Don’t think for a second that the indie action is letting up to make way for the triple-A titles this Fall. The nights may be longer and the air a little cooler, but this only gives you more of an incentive to dive into some of the best games to hit the digital medium. And the Independent Games Festival just released their short list games they’re looking to bring to the big dance at GDC next year.
And by little, I mean nearly 600 games hitting the stage. As I mentioned, these are the games in consideration for the big prizes and the far shorter selection will be announced early next year. Until then, peruse through the selection this year ranging from the retail favorites (FTL), story focused games that transport you into a personal journey (dys4ia), many of your favorite games from IndieCade (Analogue: A Hate Story), and some new faces that you need to keep an eye on in the coming months.
I dare you to look through the list and not become excited by what indie games can offer. But knowing that your time is precious, I’ve picked out a couple of select games that you need to know about right now.
The idea of taking on something bigger and more powerful than you with little more than a couple of tools and a sharp pair of wits has always fascinated me. Sang-Froid takes the concept and runs wild with it as you find your character out in the middle of a farm about to meet an army of werewolves. During the day, you build traps and lay out plans. You know what’s coming for you and what path they’ll take, but it’s up to you and the meager tools at your disposal to take them down. Slow them down or pour on the damage, the way you take care of this hairball infestation is up to you.
Once the moon rises, ready your gun and head out to the farm. One of the things that surprise me from the videos I’ve seen so far is the sheer scope of the game. Running from area to area will do you little good, but a buzzline from the treetops helps when you need to get ready for the next area. And instead of creating something like a tower defense-style setup where the objects you lay down cause the same damage to anyone who happens to wander into range, the traps here often require knowledge of your enemies or you being there to pull the trigger or light the fuse.
Like setting up Mouse Trap without the instructions, you seem to put together the pieces in the best way and pray that that it works out in the end. The only difference is that little plastic mice have never torn a man limb from bloody limb.
On the anniversary of GTA: Vice City, a game hits the virtual shelves that fully embraces the same 80’s neon vibe, ratchets up the violence to the next two levels, and still manages to be one of the smartest games you can wrap your little hands around this year. Like a game of chess with Bouncing Betties, you need to think as fast as you can act.
Hotline Miami is deranged and wonderful, but mostly deranged. You start out this top-down action title by getting messages over your voicemail at home. From there, you arrive at your destination and just start killing. Every swipe of your lead pipe or pull of the trigger leaves another body splatters against the floor. The trick here is that you can take as much punishment as an egg in a mallet factory. One wrong move and you’re taking the long snooze. The game lets you take a bird’s eye view of all the action to plot out your wake of destruction one body at a time.
Okay – I need to wait until this guy gets close to the door, go charging in to knock him out, grab his bat, throw it at the guy with the gun, and then go back to bash his head in with my bare hands. And that’s just two guys in a floor filled to the top with dead bodies just waiting to happen.
I sat down to play the preview build for only a couple of minute only to look up to see I’ve spent an hour making my way through this unique game. From the maker of Dangerous High School Girls in Trouble, 7 Grand Steps takes us out of the classroom and into the pages of history as you make your way through the different generations starting with the most basic of tools. Like his previous game, we take on this epic adventure on what appears to be a turn of the century boardgame. You can almost feel the steam pouring out as characters move in and out of position, plates move, toy crocodiles snap their teeth, and you move through history one token at a time.
There’s a synergy between mechanics and story take keeps you moving turn after turn. Losing a piece is no longer about score, but family. 7 Grand starts i’s slow romance innocent enough until you start running into story options that require you to make choices that help or hurt your family. Losing a parent often means taking a tougher road just to make it to the end. You’ll find both friends and foe along the way. Even with only a little time with the preview, I walked away from it as through I was telling a story that reached through time.
Call it the tower defense game with a human touch, Defender’s Quest puts you in charge or setting up a whole army between you and your main character. Like other games of its type, you have your strong, short distance units as well as your long-distance units. The only difference here is that you’re dealing with people that you equip, level-up, and choose the way they develop along the way.
Even when you are facing off against an seemingly endless army of the undead, Defender’s Quest stresses quality over quantity as you place each of your member on the board. Collect enough energy from your victories and you’ll be able to upgrade your units to be stronger, faster, and pull off a couple of tricks like double strikes or multiple arrows. You also need to worry about enemies attacking your units as they wade through the crowd. Call me a sucker for being able to customize and name my units, but Defender’s Quest serves up a unique experience for anyone tired of the typical creep rush.
At this point, I’m just hoping that the more I talk about Iconoclast, the more likely it is to come out. Much in the same way as Bloody Mary, The Candy Man, and Bettlejuice; evoking the game of this stylized platformer may be the only way to insure that it makes it out the virtual proverbial soup and into the hands of gamers. Really, I’m just thinking about my hands right now. But just take a look at the lush graphics and unique bosses and tell me that you don’t want to jump into the world of Iconoclast as soon as humanly possible.
Based in a world that’s turned against machines, you play as, what else, a mechanic where your hobby could get you put in jail. With puzzles, platforming, and partners, you work your way through the game, taking on whatever is thrown at you with an oversized wrench. With a nod from the IGF committee, I’m hoping that this gives Joakim Sandberg the boost he needs to finish the project. Now if only the same thing would work for Owlboy. Hint. Hint.
Part music synthesizer, part puzzle exploration, and all “haven’t we seen this one before?” – Fract OSC make a return to the IGF as regular competitor rather than the winner of the best student game of last year. Don’t think for a second that they simply turned around the same game for the main competition. If you have been following their blog (and why wouldn’t you), you know that this wonderland of exploration, sound, and exploration of sound is shaping up to be more than just a musical Myst. Solving puzzles brings music back into the world.
On top of that, you can create your own music within the game using tools and sounds that you find within the world. Think of this as the first sandbox symphony or a way to make music matter. In the end, FRACT OSC looks like a lot of fun for anyone searching for a good puzzle or wanting to create his or her own music.