Tagged: Indie Games

First Impressions: Flinthook


Oh, crap. This game is difficult.

The first thing you need to know about Flinthook is that it is merciless in its mechanics. It’s a roguelike, so that means I’m back at the beginning of the level every two minutes or so. I’m having such a hard time just trying to shoot enemies, fire my hook in the right direction and not step in the bad stuff all at the same time. I loved Spelunky, where I felt like I was actually making progress in the caverns before dying a hero’s death (not really). Flinthook is not like that. Flinthook doesn’t care about your feelings.

On the upside, the game is beautiful and has really fun music. I mean, check this out. This is cool. I fell in love the second this started playing, not knowing that I would be crying within five minutes.

So, onto the combat itself.

You have a gun. It shoots plasma orbs. You can slow down time. I always forget this feature exists, because I’m too distracted. It would probably help a lot if I remembered to use it. I could not fathom playing this game with a keyboard and mouse, however, if you’re using a controller I hope you can get used to everything being mapped onto one side because you can’t change it. Hahahahaha!



Honestly? This doesn’t bother me. While playing I never stopped to think, “man, I really wish I could reconfigure the controls.” Some people might, but for me, it wasn’t a deal breaker. I’m just bad at the game, and a different control scheme is not going to save me.


Fortunately, even though I’m dying a lot I’m still making progress. I’m still leveling up and collecting items that will open up new worlds to explore. The downside is that the worlds are all a bit samey. I haven’t played far enough to see if this ever changes, but it seems like all the worlds are pretty much the same theme which might get a little bland after a while. It also seems like there’s a fair amount of grinding involved. This will either be hit or miss for some folks. I personally don’t mind shutting off my brain for thirty minutes on the couch while I grapple hook around and break things. It’s cathartic.


So far, I like Flinthook a fair bit but I really wish it was on the Switch. I’d like to curl up in bed and play it.

Developer: Tribute Games (Shawn says he enjoys the look of their stuff but doesn’t actually like playing any of it. Shawn, you’re not going to like this one either. Go back to Spelunky.)

Release date: April 18th, 2017

Platforms: PS4 (played), Steam PC, Xbox One

Regular price: $14.99

Official website


Taking Screenshots as a Gameplay Mechanic in Eastshade

Some of us just can’t help walking around virtual worlds and spamming on the F12 key to take screenshots. It’s more an appreciation of the environment and artistry than a desire to capture broken mechanics, and now that meta mentality is being turned into a game itself.

Eastshade is an upcoming PC game from Eastshade Studios in which you, as a painter, explore a fantasy-themed 3D world in search of the perfect scenery. Plop down your easel, frame the shot and watch as it’s “painted” on the canvas as an in-game, 3D object. What do you do with it? That’s where Earthshade takes its next surprising turn.

The game promises “interweaving micro-stories” and dynamic conversations with its inhabitants who reveal the story, items and new locations as you gift them paintings and interact with them. It makes me think of Animal Crossing with its innocent and interconnected community.

Take a look at the trailer above to see an early version of Eastshade in action. It’s not due until sometime in 2018 but if that seems painfully far off you can get a taste Eastshade with Leaving Lyndow which releases tomorrow for $4. It lacks the screenshot-painting mechanic but will introduce you to the Eastshade universe and its characters through a short, exploration-adventure narrative that can be finished in one sitting. It’ll also bolster the development of Eastshade itself so if it seems like something you want to dive into next year, maybe give Leaving Lyndow a try this week.

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


Here it finally, 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 final five games in My Top Twenty of the Independent Games Festival 2016.


Peter Panic by Heckle Inc.
I was already sold on a pixelized successor to WarioWare but Peter Panic ties the microgame action together in the most unexpected way possible. In hopes of bringing stage theater back to his hometown, Peter sets out on a quest to recruit the townsfolk by performing odd and bizarre tasks all themed and scored like a musical.

For real, a cast of Broadway performers sang the songs and voiced many of the characters in the game. If that weren’t peculiar enough the game features the first voice performance by Iron Galaxy frontman and “friend” of Giant Bomb, Dave Lang as well as an upcoming level designed by Deadly Premonition director, SWERY65. It is all up my alley but, unfortunately, it’s an iOS exclusive for now.

Shadow Shooter by Masasuke Yasumoto
It seems like there’s at least one highly specialized, augmented reality game in my IGF picks every year. For 2016 it’s Shadow Shooter from Masasuke Yasumoto whose previous creation, Phantom Window, was in the running last year. Utilizing a very custom-made “Electric Bow” that projects a 360-degree world in front of you, the player has to spin around to find approaching enemies and then line up a shot, pull the bow and let the luminous arrows fly. I stand almost no chance of playing this myself but it makes for a fantastic presentation.


Super Rude Bear Resurrection by Alex Rose
I have been known to enjoy a “masocore” platformer in the past but in the last few years I’ve grown pretty far away from the sub-genre. So what’s one of these games doing in my IGF picks? Super Rude Bear Resurrection promises “a super tight masocore platformer that anyone can beat” and that demands a closer look.

Thanks to some gameplay reminiscent of IGF 2015’s Life Goes On, every time you die in Super Rude Bear your dead body remains where it fell. Can’t clear a field of spikes by making the precision wall jumps? After enough attempts your dead bodies will create a perfectly safe path over the spikes. It’s a brilliant spin on platforming tropes that’s even more appealing here than in Life Goes On.


