Tagged: Indie Games

My Top 20 from the Independent Games Festival 2015 (Part 1)

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 I’ll post the first ten (in alphabetical order) and finish it up with another post tomorrow.

igf2015-against

Against the Wall by Michael Consoli
It may not have been on my Top Twenty list last year but I am all about it in 2015. I played the alpha version again, climbed as high as I wanted to and said “enough, enough now”. I need to know that whatever happens next is final release before I go any higher.

igf2015-cwars

C-Wars by Onipunks
What looked so fascinating in Crystalides has been refined and distilled into C-Wars and… I’m not sure I’ll love it. The demo build is very rough but it holds the same pixelart cyberpunk vibe I’ve been into since 2012. It’s now equipped with an FTL vibe where you choose to confront or avoid conflict, a leveling systems and a peculiar real time strategy combat mechanic. It’s still promising but far removed from what I was originally so in love with.

igf2015-captain

Captain Forever Remix by Dean Tate and Brian Chan
I first discovered Captain Forever in 2012 and obsessively played the web demo version but never bought into the expansion. This has been corrected now that I’ve pre-ordered the reimagining that is Remix. Crazy new art accompanies what will be a deep, terrifying hole of frantic ship building and salvaging. Everything I loved about the original with a hopeful glut of new stuff on top.

igf2015-chained

Chained by DigiPen Team Those Guys
I’ve found my mini trend of the year and it’s ‘gameplay mechanics that help as well as hurt’. In the case of Chained it’s a ball and chain attached to your character that you use to demolish your way through an already distraught dreamscape. The modeling and animation are fantastic while the platforming sections are augmented just enough by the ball and chain physics to be interesting.

igf2015-cosmonautica

Cosmonautica by Chasing Carrots
When they say a “fresh, funky and funny blend of space trading and life simulation” they look to deliver. It’s The Sims in managing your crew’s needs and making sure your ship has all the rooms they need. It’s also got a Spreadsheets in Space economy and FTL’s real time terror combat that I love to hate. Soon as it’s out of Early Access, I’m all in.

igf2015-curious

The Curious Expedition by Maschinen-Mensch
I told myself I wasn’t going to get into more procedurally generated, roguelike adventures but The Curious Expedition has super sweet pixelart. Thankfully, it’s top-down, hex-based perspective and party management are equally enticing. Like Gods will be Watching you have to manage your crew’s emotions as well as the external forces threatening to end your expedition with each move. It also looks like you can discover dinosaurs!

Donut County by Ben Esposito
I do-nut what to say about this one. You control a hole that gets bigger as it swallows up colorful scenery and ridiculously cute critters. Very much what I’d call Noby Noby Boy meets Katamari. It looks perfectly, magically insane.

igf2015-fortmeow

Fort Meow by Rhys Davies
It’s like Angry Birds in reverse. You’re the one building forts out of furniture to provide solace for a young girl from needy, clingy cats.  Between waves you can scavenge the house for new items — some provide unique bonuses, some are just hefty — to fend off an increasingly persistent array of felines. It’s a downright pleasant experience from the art to the adorable cat animations to the endless purrs you hear on the game over screen.

igf2015-hero

Hero Generations by Heart Shaped Games
I came across the beta of this game years ago on Facebook and played a ton of it. Not long after the beta was taken down and promises were made that Hero Generations would reemerge. I’m still waiting (but it’s finally very close).

The concept is simple and grand: each square you move on the map is a year in your life. Youth, middle age and elderly phases have their own benefits and drawbacks. You’re out to maximize your time adventuring (and pillaging and fighting) while also winning over a quality mate. Because when you die you take over as your child with inherited strengths, weaknesses and inheritance. It’s roguelike, terrifying and awesome. I can’t wait to play it again!

Hex Heroes by Prismatic Games
Much like the FPS/RTS mashup, Savage, Hex Heroes aims to do some unique stuff with co-op. Potentially a Wii U game I’d buy a Wii U for, the player with the GamePad is given a top down view of a strategy game style map. They command up to four other players on the TV who have their own roles to play; be it combat, resource gathering or dispelling the fog of war over the map. I doubt I’d ever get together with enough people to make it work but it’s a fantastic idea and I’d love to see it happen.

