Recently, Kevin Kelly and myself attended IndieCade 2010, a festival dedicated to showcasing the best and brightest the indie game world has to offer. Between the two of us, we saw a ton of impressive titles across all genres and styles, and we've put together a two-part wrap up of the games that we think you rabid indie games fans need to have on your radars.
Check out the highlights below, and be sure to watch our video coverage of the Indiecade Awards Show, so you can find out who the winners were. In the meantime, keep reading to enter the fun and bizarre world of the Indies.
1066: The Game
Preloaded, Channel 4, UK
This military strategy game lets players relive the famed Battle of Hastings by playing as either the English, the Normans, or the Vikings, and maneuvering units across a horizontal grid that rests beneath simple yet stylish Flash animations of the battle. At the start of each skirmish, you get to choose your units (more archers, less warriors, etc.), and then position them on the board. From there, you have the option of moving, fortifying, taunting or, in the case of archers, firing.
Actions are handled rather cleverly. You actually have to type out “rump fed chicken” or “svinafell troll” to taunt, and when you want to attack, you have to match a rolling sequence of directional arrows. These mini-games add a nice variety and help break up the strategy gameplay. I wish there was a wider selection of taunts and the combat mini-game could be deeper to allow for greater challenge, but they work well enough to get the point across. It won’t tear strategy fans away from Civilization V anytime soon, but it’s a solid browser-based distraction that is sure to steal a few hours of your day should you give it a chance, which you can right here.
By: Steph Thirion, USA
It’s always fascinating to see what developers are able to do when they limit their games to a single button. Steph Thirion has somehow managed to conquer the far reaches of the galaxy with his one-button game Faraway in which you control a comet by using the gravitational pull of nearby stars to catapult yourself around the cosmos in order to locate and create constellations. When you hit a button near a star, you’ll swing around the star as long as you hold down the button. This lets you control which direction you want to go. Stringing together successive swings will get your comet moving at interstellar speeds in no time.
Once you reach your destination, indicated by an arrow on the edge of the screen, you’ll have the chance to thread your way around a cluster of stars to create the best constellation you can in the allotted time. Your score is determined by how many stars you use and how complex your pattern ends up being. It’s a super simple game but it has all the hallmarks of a “just one more time” experience. Look for this one to gain some serious momentum when it lands on the Apple store sometime in the near future.
By: Ragtime Games, Sweden
Part atmospheric platformer, part puzzle game, Continuity offers a wonderfully unique experience that delivers one “Ah ha!” moment after the other. The gameplay is simple enough as you move puzzle pieces around using the directional arrows. Only instead of trying to form a picture like a jigsaw puzzle, you’re trying to create a path to get your running/jumping to the red key and ultimately to the red door. The complexity of the puzzles ramps up at a nice pace, and you’ll definitely need to stay focused if you want to navigate the devious challenges successfully. Throw in a haunting score and stark design, and you have one mind-twistingly great time.
By: Marc ten Bosch, USA
Three-dimensional puzzle-platforming is great for people who don’t mind taking the steam engine to the old-timey bike factory ever morning to earn their daily wage of coal, but for us future-living folks, it’s 4-D or it’s nothing. Thankfully, there’s a game that lets us take advantage of our love of 4-D platforming, and that game is Miegakure. This mind-twisting title has been generating a lot of buzz since its debut earlier this year, and once you shift a dimension to access a previously unreachable section of one of the Japanese garden-themed levels you instantly know why. The transition between dimensions is fluid, and requires you to think about the puzzle solving in an entirely new way. Sort of like a more free form version of Echochrome, since you’re able to freely move around the environment as you manipulate it. The game doesn’t have an official release date, but it will hopefully be hitting PC and Mac in the near future.
B.U.T.T.O.N. (Brutally Unfair Tactics Totally OK Now)
By : Copenhagen Game Collective, Denmark
The object of this wild, physical party game, as explained by the developers, is essentially to humiliate yourself and your friends in as many random and bizarre ways as possible. The concept is simple enough: up to eight players stand a certain distance back from the TV (it varies by game type) and, when the time is right, you rush towards the controllers and try to press the “right” button in order to win. Since it isn’t known which button will be the correct one, players end up fighting for position, which adds a layer of physicality absent (perhaps rightfully, given the potential for injury in such a scenario) in other party games. It’s definitely not for the timid, but with the right group of friends, and right drink menu, B.U.T.T.O.N. could provide a truly unique party experience if it ever finds its way to a console. Here’s hoping.
Groping in the Dark
By: Team Arex, South Korea
My experience with Groping in the Dark was limited to watching another player wildly swipe a mouse cursor back and forth over a series of screens to hit the correct combination of Korean phrases in order to progress and eventually reveal a series of disturbing and haunting images that help tell the story of a girl who wakes up in the dark after being kidnapped and must try to figure out where she is. The game crashed after the guy I was watching finished playing so I wasn’t able to actually play it, but even so, it was one of the most affecting and haunting games I saw at the festival (There’s one image towards the end that is just devastating for so many reasons). It’s no wonder then that it went home with the Jury Award. Groping in the Dark is the first of a series of four games, and judging from the reception part one received, there’s little doubt the developers aren’t hard at work on the other entries as we speak.
By: Krystian Majewski, Germany
I actually had zero idea what the hell was going on during my 15 minute play session with Trauma, but I found myself absolutely enthralled with the Polaroid-finding, swipe-based game that casts you as a car accident survivor attempting to piece together a bizarre narrative that plays out in an unnerving mixture of reality and the subconscious. The game is comprised of a series of photographs that are pieced together to form the game world that you swipe the mouse cursor over in order to navigate your way through the environments. The ambient noise of the courtyard-ish area I played lent the game an air of uneasiness that was fantastic, even though I couldn’t really figure out what I was supposed to do. I don’t know if the game will ever find its way to gamers in any widely available form, but it definitely stuck with me, and I would love to see more about it very soon.
Be sure and check out our Indiecade Wrap Up: Part Two for the rest of the games that caught our eye.