IndieCade is a fantastic event. I wish I could attend this year but the 1000-ish mile trip is just not in the ol’ budget right now (I blame the airline industry). But that doesn’t mean we won’t be talking about the event because, well, it’s pretty damn amazing! There’s not another single event that is this dedicated to indie games and developers.
Anyway, enough gushing about the event (you should go if you’re in LA by the way!) I’m sure you just want to see some games.
So here they are! IndieCade 2011’s chosen finalists:
Antichamber is a surreal, exploration puzzle game, set within a non-Euclidean labyrinth of manipulable geometry. Explore a vibrant and deceptive world, where space can change, nothing is as it seems, and the puzzles abound with non-traditional mechanics. Antichamber, designed by Alexander Bruce, is packed to the brim with intelligent and unique puzzle designs that provide a metaphor for how we live our lives. An earlier version of the game, previously entitled Hazard: The Journey of Life, was presented at the IndieCade E3 Indie Games Showcase in 2010.
At a Distance
“At a distance” is a cooperative two player asymmetric puzzle game designed by Terry Cavanagh about solitude in shared experiences. One player is an explorer, the other a storyteller. “At a distance” was designed to be played with people coming and going throughout the game, and is a strong example of design focused on evoking emotion in interactive experience. Terry’s prior work, VVVVVV, was a finalist at IndieCade 2010.
BasketBelle is an adventure game that uses a basketball mechanic to interact with its narratives. Through flashbacks and memories of his life, the main character learns tricks from his all-star father (and recalls other significant events that help him deal with the challenges in his life. BasketBelle merges expressive, hand-drawn visuals and audio together to help tell story, to provide smooth and responsive controls during play, and to create a bond between player-character that’s just as meaningful as that found between the family members in the game. A work in progress, BaketBelle was chosen for the festival for its beautiful visual and auditory design elements and unique story-based gameplay.
In Bistro Boulevard, from Fugazo Inc., you will hire staff, pick the menu, and decorate your restaurant to turn one modest diner into a promenade of five-star restaurants. Inspired by the rising popularity of food-oriented games and television shows, Bistro Boulevard is a simple sim game that places the player in the role of general manager of a series of restaurants. Bistro Boulevard’s creative reworking of common cultural and game elements makes a compelling experience for a wide audience.
The BIT.TRIP series, by Gaijin Games, comes full-circle with BIT.TRIP FLUX. Ride along with CommanderVideo for classic paddle-based gameplay as as he completes his mission and returns… home. BIT.TRIP FLUX explores what it means to return to “the source” after death, and integrates retro aesthetics with modern sensibilities to create compelling gameplay. Available on WiiWare. Some suggested text for this: BIT.TRIP FLUX brings the beloved BIT.TRIP series full circle (both literally and figuratively) to creative a sophisticated evolution of classic gaming. Imagine Pong evolving from a single-celled animal into a complex organism, in which the elegantly simple paddle mechanics yields a seemingly infinite array of emergennt gameplay in a beautifully abstract pixelated world. An indie success story, BIT.TRIP FLUX is now available on WiiWare.
Black Bottom Parade
Black Bottom Parade, played on an interactive table, was created by a group of students from Hong Kong and Atlanta, at Savannah College of Art and Design. Building on the New Orleans tradition of the jazz funeral, players control a band of three musician grim reapers leading a group of deceased revellers across a 1920s New Orleans take on the River Styx. The revelers, unaware of their absinthe-soaked demise, continue to dance and party as the band accompanies them on trip through purgatory on a high flying unstable platform. Black Bottom Parade effectively leverages of the aesthetics of Mardi Gras to heighten the emotion and complexity of the interactive experience.
Deepak Fights Robots
Deepak Fights Robots is Bubble Bobble cross-bred with Pac-Man, art directed by Keith Haring, conducted by The Incredible Hulk, and performed by the P-Funk All Stars. Players take the role of Deepak, a regular guy thrown into a vividly colored and wildly imaginative puzzle platformer world to earn superhero powers and defeat robotic villains. Deepak Fights Robots is an adventure platformer that highlights the creativity of independent designers, with a beautiful and unique audio-visual style.
Desktop Dungeons by QCF Designs is a quick-play puzzle roguelike that tasks players with completing a randomly generated, single screen dungeon as part of a larger unlock-heavy metagame. Uniquely, the game treats exploration as a resource: Revealing new areas of the dungeon regenerates health and manna, forcing players to consider their next moves carefully. Desktop Dungeons ingeniously leverages a niche, hard-core game style into an accessible casual game, earning it a devoted following of indie game fans.
