Tagged: indie

My Top 20 from the Independent Games Festival 2016 (Part 2/4)

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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. 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 next five games in My Top Twenty of the Independent Games Festival 2016.

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Fantastic Contraption by Northway Games & Radial Games
This one is by no means a hidden little indie gem, it’s becoming one of VR’s most important experiences. Putting on the HTC Vive headset and picking up the motion controllers, you’re immersed in a colorful world where all you have to do is build awkward contraptions.

It’s the sense of play and creativity that makes it so approachable and it’s the Vive’s responsive wands that enable you to forget how to play and just play. Grabbing and rotating pieces with your hands, you latch on rods, joints and spinning wheels in hopes of simply moving your contraption to a designated point. Fantastic Contraption’s simplicity and approachability are just perfect for an introductory VR experience and I hope to try it myself one of these days.

FAR by Mr. Whale’s Game Service
Dystopian wasteland meets Road Trip adventure. FAR is the one game from the IGF this year that really struck me with awe but it may only be because it’s so damn mysterious. In the only demo video released we see the squat, armless character run to board a “roadtrain” which reveals a cutaway 2D interior filled with big red buttons.

Exploring the vast wasteland of a seafaring civilization that dried up requires you to not only operate the vehicle but repair and upgrade it. Sometimes that means managing its sails to move faster or putting out fires when a storm strikes. Other times it means leaving the vehicle behind to find a path forward. It just looks fabulous and enticing and oh so mysterious.

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Forts by EarthWork Games
A little bit Worms, CastleStorm and Cannon Brawl, Forts is close to the ultimate amalgamation of satisfying combat gameplay for me. The most appealing part is building rickety bases out of physics-based planks, platforms and anchors. Mining the resources to keep them standing is only the beginning as your opponent is doing the same thing on the other side of the map.

With fortifications in place and resources coming in it’s then time for an arms race. A tech tree governs which of the 10 weapons you’ll have access to, each with strengths and base components that defend against them. The laser, for example, is immensely powerful but your enemy may install mirrors to reflect its burning beam back on your own fort. As the fight rages the forts take on unexpected, floppy shapes as you slap in structures to defend against attacks and counter balance with ropes lashed to the ground.

I’m not super crazy about the online competitive multiplayer but I sure love building cumbersome structures and watching them fall apart. I keep frantically checking for a demo, an early build or a solid release date so it’s safe to say I’m pretty excited to finally play Forts.

Fugl by Johan Gjestland & Marco Peschiera
Long, long ago I dreamed up a game where all you did was fly around as a bird and I’ve been waiting ever since for someone to make it a reality. Thankfully there’s Fugl which is simply billed as a “60 fps voxel bird flight sim for iOS”. I love everything about it, from the super smooth framerate and animation  to the look of the voxel worlds with their mathematically sculpted terrain. Bonus points go to the recently added troops of wildlife hopping, jumping and soaring around you. I still don’t know if there’s more to it than just flapping about until satiated but I’d love to find out.

Unfortunately, the only bummer about Fugl is a pretty big one. I don’t own an iPad which is the only acceptable form factor for me to play any kind of mobile game on. Regardless, I’m happy to see Fugl still coming along and growing bigger and broader over the last two years.

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G.T.F.O. – Gravitational Testing Facility & Observations by VR Bits
While Fantastic Contraption seems to be garnering more of the VR praise G.T.F.O. is on the same level for me simply because it captures the spirit of The Incredible Machine. Utilizing the Vive’s impressive motion controllers you find yourself in a Portal-esque facility tasked with a similarly abstract goal: to move a predefined number of balls to a goal. That’s it.

Touching and grabbing different components you’ll build a Rube Goldberg device of panels, launchers and gravity wells to surround yourself in the middle of a hilarious, precarious machine. Like Fantastic Contraption, there’s nothing exceedingly new about G.T.F.O. but the way it seems to work in VR is intuitive and immersive and, thank god, it isn’t just another horror game.


Check back tomorrow for Part 3 featuring five more extremely awesome games from the Independent Games Festival 2016! Or use these links to jump straight to Part 1, 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.

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.

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!