One of the highlights of the recent Rezzed show in Brighton was the abundance of indie games available for attendees to play. Whilst the big budget, triple-A games might have caught the headlines, the innovation, ideas, and entertainment available away from the bright lights was a sight to behold.
Here are ten of the best that we had chance to play on our jaunt to the seaside, and some words from the people behind the games too.
Dark Scavenger (darkscavenger.com)
A mix between an old school RPG, a point and click adventure and a dungeon crawler, with a dollop of humour thrown in for good measure, Dark Scavenger is all about scavenging items in a fantasy setting, then using the crew of your spaceship to turn them into weapons and useable items.
‘Dark Scavenger was created simply because we wanted to make it,’ said developer Alex Gold. ‘There wasn’t money or a client at the helm – only the burning desire to make something new and do what we love. If our game can inspire discussion and laughter, then we have succeeded.’
Dwindling Worlds (giantbeartracks.com)
A digital tone poem that mixes spoken word pieces and simple puzzle gameplay to tell a story unlike any other at the show. Essentially, you’re manipulating the mouse to make circles of light and colour behave in a certain way, with the voices in the game giving you cryptic clues as to how and what you should be doing. Slow paced and strangely effecting, Dwindling Worlds is a cross between an art installation and a picture puzzle.
The Cat That Got The Milk (thecatthatgotthemilk.com)
Using only the up and down arrows on the keyboard, the game tests your reaction times, as you try to lead a shape through a series of increasingly challenging mazes. A brilliant exponent of the ‘just one more go’ urge that lies at the heart of the very best games.
‘The Cat That Got The Milk was born out of a need to explore art, design, style, play and creativity,’ said developer Oliver Clarke. ‘We believe in the appeal of simplicity that lets players play rather than limits them… We recognise that a players time is precious. It’s time we should earn by providing quality entertainment that is challenging yet accessible.’
A game without any real goals, where the player is essentially ship wrecked on an island and left to explore the sights and sounds that the virtual environment delivers. Simple blocky graphics add a sense of charm and mystery to proceedings, as you wander round a beautifully designed, organic space, chasing rabbits and listening to the strange sounds the island produces. A simple, hypnotic joy.
Inspired as much by classic platformers as it is by Portal, Gateways is a brilliant, brain twisting puzzling platformer that sees you leading a scientist through a lab, using a variety of different guns to change the physics of the level, from adding portals to walking on the ceiling and travelling through time.
‘Gateways is a game that takes Portal to new extremes by adding different types of gun which allow you to change size, walk on walls and even travel in time,’ said David Johnson of Smudged Cat, who also developed The Adventures of Shuggy. ‘It’s in a single large metroidvania style map with funky retro 2D graphics and an awesome ambient soundtrack. The sophisticated help system should ensure that no-one gets stuck for too long as players can buy the solutions to puzzles that they find too taxing.’
A side-scrolling platform beat ‘em up starring a Mexican wrestler who can use his special powers to swap between two different dimensions, Guacamelee is as intelligent as it is enjoyable, and as funny as it is unique.
‘As an indie studio we have the opportunity to create unique player experiences – that’s our objective,’ said Chris McQuinn from Drinkbox. ‘In Guacamelee, the player will explore a Metroid-vania world based on Mexican folk-lore and culture. This style is absolutely rich in story, style, and passion that really has been ignored by mainstream games. And of course, there will be a heavy dose of Drinkbox style humour.’
Pop Methodology Experiment One (popme1.com)
A bizarre set of mini games with strange goals and even stranger play styles that asks some interesting questions about autonomy and action in videogames. More about the nature of play than the actual methods, this is a confusing, exhilarating, and at times uncomfortable ride.
‘I made POP:ME1 by experimenting with creating the music first and running with the first idea that popped into my head,’ said developer Robert Lach. ‘I didn’t know what I was getting into, and frankly I still don’t know what I just got out of. I do know the results of the experiment are quite clear; this is not the best way to make a coherent game.’
A fresh, three dimensional take on Blockade (the first snake game) that sees you eating and growing your digital creature around and inside various different shapes. Tricky to get the hang of at first, the mix of retro play and gorgeous graphics make for an entertaining and at times disorientating experience.
‘I make my stuff for myself really, but it’d be pretty good if it got people interested in Blockade and maybe the origins of lost gameplay stuff in general, but I suppose really QRTH-PHYL is about me being interested in that stuff and using it to make the game,’ said Matt James from Hermit Games.
Trash TV (trashtvgame.com)
A unique aesthetic and an intriguing premise seem set to make this puzzling platformer the pick of the crop. You control a TV who’s trying to escape from a factory, and have to manipulate the environment to get yourself out. Addictive and fiendishly clever at time, the game’s intricately designed puzzles are a joy to fathom out.
Ring Fling (mugathur.com)
Ring Fling is essentially a party game for your iPad, and lets up to four players compete in a game of reverse Hungry, Hungry Hippos, flicking out balls to try and smash shapes into their opponents zones. A brilliant, entertaining, and pretty unique way to play on your tablet or smartphone.
‘I remember when I was young and playing games was something that brought people together. I used to play Tetris with my parents, Contra with my brother, and Risk with my friends,’ said Moo Yu, the developer of Ring Fling. ‘I wanted to make something simple and fun to play with friends and family. I’d also never made a game completely by myself or a mobile game before so I thought I’d give it a shot and loved every second.’