Tagged: Indie Games

My Top 20 from the Independent Games Festival 2016 (Part 1/4)

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Here it finally is! After being delayed a few months thanks to work, poor health and a vacation, I’m finally ready to run down my Top Twenty games from this year’s Independent Games Festival. For those just now stumbling onto GameLuv, let me fill you in.

I’ve long appreciated that the IGF posts every one of the hundreds of entrants it receives every year. It’s a great place to see what hot new indie games are about to blow up or to simply find inventive new games to check out. In 2012 I finally stuck it through and examined every single entrant resulting in a massive post of my top twenty picks. Somehow I’ve managed to repeat the process every year since.

Why twenty? Out of 500+ entrants 20 is a comparatively tiny number and with only a trailer or unpolished demo to go by it’s impossible to list these in ranked order of excellence. Nevertheless, each of these twenty games has something special to offer, be it gameplay, setting or style. This year saw another record-breaking number of entrants, 775 to be exact, and from that I first narrowed it to 99 picks before hacking and slashing all the way down to twenty. So let’s go!

I’m going to write a little bit more about each game than I have in the past so I’m breaking it down to five games per post over four days. So in no finer order than alphabetical, here are the first five games in My Top Twenty of the Independent Games Festival 2016.

AEROBAT by Thew
Yes, it’s reductive and not all that accurate but I can’t help wanting to call Aerobat this year’s Lutrausers. It’s only because they both have outlandishly cool styles and innovate on traditional shmup action. In Aerobat your ship can either propel itself through the air or fire weapons, but not both at the same time.

Using only the mouse you’ll build up speed, blast high into the sky and then weave through swarms of enemies, picking them off as you freefall dangerously close to death. I’m probably never going to be good at the game but it’s worth watching just to gawp at the visuals. Everything moves ultra fast and smooth with dazzling parallax effects and mesmerizing, billowing laser blasts.

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Amazing Discoveries In Outer Space by Cosmic Picnic
You may remember this one from my Good Ol’ Games post just a few days ago. When A.D.I.O.S. first appeared in the IGF it was little more than a peculiar tech demo but now in full release on PlayStation 4 there’s a promising interstellar game to see. Randomly generated 2D solar systems full of planets, stars and asteroids sit between you and your distant home.

While there’s no combat involved there’s plenty of peril. It’s been likened to roguelikes Spelunky and FTL where snap decisions lead to satisfying victory or sudden, utter defeat. Managing fuel and trajectories will get you from planet to planet to keep your ship gassed up with natural resources as you hunt for star data that eventually points the way home. It looks simple but it’s an immensely complex simulation of stellar forces that seems both fun and terrifying to explore.

Astroneer by System Era Softworks
Serving as a 3D counterpart to A.D.I.O.S. on this list, Astroneer is the next most mysterious and promising space exploration/peril simulator. For starters it has a wonderful art style with flat shaded, faceted polygons and a wonderfully vivid color palette. Animation is quite the sight as well — a rarity for a survival game — with a bounding exuberance in every step, low gravity leap and heart-clenching death scene.

On top of that is the promising open-ended gameplay where you mine and terraform diverse planets, build facilities to survive and develop new technology and even play with others. All this from a super small team of only four developers. My only fear is that it will launch too close to the similarly massive space explor-athon, No Man’s Sky. Given enough time, though,  I’ll always come back to sci-fi space peril!

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Block’hood by Jose Sanchez, Gentaro Makinoda
Picture a thriving town in SimCity and click to zoom in 3 or 4 times on a city block. This is the scale at which Block’hood operates but it’s no less demanding and interconnected than a sprawling metropolis. That’s because each block you place has specific needs in order to produce a unique resource. Trees need water to generate oxygen; things only get more complex as you move up the economic and ecologic hierarchy.

The goal is to build a beautiful neighborhood that’s also sustainable. The risk is decay and obsolescence which jeopardize neighboring blocks unless they’re removed or augmented. Things are so interconnected that the main mode of the game is the freeform Sandbox where everything is unlocked straight away. As your neighborhood grows in complexity so does the challenge and even without a goal or time limit there’s plenty to focus on.

