Action Adventure

Redemption (Cranberry Source) [N64 – Cancelled]

Redemption is a cancelled action adventure in development by Cranberry Source, that may have been published by Philips Media Interactive for Nintendo 64. While it remains an obscure and forgotten project, from what we have gathered it could have been quite the original and revolutionary game for its time, merging many different genres and viewpoints together: FPS, third person isometric puzzle-platformer and open world exploration on vehicles.

Redemption was designed by Jon Ritman, founder of Cranberry Source and mostly known for his work on cult-classic 1980s computer games such as Head over Heels, plus Monster Max for Rare on the original Game Boy. Unfortunately the team never shown any screenshots from their unreleased N64 adventure, but few details are scattered around the web and in old magazines. On the Playstation Museum website we can read:

“Cranberry Source had a multi-product deal (three, in fact) with Philips Media Interactive. QAD was to be the first game released, Super Match Soccer (or Match Day 3 as it was known then) the second, and the third game had a provisional title of “Redemption”. QAD and SMS were developed at the London office, and Redemption was to be developed by staff at the Cranberry North office. Ultimately, Redemption never really got much further than the drawing board, but the initial designs focused around the kind of puzzle elements found in Jon Ritman’s previous games such as Head over Heels and Monster Max.”

In PC Zone magazine (Issue 41, August 1996) they published an interview with Cranberry Source, along with few details about Redemption:

PZ: What about Redemption?

JR: That’s our epic.. John then goes on to explain the basic concept behind Redemption. In summary, it’ll be a very large action-cum-puzzle-cum-exploration game, using several different viewpoints. Parts of it are Doom-like, parts of it hark back to the classic isometric platform/puzzle games of yore (such as Head Over Heels, another of John’s past glories), and parts of it take place outdoors. In vehicles. It’s quite ambitious, in other words.

JC: To rationalise how we’ve got all this different stuff in one game, we’ve come up with quite a weird scenario which involves a mad, serial killer surgeon who’s grafting bits onto you. All this stuff takes place in your own head, and each level is a different operation. It’s, er, a bit odd really.

JR: It is a bit odd, isn’t it?”

An interview with Ritman conducted by Blood in Autumn 1996 for Emulate! Magazine (issue 6) also mention Redemption:

What are Cranberry Source working on at the minute? Which machines are you concentrating on?

Three games each on PC, Playstation & Saturn –

Q.A.D. – A fly over a stunning landscape rescuing hostages game (2player)

The Net – A multiplayer soccer game

Redemption – An epic game, this would take me too long to describe!

[…] For HoH fans I suggest a look at Redemption (it won’t be released until the end of next year).”

It’s not clear if the game was originally conceived as a PC or Nintendo 64 project, but in N64 Magazine (Issue 12, February 1998) they mentioned Cranberry Source were developing it for Nintendo’s console:

“Our wrinklier readers will undoubtedly remember Head Over Heels, a 3D puzzly platform adventure that was one of the Spectrum’s best games back in the 1980s. Well bless our souls if it’s not about to rise again. Jon Ritman, the chap behind the Speccy original, set up a development company called Cranberry Source who, after a bit of PC-based action, have decided to turn their hands to the N64. And their first Nintendo game will be a 3D puzzly platformer adventure that incorporates the best elements of – yes – Head over Heels. Superb!”

A couple of months later, in April 1998 Jon Ritman and other developers of Cranberry Source were hired by Argonaut Games, possibly because the studio were really impressed by their work with Redemption for the N64. As we can read on IGN:

“The co-founder of Cranberry Source, Jon Ritman, and several other members have left the company to join the British independent developer Argonaut, best known for the original Star Fox and the Super FX chip.

According to IGN’s morning news service, GameAddict, Ritman and his team will be working on an action adventure due to release late next year. Prior to the switch, Ritman was working on an N64 semi-sequel to the classic Head Over Heels. It is not yet known how Cranberry Source will cope with the loss and what will happen to its projects in progress.

Argonaut’s Jez San commented on Ritman’s move: “Many of us at Argonaut have been long standing fans of Ritman’s work, especially of Batman, Match Day, and Head-Over-Heels. I feel he will develop some of his finest work at Argonaut and could help some of our existing games further refine their gameplay.” Although Argonaut has only announced one title so far (Buck Bumble), industry insiders have told IGN64.com that Argonaut is heavily investing in N64 development with numerous titles on the way.

It’s not clear if Argonaut also acquired the rights to develop Redemption, but in the end the project was never completed.

