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My Top 20 from the Independent Games Festival 2013 (Part 3)

I’m running behind schedule from last year’s IGF recap so I’ve narrowed it down to just two posts for 2013. Here’s the final seven games I really, really liked from the 15th Annual Independent Games Festival. Let’s go!

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Farm for your Life by Anneke and Oliver Eberlei
Astute fans of the site won’t be surprised to see this one. I posted about the “zombie farming time management tower defense“ game back in December and it proved itself as one of the most interesting and adorable games from the entrants.

 

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Icebreaker – A Viking Voyage by Nitrome
I used to love 2D physics simulation and something about Icebreaker has really rekindled that love. It’s part Cut the Rope and part Angry Birds but with much more complicated and platformer-like levels to indirectly navigate. The pixelart Viking style doesn’t hurt either!

 

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Leaper? by Sophie Houlden
I still get a kick out of good use of a gyroscope and Leaper? looks to use it very well. It also mitigates the hassle of first-person platforming by making jumping (err, leaping) a process that lets you stop and line up exactly where you’ll land. It looks like a nice little adventure.

 

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Mushroom 11 by Itay Keren
Sort of like a water physics game only the water you’re moving around is mostly solid. Destroying or shaving off parts of the mass change its size and momentum but the mass grows back quickly so timing and fine tuning seem important.

 

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NEO Scavenger by Blue Bottle Games
Taking the things I like about Don’t Starve, Minecraft and Make No Wonder to their ultimate, hard science extremes, NEO Scavenger is a brutal survival game. I’ve put hours into the demo alone and — if nothing else — always manage to die in a new and terrifying way. It’s a new kind of brutal, unforgiving and punishing rogue-ish survival game that I can’t seem to get enough of.

 

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Sang-Froid – Tales of Werewolves by Artifice Studio
The biggest surprise from the IGF this year! Take Orcs Must Die’s action tower defense to an even bigger and more strategic scale. It’s got a wonderful lumberjack-vs-the-undead setting and looks maddeningly frantic. I cannot wait to play it!

 

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StarForge by CodeHatch Corp.
What is this madness!?! A realistic looking Minecraft with wave-based fort building and defense, the ability to build straight into space, hilarious movement physics, a Borderlands style gun system and vehicles. The only thing it’s missing is Match-3 and zombies.

And there you have it; my Top Twenty from the IGF 2013 is officially complete! In case you missed anything here’s my first post featuring the biggest names of the show and my second post detailing my next top seven. And in case you’re also a crazy person here’s a direct link to all 586 entries for you to start going over yourself. Have fun!

My Top 20 from the Independent Games Festival 2013 (Part 2)

I’m running behind schedule from last year’s IGF recap so I’ve narrowed it down to just two posts for 2013. Here’s the first seven games I really, really liked from the 15th Annual Independent Games Festival. Let’s go! 

Against the Wall by Michael P. Consoli
I’ve been playing the Unity-based web version off and on for the past year and still love everything about it; the stark visuals, subtle color, and the way it slowly grows more organic and mysterious as you ascend. I am always looking forward to the final release and new platforms to play it on.

 

Alphabet City by Gigantic Mechanic
As tired as I’m getting of word games, this one’s promise of “boggle meets foursquare” with words and rankings based around the location you’re at seems pretty enticing. And while most word games go ultra minimalist with their art, Alphabet City embraces a jazzy, typewriter style that feels fresh.

 

ATUM by Sassybot Studio / Team Cupcake
One of the most meta games ever. Enter a room in first-person to sit down at a PC and play a simple noir-colored platformer, then help your character by finding objects in the 3D room. It’s simple and rough but feels really special.

 

Chroma by Mark Foster
If there’s one overarching theme from IGF this year it’s “light and shadow”. Of all the platformers that let you run on shadows and manipulate light to progress Chroma looks the neatest. It doesn’t hurt that it’s all in a cute, colorful pixel style.

 

Contrast by Compulsion Games
Guess what? Light and shadow platforming! This time it’s 3D on a 2D plane as you play both in reality and on the shadows it casts. The 1920’s era jazz stylings look fantastic and set Contrast apart from the unexpectedly crowded light/dark genre.

 

Cradle by Flying Cafe for Semianimals
A totally dazzling looking first-person exploration game where you awake in a future Mongolia with a malfunctioning robot companion and work to restore her functionality and memory to make sense of the world around you. Development seems troubled but I’m really hoping this one makes it out.

