Every so often, we miss some of the great indie games coming out. With new games coming out on every system and often without any fanfair, the occassional hidden gem sneaks through our grasp, never to be seen again. (Or at least, that's my excuse.) Check out the top five indie games that you need to know about right now.
I know. Stealth games are a dime a dozen these days and Solid Snake has been doing it since before it became fashionable. Nonetheless, there's something insidiously charming about Qasir al-Wasat.
A stealth action-adventure set within 'one ominous night inside a wondrous palace in 12th century Syria', Qasir al-Wasat will have players taking on the role of an invisible fiend, one that had been forcibly summoned by sorcerer to carry out an assassination attempt.
Unlike many other titles, Qasir al-Wasat doesn't put a limit on how long you can go invisible. It's a permanent thing. This, of course, has a lot to do with the fact that the protagonist is about as fragile as centuries-old china; one friendly nudge and you're dead. To further compound your health risks, you're susceptible to stuff like blood stains and environmental debris. People will take notice if you're careless enough to take a bath in someone else's bodily fluids or if you decide to dance the flamenco in a patch of dry leaves.
To be fair, I could be biased. I'm totally smitten with the aesthetics. In an industry saturated with voxels and big, blocky pixels of all sorts, it's kinda awesome to find yourself immersed in what feels like one of the darker chapters of Scheherazade's One Thousand and One Nights.
And really, what's there not to like about a game that will let you play as a nefarious spirit dragged from another dimension, hmm?
SkyGoblin's The Journey Down is, hands-down, one of my favorite indie point & click adventure games. There's very little to dislike about it. From the brilliant art direction to the infectious humor, it's... What? Okay. Let's take it a step back.
In the beginning, The Journey Down was a short, funky-looking 2D title that SkyGoblin made with Adventure Game Studio (AGS). After they released it, it went on to collect roughly eleven awards from the AGS Awards 2010, an achievement that sort of hints at just how well-crafted it might be. Since then, The Journey Down has transitioned in the world of high-definition 3D, acquired its own engine and is currently on its way to, err, re-release.
Like Qasir al-Wasat, The Journey Down has a rather unique audiovisual presentation. The music's a toe-tapping blend of jazz and reggaeton, the characters are all inspired by traditional tribal African masks and the urban environments look fit for a Disney movie. It's a wonderfully chaotic blend of elements but one that works surprisingly well.
If that wasn't enough reason to give Journey Down a chance, there's also the story. You didn't think the awards were all based on superficial things now, did you? The tale behind The Journey Down was built on the spine of something simple: two chaps, down-on-their-luck, find themselves enticed into helping a cash-laden woman. It's a familiar premise, but one they've infused with snappy writing, elegantly-executed puzzles and a slew of delightful jokes.
Best of all? You won't have to contend with rubber poultry and constant, meaningless deaths.
Have you ever wanted to take iconic characters like Mario, Link, Kirby, Tails or Mega Man and dump them into a variety of familiar, copyright-infringing environments? If so, here's you chance to see exactly what kind of chaos would ensue from such a mash-up. If not, well, this may convert you to the idea.
Mushroom Kingdom Fusion is just plain rad. The very personification of the phrase 'a labor of love', this fan-made platformer is a huge, sprawling hodgepodge of everything that made my generation's childhood worthwhile. Available for the low, low price of absolutely nothing at all, Mushroom Kingdom Fusion is one of those things you just need to play. Unless, of course, you have something against platforming classics.
I've got a special place in my heart for any game bold enough to give its artillery silly names like The Violator and The Penetrator. Yes, I'm totally serious. They totally went ahead with those naming conventions. Before you mistake Sanctum for a slyly named exercise in interactive pornography, let me assure you that it's no such thing.
Anyway, Sanctum is Swedish-based Coffee Stain Studio's debut production and one of the rare few first-person shooter/tower defense games out there. Conducted from a first person perspective, Sanctum tells the story of a carrot-haired soldier by the name of Skye and her attempts to single-handedly defend Elysium One against an onslaught of purple-tinted aliens. Well, sort of.
There isn't much of an actual plot line, per se. Fortunately, there's plenty to keep you occupied anyway. Unlike most tower defense-esque games, there's no pre-determined path here. Not only are you going to have to figure out optimal placement for your various turrets, you're also going to have construct clever mazes in order to delay your enemies for as long as possible. Once you've accomplished all that, you're then free to start the action and to, guns a-blazing, jump into the fray yourself.
Last but not least, here's something for the iPhone game connoisseur. Ravenmark: Scourge of the Estellion is an indie turn-based strategy game designed by the Singaporean Witching Hour. It's also easily one of my favorite games on the iOS and, quite possibly (personal bias thoroughly accounted for), one of the more under-appreciated titles in the App Store.
One of the biggest things that Ravenmark has going for it is the fact that it features a remarkably comprehensive setting. On a platform filled with flimsy settings, world designed to do nothing more than serve as a backdrop for a game, Witching Hour's attention to detail is an absolute treat. Backed by attractive visuals and a thoroughly epic soundtrack, Ravenmark's real strength lies in its game play.
At first glance, it seems simple enough. The AI and you will take relaying commands to your respective armies. Once you're done, units will perform their orders. After every battle has been fought, the cycle renews itself. But, then, the game's nuances will make itself known. You'll find yourself worrying about geography, about formations, and about the possibility of being flanked or whether you have the opportunity to flank the enemy. You'll have to fret over things like whether or not you have sufficient Command points to execute all your directives and how useful Standing Orders will be this turn. It's a chaotic, complex amalgamation of elements to worry about. If you've been hankering for something heavy to sink your teeth into on the iOS platform, this is the game for you.