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Indie Games

You know what indie game Minecraft has always needed? No, not "decent graphics," I'm talking about freakin' helicopters, man! Luckily, the modder community is on hand to satisfy my every desire and whim before I'm even conscious of it. So please enjoy the video below, which features a freakin' helicopter in Minecraft. And when you're ready, download the Minecraft helicopter mod yourself, right here, and fly around.

The best mobile video games can be hard to find, simply because of the sheer amount of titles out there. But, worry not! Welcome to G4's Knuckle Up, where we bring you a byte-sized view of our five favorite mobile games every week. The mobile space is filled with incredible games that will keep you busy for minutes, hours, or even days -- we'll let you know what we're playing and why we're playing it. Here's our top five games this week.

GAME OF THE WEEK

CAVERNS OF MINOS

iOS (Universal)

Caverns of Minos takes its cues from the old Atari classic Caverns of Mars. In the retro original, you would control your spaceship and navigate vertically downward through a twisting map in order to pick up a bomb at the bottom. When you grabbed it, you had to speed up and out of the map before it exploded. It was a pretty fun game, and Jeff Minter’s interpretation/homage Caverns of Minos delivers the same super fun gameplay with his uniquely bizarre twists.

You’ll still be piloting a spaceship, but instead of evacuating a bomb, you’re tasked to pick up a variety of items (underwear, cheese, and fantastic savings, to name a few), and deliver them to the mothership... which is a sheep head. It’s just as strange and whimsical as his previous title Goat Up (another of my iOS favorites), and the controls are precisely executed, making Caverns of Minos a must-have if you love retro shooters.

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Fez

It has begun. The 2012 IGF finalists have finally hit the web. and I must say that it’s a Who’s Who of the indie gaming world. This year, each of the games ran a gambit of trials to earn its prestigious position with each category judged by its own committee of experts. Every game listed here impressed the very best in the fields of visual art, design, audio, and other developers who represent the best of what indie games have to offer. Just getting nominated from among hundreds of other entries is truly an honor, and I congratulate each of the developers that made it into the competition this year.

As with last year, there’s nothing that celebrates the spirit of the IGF like putting a little money on the line. For each of the seven categories, I go through to give you a little analysis and predict the winner. If you want to hedge your bets, I present a second option for those of you looking to beat the spread. To be a real winner, I suggest that you go to each of the links provided, watch the videos, and support the indie scene by buying these great titles. It’s not every day that you get to play some of the best games in the industry or peak into the future of game development. IGF represents the best in creativity, experimentation, storytelling, and some of the most fun your have in the digital world. Good luck to all the developers when the IGF presents the awards during the Independent Game Summit (March 6th - 7th).

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Joseph Olin Steps Down From The Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences

If there's one thing we love, it's Indie games, so we're proud to announce the ten finalists in the 3rd Annual Indie Game Challenge hosted by the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences (AIAS), The Guildhall at Southern Methodist University and GameStop.

Please join me in congratulating the following ten indie game companies and games:

  • Blendo Games - Atom Zombie Smasher
  • Eyebrow Interactive - Closure
  • Zeroscale -- Demolition, Inc.
  • Team Nitronic - Nitronic Rush
  • Paradox Shift - Paradox Shift
  • Empty Clip Studios, Inc. - Symphony
  • Ty Taylor and Mario Castaneda - The Bridge
  • Team Dream - The Dream Machine
  • The Fourth Team - The Fourth Wall
  • Facepalm Games - The Swapper

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The best mobile video games can be hard to find, simply because of the sheer amount of titles out there. But, worry not! Welcome to G4's Knuckle Up, where we bring you a byte-sized view of our five favorite mobile games every week. The mobile space is filled with incredible games that will keep you busy for minutes, hours, or even days -- we'll let you know what we're playing and why we're playing it. Here's our top five games this week.

GAME OF THE WEEK

KINGDOM RUSH

iPad

I often find tower defense games to be fairly rinse and repeat, but playing Kingdom Rush was a nice change of pace in the often-stale genre. Sure, there are a lot of things that are typical of the category (medieval theme, tower types/upgrades), but there are also some really excellent twists on those old standards.

