Indie game news, reviews, previews and everything else concerning indie game development.

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Freeware Friday: The Wager

The Wager is an interesting beast. Somewhere between the classic Sid Meier’s Colonization and the odd Strange Adventures In Infinite Space, it manages to merge the two into a Frankenstein monster that somehow works. And it works very well. So well, in fact, that it’s taken a spot alongside Desktop Dungeons as a coffee break game of choice. Nothing quite like relaxing with a little betting, after all. Or exploration. Or both!


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The Brussels Spout, Book III: Displays of Affection

We’ve covered PPP Team’s major franchises, and their often experimental one-off games. To polish up, and possibly to set the stage for another whole realm of discussion, we’ll look at their third branch of development: the tribute games.

The PPP Team members wear their influences like long johns; sometimes they’re under the surface of their normal clothes, and when they’re certain that no one is looking, that’s all they’ve got on. We have discussed some of the apparent shareware and Commodore references in their original games. Amongst the five surviving tribute games we find a broad and instructive spread of creative input, from classic arcade games to 1990s shareware to 16-bit Japanese platformers to Japanese anime and manga to the techniques of existing Game-Maker games.

Perhaps noteworthy is how fully the team embodies the games that it chooses to pastiche. Some creative whims aside, they replicate the originals as closely as possible within the limitations of RSD’s game engine. Where they meet technical or conceptual barriers, rather than force the design they simply go in a new direction that follows from the original both in logic in spirit. One gets the sense that these tributes are where PPP Team really found their footing as designers; whenever they were uncertain what to do next, there was always another influential game to dissect and put back together.

F1 Eater Mania

The Game-Maker vault is littered with Pac-Man tributes of various aptitude and originality. PPP Team sidestepped the issue by, deliberately or not, making a clone of Namco’s Rally-X (1980) – which, granted, is basically Pac-Man with cars. There are a few differences, though, and in F1 Eater Mania those differences are compounded with alternating forced-scroll stages that call to mind Sega’s Monaco GP (1979). Or, one supposes, Matthew Groves’ Jet Driver.

The game is bare-bones and comes off like a weekend experiment. As in other dot-hunt games, collecting a full board of blue blips opens the gate and lets you out. This being Game-Maker, counters never reset; die with three dots left to go, and all you need is three more. Curiously, the green “power pellets” increase the player’s HP – meaning that for every pellet you can crash into one opponent without totaling your own car. That’s one way to do it.

It’s genial and it plays well, with a minimum of avoidable glitches or design problems. Aside from the counter issue, the only thing that stands out is Game-Maker’s lack of a context-sensitive idle state. Not much to do about that except ignore it.

Commander Xeen

Xeen also is stripped-down in the manner of Biokid or Blork Carnage, which may on reflection be a bit of a PPP calling card, with for most of the game a single regular enemy type, a minimum of counter work (even extending to HP bonuses), and fairly straightforward level elements. What makes it amongst PPP Team’s better games is the way that those elements are combined into an environment, and the accurate-feeling look, tone, and flow that they create.

Both the decor and the architecture of the levels subconsciously lead the player forward like stripes in a Half-Life corridor. In the early levels, light and shadow created by block patterns draw attention to and propel the player along the intended path. Platforms placed just outside the player’s jump height, multiple key colors, hidden passages, and Keenesque useless-yet-tantalizing trinkets also attract, divert, and frustrate the player’s attentions at appropriate moments, creating a psychology not unlike Tom Hall’s original designs.

Speaking of jumps, there are a few quirks of design. In Commander Xeen, vertical jumps are higher than diagonal ones. Not the most intuitive decision, but as far as RSD’s engine goes, the jump physics are about as clean as variable jumps get.

The other main mechanic is weirder. To shoot, the player needs to collect gun icons. The game is generous and enemies are few, so running out is rarely a problem. Yet when the armory does empty, Game-Maker’s quirks get in the way again. Due to limits on button-mapping, the character uses different buttons and animation sequences to shoot left and right. Each of these animations is married to a different counter. Although the gun icons refill both counters, the act of firing only diminishes one counter at a time. Thus if the player fires to the right more often to the left, soon there will only be left shots, er, left.

These hang-ups are minor. The high vertical jumping does have parallels in games like Super Mario Bros. 2, and the level design does seem to take the different heights into consideration as an advanced technique. If you remember that you can rocket straight up, several tasks will be easier than the layout at first suggests.

