News on Beta & Cancelled Games

Gruesome Castle: Gee Whiz! Mystery Club [PC – Cancelled]

Gruesome Castle: Gee Whiz! Mystery Club is a cancelled adventure game that was in development by Gee Whiz! Entertainment for PC around 1998. It was announced as a ground-breaking project, the “first true 3D graphic adventure”, planning to “combining the 3D freedom of Nintendo’s Mario 64 with the classic adventure game play of LucasArts’ Monkey Island series” with cartoon horror setting and multiple protagonists, somehow similar to the Scooby-Doo cartoon.

As we can read on the old Gee Whiz! website:

“Gruesome Castle follows the exploits of Jake and Anna King and their pals Skip, Wendy, Brad and Jeepers the dino-monkey. Together they form the Gee Whiz! Mystery Club – an adventurous gang of teens who travel the world solving mysteries.

Their latest adventure brings them to England where they are to visit their cousin Edward at Gruesome Castle. Upon arriving they quickly discover that Edward has gone missing and that the castle is haunted. It’s up to our intrepid team to solve the riddle of the ghost and uncover the dark mystery of Gruesome Castle.

Game play features:

1) Taking control of Jake, players can explore a large castle with scores of rooms, including a Dungeon, Hedge Maze, Vast Underground Catacombs and a Spooky graveyard

2) Each location is very large with dozens of characters and objects to interact with

3) Witty dialog via a conversation system that allows you to talk to all the game characters

4) Inventory system lets you examine and manipulate all of the items that you find during your adventure

5) Ability to read books allows you to read from the extensive library and uncover the dark secrets of Gruesome Castle

6) Dynamic cameras in every room give a cinematic feel to game play with pans, tilts and dollies. Players can change from the default mode to any of the many alternative viewing modes allowing them to place the camera where they want it.

7) Includes a Bonus Mystery Quest mode where you seek out the Mystery Club Bonus Items that are hidden throughout the locations. Recovering all the Bonus Items reveals a secret room

8) Look around mode allows you to look at the 3D location from any angle”

A playable prototype was uploaded online some years ago, so you can take a look to see what the team had in mind for this lost project.

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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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The Insider: Back in Black (Dramaera) [PC, PS2 – Cancelled]

The Insider: Back in Black is a cancelled adventure game that was in development for PC between 1998 and 2001 by french company Dramaera (AKA In-Visio or Dæsign). The game’s protagonist was Simon Blurr, an international thief in search of new pieces for his private art collection. Set in 1920s Paris, The Insider was conceived as an ambitious exploration – simulation game, where each character had its own live and emotions, artificial intelligence and daily routine, probably following an internal clock.

Players could move around different buildings of Paris to plan their next robbery, by observing streets, houses, museums and people who live in them. French publisher Canal+Multimédia was initially supporting the team, but in March 2000 they closed their relationship with Dramaera because their project was not proceeding as expected. As we can read on Mobygames:

“The company then signed a contract with index+ in June 2000 with an investment for the game and an additional financial promise to cover the costs to port the game to the PlayStation 2. The companies knew each other well, as Réunion des Musées Nationaux had tasked Dramæra to create the game Paris 1313: The Mystery of Notre-Dame Cathedral, published by index+.

A few weeks after the contract however, index+ was sold to Wanadoo Edition. The relationship quickly deteriorated when Wanadoo decided to focus on more mainstream products. The Insider, the project Dramæra had been working since 1998 with an investment of € 900,000, was to be turned into a classic adventure game with a new team. Jean-Noël Portugal refused and because of this the studio ran into financial troubles at the end of 2001.”

We don’t know how much of the game was dove before its cancellation, but it would be interesting to see a prototype leaked one day, to understand what the team was able to achieve.

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Western Lords [GBA, Nintendo DS, PC – Cancelled]

Western Lords is a cancelled Old-West RPG in development around 2004 by Blossomsoft for GBA, Nintendo DS and PC. In its initial version it looked like a classic 16-bit 2D RPG, but it seems it was later rebooted in 3D for Nintendo DS before being finally canned.

As we can read in some old messages in their (now closed) forum, the game was related to another unreleased game titled “Sagrada Guardians”:

“We’re currently working on a new game project titled Western Lords. Note, however: even though Sagrada Guardians was once titled Western Lords in the past (and then changed due to the theme issue), these games are not the same.

While Sagrada Guardians focus on ‘the cities made of gold’ theme, Western Lords will focus more on outlaws and cowboys in a merciless environment similar to Mexico. However, some story elements of Sagrada Guardians will be introduced via Western Lords.

Even if Sagrada Guardians and Western Lords shouldn’t be considered as the same series, they will be running in parallel to one another. Western Lords will have an entire new cast of characters, and should take place approximately one century before Sagrada Guardians on the same world. Take note that the environment will be darker unlike the fantastic ambiance of Sagrada Guardians. This will remind everyone how harsh the western era looked like (well, at least in literature!).

We hope to complete the game during this coming winter, exactly as we did with Oracle Adventure with the creative side. The game will possibly be sold for around $25 on PC. We’re also planning multi-languages, English and French as initial languages.

Also key members of Sagrada Guardians will be working on Western Lords. For instance, Xavier Dang will be the main composer and William Knight will be in charge of the dialogues. Min ‘keiii’ Kwon will possibly stay on as the artwork designer, though this is unconfirmed as of yet. “

The game was cancelled when the team was disbanded, as confirmed by the team leader on their old website:

“It was the very first project I created back around 2004. The Game Boy Advance and later the Nintendo DS were the main targeted platforms. Sadly, the team disbanded because of my inexperience and since then I’ve been honing my skills to become a one-man team. Fact is, the release of Eternal Eden in 2008 was some sort of Plan B to get Western Lords back on track. But then things escalated to Plan C, etc. I still intend to revive this project with a different style after 2016, if things go well.”

Blossomsoft also worked on other interesting cancelled games such as Mimic Book and GUNNARr (both for Nintendo DS). In 2016 an early prototype version of Western Lord GBA was found and preserved: you can download it from here.

In 2008 Blossomsoft released a different RPG titled “Eternal Eden” on PC as their first commercial project. As of 2020 it seems Western Lords was resurrected and it’s now planned to be released on Nintendo Switch in the future.

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Rampage X (2014) [PC – Cancelled]

Rampage X is a cancelled action game in the cult-classic Rampage series, which was in development by Appy Entertainment around 2014, planned to be published on PC by Warner Bros Games. It was meant to be a new reboot of the classic series while keeping its main mechanics, after the release of Rampage: Total Destruction by Midway Games in 2006. The team conceived some new fun mechanics (such as mutation-customizations for your monster), classic power-ups, huge bosses and naturally a multiplayer mode in VS and coop:

  • 8 playable giant monsters
  • 8 international cities
  • 34 custom mutations
  • online and local multiplayer

Farzad Varahramyan was Rampage X’s Creative Visual Director and from his website (also on ArtStation) we can read some more details on this lost project:

“Warner Bros. had asked Appy to reinvent for them RAMPAGE, from their 80’s treasure chest of arcade hits.  Our team of 12 developed the fully realized and functioning playable prototype in 6 months.

Rampage X is a fun fueled mayhem and destruction filled romp through a fully destructible and interactive environment. If you could touch it you could destroy it or use it to destroy!

The visual DNA we developed for it was hyper-real, based on stop motion animated movies,  with characters, environments and props with exaggerated proportions and real-ish textures and material qualities.”

Huge thanks to Farzad for his help in preserving these screenshots, footage and info on the game!

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