Created by Phil Fish, FEZ started out as a simple gameplay mechanic: explore 3D worlds from 2D perspectives. From there, its development has changed several times, moving into cycles about the artistic and presentational style and forward into development focused on mood and emotion. The game plays as a traditional 2D platformer where you can freely rotate the world in 90 degree increments to explore and navigate 3D structures from 4 distinct 2D points of views. FEZ creates a calm, contemplative, lonely exploration/puzzle game. there are no enemies, no lives, no health, no penalty for death. FEZ is notabe for its interesting and resonant core mechanic, and its ‘microcosm of modern indie games’ development history.
Gamestar Mechanic, from E-Line Media, is a an adventure game in which you fix and make your own games to progress. Gamestar Mechanic began with a grant from the MacArthur Foundation to the University of Wisconsin Madison to research whether systems thinking could be taught *through* a game rather than “on top of” a game–a game where the core mechanic was game design itself. Independent designer Katie Salen helped develop the game, which is now part of the game-based curriculum of New York’s experimental Quest to Learn School, which Salen directs. Gamestar Mechanic engages players in the process of computer programming while joyously reflecting on modern game design.
Geobook, from Experimental Gameplay Workshop veteran Chaim Gingold, is a playful, child-like, beautifully designed reenvisioning of the book that introduces basic concepts of geology through text and interactive illustrations. What if your geology book’s illustrations were alive, and you could touch them? What if epic time and scale of geologic processes we reduced to a sandbox that a child could reach into and play with? Geobook’s non-traditional approaches to interactivity create engaging and open ended learning environments that as fun as they are educational.
Halcyon, a unique action puzzle game for iPad designed by Zach Gage, is named for the mythological bird of ancient Greece, said to charm the winds and seas into a calm during the Winter Solstice. Colored currents travel inexorably toward each other. Strum the strings to match the currents, creating both phonic and visual harmony. Part musical instrument, part toy, halcyon is a minimalistic artistic puzzle and a tool for creation through play that redefines the term “game.”
(Heart Shaped Games)
With its goal of creating meaningful games, Heart Shaped Games’ Hero Generations is a unique strategy/artgame offspring of beloved games like Civilization, Passage, and The Legend of Zelda. Your goal is to build a multi-generation legacy one hero at a time. Gameplay revolves around a single question: given a limited lifespan, how should you spend your time? Hero Generations synthesizes multiple complimentary game mechanics to create a lightweight, simple experience that imbues the essence of the mood of those games with new insight and relevance.
(Honeyslug and Richard Hogg)
In the enchanting world of Hohokum, players control a colourful space worm, winding through a city under attack to rescue its innocent citizens on its back. This elegant mechanic yields rich emergent outcomes as you explore its affordances within a variety of simple yet deftly designed environments. A collaboration between indie developer Honeyslug and artist Richard Hogg, Hohokum tightly integrates gameplay and art style, allowing the game and puzzle designs to grow directly from the work between the artist and designers.
Improviso, a collaboration between GAMBIT and the MIT Media Lab, is a game about ACTING! Players are paired online as the Lead Actor and Director of a low-budget science fiction movie. Improviso explores how the user interface and framing of a game can lead ordinary players to engage in dramatic improv, even if they have no prior experience acting or storytelling. Improviso was chosen to highlight the inventive and exciting choice to create a multiplayer game that grows from rules and systems of improv, and encourages cooperative play in a totally different frame than a typical video game.
Johann Sebastian Joust
(Douglas Wilson and Friends)
Johann Sebastian Joust is a music-based physical jousting game by Douglas Wilson, designed for two to six players with motion controllers and smart phones. The goal is to jostle your opponents’ controllers while keeping your accelerometer sufficiently still. Inspired by playground and folk games, J.S. Joust is a performative game that encourages a range of expressive gameplay in a curated and designed space, within a set of minimal and elegantly designed rules.
Kiss Controller, designed by Georgia Tech Ph.D. student and media artist Hye Yoon Nam, is an experimental art project in which users control a bowling game by moving their tongues while kissing. Kiss Controller explores the notion of the “intimate interfaces” that engages users in the emotional experience of a kinetic act through intimate interaction. Inspired by technology developed for disabled computer-users, Kiss Controller contrasts with typical embodied game systems, such as the Wii and Kinect, by leveraging a novel interface to create a unique and subtle experience distinct from typical video gameplay.