The game is short, satisfying in its rewards, and gentle in its punishment. You only have a single hit point, so avoidance and caution become big elements of navigation, adding a bit of strategy and mild puzzle solving to some areas. When you do die, the game plays a few awkward notes and the character looks a bit sad; then you start the level over. Although as with every Game-Maker game you can save and load at will, here the design compels the player to tough it out and just try again.

Pengo Adventure

PPP Team’s first game arose as many first projects do, as a collage. Pengo Adventure is a tribute to Donkey Kong, assembled with a mix of borrowed parts and original elements. The character is RSD’s own Penguin Pete, lifted from a design tutorial largely intact. The backgrounds are both minimalist and fiddly but mostly original, save the odd decoration. Sounds are a mix of borrowed material and original samples.

Although the game has its charms — in particular the premise of penguin romance and the atmosphere in some of the later levels — and you can see the budding style that would later declare itself in games like Badman 2, Pengo is just awkward to play. As Sylvain Martin has observed, RSD’s engine does not handle ladders as well as it might. There are ways to make it work, but it’s annoying – and when you’re paying tribute to Donkey Kong, you want the ladders to be perfect. So that’s a pretty inherent problem. A more manageable issue is player control.

As adorable as he might be, Pete’s control mapping has always been a problem even in his own game. Taken out of context, with few to no changes, Pete has trouble just leaping from platform to platform. What PPP Team really needed to do was either design a new character from scratch or to ditch Pete’s character file and rebuild it with a mind to their planned game concept.

Still, for a first game, Pengo Adventure explores just about every aspect of Game-Maker’s design options. It exhibits intertitles and introduction screens, full sound and music support, and just about every basic block feature. Even here there’s an understanding of contextual background properties, and the way to get around certain collision issues by swapping static monsters for background tiles. By many users’ standards, this would be a fairly advanced game. So, not a bad way to start.

Twinnbee Land

In Japan, Konami’s Twinbee series has long been the bouncy, juvenile counterpart to Konami’s flagship shooter Gradius. Outside of Japan, the series is fairly obscure. There’s Stinger for the NES, and then in some territories there’s a curious spin-off game for the Super NES, Pop ’n TwinBee: Rainbow Bell Adventures. Unlike the rest of the Twinbee series, Rainbow Bell Adventures is a side-scrolling platformer in that refined and codified 16-bit mold. To hear him tell it, this game is also one of Sylvain Martin’s biggest influences.

Thus, with a few logistical tweaks, we have Twinnbee Land. Whereas in the SNES game the sprites are kind of enormous, here they are tiny. The SNES game has rolling terrain with plenty of diagonal surfaces, allowing characters to bowl along; here we have a maze-like level design with huge jumps across open spaces. The game takes more liberties as it goes on, with odd character transformations – first the ship grows in size, then turns into a huge Mazinger-style mech. Combine this absurdity with the deliberately cutesy voice samples, and perhaps you can take Twinnbee Land as an affectionate satire.

The game is actually rather long, and is dotted with fairly complex boss fights in the vein of the Badman games. Naturally enough, many background elements are borrowed from PPP’s earlier efforts. Sometimes they fit well; sometimes not. The character floats about half a tile above certain platforms, for no discernable reason.

Of particular note is the jetpack, which – rather like Xeen’s vertical jump – allows the player to rocket upward much farther than a normal leap will allow. It’s a little awkward to use, and one forgets about it, which is as well for such a powerful feature. As with Xeen, this command often lends the level design another layer.

Unlike Xeen, the design itself is often confusing. The geography tends to lead the player away from goals rather than toward them, and the properties or behaviors of background elements are not always clear, occasionally leading the player into inadvertent traps. Combine this frustration with slightly awkward control mapping, and at times it feels like the game is deliberately undermining the player’s efforts, as in games such as I Wanna Be The Guy.

The question of tone is central to Twinnbee Land. It seems like a straight tribute, until it starts to get bizarre. It seems inviting until it starts to pull the rug out from under the player. It’s unclear exactly what the game wants to do. Whatever it presents, it seems to immediately subvert in some way, whether deliberately or not. There’s even an animation where the character holds up a nudie picture for the player to see. Why? Well, presumably to subvert expectations. Which seems to sum the game up.

