News on Beta & Cancelled Games

Sentient (Sensory Sweep) [Cancelled – Xbox 360]

Sentient is a cancelled side-scrolling run ‘n gun that was in development around 2008 by Sensory Sweep Studios, planned to be published for Xbox 360 Live Arcade. While the project was officially announced by the team, details about its gameplay are scarce.

Sensory Sweep did release a few (tiny) screenshots but description on their original website did not say much about the game:

“Sentient is the newest project by Sensory Sweep Studios for Microsoft’s Xbox Live Arcade. This flagship title will showcase Sensory Sweep’s new DreamFuel engine.  Sentient provides fast paced gameplay set in a sci-fi environment that aims to set a new standard for tension-filled arcade gameplay.”

The game was cancelled when Sensory Sweep finally closed for bankruptcy, with employees working without being paid for months. As we can read on Mobygames:

“The company filed for bankruptcy in September 2005, but kept all projects going with two name changes (including Fooptube). In early 2008 the employees stopped receiving contributions, even though their paychecks were still deducted for the next few pay periods. Soon after that the paychecks bounced and Sensory Sweep lost Brash Entertainment as a big client when it folded at the end of 2008.”

What remains of the game today is just some images, preserved in the gallery below to remember the existence of this lost game.

Among Sensory Sweep other cancelled games there are such titles as Crash Tag Team Racing DS, Time Traveler, Raphael and Oregon Files.

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It Came for Zog [PC – Cancelled]

It Came for Zog is a cancelled point & click adventure that was in development around 1999 – 2000 by Pixeleers Entertainment, a now-forgotten Danish team with not much information online. Luckily we were able to find an old preview for the game on the Web Archive, written in June 2000 by Bob Mandel for The Adrenaline Vault:

“Scheduled to be published by TopWare Interactive, this product shows every sign of bringing the laughter back into personal computer gameplay. The story is that Zog is a prehistoric character who unexpectedly finds himself in the midst of an alien civilization, having been kidnapped by purple creatures from outer space. Zog’s father was the greatest warrior of all time, but now he is old, weak and is facing death. His trusted club, Whammi, is to be inherited by Zog, and it is the most powerful weapon around, capable of even knocking out huge aliens and steel doors. Meanwhile, in the other end of the universe on the Anabolic Asteroid, a bright young scientist named Barfly had created a leader named The General for his people, the Boinks. The General became a feared dictator, and had gotten out of control in training and took to arming the Boinks for war. From this point on, you can perhaps guess what is going to happen as Zog enters the picture.”

“In the words of writer/developer Kristian List when describing the overall tone of It Came For Zog, Zog just cannot help being funny “everywhere, all the time.” When asking Zog to do a simple thing, such as turning the lights on or opening a door, you can be assured that he will find an awkward Neanderthal way to do it. Zog is not the only weird one, as the rest of the bizarre cast promises to be zany and silly as well.

The development team has always considered the adventure genre to be one of their personal favorites. The team wanted to tell a truly unique story, and found that the basic fish-out-of-water conflict with a Neanderthal in an alien outer space setting was the perfect choice. The original rough script was written way back in 1997, but surprisingly there are precious few changes compared to the present work in production. Nonetheless, the developers have been quite happy with the flexibility of their design process: from the beginning they had in mind to make room in the schedule for adjustments as they went along.”

“To guide Zog through his adventures, you must apply the proper Stone Age logic, often yielding surprising results. A little good old-fashioned violence goes a long way in achieving your objectives. List claims the very best element of It Came For Zog “has to be the political incorrectness” — Zog does all the things a main character should not.

It Came For Zog contains an interesting mix of 2D perspectives and 3D settings, combining real-time scenes for indoor environments and pre-rendered scenes for outdoor environments. The developers planned this pattern to make the game run smoothly even on ordinary computers. Because the title’s universe is built as one physical entity, you move absolutely seamlessly between indoor and outdoor areas, not realizing the differences between them in their mode of graphics construction.

As List points out, the basic guideline of the gameplay in It Came For Zog from the beginning has been, “We don’t want the player to get seriously stuck at any point.” The developers desire the gaming experience to be fun and laid back, not frustrating or exhausting. If they had to compare the gameplay contained in this title to that in other releases, they perceive that the style of It Came For Zog has certain similarities with games like Grim Fandango and Full Throttle. The designers do not hide at all that LucasArts has been inspirational to them, having had a large impact on their adventure upbringing.”

After a while the game just vanished without any trace. It seems Pixeleers also worked on another cancelled game, “Aeropa: Fall of the Covenant”, but at the moment we did not find any remaining image from it. We can speculate Pixeleers just close down when their projects became too ambitious to be kept alive.