 

Destroy All Color! by Golden Ruby Games
One of the most accessible AR games from the IGF, Destroy All Color requires you to point your iOS camera at objects in real life to match and destroy the colored blocks in the game. It’s a familiar concept with a frantic real world twist and I like it.

 

Check back tomorrow for the final seven and probably some kind of recap so all twenty games are in one big list.

My Top 20 from the Independent Games Festival 2013 begins

It’s that time of year again: time to go over the hundreds of IGF entrants and whittle it down to just twenty that I’m particularly excited about. This year there were 586 entries — up just 19 games from 2012 — but unlike years past the majority of my favorites have already been released. Be it a full price release or a frequently updated “beta” many of these games are very much known quantities. Let’s get those out of the way right now because I think the more mysterious, lesser known, underground stuff is what’s so great about the IGF.

Cart Life by Richard Hofmeier
Once Giant Bomb digs into a game you know it’s hit a certain level of awareness. That’s where I’ve seen most of Cart Life which, at one time, sounded like an interesting literal take on a food-based time management game. Turns out it’s a literal take on reality and the tales of the downtrodden “every man” are a bigger part of this stark looking adventure game than actually running a food cart.

Don’t Starve by Klei Entertainment
A roguelike survival game that is dead set on killing you. You really have to play it safe here or risk starving or being attacked but so many of the rules have to be discovered by taking a chance. The tension is amazing for a game that looks like a childhood Tim Burton doodle. Klei continue to evolve what the game is but I’ve already put a few dozen hours into it and can’t wait to dive back into a more finalized adventure.

Dust: An Elysian Tail by Dean Dodrill
Turns out I was able to get past the “furry” look of Dust once a for-real, heartbreaking story started to take shape. It looks fantastic, has a dazzling (if a little shallow) combat system and it’s hard to not love the all-the-work-of-one-man story of its creation.

FTL: Faster Than Light by Subset Games
Of all the games I played in 2012 FTL was the most effective, the most terrifying and satisfying. Despite its tiny, minimal graphics it often left me shaking as resources are slim, an encounter can turn at a second’s notice, and much of your success is dependent on your ability to manage a dozen functions at once.

Hotline Miami by Dennaton Games
A glorious, punishing top-down trip that’s as satisfying to play as it is disturbing to be a part of. Its neon-soaked, psychotic 80’s adventure is perfectly matched with one of my favorite soundtracks of 2012.

Kentucky Route Zero by Cardboard Computer
I hate adventure games so it’s great that this one boils most of the genre tropes down to simple questions and items. It’s all about the atmosphere and exploration which feels like a dreamy, somehow familiar limbo between life and death.

You should definitely take a few days to check out some of these games because on Wednesday we dive off the deep end of the IGF and into the wonderful underworld of its indie genius.

IGF 2016 Spotlight on: VR Games

As I continue wading through the 775 entrants in this year’s Independent Games Festival, whittling my way to a highly polished list of the Top Twenty, I thought I’d highlight some of the categories I’ve been filing games into. Today’s post features all of the most unique VR games and experiences I took a liking to.

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I’m not super hyped for the oncoming virtual reality craze. I’ve had a few different experiences with the Rift and Gear VR over the years but it has yet to move me towards a purchase or pre-order. I may eventually jump in and buy a headset thanks to some of these noteworthy titles I earmarked from this year’s IGF entrants. Some of these even made it into my Top Twenty!

08:46 by 846Studios
A “narrative driven experience [where] you embody an office worker in the North Tower of the World Trade Center during the 9/11 events”. Leave it to an indie team to finally recreate “the forbidden calamity” in video game form.

Fantastic Contraption by Northway Games & Radial Games
I think this one is a pretty widely regarding darling of the VR scene and rightfully so. It combines the engineering ingenuity of stuff like Besiege and Scrap Mechanic with the Vive’s unique motion controllers. What’s not to love about seeing a haphazard automaton you created come to life at your feet?

G.T.F.O. – Gravitational Testing Facility & Observations by VR Bits
Not nearly as whimsical as Fantastic Contraption, G.T.F.O. still wins me over by basically being The Incredible Machine in VR. Using the Vive’s motion controllers you place components to build ramps and manipulate gravity to build reliable physics machines.

I Expect You To Die by Schell Games
As you’d guess from the name, I Expect You To Die is an homage to all things James Bond. But even 007 had to start as a 00 Nothin’ and bumbling around with spy gadgets and dangerous situations looks like a ton of fun.

