During this time of the great video game harvest, let us not forget the needy – namely, your wallet. Purchasing only a couple of games can blow a hole in your budget big enough to make Greece feel bad for you. Even indie games start to add up in cost over time. And to brutally mangle an overused Game of Thrones phrase, “Winter Steam Sales are coming.”
Fret not, my poverty-stricken little indie battalion. Put away that pack of ramen and break out your keyboard. Here are some great indie titles you can play for the low price of nothing.
Nitronic Rush combines the kinetic driving action of Trackmania with the ethereal aesthetics of Tron. From a student project from DigiPen, the trailer gives you a taste of the frenzy driving that pits you against the neon drenched road. Flip, turn, and slide not only to achieve a higher score, but also to keep on the road. You’ll need to wait until Friday to get your hands on this gorgeous game. You know, if you’re not already playing that other one coming out on 11/11.
If you’re going to be sneaky about it, you might as well be a bastard. Stealth Bastard takes it cue from such games as Metal Gear Solid. Look before you leap since every robot seems to be looking for your head and every laser is hungry for your blood. Not that focused light of any source could drink blood or contain any sentient desires. Play through a couple of the ingenious levels or try to make your own. And when you do get hit by one of those hungry lasers, your little 2D body explodes in a glorious pixel splatter. Forgiving and fun, this is one stealth game you’ll come back to again and again.
I swear that my fascination with Vlambeer is purely platonic. Just recently, the good gents who make the great games released a cool little game called FFFlood. That’s not a typo – three F’s. Much like the coming zombie invasion, you build defenses and hope they hold up against wave after wave of little blocks swarming the screen. Between each attack, you gain money to buy more defenses or repair what’s left. It’s a little rough but still enjoyable. If polish is what you crave, try out their other free game, Super Crate Box.
During IndieCade this year, one game caught the eye of developers. Way presents a situation where co-operation is the key to survival since your partner can often see traps on your side of the screen that is clearly invisible to you. Forget about chatting or typing out what you want to say. Everything in this game comes from gestures you create with you character. Raise an arm. Stamp a foot. Jump up and down. It’s not enough to avoid traps, but players also create a language unique to their partner. In Way, sometimes making that perfectly timed jump is less important that knowing how to express yourself.
Not enough thieves know how to rewire a light, let alone a whole building. Gunpoint puts you in the 2D shoes of one such criminal who loves to jump through windows, hang on walls, and tinker around with a little electrical equipment. From what I’ve seen so far, there’s more that just turning lights on and off with switches. You can get guards to create paths for you or knock them out completely by slamming automatic doors in their faces. Gunpoint isn’t quite ready for human consumption. Keep a keen eye on this one when it comes out in December.
If you’re still bored, here’s what you should do…
You Should Play: Necronator 2
It’s good to be the king. This browser-based RTS lets you send waves after waves of warriors to ransack towns and ultimately brings down the competing castle sending waves of enemies your way as well. Don’t be fooled by the slick design. There’s actually some thought behind this pretty face as you have to pick your army, use a little magic, and keep an eye on your limited resources. Each area comes with three flavors of difficulty and rewards once you complete certain objectives. Necronator 2 provides a quick diversion for your inner warlord.
You Should Buy: To The Moon
Less a game and more of a heart breaking work of staggering genius, this piece of interactive fiction combines elements of Up, Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, and Inception. You act as a part of a team sent to grant a dying man’s final wish – to go to the moon. Instead of sticking him a rocket and shooting him towards to heavens, you leap into the old man’s memories and implant the idea that he’s already been to the moon. You work backwards through his cherished and sometimes painful memories to uncover his past. Light on mechanics, To The Moon presents one of the best stories to come out of gaming this year. Play it now.
You Should Support: Molecat Twist
Gamers just have an unexplainable need to help mindless creatures. This time, it’s the molecat – mostly cat, not so much mole, and all stupid. In order to keep this little critter off the endangered species list, you rotate the tunnels they travel as they collect mushrooms and avoid traps. Check out the trailer and you’ll quickly fall for the easy to pick up mechanics as well as the humorous graphics. Just twenty-five bucks will get you the game, the soundtrack, and a pretty cute postcard. Give the flash version of the game a spin on their website.