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My Top 20 from the Independent Games Festival 2014 (Part 2)

I wasn’t going to do the IGF thing this year but thanks to a particularly boring day I started going through the entries and had to finish. It went a lot quicker this year as I saw plenty of games from years past and I found myself less excited by many of the titles. Regardless of my feelings, it was another record year for the IGF with 656 games being submitted, all of which I at least looked at. From there I narrowed it down to a spreadsheet of 95 that were of particular interest and finally to what we have here, my Top Twenty from the Independent Games Festival 2014.

And then I whittled just a bit more to make this list into two posts so be sure to look for the other one!

igf2014-moon

Moon Intern by COSMOSAUR LLC
If it lives up to the pitch it could be awesome. Episodic stories, from mundane to epic charge you with action/platforming, puzzle solving and vehicle driving all around (and above) the moon. The lofty goal? Keep paying your rent and keep your NPC soul mate happy.

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Mount Your Friends by Stegersaurus Games
Imagine QWOP or GIRP only it requires multiple players to awkwardly stack up their well-endowed, spandex-clad muscle men on top of one another. This appeals to my gross 90’s juvenile boy mentality.

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Perfect Stride by Arcane Kids
The most astounding thing about Perfect Stride are its visuals. An eye-melting, high-dithering, retro-future 90’s, geometric neon nightmare. The accompanying Soundcloud playlist (it’s an early demo, did you guess?) fits the style perfectly as you stride back and forth to build momentum and basically skateboard around.

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PixelJunk Inc. by Q-Games
Finally, something PixelJunk I can get behind. It’s resource gathering/mining à la Terraria only the goal is to actually do something! Using resources and tools you’re building the greatest soup factories you can and then defending them from jealous hordes.

igf2014-road

Road Not Taken by Spry Fox
Spry Fox’s incredibly cute and bewildering take on rogeulikes. Somewhere between Triple Town and… Don’t Starve? I’m not sure but I love everything about it so far, even those bastard bears from Triple Town.

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The Howler by Antanas Marcelionis & Rene Petruliene
Using only the volume of your voice control a Victorian air balloon as it rises and falls on its way to a landing pad.

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The White Cane by Evan Kice, Daniel Havens, Zach Barnes, Chris Miller
The most captivating visual style I’ve seen since The Unfinished Swan. Moving through darkness, words begin to paint the angles of objects you bump into. But beyond simply being a big box labeled “table” the words change the longer you touch it until you realize ‘it’s.just.a bar.’ I could do without the big cartoon eyes but even the brief demo was a captivating experience.

igf2014-thumper

THUMPER by DROOL
While THUMPER looks like the inside of Journey’s album art I don’t think it’s going to sound quite the same. Shoot down glistening Audiosurf-style highways and blast enemies in rhythmic bliss to what sounds like Electro-Industrial music.

igf2014-when

When It Clicks by dreamfeel
It’s hard to tell what you do in this game where “rotary dials are now the front-line of cyber-warfare” but it’s got a great 90s-retro-hacker vibe.

igf2014-words

Words Warrior by Below the Game
We’ve seen a bit of this before but Words Warrior quite literally melds action with the written word. As your 2D character runs across the lines of his own story he can grab words to solve puzzles and defeat enemies lurking in the prose ahead.

My Top 20 from the Independent Games Festival 2014 (Part 1)

I wasn’t going to do the IGF thing this year but thanks to a particularly boring day I started going through the entries and had to finish. It went a lot quicker this year as I saw plenty of games from years past and I found myself less excited by many of the titles. Regardless of my feelings, it was another record year for the IGF with 656 games being submitted, all of which I at least looked at. From there I narrowed it down to a spreadsheet of 95 that were of particular interest and finally to what we have here, my Top Twenty from the Independent Games Festival 2014.

And then I whittled just a bit more to make this list into two posts so be sure to look for the other one!

igf2014-asunder

Asunder: Earthbound by Aldin Dynamics
Gone Home on a 1930’s airplane ride inside Oculus Rift? That kinda-sorta explains this atmospheric experience. Right from the start you know something bad is going to happen and you have only a few minutes to explore the plane via a promising set of head-gestures and direction-of-gaze tracking to try and survive.

igf2014-axiom

Axiom Verge by Tom Happ
Equal parts Metroid and Contra with an emphasis on finding and exploiting bugs and glitches in the game. Some are straightforward like the “glitch ray” that scrambles enemies with sprite corruption but others promise to capitalize on flicker, slowdown and other familiar glitches. The clever gameplay aside it looks like the gorgeous 16-bit Metroid sequel you’ve always wanted.