As mentioned, you’ll have towers to build to defend from the various evil creatures coming at you. As you complete each level, you’ll gain stars to spend on upgrades, and you’ll also get the ability to split off and grab advanced versions of the towers you build. You also get two abilities that are cooldown-based: reinforcements, which you can place to help defend the path every 10 seconds; and meteor strike, a high-damage ability used for boss creeps with a long cooldown. They’re creative additions that help make fights more interesting, not to mention they come in handy when you’re overwhelmed by creeps.

Kingdom Rush is a stylish, fun tower defense game that never takes itself too seriously, and benefits from that mindset. You’ll get hours of enjoyment out of KR, and with GameCenter support on the horizon, Ironhide Game Studios has a great title on its hands.

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The Indie Games of 2011

Monaco will be the game that people will pop on during parties. Fez should start building another shelf just for all the of the “Best of the Year” awards. And everything from Antichamber  to Zombie Grinder is just waiting in the wings for this year to unfold. Yes, 2012 is the year that everything changes as indie games take over consoles, PC’s, and iPhones. Here are just a couple of the titles that you need to know about before everyone else is already talking about them.

Gratuitous Tank Battles

The man who brought you so much real-time space combat that it was outlawed in Nebraska is back to tackle the tower defense genre with plenty of treads. Gratuitous Tank Battles puts you in the trenches of this World War nightmare as it clashes with futuristic weaponry. The heavy thuds of mechs and the rumble of tanks shake the ground as they march towards a gauntlet of trenched soldiers, giant cannons, and their awaiting fate. Players will work both lines of the battle as they try to stop the endless waves of attackers or send countless waves of men towards victory. Just as with Space Battle, it’s both the scope and detail of the game that’s most impressive. Zoom out too far and you’ll lose yourself in the chaos of the war. The adaptive AI promises that every battle will be different as the computer learns to counter your strategy. Create the perfect fighter or defense with the custom unit editor. You can also create your own levels with your particular units. When other players upload your map, they’ll be playing against a virtual you in the stage. Gratuitous Tank Battles will hopefully live up to its name once it comes out this year.

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The Indie Games of 2011

I’ve rewritten this list at least twenty times. After sorting through all the amazing indie games that came out this year for the PC--from Terry Cavanagh’s co-op masterpiece, At a Distance, to the student built adrenaline racer, Nitronic Rush-- I can assure you that PC gaming is far from dead. You need to only look as far as your PC to see just how alive the genre is. Picking five of the best titles took many long nights and more cups of coffee than I care to remember. Honestly, I never saw so much innovation, creativity, or simple love of gaming as I have with all of the indie games that came out this year.

And yes, I didn’t include Minecraft on the list simply because I wanted to give a couple of other games a chance to shine. Play it now if you haven’t already. Just because I’m not talking about Minecraft directly, you’ll see that its influence has already spread far and wide. Sit back and get ready to play some of the best games that came out this year.

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The Indie Games of 2011

It’s not easy being indie. Even when you finally get a publisher to look your way, pull you out of the deep recesses of the Xbox menu, and put you up with the big boys; you never get the recognition you really need. Don’t get me wrong. Games like Bastion and Stacking fully deserve their time in the arcade spotlight. I’m talking about the games that slide out into the schedule that you never hear about or see for one reason or another. Like the proverbial redheaded step-child, they are often overlooked and under-appreciated. You often get new clothes with holes and stains on them. (And just for the record, I’m not a redhead.)

This all came about when working up the Best of the Year nominations. When the Downloadable Category came up, the phrase “I know no one played this, but it’s really an amazing game…” seem to popup again and again. In the sands of XBLA, hidden gems await for you to find them. This list focuses on smaller titles that might have slipped through the cracks or need to be brought back to light. I can guarantee that you’ll find at least one or two amazing games on this list that you never knew existed. Maybe sometime soon, you can tell someone, “I know no one played this, but it’s really an amazing game.”

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We've been spoiled by the latest and greatest graphics, sound direction, and innovations in gaming. Don't get me wrong. I love seeing exactly where my bullet entered that poor sap's head and being able to see the exit wound. Who doesn't? I also love being fully immersed in some of the most gorgeous environments I've seen this side of Okami. But as many of you may already know, I've got it bad for the retro aesthetic. Maybe I was born with it. Maybe it's Maybelline. Either way, I know I appreciate any title that takes us back to the classics, the days of 8-bit, 16-bit, and 32-bit art. The systems I grew up with. These games put their own unique modern spin on what otherwise resemble games from our childhood, and these five are some of the best examples that represent the essence of retro meeting today's generation of gaming.