How I find my Top Twenty of the Independent Games Festival every year

People often ask me, “Shawn, how do you decide on only twenty picks out of the hundreds of stellar, inventive games entered into the Independent Games Festival each year?

Wonder no more — people who never actually asked me that — because here’s a video detailing the highly scientific process! I took some time last week to record and talk through my decisions on what I like, what I don’t and what to add to my short list of potential top picks.

2014 IGF entrant, Shiftlings, coming soon to Xbox One

012315-shiftlings

Since it’s turned into IGF week here at GameLuv I thought this would make for a fitting post. Shiftlings, one of my short listed picks from the 2014 IGF, is coming soon to Xbox One. The game page exists but there’s no release date or price info just yet.

Surprisingly similar in theme to a few of my 2015 picks, Shiftlings ties two alien astronauts together by an umbilical air hose that’s always over-inflated. The puzzling, platforming gameplay centers on shifting the air between the two which enables new abilities. Naturally, it’s also important to avoid space spikes and other pointy, poppy obstacles when your inflated with life-saving air.

Until there’s more to report I’ll just say congrats to Rock Pocket Games. It’s always good to see an IGF entrant come to release, especially the ones I haven’t been able to keep up with.

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.

igfwhere-white

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.

Where are they now? Catching up with my Top 20 from IGF 2013

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 that I posted earlier this week but for today we’re moving on to IGF 2013.

igfwhere-against

Against the Wall – A game about scaling a sheer wall and slowly discovering mysterious stuff by pulling out odd-sized blocks to make a path. It’s so simple and pure, I’ve pined for it since 2012 and it’s still not done. Work continues but it seems to be overshadowed by newer games from developer Michael Consoli. I can wait, I just hope it isn’t retired.

Chroma – In a year when every other entry had something to do with manipulating light and shadows, Chroma was the one that looked most appealing. Mark Foster has since found more success with Titan Souls but Chroma remains at the top of his site’s projects list. I hope one day it happens.

Cradle – I’ve had just as many concerns over this game making it out as I’ve had dreams about playing it. Development has always seemed shaky and coming from Russia some of the updates have been hard to follow. Thankfully there’s been news already in 2015 and the script and voice acting have been completed. Paying actors to record dialog is a pretty good sign a game is moving along so I’m hoping to play it sometime this year.

Don’t Starve – Back at the dawn of the neo-roguelike age I fell in love with Don’t Starve. Like most I enjoyed the terror of coming to grips with the game’s mysteries and fighting hunger like it was a tangible enemy. It was the first Early Access game I bought into and the last I’ll ever play with that much dedication. By the time the game was released I’d burnt out on it and everything I understood about how it worked had changed. Still a fantastic game, I just came at it the wrong way and I’ve learned a gaming life lesson from it.

igfwhere-leaper

Leaper★ – Leaper is as old as 2010 but I didn’t dig deep enough on Sophie Houlden’s website until writing this post to find the playable demo of it. I want it even more now despite not owning an iPad anymore which is where the star-enhanced edition would debut… if it ever happens. It’s a great one-button platforming concept that feels wonderful. I hope it happens some day, in some form that I can actually get ahold of.

NEO Scavenger – Constantly tempting me to repeat the same mistake I made with Don’t Starve was NEO Scavenger. It was in playable Alpha form and then on Early Access for the better part of 2 years and I always wanted to jump in. Finally, I bought the full game when it was released proper and it has continued to kill me in more and more inventive ways every time.

StarForge – At the start all I needed was the confirmation that you could build a tower of dirt right out of the atmosphere and into space. Then there was the reveal of the crazy gun generation system and the momentum-based physics of movement. Then the fort-building, wave-based Horde mode. It all seemed to be careening wildly right up my alley. I never bought in but going by Steam the final, release version of the game is a messy shell of all that potential. I’d still like to give it a shot some day but wow, what a letdown.