3 lost civilizations. The more players would descent deeper beneath the earth’s surface, the more technologically advanced the lost civilization would became.

In the end Presto Studios were not able to keep up with creating their ambitious 3D adventure, being more used to developing pre-rendered point and click adventures, such as their The Journeyman Project series and Myst III: Exile. A full 3D action adventure game was not an easy task to create and competition was high, with many Tomb Raider clones releasing on Playstation.

Beneath was cancelled and in 2002 the studio was closed down, after the release of their Xbox title Whacked.

Thanks to Mark and Ross Sillifant for the contribution!

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Beowulf: Viking Warrior [Cancelled – PC, PS3, Xbox 360]

Beowulf: Viking Warrior is a cancelled video game based on the Old English epic poem, in development in 2006 for PC (and possibly Playstation 3 and Xbox 360) by German team 4HEAD Studios (now known as Cranberry Production) before the 2007 animated movie directed by Robert Zemeckis and before Ubisoft’s own Beowulf 2007 tie-in game.

As we can read in its original press-release:

“BEOWULF is a third person action adventure with role-playing elements. Explore the northlands, fight enemies both natural and supernatural, and prove your worth among the heroes of old.

BEOWULF is based on a nordic saga that dates back to the 6th century AD. The game captures the adventure spirit of the early Viking Age, creating a unique visual interpretation of the world of norse legends with state-of-the-art 3D graphics.

BEOWULF is very combat-driven, and features a unique and innovative melee fighting system. It is the first game to bring an authentic simulation of medieval sword-fencing to the computer game medium. The advanced physics simulation system provides a high level of realism and dynamic gameplay.

Features that make the game stand out:

* combat system that faithfully emulates medieval sword-fencing

* vivid characters and beautiful 3D environments

* cutting-edge 3D technology with striking visual effects

* integrated realtime physics for action-packed gameplay

* well-known name and scenario (especially among the Tolkien fan community).”

Images shared by 4HEAD Studios show a few concept art and early renders depicting the most iconic characters and places of the original Beowulf legend, such as the protagonist itself, the monster Grendl, his mother, the Dragon, the Mead Hall. However, no actual gameplay is seen so we can assume the team was still in early development.

Gamespot used to have two teaser trailers of the game, but they are currently unavailable. Beowulf’s tie-in game released by Ubisoft in 2007 was a very different product, since it relied on the latest movie version of the Beowulf character, instead the original poem. Gameplay also deviated from 4HEAD’s concept with RPG elements, and Ubisoft’s game was more an hack ‘n slash similar to God of War.

As we can read on IGN, after Ubisoft announced their game based on the movie, 4HEAD was not able to find a publisher interested in their own version, so it had to be cancelled:

“So today 4Head (now part of DTP Entertainment) announced that its Beowulf project is no more. The company sold its trademarks, web domains and other assets related to the game to Paramount.

“With the announcement of Ubisoft’s offical game based on the movie and the conceivable competitive situation, we were seeing publishers unwilling to support our game,” said the game’s Executive Producer, Gustaf Stechmann. “We thus lacked the resources needed to drive the project’s development forward. Luckily, we had the older rights to the use of the name. The buy-out deal with Paramount was therefore the logical exit strategy.”

Thanks to AkitoKuno for the contribution!

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Brooklyn Stories [Cancelled – Xbox 360, PS3, PC]

Brooklyn Stories is a cancelled adventure game that was in development in 2008 / 2009 by French team Lexis Numérique, planned to be released on Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and PC. The project was quite ambitious and original for its time, mixing interactive storytelling, several playable characters, multiple narrative paths and some kind of “time travel” mechanic in which you could go forth and back in time to modify the fate of its protagonists.

Brooklyn Stories would have been played somehow like a mix between The Sims, Disgaea Infinite, Shadow of Memories and games by Quantic Dream (Omikron, Heavy Rain, Detroit: Become Human) and Telltale (The Walking Dead, Batman: The Telltale Series). Players would have been able to play as many different characters living in Brooklyn in the same townhouse building, following an intricate storyline spanning from the 1930s to the ‘00s.

