With so many indie gaming related events going on throughout the year in the US, like the Independent Games Festival and PAX, I sometimes get pretty jealous over here in the UK. So thank the heavens for the Indie Games Arcade, a yearly event that’s part of the huge Eurogamer Expo in London.
I was down at the event at the weekend and played my way through the 11 games on display. The atmosphere is buzzing around the indie section, and I talked to plenty of people who told me that the Arcade was their favourite part of the whole show. At a time when mainstream gaming is looking rather grey, brown and/or shooty, indie games can feel like quite the breath of fresh air, especially to those who don’t play them often.
So without further ado, here’s my round-up of the games on show.
Originally known as Boryokudan Rue, Joshua Nuernberger’s point-and-click adventure was recently renamed Gemini Rue. I like to think that it was because I couldn’t say the original name, let alone spell it, and Joshua somehow heard my thoughts and decided to help me out.
Gemini Rue is set in a futuristic, film-noir setting, and you control Azriel Odin, a police officer on the way to extract a crime ring defector. The story also jumps to a mysterious man known as Delta-Six every now and again, and eventually the two protagonists’ stories become entwinned.
There’s some lovely storytelling, and when I played through the game a few months ago I was hooked from start to finish. Apart from the adventuring, there are shoot-out sections in which your main character can in fact die, adding a little tension to the mix. Being an adventure game, there wasn’t such a crowd around the game at the Arcade, as it’s not exactly an experience you can pick up an dive right into. Still, definitely a game to watch out for in the coming months.
DIYGamer past coverage of Gemini Rue
From the guys who brought us Auditorium comes Fractal, a sweet little puzzler which is far more slow-paced and tactical that it first appears. Players push hexagons around a grid, creating ‘blooms’ and watching things go boom all over the place.
It all looks so gorgeous, and as with Auditorium, music plays a huge part – as you string together more combos of blooms, more layers will be added to the track currently playing until there is a smooth melody playing in full. Not that you’ll be picking up huge combos later on, as the action gets very difficult as different colours and hexagon types are added.
Surprisingly, there didn’t seem to be much interest for the game at the Arcade – you’d think that a puzzler like this would attract the punters, but this appears not to be the case. Perhaps the game looks too much like a match-3 type of puzzler, and a genre that the usual hardcore gamer who would attend this type of event would usually steer clear of. Whatever the reason, you should definitely check it out.
Past DIYGamer coverage of Fractal
The Mode 7 team had a nice little trick up its sleeve with its Indie Games Arcade offering – with four computers set up, players were able to play Frozen Synapse against each other and get the full ‘online’ multiplayer feeling via LAN.
For those not in the know, Frozen Synapse is a turn-based tactical, top-down team shooter, in which players give their troops orders, hit the go button, and watch the action unfold. With a single-player currently in the works, the game is shaping up to be something very special indeed.
Frozen Synapse was so popular at the Expo that part-way through the weekend, the team managed to acquire an extra computer and was able to drag even more wanderers into the fray to try out its game. Very popular, and with good reason.
Revenge of the Titans
Puppy Games has been working on Revenge of the Titans for quite some time, so it’s great to see it getting the recognition it deserves. It’s a real-time strategy, tower defence mash-up with striking visuals, tons of upgrades and lots of evil-looking aliens.
There’s plenty of depth bundled in there, and throughout play you’ll come up with your own special strategies for taking out each type of baddie. Using your collected cash to upgrade your defenses is the key, and you’ll have to survive many an onslaughter to come out victorious.
With a fair bit to learn about the mechanics of the game and how everything works, it’s understandable that a lot of gamers were checking the title out, giving it a few clicks, then walking about bemused. Not to worry, though – once it’s released, we’re bound to see the game’s popularity rise.
Tiny and Big
Tiny and Big was definitely one of the biggest surprises for me – not because I didn’t like the look of the game, but because I hadn’t really heard much about it before checking it out. You take control of Tiny, a rock-cutting robot, on his quest to get his underpants back from a childish guy called Big.
Set in a 3D world, you can aim next to a rock, hold down the right mouse button, drag across a rock, let go – then watch Tiny laser the rock exactly along your line. The rock will then break in half, potentially allowing you to pull it into place and use it as an extra platform. It’s a really neat mechanic and works wonderfully.
Punters on the show floor appeared to be loving it to, and the majority of people I talked to said they’d definitely be interested in checking out the full release when it’s available. Score one for Black Pants Game Studio!