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AXYZ by Daniel Contreras and Francis Belmar
Played with a Dual Shock 3 controller, the sticks move you around with traditional first person controls while the tilt sensor rotates the world. Managing both, playing two games at once, seems like a fun (and literal) balancing act.

igf2014-devils

Devil’s Dare by Secret Base
I can’t describe it better than this: “multiplayer retro 2D arcade zombie beat’em up, complete with beautiful 8bit pixels. A love letter to the classic 90s goodness, the game features parodies of classic games heroes fighting against classic horror movies monsters.” That it’s the next game from the creators of Tobe’s Vertical Adventure (another old favorite) only makes me want it more.

igf2014-dontwake

Don’t Wake the Bear by Backpedal Games
This pass-and-play game of hot potato feels like an homage to the antics of WarioWare and Frobisher Says. Players take turns passing around a PlayStation Vita and putting an inexplicable array of random items on a sleeping bear in hopes of keeping him asleep.

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Dungeon of the Endless by Amplitude Studios
A fantastic looking mix of roguelike perma-peril with floor-conquering tower defense building. It’s two kinds of terror in one, realized through a really nice pixelart style with sharp lighting.

igf2014-elegy

Elegy for a Dead World by Dejobaan Games (with Popcannibal)
This continues to sound fantastic. You are the poet that they should’ve sent. I don’t know how it plays but the idea is that you are free to piece together a dead world’s society, religion and philosophies by exploring and investigating its remains. What you type is how the universe will know these alien races.

igf2014-gods

Gods Will Be Watching by Deconstructeam
I love the art style and the roguish nature of this survival/adventure game. The gamejam version has completely stumped me but the larger game promises loads of interesting situations to survive all based on the actions and dialog choices you make.

igf2014-hungry

Hungry Hubert by JAHLGREN
Sort of like Super Meat Boy gone ultra-stark, Game Boy style. Balance killing enemies and eating the level to stave off your life-ending hunger. Oops, I ate that platform I needed! It’s got a great look and I love the balancing act in the gameplay.

igf2014-ibb

ibb & obb by Sparpweed
A platformer where you control two characters at the same time. If that weren’t daunting enough they can move above or below the playfield and take their momentum and gravity with them. It’s a mindkiller in single player requiring that you play two games at once with one of them upside down!

E3 by Me3: Microsoft

That’s E3 by Me, Me, Me because all I’m doing is writing how I feel about the show. I’m not giving each company a “report card” and I’m not declaring that anybody “won E3”

Microsoft’s show made owning an Xbox One for the past three years feel like a huge mistake. Coming off of the beloved 360 they stumbled their way around an always-on future that they ultimately redacted and they’re just now back on point. On top of previously announced games (that still aren’t out) they had quite a few titles at this year’s E3 conference that I labeled in my notes as ‘YESYESYES’.

The show opened with this year’s worst kept secret, the Xbox One S. While the reduced size is immensely tempting, I’d be a fool to buy one having played so few games on the current Xbox One and with Scorpio looming on the horizon. I think I’ll just invest in one of the customizable controllers instead. Like this one.

I was surprised to find Forza Horizon 3 winning me over with each passing minute of its demo. For whatever reason, Horizon 1 and 2 never grabbed me despite my love of arcade racing action and the very comparable Test Drive Unlimited series. But the combination of Australia, Lamborghinis, off-road trophy trucks and more of those race-a-flying-thing events added up to a YES in my book.

Now we skip over more stuff like Recore, The Division and Battlefield 1 to the next big innovation: background music. The crowd’s roar at this upcoming “feature” was amazing. For a company that defined custom soundtracks it’s really sad that they’ve taken this long to work it into the console. Xbox Live’s other new features, however, are totally not my thing. Arenas, Clubs and “looking for group” sound really useful for people who play multiplayer with lots of different friends. But I’m the single player, loner type who isn’t even interested in talking to Cortana who’s also coming in a Dashboard update.

The Minecraft news was astounding and awesome even though I don’t play much anymore. Honest, congrats to them! Inside, whatever that actually is, continued to look fascinating (and will be the next thing I play on Xbox) in just a couple of weeks. Next up was Chris Charla with the ID@Xbox montage. This was one of the only times at E3 that I raised my hands and whooped and it was at the sight of FAR. One of my top twenty from the IGF this year, the game had gone silent and I was starting to worry. Seeing it couched next to Slime Rancher, Bloodstained and Below was a happy surprise. It was also nice to see them focus on fewer titles than in previous indie reels, though most of them I wasn’t interested in.