Each character had their own life and problems to resolve. You would have been able to observe them living in their apartment and listen to their thoughts or dialogues with other characters, to help them or interfere with their actions by choosing how they would react or which item to use in different situations. Each choice would then change the course of the following events and each event would affect other characters and their related events, until reaching one of the many different endings. You could always go back in time to make different choices and see different reactions to each different action.

The game was divided into chapters set in several years, but always following the lives of the inhabitants of the same townhouse building. Each chapter had many endings which would then affect what would happen in the following ones. It was quite the intricate and epic storyline, touching the daily lives of normal people but also political, social and criminal intrigues. You could interact with the characters living in Brooklyn Stories to trigger funny and comical skits but also to save their life from violent murders.

Unfortunately after 2 years of development Brooklyn Stories was canned by its publisher, leaving Lexis Numérique with an incomplete project and without funds to continue working on it. In the following years the team developed less ambitious games such as Tales of Elastic Boy (2010, WiiWare) and  Amy (2011, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC), but with low sales and without publishers backing up other major projects they had to close down in 2014.

Only a few images and a short trailer are preserved below to remember the existence of this promising, lost game.

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Pain Boarders [PS3 – Cancelled]

Pain Boarders is a cancelled “snowboard ragdoll” game in development in 2009 by Idol Minds (now known as Deck Nine, the team that worked on Life Is Strange: Before the Storm) for Playstation 3. Since the late ’90s Idol Minds developed such snowboard games as Cool Boarders 3, Cool Boarders 4 and Cool Boarders 2001. In 2007 they released Pain for PS3, a strange ragdoll puzzle game in which you had to shoot a character with a slingshot to destroy the environment or hit targets. As we can read on Wikipedia:

“In Pain the player attempts to damage the ragdoll character they play and the environment as much as possible by flinging them from a rubber-band slingshot, using the Havok physics engine. The characters have distinctive poses and phrases, can move by “ooching” and can grab things to throw or hang from”

As you can imagine from the title, Pain Boarders would have been a mix between Pain and their Cool Boarders games. While Pain Boarders was never officially announced nor any footage of it was ever shown to the public, we can speculate players would have to fling a snowboarder down the snow slope and possibly creating chaos on the ski run.

Many crazy characters would have been available, such as a cool yeti snowboarding on a log. Pain Boarders could really have been a fun game, but unfortunately it was canned when Sony stopped funding the project. Only a couple of images remains to remember the existence of this lost project.

Pain Boarders was just one of many Idol Minds games Sony cancelled between 2009 and 2012 and the team had to layoff half of their developers because of it.

In the video below you can see the snow level from Pain, which we can assume was somehow similar to the general concept behind Pain Boarders.

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Alone in the Dark 5 [PS2, Xbox – Cancelled]

Alone in the Dark 5 is the cancelled, fifth chapter in the cult-classic Alone in the Dark series that was in development by Atari / Infogrames Lyon House Studio in 2002, planned to be released on Playstation 2 and Xbox. One year after Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare (developed by Darkworks) and six years before the Alone in the Dark 2008 reboot (developed by Eden Games), AitD 5 was in development directly by Infogrames Lyon as one of their major internal projects.

In early ‘00s Infogrames had already a few economic problems: in 2002 they had a loss of $67 million and things would only get worse during the following years. While Alone in the Dark 5 was never officially announced by Infogrames it could have been a successful game for them, bringing in some good sales. Unfortunately this never happened.

Alone in the Dark 5 was soon cancelled, possible because of quality issues or because the series and the classic survival horror genre were not as popular as before among gamers. The project could have been seen as a risk to complete in such an unstable market.

In 2003 Infogrames renamed all of its brands into Atari (after they bought out the name from Hasbro) and heavily re-organized the company and their projects. During the early ‘00s Infogrames canned many more interesting games, such as La Femme Nikita, Urban X-Tribe, Ghostbusters Academy, Riders and NetLife.

Only a few images from Alone in the Dark 5 are saved in the gallery below, to preserve its existence.

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