Symphony Worlds by Empty Clip Studios
Empty Clip Studios is on a mission to conquer music. In between their work on ports and game engines they’ve spent years turning music into gameplay. Most recently was Symphony released on PC in 2012 which turned your own music library into an endless top down shooter that took place on a single screen.

Building on that experience, the follow up hopes to pull your songs apart and create entire worlds. In Symphony Worlds your songs create the terrain, the weather patterns and the ebb and flow of the action as you work to free the music. You’re not just blasting enemies to the beat here, there’s strategy, resource gathering and base building involved. The terrain is deformable, the time of day passes as you play and the enemies can target your own base while you’re out picking off their defenses.

It is immensely ambitious and as such it’s taking a good long while to create. Whatever shape it ultimately takes I’m totally on board for this.

Tacopocalypse by Cherry Pie Games
What more can I say, what more can I need than this? It’s Crazy Taxi plus Tony Hawk plus tacos in an apocalypse. Getting the tacos to the drop off is just part of the fun, especially when some destinations require driving up the sides of buildings. Pulling off mid air tricks while driving and hunting for collectables boosts your score to unlock new rides, paint jobs and ultimately new cities.

Tacopocalypse is still in very active Early Access so a lot will be changing but it’s already shaping up like a glorious love letter to the extreme sports and arcade driving games of the 90’s. I can totally get behind all of that!

And there we have it, another year of hundreds of IGF hopefuls whittled down to just twenty that I think are especially special. Of course, that’s just me. Critical darlings like Undertale, SUPERHOT, Cibele and Her Story were among those 775 entrants but for me it’s all about flat shaded polygons, roguelike tendencies, gameplay loops I can beat my head against and even a few VR experiences I think are crucial. Let me know what YOUR top picks are in the comments.

And if you need a refresher, jump straight to Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. I also wrote a few pre-Top Twenty posts that highlight even more games that were in the running.

My Top 20 from the Independent Games Festival 2016 (Part 3/4)


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.


Home Improvisation by The Stork Burnt Down
Though it’s grown a bit more nonsensical since its web-based debut, Home Improvisation remains a hilarious excursion in my favorite new genre: Mundane Excitement. It would probably be simpler to play in VR with those fine Vive motion wands but the awkwardness of rotating on individual axes and trying to shove IKEA-style furniture together is just perfect. Throw in multiplayer for up to 6 and you have a totally accurate recreation of the strife of putting together furniture in real life.

Job Simulator by Owlchemy Labs
The time for poignant, meaningful and insightful VR experiences will come. Here at the launch of all three major VR platforms what we need is the ability to microwave a CD, throw a hotdog into the streets and gobble donuts. These simple recreations of everyday activities are what will help acclimatize people to VR while being unexpectedly hilarious. The fact that there’s a story behind all this is even sillier.

The year is 2050 and human jobs have been replaced by the cold mechanical efficiency of robots. In a sort of museum setting you embody JobBot and reenact what it was like to work in an office, be a chef or run a convenience store so that the children of the future will never forget. I don’t know how long it can sustain the laughs but I desperately want to immerse myself in Owlchemy’s colorful, irreverent and terrible future vision of our everyday life.


Objects in Space by Flat Earth Games
Don’t ask me why but the concept of running a spaceship like it were a submarine — staring at readouts instead of out port windows — is captivating. Maybe it’s the next step after my time with FTL and maybe I’ll just be terrible at it. The setup is that you’re a space trader piloting a tiny ship that you customize all the way down to the batteries and component adapters. You can go weapons heavy, focus on speed to outrun opponents or spec for stealth and disappear off of enemy radar.

It seems debilitatingly frantic when things heat up in the demo footage revealed so far. But like any good roguelike it’s the satisfaction of threading the needle and surviving what looks like the gnarliest, most unforgiving conflict that has me intrigued.


Overcooked by Ghost Town Games
This game looks like such fun that I couldn’t wait for the Top Twenty to write about it! If you don’t feel like clicking one tiny little link though, here’s the gist of it: 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 or half finished dishes.

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 and I can’t wait to see and play more.

Overland by Finji
By now you should be able to tell why I’d take a liking to Overland by its visuals alone. Stark, flat shaded and set on little floating chunks of terrain, I could simply look at this game’s randomly generated landscapes all day. Playing, on the other hand, is anything but pleasant.

Set in a modern world ruined by some catastrophe, you play turn-based strategy a la X-COM combined with the risky resource gathering of a roguelike. Forget plasma rifles and jump jets, your concerns are outmaneuvering enemies just to grab hold of a can of gas or a toolbox. Befriending survivors adds more turns and unique traits to your repertoire but eventually you’ll have to make the hard choices. Do you risk all your fuel to reach a promising, far off destination? Who do you leave behind when there’s no room left in your hatchback?

It looks fantastic in both visuals and gameplay and if I were putting these IGF games in some kind of ranked order Overland would be right near the top. I cannot wait to see more of it later this year!

Check back tomorrow for Part 4 featuring five more extremely awesome games from the Independent Games Festival 2016! Or use these links to jump straight to Part 1, Part 2 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 2/4)


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.


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.


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.


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.