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Irrational Exuberance by Buffalo Vision
If ADRIFT is the hard science VR equivalent to Gravity then Irrational Exuberance is VR’s “Pink Elephants on Parade” from Dumbo. I don’t know what you actually do but it’s got an amazing style with its colorful and low-poly universe that I can’t stop staring at.

Job Simulator by Owlchemy Labs
Possibly THE most critical piece of software for the acceptance of VR, Job Simulator is planned as a launch title for all three major VR platforms. It’s bizarre and colorful rooms are the perfect environment to introduce newcomers to how VR works in a humorous and risk-free way.

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes by Steel Crate Games
While Job Simulator might be the game that sells the world on VR, Keep Talking was one of the first VR experiences that sold ME on it. Of course, you can play with a laptop but the sensory deprivation of having your view of frantic, fellow bomb disposal “experts” adds to the nerve-wracking tension.

Narcosis by Honor Code Inc.
Apparently Narcosis has been kicking around the VR scene since 2013 but I hadn’t really noticed it until this year. The combination of immersive VR with a terrifying and crushing undersea environment is probably too much for me to handle but it looks fabulous and enticing all the same.

P·O·L·L·E·N by Mindfield Games
Investigate a derelict space station to unravel the spooky mystery of the crew’s disappearance… by picking up and fiddling with every object in sight! It’s a physics based mystery and after the short lived but fantastic Firewatch I’m up for more walkin’ around and throwing stuff.

Subject REDACTED by DigiPen Team Mocha
Along the same lines as Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, REDACTED utilizes multiplayer in and out of VR. One player is navigating a first-person labyrinth filled with cameras and traps while the VR player sits in the security room behind consoles and multiple screens. Manipulating and hacking the facility, the VR player will have to coordinate and provide the other player with an overview of what’s around the next corner. It reminds me of another IGF game from 2015, Black Hat Oculus, that did the same thing but in reverse.

Where are they now? Catching up with my Top 20 from IGF 2014

Going through all the entrants for the 17th annual Independent Games Festival this year got me thinking: This is the fourth year I’ve done this and some of these games I’ve seen every year while others I’ve lost track of. So I went back to my bookmarks archive and quickly checked in with some of my top picks. You can check out my recap from 2012 and 2013 that I posted earlier this week but for today we’re moving on to last year’s list: IGF 2014.

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Elegy for a Dead World – I like writing… *glances at past 9 years of GameLuv posts* … yeah, I’m pretty sure I like writing. So when a game promises to plunk me down all alone on a dead alien world and tells me I’ll be documenting it for posterity, I take notice. Elegy has gone on to see official release but now that part of the experience is reading other peoples writings I feel like I’d have a pretty boring story to tell. Stage fright? That’s an interesting concept in itself. I really should buy this some day.

Moon Intern – This one had a pretty high, high concept in 2013 as a “serialized side-scrolling action RPG […] with each day acting like a single episode”. An episodic, pixelart platformer sounds enticing but work has been hampered since Day One according to the devs. With a new emphasis on “random and procedural elements” it’s starting to sound like most other indie games of the day. That is to say, a lot less interesting to me.

Perfect Stride – I rediscovered Perfect Stride amongst the L.A. Game Space demos in 2014 and was finally able to make sense of its stunning lo-fi visuals. It also has a really chill soundtrack. As for the future, who knows. The creedo remains: Perfect Stride is coming to $team whenever we finish it. It continues to pop up at events but I haven’t heard much more on its progress.

PixelJunk Inc. – Now known as Nom Nom Galaxy, this “2D Minecraft” has seen several updates since I uncharacteristically bought into its Early Access build. The biggest news, though, is that Q-Games is once again working with Sony to bring the game to PlayStation 4 and Vita. How this impacts the PC version that I bought has yet to be seen but the game continues moving forward at a decent pace.

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The White Cane – The White Cane is literally a black void until you start bumping into stuff. Your characters thoughts — visualized as words — create the world around you as you come to grips with where you are and what’s following you. As a student project from 2013 the team has obviously broken up and only one of them is continuing to work on the game. It’s a long ways off and may never happen but I’m here, still holding on for another update. It’s that striking to play!

THUMPER – Is it an endless runner? Is it sort of like Rock Band but without the emphasis on instruments? I don’t know but it looks splendid and incredible and I will hold on as long as needed in order to play a release version. Public demos are already happening in 2015 but so far I’ve not been close enough to attend.