Dragon Ball Z 2: The Death of Vegeta

Of all of the surviving PPP Team games, this is probably the strangest. Pascal, a friend of the founding members, was a huge anime nerd and also a beginning user of RSD’s tools. With his dubious illustration skills he roughed out a couple of games based on Akira Toriyama’s famous manga and TV series. When he showed the Team his second game, they took the game into their fold and adapted it to their developing house style.

As Pypein has it, they were at the time unseasoned to anime in general, never mind Akira Toriyama’s particular illustration style, so they ran the game through a Badman filter. The result looks and feels very much like a stock PPP Team game – and very much unlike Dragon Ball. Thus, Pascal thanked them and took the game back. He undid most of their work and decided to remix his original sprites with new backgrounds scanned in and colored from the manga. This was an arduous process, to which Game-Maker was less than ideally suited, and so Pascal soon abandoned the project.

Thus there are two versions of the game; a cartoony European-flavored one, and a much rougher-looking remix that ends after one or two levels.

As for the game itself, apparently it’s an adaptation of a specific story arc from the manga. The sprites are appealing enough, and the backgrounds are atmospheric. The controls are a little strange, with a stilted repeating jumping animation, a dash move that’s about the same speed as walking, and special attacks that don’t always work as they are meant to. The game is largely silent, aside from the rare anime voice sample or occasional borrowed music file.

DBZ2 is far from PPP Team’s best work, but it has some interesting properties. One assumes the game was a learning experience for everyone involved.

There are still at least eight missing games, and apparently a large chunk of Badman III, probably lost to time. For now, though, that’s PPP Team’s catalog. Pypein, aka Sylvain Martin, would go on to develop his own code, and is currently working with the Nintendo DS hardware. His brother Piet would go on to sequence his own music, much of which is now available under the artist name Cyborg Jeff. It is thanks to some of Pypein’s later efforts that we have some of the images used in the course of this column. Thanks also to Sylvain for his time in recounting his long-dormant memories.

You can download this final batch of PPP Team games at this link. Remember to run the games in DOSBox, and to turn up the clock cycles as far as they’ll comfortably go.


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Nintendo Doesn’t Want “Garage” Developers, Who Don’t Need Nintendo

Everybody wins!

During this past GDC Nintendo of America President, Reggie Fils-Aime, told Gamasutra that the company wasn’t looking to “do business” with the garage developers of the world. Essentially, anybody who doesn’t consider themselves a full time game developer, either by choice or because they need another job to make money and support themselves.

For those of you unsure about just what a “garage” developer is, just take a look at Apple’s App Store, pick a game, and it was probably made by said type of developer. Essentially these are the kinds of people we love here at DIYGamer. Developers who make games in their spare time because they have the desire to create something.

When releasing this quote, many took Mr. Fils-Aime’s quote as a slight against indie developers. Perhaps Nintendo, in all their arrogance from being the market leaders in both the handheld and console space over the past few years had acquired a certain sort of hubris that left Sony humbled this console cycle. I honestly can’t comment on that. What I can say, however, is that as much as Nintendo doesn’t want garage developers, garage developers don’t need Nintendo.

Nintendo has never been indie friendly. It’s expensive (for an indie) to develop a game on their system and in order to even be allowed a dev kit for their systems you need to be a recognized business with an official office space (no “garages” indeed). But for all that, even if you do set out to be an indie Nintendo developer, of which there are some, Nintendo simply isn’t a great place to sell your game.

WiiWare, DSiWare, “3DSiWare.” Each of Nintendo’s downloadable distribution channels are notoriously bad for everybody but the most popular games and even then they pale in comparison to the likes of an XBLA or PSN title in sales volume. World of Goo, as an example, was a game that was simultaneously released onto Nintendo’s WiiWare and PC. It should come as no surprise that, even despite the game’s cutesy design (a must have for Nintendo success) the PC version still sold far better.  We won’t even begin to discuss the game’s recent success on the iPad because that would really make Nintendo look bad.

I’m not writing this because I’m angry at Nintendo for abandoning developers we know and love, nor am I trying to warn indie developers off from pursuing a relationship with Nintendo. All I’m saying is that despite what Nintendo wants or doesn’t want for their development platform, the fact remains that indie developers simply don’t need Nintendo. They offer nothing to the vast development community that isn’t better served elsewhere.

[via Wired]


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Apologies for the Interruption/Thanks for the Help!

Many of our regulars may have noticed we disappeared, literally, from the face of the internet this past weekend. We weren’t closing down, or ceasing operations or anything like that, we just experienced some major technical difficulties. Apparently our server’s hard drive failed causing everything to go ‘kaplooey.’