Jamestown

Jamestown: Legend of the Lost Colony

This indie offering from Final Form Games is a surprisingly deep side-scrolling shooter with lush, colorful environments and plenty of spunk. Its 16-bit art style is of course the main reason for its inclusion in this list. Just look at it! The manic shooter presents an alternate steampunk history where Mars is actually a British colony, contested by the Martians and the Spanish. It's a little far-fetched, that's for sure, but that's definitely part of its charm. Its pixel-perfect 2D art and sweeping soundtrack work in harmony to ensure Jamestown remains firmly lodged in your memory as one of the best modern examples of retro gaming out there. And just think – this is all from an independent studio.

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The Indie Games of 2011

Imagine a store that never closes filled with hundreds of games, and you don’t even need to put on your pants to go there. Xbox Indie Games might not be the easiest shop to find, but with a half a dozen games appearing on their shelves every week, this is one place you want to check out. With the end of the year quickly approaching, I picked out five games that not only demonstrated some of the creativity found in the XBLIG area, but are a really a lot of fun to play. With so many gamers complaining about the lack of creativity, the expense, and not finding the right game to play; these XBLIG titles represent a solution to the problems plaguing the industry and gamers alike.

Blocks that Matter

Blocks That Matter

When two of the top indie game developers are kidnapped, it’s up to their secret project, a tiny robot with a drill, to come to their rescue. As the miniature Tetrabot, you trek across dangerous terrain with only a drill as your guide. Break and store a variety of blocks from sand to concrete. Collect four or more blocks and you can rearrange them anywhere on the map. The only catch is that you’ll need to build a four-block shape – think Tetris – in order to lay them down. You’ll gain new abilities along the way such as breaking special blocks or clearing out rows of eight or more blocks. Replay levels to find hidden items or take on the challenge levels if you’re still itching for a block to scratch.

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The Indie Games of 2011

Digging Deeper: The Impact of Minecraft

Something happened last Thursday. One of the mothers in the office approached me with her son to ask when the new patch for Minecraft for the full title, whether he would have to stay up until midnight or wait until later that Friday. In a season of so many games coming out, this one young teen wanted to wait for a game about digging in the dirt. Minecraft, of course, encompasses far more than digging, building, and exploring. With a community of millions of people, this one title without any publisher and only a handful of developers has created a world far greater than the game itself. Last weekend, thousands of people filing into Las Vegas proved that as they attended the first ever MineCon.

Markus “Notch” Persson along with the rest of the Mojang team created a game that not only inspired a community, but also created a lasting impact in indie gaming. Today, I want to look at the bigger picture of the influences of Minecraft as well as how it’s changing the way indie games move forward. See it as just a big sandbox or a blank canvas, no one can deny this one game changed the course of games to come.

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The Indie Games of 2011

Every year, there are more amazing indie games that slip through your fingers than titles on store shelves. If anything, this year proved that these small development teams have yet to exhaust their endless supply of creativity or passion for making great games. With the holidays quickly approaching, I figured that this would be an opportune time to remind you of some of the incredible titles released early this year for Steam. Knowing Gabe and the rest of the crew there, you’ll be able to pick up most of these titles for only a couple of bucks very soon. Winter sales are coming.

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The Indie Games of 2011

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

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.

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Xbox 360 indie game DLC Quest dares to ask, "What happens when DLC goes too far?" The downloadable title has a basic plot, "Defeat the bad guy, save the world and get the girl!" DLC Quest isn't that easy though, you'll need to take your finances into consideration before you save your damsel in distress. "But first you'll need to find coins to buy DLC to enable animation, sound and even pausing." 

Some gamers, like myself, are a little fed up with the amount of DLC gamers are expected to pay for. This game does satire right.

You can download a free trial of DLC Quest from the Xbox Marketplace.

The Indie Games of 2011

I completely understand the situation. Turkeys take forever to roast, holiday flights need to be booked, and those damn Riddler trophies just won’t find themselves. It’s those damn shutter doors that keep closing before my batarang can get through. The vent should be spewing out broken bat junk by now for as many as I’ve thrown in just to hit that question mark. So if you need a break from the hustle and broken batarangs of the holiday season, I picked out some great indie games you probably overlooked during this busy time of the year.

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