It doesn’t hurt that the flat shaded cubes lock together to create a sharp, modern visual style. From a flat white plane you’ll create cozy “green” houses on a hillside or towering vertical cities. It’s the visual look of LEGO blocks designed by IKEA with just a subtle touch of animation as wind turbines turn and water slowly undulates.

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C-Wars by Onipunks Studio
This one has been kicking around in the IGF so long that it’s changed almost completely. It was also originally in the works for Java-based cellphones! Thankfully, that old game of Crystalides is much more accessible on modern PCs as C-Wars.

Now described as a “pixel action horror game with strategy, rogue-like flavor” C-Wars feels more like a run through FTL than simply a series of turn-based battles laid out in linear fashion. Each run doles out a random set of characters, stories and missions and challenges you to make the tough calls on when to fight, what gear to go after and more.

C-Wars is now in Early Access release on Steam where it continues to change to the general confusion of those interested in the game. Previous demos were much more feature-packed but the latest build is apparently more reserved. Personally, I loved what I saw in Crystalides more but I’m still invested in seeing where C-Wars goes. It hasn’t been abandoned by any means but it may eventually evolve into a game I’m less excited to finally play.


Check back tomorrow for another post featuring five more extremely awesome games from the Independent Games Festival 2016! Or use these links to jump straight to Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4. Don’t miss out on even more great games from the IGF by reading my posts leading up to the Top Twenty.

Say hola to ADIOS on PlayStation 4 this Autumn

Can’t wait for No Man’s Sky? How about 2D No Man’s Sky? I don’t even mind putting that reductive of a label on ADIOS because the developers themselves are pretty cheeky with how they define it. Their site calls Amazing Discoveries in Outer Space the world’s first “2D-space-simulator-platformer-rougelike-explore-em-up-hybrid-genre-did-we-mention-space-game (2DSSPREEUHGDWMSG)”. But it also, more succinctly, defines it as “a 2D space exploration game with a rich simulation grounded in astrophysics”. Ok, that’s a pitch I can get behind!

I first saw ADIOS in this year’s IGF entries back in January but it was a tiny demo of some physics and it didn’t grab me. Almost half a year later it now looks dead-on like something I could get into. The lighting and atmosphere look splendid and it’s got realistic newtonian physics that govern over celestial bodies, your spacecraft and the stuff you drag around with its tow cable. Best of all, no weapons or combat! Yes, that’s a big plus in my book these days. The peril comes in keeping your ship fueled as you hop from planet to planet, searching for a way to get back home.

And unlike most other indie games coming to consoles, ADIOS hasn’t been kicking around on PC for years. It may not be an exclusive forever but it will launch first on PlayStation 4 this autumn. Check out the first gameplay footage above if words and mental imagery aren’t exciting enough for you.

Check out 31 mostly new Indie games coming to Xbox One

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If you’re tired of all this virtual reality news coming out of GDC and just want to check out some new games, the Xbox YouTube channel has posted 31 new trailers of upcoming indie titles. These games are all part of Microsoft’s indie publishing program, ID@Xbox, which has some booth space at GDC to show off the games.

Many of these are games I looked at in the IGF this year and it’s good to see them updated and getting console releases (Submerged, The Sun and the Moon, ClusterPuck 99). There are also a lot of titles I hadn’t heard of making their “console debut” on Xbox One. Of particular note is The Flame in the Flood which looks like a fantastically artsy rogue-lite set amongst a flood in a “forgotten post-societal America”. You can check out most of the games on the Xbox channel but I’ve included their bullet point listing after the break if you want to read some more.

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We almost know more about SteamWorld Heist

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After SteamWorld Dig’s surprising debut on the 3DS in 2013 (and its subsequent hop to every other digital platform) fans have been eager to find out what would come next. SteamWorld Heist was first announced last September and since there’s been a terribly slim amount of news to go on.

It’s not a sequel. It’s set far into SteamWorld Dig’s future. Robots have set out into space in search of precious water. Something-something turn-based. Outer space exploration and survival. With music by Steam Powered Giraffe.

Almost another year later the steam powered news cycle is finally about to kick off. Members of Image & Form Games will be demoing SteamWorld Heist for the press and public throughout March. First at the Game Developers Conference (March 2-4), then at PAX East (March 6-8), then at EGX Rezzed in London (March 12-14). Finally they’ll take the game to New Jersey for the not-game-specific Steampunk World’s Fair on May 14-15.