Anyway, as you can see we are live once again. Mostly everything is back to normal, although there are probably some oddities here and there to be smoothed over.

We’ve also, unfortunately, lost about 2 weeks worth of articles. We’re working through Google right now to recover said articles through their amazing cache system. Hopefully we’ll have the majority of all our important content up and running once again.

Oh and for those of you who will be getting free ad space, don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten about you. Your ads will go live today.

Finally, a HUGE thank you to the Indie Gaming reddit community and the wonderful coders who helped diagnose and fix our broken little website. Particularly Thomas of IndieCity who actually was the one who brought the site back online and fixed many of our problems. I always said the indie gaming community was one of the best there is and this just goes to prove it.

Cheers guys!


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The Game-Maker Archive – Part 20: Blinky and a Small Kind of Fame

blinky2bossJeremy LaMar is perhaps best known under the handle SnigWich, for his Megazeux games such as Bernard the Bard – often ranked amongst the best games ever produced under Gregory Janson’s engine. More recently, under his new name Otto Germain, he has returned to his roots as a cartoonist. Before any of that, he was renowned for his RSD Game-Maker work – and he never even knew it.

At some point two of LaMar’s early Game-Maker games, The Return of Blinky and Blinky 3, made their way to a section of America Online known as AOL Kids. There, they gained a small yet fervent cult following. In the following years, a Blinky wiki and fanfics and video tributes would spring up around the Web. Even years after the AOL Kids area vanished, LaMar’s fans kept up the devotion. At least one poster to a DOS games forum claimed that the Blinky games inspired him to pursue game design.

When you consider the obscurity of most Game-Maker games, indeed of Game-Maker itself, this level of enthusiasm is remarkable. To be sure, LaMar’s games are amongst the most polished produced with RSD’s tools, both in terms of the design sensibility and in their mastery of the materials available to them. One does wonder, though, how much circumstance and exposure play in a game’s fortunes. One also wonders what other small communities might even now be obsessing over even less likely games, and to what extent those players might be inspired to greater things.

The Return of Blinky (1994)

The original Blinky, LaMar’s first Game-Maker project, is now lost to time and computer failure along with half a dozen other games. Its essence lives on, though, in The Return of Blinky. This first sequel, which LaMar classes as a near-remake, is heavily inspired by Link to the Past, with its exploration-based design and pseudo-3D cliffs.

Blinky, the pink dinosaur, sets out to save Funky Forest from the evil Schnookwad. He does this primarily by wandering through forests, caverns, and factories, tossing doughnuts at enemies, and bribing his cat (also named Doughnut) to clear a path.

LaMar got the basics down just fine – admirably, even. The presentation is clear and appealing, reminiscent of a late-era Sega 8-bit game. Controls are simple and very responsive. The actual design, from level to level, flows smoothly with few moments of outright confusion. Where the game excels, though, is in the flourishes – the conveyor belts, the amorphous spore clouds that the player can whittle away, but only so far.

Game-Maker’s biggest limitation and greatest potential is in its monsters, and here LaMar uses them about as well as PPP Team at their best. Feeding the cat a doughnut briefly focuses its attack pattern. Aside from the spore clouds, there are complex multi-segmented threats like Zelda-esque snakes and Mario-style firebars. Every four levels the player faces an enormous boss, often with long multi-segmented limbs and complex attack patterns.

As with Badman 2, even the ending credits are something special, with a monster roll against a miniature scene of victory.

The Return of Blinky is earnest, well-judged, and well-implemented. It is works well not just as a Game-Maker game or as a shareware game, but as a children’s game – amongst the hardest of games to get right. It does make sense that if any Game-Maker game were to develop a cult following, it would be this one.

Blinky 3 (1995)

The next sequel is a bit more convoluted. At some point, he said, LaMar stopped development and let the game sit on the shelf for a while. That makes sense, in that Blinky 3 is perhaps more ambitious than it is joyous. It’s still amongst the upper echelon of Game-Maker games, and an impressive work on several levels; it’s just that you can feel the work behind the design.

Unlike its predecessors, the third Blinky is a side-scroller. Rather like Sonic 3 (or indeed Badman 3), the game offers a choice of characters – Blinky, Doughnut, and a new character named Chum – each with unique abilities and a distinct path through the game. Furthermore, the levels are tightly wound together with several branching paths.