We hope one day to preserve more details or even images for this fascinating and unrealized project.

Thanks to Celine for the contribution!

 

Fate (Airtight Games) [Cancelled – Xbox 360, PS3]

Airtight Games was a development studio founded in 2004, formed by former members of FASA Studio, Will Vinton Studios and Microsoft. Between 2010 and 2011 the team was working on a new, unannounced AAA action adventure project titled “Fate”, possibly to be published by Square Enix or another unknown japanese publisher.

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As we can read on Kotaku:

“Rather, this Square Enix game seems to be Airtight’s primary project – an “unannounced AAA title” it has been developing since the completion of work on Dark Void. The company’s website describes this project as “another ambitious AAA title in a genre that is both unique and refreshingly unexplored”.

Given the development timeline, Airtight’s current AAA effort is likely a continuation of a project called Fate, a post-Dark Void project for an unnamed Japanese publisher, which was temporarily placed on hold in April 2011 so that work on the game “could be reassessed”. That decision resulted in much of the team working on Fate being let go. Assets from the time of the developmental pause suggested an aesthetic influence from BioShock, but the game has likely changed considerably since then.”

Only a single logo for this cancelled project was shared by the team. As we can read on Engaged:

“Aside from a job listing popping up late in the year for “several AAA titles,” and the high-profile hire of Portal lead Kim Swift just before Dark Void‘s launch, the studio kept mum all the way until this past summer. […]

“There are currently two projects at Airtight: ours, and another unannounced project,” Swift told me during a pre-New York Comic Con preview for Square’s titles. “I can’t speak to what the game is,” she added (unsurprisingly).”

Fate-Airtight-Games-logo

Unfortunately there aren’t any more details about what kind of game Fate was. Some years later the project or at least the collaboration with Square Enix was restarted, with heavy changes on its original concept. Somehow the “Fate project” morphed into “Murdered: Soul Suspect”. As we can read on Kotaku:

“They used to call this game Fate (Studer even did by accident a couple of times during the demo). It’s the adventure of a detective named Ronan O’Connor. He’s been killed at the start of the game after poking his way through a house in the spooky American town of Salem. A mysterious figure throws him out of a three-story window onto the pavement below and then shoots him for good measure.”

We tried to get in contact with former Airtight Games developers to preserve more info on their lost game, but without luck. If you know someone who worked on Fate, please let us know!

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Raiders (Coop Tomb Raider) [Cancelled – PS3, Xbox 360, PC]

Raiders is a cancelled project in the Tomb Raider series, that would have been developed for Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and PC as a coop multiplayer spin-off, before Crystal Dynamics decided to instead working on Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. Raiders’ concept was heavily different from The Guardian of Light, as it would have been much more similar to the original Tomb Raider games, with third person exploration, platforming and shooting combat.

The story focused on the clones of Lara Croft, known as the Doppelgangers. It’s currently unclear if players would use these Doppelgangers as their playable characters, or if they were the main enemies. In the end the game was canned in pre-production, when they just had some concept made with placeholder graphic and some gameplay ideas to pitch to the studio managers.

While the game was never announced by Eidos nor Crystal Dynamics, fans of the series found documents of the project online, preserving its existence from being forgotten.

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Cryptid Hunter [PS3 – Cancelled]

Cryptid Hunter: The Legend of Kipling Mckay is a cancelled action adventure monster hunting game that was in development for Playstation 3 by Saffire Corporation in the mid ‘00s. Saffire was a small games studio founded in the early 90s, that developed such games as Bio F.R.E.A.K.S. and Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six for Nintendo 64, Barbarian and Van Helsing for Playstation 2. Around 2006 they quietly announced their new game titled “Cryptid Hunter”, planned to be their first project for the 7th generation of consoles.

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The game’s protagonist was Kipling Mckay, an “Indiana Jones meets Rocketeer and 1930’s Explorers” type of character. Cryptid Hunter was set in a Victorian Age of Steampunk, a fantasy and funny sci-fi story similar to classic “Saturday matinee” serial heroes from the 1930s through the 1950s and old-school American comics. The project was conceived by Mick Todd, at the time working as a 3D Artist for Saffire. As we can read on his website:

“Legends have told us there are creatures in our world that defy imagination, that unsteady the sturdiest of soldiers, that frighten the greatest of adventurers, shake the beliefs of religious leaders and cause scientists to question their very knowledge. To find these creatures has been the goal of a lucky few, the extremely wealthy, the privileged and those that run the world and want to keep it that way. To capture these monsters, they employ swashbucklers, guns for hire, heroic adventurers who conquer anything or anyone, especially for money. To exploit these legendary beasts they con the greatest of scientists, for trophies, for weapons, and to profit from war.

