There’s a big celebration about to happen. Awards will be given. Corks will be popped. People who have worked long and hard on their dreams will finally get a little recognition. Of course, I’m talking about the Oscars of hard-working indie game developers. The Independent Games Festival starts next week and there are some big awards to give away. You can keep your shiny gold little men. Give me something that says I made an awesome game. With some big games hitting the stage this year, it’s going to be a tough fight just to win any award.
Of course, we here at G4TV.com know that you have a gambling problem. You keep losing. If you kept winning, it wouldn’t be a problem. So how about some help?
We've picked out some of the best bets in each of the categories ranging from audio all the way up to the big prize: the Seumas McNally award. And just to cover all the bases, we’ve even thrown in a dark horse contender in the competition just to cover our butts. Of course, each one of these games beat out hundreds of other titles just to make it this far. When all is said and done, we are all winners to have so many great games in the competition this year. Just remember that if you happen to win any real money by betting on these titles, you’re required to give us 10% off the top. Or else. Read on for our Best Bets for the Independent Games Festival Awards this year.
If you haven’t been hiding under a rock in a cave on Mars with your fingers in your ears while humming, then you probably know by now that Minecraft is a force that cannot be stopped. Already hitting over a million users and just moving into the beta stage, the creators of this endless land of blocks have something to be proud about. Minecraft represents everything that makes indie games great – creativity, community, and the courage to try something any larger publisher would consider madness. Their risk has reaped major rewards in both revenue and fans. I could go for countless virtual pages about their unique take on sandbox environments, the amazing way that they’ve implemented the community into their product, and how such a simple visual style can all add up to this still evolving runaway sensation. Thankfully, I don't have to, since most of you already know about this game.
Dark Horse: Nidhogg
If there was one game meant to topple this titian, it’s time to head towards the other end of the spectrum. As with Minecraft being a wonderful single player (and yes, sometimes multiplayer experience), we need to find a game that provides a mechanic not found while punching trees or killing pigs. Nidhogg and SpyParty both rely on other players to provide a part of the gameplay. So why Nidhogg? Not to be confused with the worm eating the roots of the tree of life that this game takes its name from (which I’m sure you do all the time), this multiplayer mano-y-mano game provides a quick and kinetic style similar to last year’s winner, Monaco.
Nidhogg lets everyone live out their Errol Flynn swashbuckling fantasies by pitting your sword against another. Guess, bluff, or even jump over your opponent only to find them facing you on the next screen. Even when you’re lying dead in a pile of 8-bit orange goo, you’re still not down as you’ll only appear again to take on the challenge to stop your opponent from proceeding any further in the game. Make it all the way to one end of the castle and the point is yours. Fast, fun, and always different; Nidhogg oozes with enough style to perhaps make one blocky game think twice about a sure win. This is sword football, for the win.
When I first saw this game, it was hard to pin down the style. Bastion mixes fantasy with Far East flare along with a hint of steampunk. But the game is much more than just a pretty face. Objects appear to rise up from out of the void or fall into place as you get near them/ Bastion handles the “fog of war” effect by making it a part of the visual style of the game itself. With the world around you being destroyed, you must put everything back together in this virtual world – piece by broken piece. It’s this incorporation of the design style of the game into the story and mechanics that, for me at least, puts it ahead of the rest of the pack.
Dark Horse: The Dream Machine
There was a time in the early 90’s that clay seemed to be the rage. Games like The Neverhood let the player experience a world slightly different than the rest of the fare by molding their experience with clay instead of animated pixels. The Dream Machine returns to this style in a beautiful and haunting package with in this browser-based adventure title. Visually, the use of clay and cardboard is strikingly different from the rest of the participants and might give this game the edge if the judges are looking for something completely different. Much like the name implies, the look achieves an overall dream-like quality to the presentation while remaining grounded in reality. Objects and places still retain a familiar quality to them but seem out of place because of the style. Life is but a dream when you combine the familiar with clay and cardboard.
Previous Winner: Limbo
Best Bet: Neverdaunt:8Bit
Okay, let’s pretend that Minecraft isn’t going to win this. Neverdaunt:8Bit mixes the world of MMO, brawler, and design into one fast-paced game of cream the castle. Groups race to shrines located within cells that make up the virtual world. By taking over a shrine, that group of players gets to create their own masterpiece of polygons and twisted metal. Of course, putting on the finishing touches signals the rest of the gangs around you to grab any weapon they can find and go in Mad Max-style. If you do not want to switch out guard duty for weeks on end, you can fill your little area with the monsters you’ve collected, and add traps, and puzzles to keep the invaders at bay. Essentially, you create a game for other players to work through in order to stop them from reaching their goals. Imagine dozens of cells each with their own games for you to puzzle or fight through, and you’ll begin to understand why Neverdaunt:8Bit is so technically remarkable.
Dark Horse: Miegakure
There are few things in this life you want to mess with; your mom, hornet’s nests, and the fourth dimension. Miegakure asks you to mess around with one of them – and it ain’t your mom. Though this is not the first time this puzzle game has made it to the big dance, Miegakure has gotten a lot of buzz recently for being both a mind-bending trip and an excellent game. In this game, you reach the end by shifting through multiple dimensions. Shifting an object in one of these areas will cause it to change in other dimensions. The real achievement here is the ability to make something so complete easy to grasp right off the bat. Sure, you’ll scratch your head over some of these problem but you never feel as though it’s impossible.