The Indie Game Challenge Finalists; Spirits, Inertia, Hazard: The Journey of Life, Monaco

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Posted February 10, 2011 - By Rob Manuel

The Indie Game Challenge Finalists; Spirits, Inertia, Hazard: The Journey of Life, Monaco

Welcome back to the last leg of our journey to the Indie Game Challenge. We've seen some great games, but we have four more before we finish. Again, you have a chance to give an award to your favorite indie game with the Audience Choice Award. One will be crowded in glory and laurel wreaths. The rest shall hang their heads in shame. Their children shall hang their heads in shame. Crops will wither and their milk shall sour. And you, casting the winning vote, shall hoist the winner high upon your shoulders shouting “Glory! Glory!”

Or they’ll probably get a little well deserved recognition and maybe a nice dinner. I would bet on that second thing. Think, play, and vote for your favorite indie game.



What it’s about: It’s a bit like Lemmings and unapologetically so. For as popular as those little suicidal deviants are in the video game world, you would expect more clones of the game to be running all over the place – only to fall down a bottomless pit. This lone iPad game in the competition captures the (wait for it…) spirit of the original game so well while improving on the experience. Instead of little men roaming around, you need to corral white leaf-headed spirits as they wander through windy caves. Tapping on any of the little creatures will allow you to transform them into a number of items such as bridges, tunnelers, or little clouds to create your own air currents. Of course, transformations eats up one of your spirits, meaning one less little guy you can carry to the exit. Save your quota of little men and it’s off to the next level. 

Wind is key to survival. In these windy tunnels, a good gust can carry you off to victory or certain doom. These air currents, moving and flowing through every space of the board, are one of the major mechanics separating Spirits from its predecessor. It’s this use of space that makes approaching every board a little different. You’re not just thinking about the ground under their little feet but also the air around their illuminating heads. 

Why you should vote for it: Again, we see a common game-type changed and even improved upon. The controls make it easy for anyone to pickup and play. Because you have to rescue so few of the spirits, the player can spend more time experimenting and exploring the environment. While difficult at time, everything about this iPad title from the music to the character design is meant to relax the player.  



What it’s about: If you don’t recall your high school physics lessons off the top of your head, an object will remain in motion unless another force acts upon it. It’s Newton’s Second Law as well as the title of this game, inertia. Instead of having to deal with falling apples, you are the lone survivor of a wrecked spaceship. To keep this from becoming your metal coffin, you must escape through the wreckage and broken bits of ship hurdling through space. Your one trick is that of launching yourself from the ground and letting inertia take over. Fly higher and float longer, but you won’t be able to change your direction unless you set your feet on the ground of another object bounces you around. Platforming collides with air hockey in this survival space puzzler. 

One of the most striking aspects of Inertia is how the developer managers to do so much with so few components. Your little spaceman will need to maneuver around electrified surfaces and still active jets. Besides that, there’s really nothing else besides the twisted metal maze keeping you from the finish line. Though all the level, none of them feel as through they repeat even through most of them contain the same elements as the one before it. Inertia utilizes its mechanic in different ways to work around obstacles. One moment you’re timing your landings just right to keep from slamming into an electrified wall. Another puzzle may have you bouncing around a room to get to different areas. Tackling a simple mechanic in very creative ways keep each area fresh while still keeping many of the same elements.

Why you should vote for it: Inertia presents challenge without being challenging. Grey data packs lurk in each of the levels. The first couple of areas practically hand you the packets, but venture into a couple of later areas and you’ll find that the packets are not nearly as accessible. Soon, you’ll need to use a little exploration just to find all of them. Inertia never forces you to find all the packets. You can just go to the next level. The game will, however, will let you know how many you missed and that’s the trick. Not only does the game get progressively difficult, but so will finding the packets. Your OCD itch kicks in and you need to find that one last packet. It was so easy before. Why can’t you find them now? And now it’s 3AM and you’ve been playing for hours.  

Hazard: The Journey of Life

Hazard: The Journey of Life

What it’s about: Two words – video game museum. Okay, when you read that thoughts of old black plastic lined with wood panels and faded box cover immediately sprang to mind. This is not that kind of museum. Instead of long forgotten machines lining the wall, think more along the line of mechanics tempting and enticing you around every corner. You start out in a lobby and work your way to the exit. Of course, trying to make a beeline straight to the exit is a lot like running through the Smithsonian. Also, it’s pretty much impossible to do so.

Hazard throws out a lot of designs to mess with your head and sense of game reality. Floors often disappear. Hallways double back on themselves. Dead ends can often lead to the right way out. The designer beautiful displays each of these ideas through experience and a little plaque. Beautiful, whimsical, and slightly haunting; Hazard leads you through the bits and pieces of design like a barker at a sideshow. Come one. Come all to one of the greatest shows on virtual Earth.  

Why you should vote for it: The play’s the thing – or in this case, the gameplay. Trying to describe how certain mechanics and tricks of the trade work can often leave you tongue tied. Hazard manages to avoid all of this by showing the player in the most minimalist approach. Though exploration and experimentation, players discover the twisted tricks of this virtual world. Spend enough time roaming the halls and you’ll forget about ever leaving.



What it’s about: Think about an 8-bit version of Ocean’s 11 without Brad Pit eating in every scene and you get Monaco. You work in a team or by yourself as you infiltrate, pilfer, and then get the hell out of Dodge before any of the local guards or security cams gets a whiff of your presence. Before strapping in and heading out, you get to pick your specialty. Fly through locks with the greatest of ease or be a computer whiz. Choosing any one of the skills presents a different strategy for players. Picking up enough gems scattered around the area lets you use one super skill such as shutting down all the electronics on a floor. Get up to four people to get to really create some havoc. 

Why should you vote for it:  Fat pixels and solid colors are often used to gently stroke those nostalgia neurons firing in your head. In this theft caper, the 8-bit style actually works with the mechanics presented in the game. As soon as you plant your feet on the floor, you can see the entire board, only slightly darker. Moving through the level will highlight areas in front of your character, revealing gems, obstacles, and possible dangers. Armed guards and snooping cameras stay out of range until they reach your lightened line of sight. With few options to fight back against these guns for hire, Monaco forces you to keep your head down and always plan for a quick escape.

The Indie Game Challenge Finalists; Spirits, Inertia, Hazard: The Journey of Life, Monaco


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