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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

IGF 2016 Spotlight on: Project Rocket Golfing

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 my favorites.

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Every year there seems to be at least one recurring theme in the IGF entrants. With games pouring in from all over the world it’s merely a coincidence that some of them hit on the same ideas. The one I’ve seen a lot of in this year’s offerings is “2D procedurally generated universes” and that is by no means a bad thing. As you may have guessed from the title, Project Rocket Golfing takes things in its own unique direction by basing its exploration around intergalactic golfing.

A simple pull-back-and-release interface lets you putt from asteroid to asteroid or hit a long drive into the stratosphere around a planet. Sink the shot and it’s off to the next celestial body in a big red rocket ship. While the setup is fantastical the science of orbits and gravity is very much grounded in reality. Professor Morgan McGuire set out to make the game casual, approachable and informative with facts and quotes about space science and no Game Overs or in-app purchases. He also made it in two months!

The combination of 2D, space exploration and golf is right up my alley but unfortunately the game is only on iOS devices. While I may not get to play it the idea is so great that it immediately landed on my short list of top picks. For those who DO have an iPhone or iPad, Project Rocket Golfing is available right now on the App Store for $0.99. Check it out and tell me about it!

IGF 2016 Spotlight on: Prison Air

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 my favorites.

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Ya know what game never got the respect it deserved? PAIN on PlayStation 3. Its clever, crude and hilarious ragdoll gameplay was always overshadowed by the commercial tie-ins and frequent paid DLC expansions. I loved it though, and it’s been way too long since someone got close to the concept. Enter Prison Air, a delightfully irreverent game where you launch prisoners via catapult towards a prison while aiming to hit as much stuff as possible with their limp bodies.

It’s expanded considerably since the initial game jam version with a story mode (as inexplicable as that may seem), objectives, minigames and secrets. Like PAIN before it there’s just something satisfying about tossing people around like literal ragdolls and breaking stuff. Call me simple but it looks like great fun! Prison Air from Pointless Button Studios is in Early Access at the moment but I’m very much looking forward to its final release.

IGF 2016 Spotlight on: Overcooked

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 wanted to highlight some of my favorites

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Way up on the short list already is Overcooked by Ghost Town Games, the adorably vibrant co-op cooking action game seen here. I don’t know what it is about cooking games but I’ve been a sucker for them my whole life. From Tapper to BurgerTime and Ore no Ryouri to Cooking Mama, there’s at least one oddball cooking game from each generation that I latch onto and Overcooked looks to fit the bill this time around.

In Overcooked, 1-4 players team up to manage the food orders pouring into the kitchen. Grabbing, chopping, cooking and delivering dishes would be best accomplished by delegating tasks to individuals but half the fun looks to be scrambling around and accidentally (?!) stealing ingredients. Adding a whole other layer of chaos are the numerous stages. There’s the standard restaurant kitchen with its checkerboard tiles and bright lights but things escalate to a pirate ship with countertops that sway back and forth, a haunted house with poltergeists that rearrange work surfaces and even a pair of food trucks barreling down the road.

It has that charmingly colorful and UK indie vibe I liked so much in Flame Over but maybe with Overcooked I might actually get some friends interested. It’s on Steam Greenlight right now and it’ll be released for PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 in “early 2016”.