Loop Raccord, designed by Nicolai Troshinsky, is a video editing game about synchronising a chain of video clips in order to create an illusion of continuous movement between them. Inspired by the work of Peter Greenaway and exploring traditional video editing techniques, “Loop Raccord” uses cinematographic language as gameplay. Players get into a flow as they gain mastery at this a simple, abstract task that is transformed into a compelling interactive experience. Loop Raccord harkens back to the era of “interactive cinema” while at the same time introducing a unique and original way to interact with the film medium.
(Till Wittwer, Marek Plichta, Jakob Penca)
“Ordnungswissenschaft” is a physical game in which four players rearrange stacked boxes according to rigid instructions. The players are part of a narrow procedural system and thus become machine-like. “Ordnungswissenschaft” was developed by Till Wittwer, Marek Plichta and Jakob Penca during the Play 10 festival. The interactions of the central procedural machine (the players), become a reflexive and insightful look at interactions between human beings.
Papa Sangre, from Somethin’ Else, is a video game with no graphics. Your own footsteps echo eerily in Papa Sangre’s palace: a Day of the Dead-themed hell-hole immersed in darkness. Using only sound to navigate, avoid the bad things, find the good things, rescue the soul of someone you love, do the right thing, escape. The first ever on-the-fly binaural audio game on a handheld device, Papa Sangre uses audio to create environments and challenges, leveraging the player’s imagination to evoke emotional responses.
Application Crunch (Pathfinder)
(Collegology Games, Game Innovation Lab)
Application Crunch, developed by Collegology Games at USC’s Game Innovation Lab working with CHEPA, is a card game about high school students aspiring to apply, get into, pay for, and do well in college. Manage your time in order to build competitive applications and submit them to colleges and scholarships before their deadlines pass. Pathfinder captures the spirit of applying to college, and rather than ‘gamifying’ it, finds the natural games students are playing, and uses its mechanics to make that system more understandable to the player.
PewPewPewPewPewPewPewPewPew, from Incredible Ape, is a game where two people use microphones to cooperatively control a single space man and fight an onslaught of geometric shapes. PewPewPewPewPewPewPewPewPew is a humor game, but not a traditional humor game – it leverages a unique control scheme to turn a simple multiplayer mechanic an incredibly entertaining party game.
Kaleidoplay (Play Kalei)
Kaleidoplay, from loadcomplete, offers up a uniquely fun and relaxing puzzle experience on your iPad. Building on the classic analogue experience of viewing the world through a kaleidoscope, the objective is simple yet absorbing: find the point on the photograph that matches the variegated kaleidoscope image. Kaleidoplay exploits a simple interaction based on a familiar folk toy to create a highly engaging interactive experience.
Proteus, developed by Ed Key, depicts a musical wilderness environment in four seasons. It uses a bold visual style of shifting solid colors to paint mesmerizing scenes and dizzying altered states, and a reactive music system which allows the player to explore the environment as a piece of music. Proteus creates a true exploration space for the player, using basic audiovisual interactivity to create beautiful rewards driven by the player’s attention in the game.
Sissy’s Magical Ponycorn Adventure
Sissy’s Magical Ponycorn Adventure was created by Cassie Creighton, age 5, with her father Ryan, age 33. Cassie illustrated and voiced the short but (incredibly) sweet point-and-click adventure game. Sissy loves ponycorns–pony/unicorn hybrids–and endeavours to collect them in a series of jars given to her by a mysterious benefactor named OrangeBoy. Sissy’s Magical Ponycorn Adventure exemplifies the collaborative nature of game design, and the imaginative opportunities to stretch the boundaries of games and interactivity.
Skulls of the Shogun
(Haunted Temple Studios)
A favorite of indie game fans everywhere, Skulls of the Shogun, from Haunted Temple studios, combines deep strategy with arcade speed, letting players take turns controlling their armies of phantom samurai in the lush & eerie samurai afterlife. Skulls of the Shogun streamlines its gameplay to increase accessibility and make for a fast paced, intensely fun, multiplayer experience.
In some games you see stars in the background, you shoot asteroids or you live on planets. But in Solar 2 you ARE these objects! Solar 2, designed by Murudai, is an open-world, sandbox game set in an infinite abstract universe. You can play constructively and grow your system naturally, or destructively, crashing into other objects and causing chaos. Solar 2 literally and uniquely makes a game out of the physical laws of the universe.
