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The Indie Games of 2011 That You Need To Play

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Posted January 19, 2011 - By Rob Manuel


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The Indie Games of 2011
 
Let’s face it – 2010 was a great year for indie games. With titles like Minecraft and LIMBO breaking away from the pack and finally getting mainstream attention, gamers and journalists alike are finally turning their interests towards these creative, unique, and often under appreciated games. And I am happy to say that this year is turning out to be an even bigger year for indie titles with some big named developers releasing games and a couple of highly anticipated titles finally hitting your local download emporium. 
 
This list only represents a small fraction of the games coming out this year. I apologize if I leave your game out. I’ve killed a number of virtual trees to make these pages and I would need a virtual Amazon rainforest to take care of the rest. Still, these are all titles you should be keeping your itchy little gamer fingers ready for when they finally hit. And the next time you happen to be at one of those swank videogame parties, don’t be afraid to drop some of these names and watch the girls swoon. What can I say; the ladies love indie games. 
 
The Indie Games of 2011
 
 
thatgamecompany, who created the wonderful fl0w and Flower, are heading into unexplored territory with their newest downloadable title for the PS3. Though very little information has been officially released about Journey, we do know that this is their first attempt at a very unique multiplayer structure. As a wanderer of this exotic wasteland, you’ll occasionally run into the footprints of other wanderers making their own journey. Join them or not; thatgamecompany has taken on the task of creating a game that’s engaging for multiple styles of play.
 
Seeing some of the art for the giants inhabiting this world will make even the most anti-social player look for a hand to hold when taking on these goliaths. As with Flower, the small snippets of video reveal a world that’s both beautiful and mysterious. Eastern influences mesh with a Desert Punk-style to keep you looking over every dune or wondering what you’ll find at the end of this Journey.  Though there’s a tentative release date of sometime this year, you can count on me to be first in the virtual lines to download this title.
 
The Indie Games of 2011
 
 
The good gents over at The Behemoth know a thing or two about gaming. Alien Hominid brought us a hard-as-nails side-scrolling shooter long before difficulty was a trend. Their latest title, Castle Crashers, was nothing less than a love note to the old days of arcade hack-and-slash style games. Now they’re tackling one of the biggest genres the only way they know how – with solid mechanics and a twisted smirk placed firmly on their lips. Battleblock Theater mixes Mario with Running Man as the only way to get off this island alive may just be taking it one tricky platform at a time.
 
As always, the art style revels in whimsy, making it that much more gleeful when your custom made character hits a spike or explodes on a grenade. From the gameplay modes we’ve seen so far, you’ll be collecting coins from a flying whale, trying to capture the souls of your enemies, or just try to survive any number of devious traps. This theater of war holds large arenas, co-op levels, and even single player levels if you don’t feel like getting betrayed by your friends – again. Battleblock Theater reminds you that the show must go on, even if it’s over your dead body.
 
The Indie Games of 2011
 
 
Welcome to Ocean’s 11 in 8-bit form. Monaco puts you in the pixilated shoes of a criminal working as a part of a team of outlaws. Get in. Get the money. Get out. Easy, right? Not so fast. You have to get through locked doors, past armed guards, and around security cameras. Fortunately, you have three other thieves to lend a hand and their own technical know-how to get around certain problems. Each player picks a profession and uses their special skills to hack away at the network or use a little muscle to subdue the guards. Stealth and teamwork will be the keys you need to get the loot.
 
For such a small game, Monaco is packed with great ideas. Even the 8-bit style lends itself to the gameplay as different areas light up to act as your line of sight. You never know if behind that door is a way out or a wandering guard with an itchy trigger finger. With four players on the screen, the map blooms and dims in an array of lights and shadows as you move throughout each level. It could almost make you want to stop and admire the beauty of it all if you weren’t already worried about that security camera finding you.
 
The Indie Games of 2011
 
 
You want to play this game. You just don’t know it yet. Call it an homage to the gaming days of yore or call it hell on 8-bit wheels, Retro City Rampage lets you wreck havoc and destroy plenty of cars in this open world city. Step into the shoes of THE PLAYER and you’ll be instantly transported into a world not too far from that other videogame about stealing autos. Play a couple of missions, however, and you might find yourself in the jungle – or seaweed infested sewers – or any number of other games from the glory days of two buttons and a d-pad.
 
If nostalgia is the sweet sugar of the past, Retro City Rampage might just put in you a diabetic coma – while driving over pedestrians as balls of fire shoot into the sky. Hitting both XBLA and Wiiware later this year,  Retro City Rampage celebrates everything people love about those early GTA titles with burning wreckage and their tongues firmly planted on their cheeks.     
 
The Indie Games of 2011
 
 
If you remember, Supergiant Games was already gracious enough to come over to our offices to talk about their new game. And I’m sure you’ve already read this article about it. Then I don’t need to remind of the world springing to life underneath your feet with every step you take. I don’t need to bring up the low growl of the narrator’s voice as he guides you and follows your every action. You’ve already been thinking about how such a narrator can improve your own life. (Except that time I got sick off of half a birthday cake. No one needs to narrate that.) 
 
Kinetic action combined with an Eastern fantasy art-style makes this one of the downloadable games that will put retail counterparts to shame. The main character can switch between range to melee with only the press of a button. And you’ll need every weapon you’ll be able to get your hands on if you hope to survive some of these enormous areas that you’ll have to fight and puzzle your way through. Get your thumbs warmed up because it’s going to his XBLA before you know it.
 
The Indie Games of 2011
 
 
Everyone has that one game that they’ve been waiting forever for, waiting in anticipation for each trailer, and getting a little giddy over every trickle of information that comes spilling out about the game. Fez is that game for me. I’ve been a Fez devotee (a Fez-onite? A Fez-ster? A Fezzy?) since I saw the little guy and his even smaller red hat. This puzzle-platformer turns its 3D world into a shifting 2D perspective. Think of it in terms of games like Paper Mario or Crush. By changing how you look at the world, you turn obstacles into platforms and a way out when there only was a dead end. 
 
Fez comes with an 8-bit soundtrack to accompany its pixel-shaded world. There’s just something about this vibrant world shifting around you that puts a smile on my face. Perspective is key in getting through these levels – thinking not just about what is but what will be after you shift around it. Fez all the markings of a great XLBA game – if it can only come out.
 
The Indie Games of 2011 That You Need To Play
 
 
Ain’t no party like a … well, you get the idea. SpyParty puts you in the dinner jacket of a spy trying to blend in with the crowd or behind the sights of a sniper waiting just to take him down. Subtle behavior will be your saving grace or downfall. For the spy to succeed, he’ll need to perform a number of tasks during the party. Hide the microfilm in the book. Switch the bust. He might even need to touch a butt or two. The point is that each of these actions has a slight tell to it that will give him away if he isn’t careful. 
 
The sniper, on the other hand, just needs to mark the spy with his magical spy indicator. Since magic doesn’t really exist, he’s going to use a bullet. The game makes you very socially aware of your surroundings by forcing you to step outside your own actions and consider how you look towards others. By deviating from the norms, you get penalized. That penalty just happens to come in the form of a bullet to the head. Players take turn playing either the spy or the assassin. It’s the one game where being the life of the party might just save your own.
 
That's what I I've cleared out part of my attention span for this year. What indie games are you looking forward to?

 

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