LaMar also hit on an interesting quirk, whereby for any given level neglecting to establish a character in Integrator causes the game to simply carry over the existing character. The knock-on effect is that once the player chooses a character, the game is free to direct that character into any level without need to establish a separate instance of the level for every possible character. It’s a simple trick, yet it greatly cuts down on the headache of advanced level design.

Blinky3IntegratorThere are plenty of other neat little tricks, like LaMar’s solutions for melee attacks or using text files over static images to generate dialog – and it’s these tricks that stick in the mind. The game itself is respectable. Unlike The Return of Blinky it’s tougher than it needs to be, and sometimes more frustrating than it is rewarding. Still, full points for trying something new and then finishing the job. It may also be notable that Blinky 3 appears to be the more fondly remembered of the two games, and indeed for years after AOL took down its kids section it was LaMar’s only Game-Maker game to remain in circulation. It’s only within the last year that someone found a backup of The Return of Blinky and began to redistribute it, to relatively muted fanfare. The third Blinky is what everyone seems to remember.

Before he lost all of his data LaMar also completed some small work on a fourth Blinky, which was to have followed in the model of Blinky 3, except with improved controls.

If you enjoy the two surviving Blinky games, you might also check out SnigWich’s Megazeux portfolio. After a long gestation Germain is also considering a return to game design, and has a few plans on the table. That, however, is a topic for another article.

You can download the two surviving Blinky games here.


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How Sony Can Make the NGP Indie Friendly [PSP2]

NGP001

As many of you well know, last night Sony announced their Next Generation Portable (NGP) which is, basically, the PSP2 without actually being called the PSP2. It’s an incredibly impressive device. In fact, I don’t think I’ve been this excited for a handheld portable gaming device since, well, ever. It’s got power, dual thumbsticks, and a reported battery that lasts at least as long as the original PSP. That’s impressive in my book.

Still, as with every new console launch, I worry about the state of indie games and developers for the device. Let’s face it, compared to platforms like iOS, Xbox 360, and the PC, Sony has just never been overtly indie friendly. Granted they’ve gotten more friendly with their Pub Fund Initiative and Playstation Minis channel, but it’s still a far cry from other, greener pastures available elsewhere.

But with the NGP, Sony has the option to open up to the wonderful world of indie developers and create a true iOS/XBLIG competing service. I mean, that’s what the PSP Minis channel was originally created for anyway, right? If only Sony hadn’t required Mini developers to buy an expensive dev kit it might have worked similarly as well.

So, here’s what I’d like to see Sony do with their NGP in regards to indie games:

Make it open, available, and free

Xbox Live Indie Games isn’t terribly popular. I think that’s pretty much a foregone conclusion at this point. Despite that, however, developers continually develop games for Xbox Live Indie Games. Why? One simple reason: it’s completely free to develop for and upon completion, a developer can attest that they have a game on the Xbox 360, which definitely sounds impressive on a resume of sorts.

Similarly, the iOS app store is another shining example of this and a huge reason why developers continue to flock to Apple.

Take a lesson from both Microsoft and Apple, Sony, free begets developers.

Make it easy

I’m not a coder, so take this statement with a small grain of salt, but, from everybody I’ve spoken with and everything I’ve read, developing on the Xbox 360 is pretty painless. From what I know, XNA is not difficult to code for (correct me if I’m wrong developers!). I’m not familiar with how easy it is currently to develop Playstation Minis, but, then again, silence speaks loudest. Sony has a history of creating consoles that weren’t designed to be “easy” to develop for… let’s change that.

Make is cross-development capable

XNA? Easily compatible with both Xbox Live Indie Games channel and the PC. I’m not saying Sony should use XNA, nor am I offering suggestions on what to use (not a coder, remember?). All I’m saying is when giving a developer an easy way to port a game across another widely used platform, they have double the incentive to release a game onto both  platforms. It might seem counter productive at first, given Sony’s desire for exclusives, but fo smaller indie games it really doesn’t matter so long as the content flows, the system won’t seem so stagnate.

Make it easy to navigate

Sony, your Playstation Store blows. I can’t tell you how many times I refused to go to the PSN store on my PSPgo simply because I didn’t really want to deal with the inane hassles you’ve organized. I can’t search, I can’t categorize, I can’t even sort by release date (at least not the last time I checked).