You can’t miss a game with a name like that! Scoregasm was easily the most pick-up-and-play-able game at the Indie Games Arcade, being a twin-stick shooter and all. This isn’t just any arena shooter though – it’s one of the most mental I’ve seen in a long while.
This is due to two factors: 1) the bullet hell sections which see you hammering the special shield button to bash away as many enemy missiles as possible, and 2) the insane level design on certain stages. Shaving a beard off a face? Being shot at by cabbages? Helping lead a mouse around a mouse! Why yes please, I will have some of that, thank you very much!
If you’re into twin-stick shooters, this will be for you. If you can’t wait, there’s the option to pre-order the game and get the beta right now. Go go go!
I enjoyed every game on show… but Nidhogg was easily my favourite. Two player only – at least at the moment – Nidhogg sees two friends facing it off in a fencing match. Strike your opponent down with your sword, then run off in the correct direction quickly before they respawn. Whichever player manages to push the action all the way to one particular side of the action wins.
The key factor is that there’s just so much depth to it. Players can run and slide on their knees, through the legs of their opponent and continue on their way. You can even throw your sword at your opponent, although this will leave you with no weapon – unless you grab a fallen one off the floor, that is. I could go on, but it’s pretty much impossible to fully explain this game – you really need to play it to understand just how amazing it is.
Don’t believe me? Well, the game was handed Rock Paper Shotgun’s indie game of the show award, and the game had constant streams of people around it who all desperately wanted a go, so you’ll need to argue with them too! Can’t wait to see this one released.
Skulls of the Shogun
Another game that completely swept me off my feet, as I hadn’t heard much about it beforehand. Skulls of the Shogun is a turn-based strategy game with some very interesting ideas on the menu, and lots of skeletons to boot.
Players use their turn to move their skeleton army around, haunting areas for rice and attacking the enemy for skulls. Eat enough skulls and you’ll turn into a demon, causing far more damage and earning big bonuses. Use your rice to build even more units, then kill the enemy general to win the game. It’s a bit like Advance Wars, but with more freedom of movement.
Very cool stuff, and you could see players really getting into it on the show floor. I fought an epic, half-an-hour long battle which ended with my general facing off against the enemy general, and losing by a slight margin. Looking forward to this one immensely.
We’ve covered B.U.T.T.O.N. before here at DIYGamer, but there’s no better place to check it out in full glory than an expo floor. The game pits four players against each other in a button-bashing, elbow-smashing stand off.
Four players step away from the screen, then read the instructions and follow them. They can be anything from ‘do not press your button’ to ‘press your button 14 times before anyone else’. Commence with all four players rushing to the controllers and hammering away at both their own and their opponents! It’s utterly mental stuff, although I wouldn’t like to guess how many controls have been broken through playing the game!
At one point, I watched Mark Morris and Chris Delay of Introversion pushing and grabbing at each other and they both desperately tried to hammer the buttons on each other’s controllers. As I’m sure you can guess, it was rather hilarious. For this reason alone, I cannot wait to see the final version of B.U.T.T.O.N. released to the masses.
Swimming Under Clouds
Swimming Under Clouds was perhaps the game I was most interesting in seeing at the Expo, as I knew barely anything about it, except that it looked very lovely indeed. The game puts you in control of a fish who is situated in a bubble of water, and you need to help him reach the end of each level while making sure he doesn’t lose his watery shield.
While rolling around, there are platforms to roll onto and jumps to make. Momentum is the key, and spraying water can also be used to make jumps – although this will use up some of the water shield. Touching spikes will also reduce your water, and if you lose too much the fish will die.
Swimming Under Clouds feels great to play, and received a warm response from players at the Expo. Yet another game to look forward to from this year’s indie batch!
Last but by no means least, Hohokum from Honeyslug and Richard Hogg is quite a way from being ready for release – possibly a year or two away, in fact – yet it’s already looking the part with some very interesting ideas on display.
Players take control of a strange, flying worm-like creature in a colourful world that is under attack by unknown nasties. You cannot be hurt, and must use this invincibility to safe the little people of the world by allowing them to hop on your back and ride to a safe drop-off zone. Saving as many people as possible in the world is the aim, and you’ll need to dodge around the baddies as you fly your little guys to their destinations.
The build available at the Expo was a very early one, but was already full of vibrant colours and brimming with personality. It’ll be interesting to see how Hohokum progresses over the next year, and hopefully we’ll be able to bag a preview build again sometime into development.
So there you have it – the 11 finalists in full, and what a bunch they are. Not a single disappointment in the pack, with every single one providing plenty of entertainment, and all worth penning into your ‘must check out’ games list. Roll on Indie Games Arcade 2011!