So, come mid-March we should finally know a lot more about what SteamWorld Heist is and hopefully when to expect it on which platforms.

My Top 20 from the Independent Games Festival 2015 (Part 2)

Here we are again. It’s early in another new year and I’ve gone through all of the entrants in the Independent Games Festival. There were 639 games entered for 2015 and I wound up with a “short” list of 93. From there I hemmed and hawed for a while and ultimately decided on just 20 that I think are the specialest. Today is Part 2, the final ten of twenty (in alphabetical order). Check out yesterday’s post if you’re a fan of indie games that start with the letters A through H!

Megaton Rainfall by Alfonso del Cerro Aguilar
“Don’t you think that superhero games [should] transmit the sense of power and freedom of movement, that these characters apparently have in other media?” This is the premise for the most impressive first-person gameplay I’ve seen in years. It’s still very early but the scale of environments it’s able to push around is astounding and the movement already seems so smooth. I hope this makes it out as a finished product!

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Nubarron: The Adventure of an Unlucky Gnome by Nastycloud
Another one with ‘gameplay mechanics that help as well as hurt’, Nubarron is a hatless gnome, constantly followed by a vicious storm cloud. Stop for too long and you’re toast, but you also need to use that lightning to defeat enemies and solve puzzles. It’s a clever and wicked spin on 2D platforming and the art style is lush. Unfortunately, it didn’t hit its Kickstarter goal and the team is working on a smaller project to help fund Nubarron. It’ll be a ways off but I’d love to see more.

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Painters Guild by Lucas Molina
I wasn’t sure how to handle this game when I first played the alpha. I was gingerly moving Leonardo Da Vinci from tiny, simple paintings to studying… and then I got overwhelmed by angry customers and a pope died in there somewhere and then I lost. There’s much more to be added in the final version but I think it’s succinct to say this feels like Diner Dash with art, and it’s great. I can’t wait to see and play more of it. Also, here’s Katy and I playing the demo.

Poncho by Delve Interactive
May I introduce you to ‘The Next Fez’? Ok, maybe it’s more Mutant Mudds than Fez but you can’t deny Poncho has a gob-smackingly gorgeous 2D aesthetic of its own, especially when you see it in motion. It also rings just a little of the mystery of Fez but that might be because the trailer is so vague. Either way it gets my vote for the love of parallax.

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Road Redemption by DarkSea Interactive
Look, I know the IGF is the place for innovation, invention and even enlightenment. But I also know that I love Road Rash and Road Redemption is the closest thing to it we’ve had in nearly 20 years. It looks like the biggest, dumbest mess of physics and motorcycles and flying bodies and somehow roguelikes. It’s just too bad it’s still Early Access.

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Small Radios Big Televisions by FIRE FACE
Absolutely stunning to look at even in the early demo version! It’s simple and gorgeous and mysterious without being pretentious or talky. In fact, it may be the silence and lack of characters I love the most. You can watch me play through the demo for more ineloquent ramblings about how I love it.

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Submerged by Uppercut Games
I was already intrigued by the characters floating ominously in a boat. When I realized it was the rooftops of a flooded modern metropolis they wash up to, I was instantly sold. It feels every bit like a Team ICO game but with zero combat and an open world to explore. It is, in concept, my dream game. We’ll see how much is there in the final product but I couldn’t not include it here.

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Sumoman by Tequillabyte Studios
There’s something oddly pleasing about the way Sumoman balances, jiggles and moves that makes me want to play this game. Basically it’s another physics-based, side-scrolling puzzle/platformer but it’s got a spirit I really appreciate. Plus if Sumoman topples over you die and that’s hilarious.

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THUMPER by Drool
As I said in my follow up post last week: 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.

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White Night by Osome Studios
White Night is absolutely THE most visually stunning game that I’ll probably never play. I appreciate the admitted inspirations of the original Alone in the Dark and I love the gameplay of keeping the lights on. But when you add things that chase me into the darkness, I cash out. Still, it is so unbelievably gorgeous. The thinnest edges on the things just barely in sight; the perfect whites and blacks in starkest of contrast to one another. The gritty 1930’s setting with matchbooks and gas lamps. I want to see more and hopefully give it a shot myself but I’m probably going to run away.