In comparison, the iOS App Store allows me to search by category (Action, Adventure, Board, etc.), top 25, featured… why can’t I do this with your Minis section? Honestly, when making an iOS App Store rival, I figured you would have at least gotten the basics down.

I’m sure there are some other ideas out there that would make the NGP an ideal indie development location, but the bottomline is that Sony, traditionally, hasn’t done much to lure a mass amount of indie developers to its respective systems. The NGP is a new system designed to take both the 3DS and iPhone/iPod Touch head on. While big developers like Activision, etc. are probably the best way to compete against Nintendo’s 3DS, being more open and allowing indie developers to have at your platform in this manner is probably the only realistic way the NGP will ever compete against Apple’s expanding gaming empire.


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Top 10 Indie iOS Games of 2010

I have kept my distance from DIYGamer for too long. While finishing a semester and partying the hell out of the holidays is excruciating fun, there’s the sweet call of the gaming industry roaming around my head at every waking moment. Seeing as how I covered most of the iOS titles anyway, I’ve decided to compile a list of the best iOS indies of 2010. Granted, some of you will want to see my blood spilled because I forgot to mention something or maybe you don’t consider a certain game or developer “indie” in any sense of the word, we just want you to be playing these games because they’re really — and I mean really — fucking awesome!

So without further ado: turn on, tune in, drop out:

10superquickhook

10. Super QuickHook

RocketCat Games seems to have embraced the whole hook thing, and who can blame them? The game mechanic has served them well in each title as iOS gamers are always astounded by how addictive the experiences end up being. Super QuickHook also uses a familiar shop element to hook gamers in, it feels right at home when seeing improvements in gaming quality. It’s stylistically retro, but in a sleek iOS way. Play it!

09 bar oasis

9. Bar Oasis

Aurora may have made something completely off-beat, but it ended up working perfectly. Turns out being a bartender is fuckin’ fun! Anime chicks are cute, the conversations are genuinely interesting, and you get to learn all about alcoholic beverages (some that you are guaranteed to try after seeing them) while doing it. See, it’s fun and educational! Thanks, Aurora.

trainconductor2newyork

8. Train Conductor 2

Yes, Train Conductor was fantastic — but that doesn’t mean The Voxel Agents were simply riding on their success. Rather, they displayed their passion wholly and created new levels that surpassed its predecessors’ qualities. The art style will floor you, the gameplay will haunt you, and the music is a perfect complement to the experience. I know The Voxel Agents won’t make another game about trains, at least not for a while, but that’s because they have already displayed their abilities adeptly.

spiritspreview3

7. Spirits

I’m not putting this just because it’s received a lot of attention from us and has won an IndieCade award among other nominations and claims to fame; I’m putting this in because it’s that good! Spirits has aesthetically inspiring and warrants a warm and fuzzy feeling without being upfront. Get from point A to point B, but strategically plan your pathway to avoid obstacles and promote efficiency (you’re also collecting flowers in most levels). Spaces of Play deserve whatever praise they receive because Spirits is a must-own iOS title, especially if you have an iPad or iPhone 4.

06 drop 7

6. Drop7

Puzzle games are packed into the App Store. Match-3s come in abundance, and it’s hard to come across something really intriguing. Fortunately, Area/Code came up with Drop 7. A friend of mine introduced me and it was love at first sight. It will eat up your minutes but you’ll be very eager to give them up. Drop7 should be in every app library.

05 age of zombies

5. Age of Zombies

There had to be a twin-stick shooter on the list; Age of Zombies is that twin-stick shooter. It’s the best game Halfbrick has done thus far, in my opinion, and it was very addictive on iOS. Monster Dash is kind of a sequel — more of a spinoff — of the game but Monster Dash needs the context of Age of Zombies to make its story (and I use that term loosely) prevail. In general though, blasting zombies and mummies is always fun, and Age of Zombies is a retro masterpiece.

04 osmos

4. Osmos

Yes, we’ve seen Hemisphere Games’ Osmos before, but only recently on iOS — and it took the App Store over by storm. It should have, too, because it’s a brilliant game and it works with the iOS mechanics. Pay attention, future developers: gamers enjoy fresh ideas.