Hearkening back to the Victorian Age of Steampunk Adventure comes KIPLING MCKAY (“Kip”), a mysterious safari hunter who is recruited by a secret society of Cryptozoologists to hunt and capture these mythical creatures also known as CRYPTIDS.”

While Saffire never shown any gameplay from the project by looking at the available concept art we can speculate it could have been played somehow like a mission-based action adventure, with some huge monsters to hunt down. This new IP was meant to be used by Saffire for multiple markets including feature films, television, comic books and toys. The project featured artwork by such talented artists as Frank Frazetta, Mike Mignola, Simon Bisley, Alex Horley and Weta Workshop.

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Unfortunately Cryptic Hunter could have been too ambitious for the small team at Saffire. We don’t know how much of the game was done before its cancellation, but by looking at their latest released games (Peter Pan: The Motion Picture Event, Van Helsing. Around the World in 80 Days, Thunderbirds) before the closure of the studio we can assume they had some difficulties in finding a publisher interested in their new project.

There are some rumors about Saffire trying to pitch a slightly modified version of Cryptic Hunter to Konami as a new Castlevania game (maybe when Konami was searching for a western studio for the new 3D Castlevania), but without any luck. In the end Saffire went out of business in 2007.

Thanks to Sean-Paul for the contribution!

 

Tai Fu: Wrath of the Tiger [Beta – Playstation]

T’ai Fu: Wrath of the Tiger is a beat’em up PS1 game which was developed by Dreamworks Interactive (who also developed “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” and “Small Soldiers”) and published by Activision in 1999. The story follows the path of a muscular tiger with Kung Fu skills seeking revenge after his clan was wiped out by the Dragon clan, leaving him the only survivor.

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The game is heavily inspired by chinese tales and can be seen as the “ancestor” of the Kung Fu Panda movies, both having been developed by Dreamworks although T’ai Fu was released 9 years prior.

The game was first announced for release in 1998 but was later delayed to early 1999. Despite good reviews overall, the game didn’t sell very well – probably due to missing the Christmas period. Reviews noted good combat, great characters and graphics (for the time) but twitchy platforming and camera issues.


Like all games, it had several changes during development. Some magazines exhibit those differences:

  • The camera was much closer to the player.
  • The health meter was totally changed. It probably was covering too much space on screen.
  • T’ai had cyan color pants at some point. It was changed to give a darker tone to the game.

Noah Hughes, credited as Game Design Lead provided some more insights on the game development:

“My friend Lyle got hired at Dreamworks and brought me down from Crystal where we met. We were to make a new character based IP like Crystal had done with Gex. He and I went through a number of project ideas before landing on that one.

We would make design pitches and work with concept artists to visualize each concept. We had great concept artists and there was probably 3 main ideas before we settled on Tai fu.

When it started, we knew the game would be about a tiger here learning kung fu styles from all the animal clans but we went through a lot of revisions of the style itself. One was about a spider and it was more like Gex style platformer. A ringtail character with a prometheus inspired storyline.

Both felt a little like typical mascot platform characters for my taste and Lyle shared a passion for old kung fu movies, so this really became the one we both fell in love with.

The visual evolution of tai was one of the more interesting aspects of designing the game. Early on he looked a bit more cartoony and a bit more anthropomorphic. So Jeffrey Katzenberg was one of the execs at Dreamworks and he had come from running Disney. He was the one that challenged us to evolve the character. He said it was “too tony the tiger“.

We also wanted to appeal to a slightly older gaming audience. So we started to play with the more badass look with more unique posing and silhouettes. His pants were that light blue for a long time. In the end the artists felt the darker pants looked better. A little less “cartoony” by moving away from primary colors.

We had an amazing storyboard artist named Rion Vernon who did most of the character art. The Kung Fu Panda movie was actually inspired by his art for this game many years later.”

A beta build has been found dated October 28th 1998 while the final is dated March 6th 1999, almost 5 months later. Differences with the final version include:

  • Much longer cutscenes
  • Longer levels (some big chunks were removed in the final release)
  • Missing “Beat X enemies to continue” sections
  • Camera angles were changed
  • Some bosses play totally differently
  • A debug mode to move the character anywhere
  • A bit more difficult
  • Various minor differences in gameplay and sounds/voices

A footage from this beta can be found here:

Some development screenshots and artists were also retrieved from various sources as seen in the gallery below.

Article by Robert

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