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Project: Advena [PC – Cancelled]

Project Advena is a cancelled sci-fi, survival adventure game that was in development by Illfonic and Psyop Games around 2015 – 2016. The game was officially announced by the team and a short description was available on their old website:

“Alone, and marooned on an alien world, a humble space freighter pilot must face dwindling resources, a hostile environment, and his own internal demons to make his way toward his only hope for rescue, a flickering beacon forgotten on a precipitous mountainside. Each step on his journey threatens to bring him face to face with his imminent mortality, dwindling supplies, strange creatures, and the deepening shade of his own solitude.”

Venture Beat also published an interview with Illfonic in late 2015:

“After THQ shut down, we started doing work for hire putting our CryEngine knowledge to good use, and we worked on Star Citizen, Evolve, Armored Warfare, Sonic Boom … the Team Challenges … a tech demo with AMD, Crysis 3, and some other really cool unannounced projects.

Currently, besides Friday the 13th: The Game, we are working on Moving Hazard and Project Advena — a working title — with Psyop Games, along with relaunching Nexuiz real soon. In addition, we are continuing working on our MMO Revival, which is build in stages and has a pretty cool update coming to Phase 1 real soon.”

Nothing more is known about Advena’s gameplay. Only a few promotional images are preserved below, to remember its existence. After a while the game quietly vanished, while Illfonic switched their resources on different projects. We can speculate Advena was not proceeding as planned and the team decided to focus their efforts on more secure and profitable projects.

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Project Alpha (MIT) [GBA – Cancelled]

Project Alpha is a cancelled RPG that was in development by Multimedia Intelligence Transfer for Game Boy Advance. The team is mostly known for their work on the portable side-series of Shin Megami Tensei, with titles such as Devil Children, DemiKids, Megami Tensei Gaiden.

This canned project was in development using the same GBA engine they created for the Devil Children titles, as much as it reused many assets from Devil Children: Fire Book. However it seems Project Alpha was planned as a different, original game. In early 2019 YT channel Hard4Games made a video about this prototype and sometime later Kuriatsu acquired the same proto, doing more research on its content. As wrote on Reddit:

“For those that are unaware, Project Alpha, is a game prototype that first appeared on Hard4Games about a month ago. In these videos, they covered a few things that are and are not relevant to the game series Devil Children on GBA. Project Alpha uses the exact same game engine to a T that Devil Children: book of fire uses, to the point that it even uses book of Fires internal designation. (so basically Atlus rom hacked Book of Fire) A lot of the assets, such as music, some visuals, a LOT of Debug, and so on, are from Book of Fire, but Project Alpha is its own game, and at one time, was supposed to be something, but noone knows what. In my experiments with this game, there’s not even a single trace of its original name that I’m seeing thus far.”

The japanese prototype was translated thanks to RetroTranslator and Kuriatsu made a video showing off more of what can be found in this early demo:

As wrote in the video description:

  1. This game is not even 1/50th complete, but it is an interesting game.
  2. This game is not a Devil Children game, despite using the DC3 Engine. project alpha is the same for devil children as Guruguru Garakuta-zu is for devil children on the Gameboy colour. Devil children on the GBC actually took a LOT of resources from Guruguru Garakuta-zu. In the same way, project alpha took a LOT of resources from Devil Children Flame Book. In fact, all of the music that we’ll hear from this game is actually from Devil Children Flame Book.
  3. This game is highly unusual in comparison to other prototypes, and is likely the equivalent of a pilot TV show thats testing the waters, as a result, it’s not incredibly detailed, but the back story is clear as crystal.”

Thanks to Kuriatsu for the contribution!

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Syndicate Reboot (EA Black Box) [Cancelled – Xbox 360, PS3]

Around 2005 Canadian team EA Black Box was working on a Syndicate reboot (8 years before their 2012 reboot of the series), to be published for the 7th generation of consoles (Xbox 360, Playstation 3). While the original Syndicate was a real-time strategy game, this new project could have been a more linear action oriented third person shooter, a popular genre on console at the time.

Unfortunately EA never officially announced this new Syndicate, so details about the game are basically zero. What we know is this Syndicate reboot was cancelled not long after: the team tried to convert it into an even more fast-action shooter featuring a female protagonist, but in the end even this new incarnation was canned. Part of the same team later worked on Gunhead, another interesting, cancelled third person adventure featuring a gun-headed protagonist.

Black Box were moved to more profitable projects such as Need for Speed, NBA Street and Skate, before part of the team was laid-off by EA Canada in 2012, when the studio was renamed into Quicklime Games to focus on social gaming and free-to-play.

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