03 world of goo

3. World of Goo

While I have yet to see it on iPhone/iPod Touch, I’m assuming we’re getting closer having witnessed the recent iPad release. World of Goo was an extraordinary game to begin with, but iPad owners are raving about how great it is on their tablet. We all knew it would be awesome, but the fact that it’s really awesome makes me happy. Way to go, 2D Boy!

gamedevstory2

2. Game Dev Story

This game absolutely cannot not be on this list (double negatives emphasis). Sims aren’t my favorite, but the formula for this particular title was far too perfect. After five minutes, the lovable scheme comes to life and — before you know it — you’ve been playing for a few hours. KairoSoft is already working on the second game, but we’ll be playing the first Game Dev Story until it’s out.

shibuya

1. Shibuya

Well, you may have already read about my affection for Shibuya in the Best of 2010 article, but I have to hand it to developers Nevercenter: the music in this app is just gorgeous. The gameplay will hook you in the first minute and you’ll find yourself playing repeatedly. What Shibuya did best though was challenge the player. Achievements were grouped and you had to level up to unlock further goals. By level 4, you’ll be saying WTF!? Normal is fine, but Adept and beyond (especially Gentle Rain) is when you truly know you’re on your way to mastering this game — and damn, it feels good. Shibuya comes out on top in 2010. Congratulations, Nevercenter!

Honorable Mentions:

NinjaTown: Trees of Doom - Venan’s NinjaTown was just a load of fun packed with cutesy visuals. I found it to be more enjoyable than NinJump.

Guerilla Bob - Though this twin-stick shooter didn’t make the list, Guerilla Bob‘s sense of style and penchant for extremism earns it an honorable mention.

Hook Worlds - As the follow-up to Super QuickHook, Hook Worlds offers more of happy-hook-fun, but ultimately is overshadowed by its predecessor. Still, Hook Worlds is entirely worth a playthrough if you’re a fan of the (and I use this term lightly) genre.

feelforit - Chris DeLeon’s feelforit initially annoyed the hell out of me — I just couldn’t figure it out. But once I got a feel for it, I knew exactly what was happening and the experience is simply unparalleled. All for free, too!

Monster Dash - The Age of Zombies spin-off starring the bringer of badassery, Barry Steakfries, made an honest climb to the top of the charts in 2010. Since then, I’ll admit its appeal has been lost because of its far more entertaining counter-part, but Monster Dash is a very addictive dollar title.

Sketch Nation Shooter - Games that encourage user-created content deserve all the attention they can get. Sketch Nation Shooter managed to pull off a painless (initially Facebook-based) download system for new levels, allowing app owners to try out as many shooting games created with Engineous’s system as possible. A must-own regardless of whether it is on the list or not.

I just want to thank all the indie developers for all mobile devices/consoles/computers who have made gaming fun, fresh and exciting. The App Store took a huge step forward and the bar has been set high for 2011. Let’s see what you got this year!


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The Mystical, Demystified – A Neophyte’s Guide to Touhou

Touhou: Cute girls, frilly hats and COSMIC LASER DEATH

Touhou: Cute girls, frilly hats and COSMIC LASER DEATH

Disclaimer: This article contains copious quantities of saccharine anime stylings, and very little in the way of space marines shooting things. If such things bother you, retreat now. Also, be warned that this article ended up far longer than I first intended, so feel free to skim.

Introduction ~ Welcome To Gensokyo

If the rags-to-riches, one-man indie success story of the western world is Minecraft, then the eastern equivalent is undoubtedly the long-running Touhou series. You’ve almost certainly heard of these games, but due to none of them having ever gotten official English-language releases, they remain a confusing and alien prospect for newcomers. Who is ZUN? Why are there so many frilly hats? How on earth are you meant to dodge all those bullets? In writing this, I hope to lay out the basics here, and make the series (and now-sprawling franchise in general) a little more friendly and accessible.


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Happy New Podcast/Year!

DIY PodcastJust like the days of yore, Erik, Geoff and I got together yesterday to record our latest podcast and the first in 2011.

We break down our Editors’ Top Picks for 2010, dive into the IGF Main Competition nominees, and discuss what games we’re onto for the time being.

To get your hands on it, head on over to our podcast page or sign up for the iTunes feed.


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It’s a New Year, What Indie Games are You Looking Forward To?

MeansofEscape001

Means of Escape

Last November, I compiled a nice list of my top 10 break out indie games of 2011. While it was certainly a good list, and I certainly do believe that in terms of popularity from both the media and consumers those will be the break out hits of 2011, I wouldn’t go so far as to say they’re my personal most anticipated indie games for 2011.

Off the top of my head I’m very excited for:

But what about you? Is there a specific indie game you are most looking forward to? Sund off in the comments!