The one indie game they spent a chunk of time with was We Happy Few. It’s like Fahrenheit 451 fell into BioShock and dragged itself through a pool of smarmy 1960’s UK sarcasm on the way in. I get the narrative “walking simulator” vibe from it as there wasn’t a whole lot of interaction but I’m into whatever it is. In exact opposition was the ludicrous fight scene between Street Fighter’s Akuma and Tekken’s Heihachi in the reveal of Tekken 7. I’m not liable to ever buy it but I’m happy to see Tekken is still kicking around.

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Now we enter the zombie block, the most overwrought modern day game design trope that I somehow never tire of. Frank West’s return in Dead Rising 4 has reignited my interest in the series after skipping the last several entries but I’m really most excited for State of Decay 2. Not much was shown but the core looks to be intact and can only be expanded upon which is plenty enough for me.

I went into Rare’s Sea of Thieves demo ready to write it off as something I never want to engage with. As soon as it reminded me of ArcheAge, though, I started to change my tune. The teamwork involved to man a pirate ship looked cool and had potential to be hilarious with friends. I really liked the scrambling to get the ship ready when the players spotted a distant enemy. The ship-on-ship battles also looked fun and frantic and I love being able to patch up holes to keep the ship from sinking. As long as there’s exploring and looting as well I could maybe get real deep into this!

I’ve been out of the Xbox ecosystem for over a year but Microsoft’s showing this time around won me over in a lot of ways. It’s not going to be my main console anytime soon but there are now as many exclusives coming to Xbox One as PlayStation 4 that I want to play and that’s a very welcomed E3 surprise.

IGF 2016 Spotlight on: Those Good Ol’ 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 those repeat offenders, the games I’ve pinned my heart on year after year and maybe still haven’t bought.

igf2016-affordable

Affordable Space Adventures by KnapNok Games and Nifflas’ Games
Along with past IGF favorite, Hex Heroes, Affordable Space Adventures is one of the very, very few Wii U games I’m interested in. It combines 2D, physics based puzzle solving with FTL-style system management. And it’s got that asynchronous design where one person is on the Gamepad while the other is playing on the TV. I’m up for playing either role and I love the combination (and separation) of the various mechanics.

Amazing Discoveries In Outer Space  by Cosmic Picnic
Also known as A.D.I.O.S., this one was just a mysterious demo in the IGF 2015, promising a 2D universe with realistic outer space physics. It launched just last month in February but I haven’t yet picked it up.

igf2016-cwars

C-Wars/Crystalides by Onipunks Studio
This one’s been an IGF favorite every year since I started this thing in 2012! It’s been kicking around so long that it’s changed almost entirely and was originally in the works for Java based cellphones. I’m still not sure if C-Wars’ final mix of 2D, grid-based strategy will be as appealing as Crystalides’ original promises but I remain hopeful and excited even four years later.

Captain Forever Remix by Pixelsaurus Games & Future Crayon
Originally entered into the IGF 2012 as Captain Jameson (as an expansion of the already addictive web game), Captain Forever Remix has kept me on the line for almost the entire duration of my IGF series. I finally pre-ordered it in 2015 and poked at it a little in Early Access but I’m still holding out for the final build.

Distance by Refract
Distance started life as Nitronic Rush and was one of my favorite, oldest IGF entries all the way back in 2012. The DigiPen student project has gone on to become the much more gorgeous looking Distance but I’ve always felt it was missing the San Francisco Rush inspiration that I loved so much in Nitronic Rush. Nevertheless, one of these days I’m going to pick up Distance and give it a fair and complete shake.

Mini Metro by Dinosaur Polo Club
Two years running, Mini Metro continues to captivate me with its super simple style and its abstract gameplay based on plotting ever more complex subway routes. It’s like a living subway map and even when I’m failing miserably it looks great.

Prison Architect by Introversion
For the longest time I was sold on Prison Architect by its logo alone which was the only thing submitted in the IGF 2012. I eventually bought into it on Early Access and have spent close to 50 hours building miserable prisons and watching my grand architectural designs be foiled by bathroom knife fights and cafeteria outrage.

Submerged by Uppercut Games
Another 2-year contender, Submerged instantly won me over with its promise of non-combat exploration based around a drowned world. It was a little clunky but it packed enough mystery and intrigue to elevate me over any shortcomings. I even translated the made-up language in the game!

SUPERHOT by Superhot Team (in 2014, then 2016)
Superhot hit the IGF in 2014 when it was still in its basic web demo version and it still floored me. The concept that “time only moves when you do” puts an astounding spin on bullet time making it a true mechanic and not just a cheat in a typical shooter. It’s back again in the IGF this year and out now in a full, expanded and totally crazy release which I’m waiting to pick up soon… ish.

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.

igfwhere-elegy

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.