StarDrone, from Beatshapers, is a high-speed action thriller with a mix of arcade action, pinball, breakout, physics and a collect-the-objects mechanic that is intelligently utilizes the Playstation Move controller. Cause your attackers to crash with rapid speed while collecting gems and power-up enhancements. StarDrone’s high-energy, classic, arcade gameplay integrates modern exploration sensibilities and gestural control schemes.
superHYPERCUBE, from Kokoromi, is a game about holes, and the cubes that love them. It explores the vast, mostly unexplored TRON-like tundra of stereoscopy and head tracking in games. Originally produced for GAMMA 3D in Montreal, superHYPERCUBE is a public installation that literally takes the classic game Tetris into the third dimension as you try to rotate increasingly complex cube constellations to fit into a series of rectilinear holes. Presented as an art game, SuperHYPERCUBE’s well-designed 3D mechanics are leveraged to create unique and inventive puzzles on par with mainstream games in the genre..
Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP
(Superbrothers, Capybara Games, Jim Guthrie)
Described by its creators as a “psycho-social audio visual experiment, a meandering mytho-poetic adventure…”, Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP is an exploratory action adventure with an emphasis on audiovisual style. Traverse a mythic realm, use a sword to do battle and evoke sworcery to solve mystical musical mysteries. S:S&S EP is also an inhabitable music album designed for a broad, literate audience. The game’s beautiful aesthetic visual and audio design support one another and reinforce the mood and aesthetic of the gameplay.
The Bridge is a 2.5-D puzzle platformer that forces players to reevaluate their preconceptions of physics and perspective. Manipulate gravity to redefine the ceiling as the floor, and venture through impossible architecture in this original approach to the puzzle platformer genre, a beautifully illustrated adventure hand-drawn and set in the style of a black-and-white lithograph. The Bridge’s individual puzzles are also meticulously crafted beautiful art objects in their own right.
The Depths to Which I Sink
Descend into tubes, pass through hoops, avoid moving walls and smash windows into pieces. In the Depths to Which I Sink, created by Bigpants, stereoscopic 3D is an integral part of the gameplay – not just graphics. It’s impossible to play without 3D glasses. Your screen becomes a cube, and you will feel like you’re floating inside of it. The goals and objectives force the player to think in Z – not just X and Y. The Depths to Which I Sink uses 3D to enrich gameplay and the player’s experience.
The Dream Machine
The Dream Machine, developed by Cockroach Ink, is a point & click adventure game in a world made of clay and cardboard. You play as Victor and Alicia, a couple who’ve just moved into a new apartment. While trying to get settled in, they soon discover that all is not as it seems in the quiet, unassuming apartment building. The Dream Machine aims return us to the sensibilities of childhood, a time when you did things purely for the joy of the doing. Its hand-crafted aesthetics support and enrich this very well-executed adventure game.
The Swapper is a space-themed ambient sidescrolling puzzle platformer set in a semi-open world. Created by Facepalm Games, the game’s main mechanics are set around creating clones and swapping consciousnesses using a special device. One of the original inspirations for The Swapper was P.C. Jersild’s novel “A Living Soul”, a story told from the perspective of a brain separated from a body, living in a aquarium in a research facility. The Swapper inventively leverages its central mechanic to both create puzzles but also to allow story to emerge.
The Witch, by Elizabeth Swensen, is a single-player narrative game for the iPad. The player takes the role of a young girl masquerading as a witch in order to navigate the physical and social space of her paper storybook. The girl can alter her disguise for different situations by playing into or against the rumors that other characters spread about her. These words change how she is seen and they change the way the story is told. In this way, the words themselves are witchcraft. The Witch’s inventive linguistic interaction leverages the social power of language to invest the game with meaning.
(CoCo & Co)
WAY, an exploratory puzzle game designed by CoCo & Co, invites strangers around the world to collaborate in creating a shared gestural language online. By puppeteering their avatars (freely controlling limbs to wave, point, nod and more), two anonymous players must communicate nonverbally to solve puzzles. Way’s inventive multiplayer puzzles provoke players to cooperate and communicate in novel ways using the affordances of the virtual space.
Whew! That’s quite the list! Some of them are a bit odd, like the Kiss Controller and Application Crunch and a few are already pretty well known (Desktop Dungeons, FEZ, Solar 2, etc.) but overall I’d say it’s a great list. I can’t wait to play a bunch of these games.
Do you have a favorite? Is there a particular game here you’d love to play? Let us know in the comments!
Those of you interested in attending IndieCade can sign up via their website below. The annual conference is taking place from October 8th-9th this year.
(All descriptions are from IndieCade.com)