IndieCade 2009 Finalists
ClassicNight is a game by Korean developer Akarolis. In it the player collects light for the moon, trying to make it brighter than the sun, all while avoiding demonic hulking rabbits and robot birds. Gameplay is an interesting mix of strategy and arcade elements, highlighted by the strange and beautiful 2D style.
The game can be downloaded for free over on the author's blog.
Lazy 8 Studios' Cogs is an intriguing puzzle game where players must move 3D gears around a surface (by the end of a game, a cube) to get all of them moving and eventually run a steampunk machine. During his presentation at Indiecade 2009, designer Rob Jagnow spoke about how the team wanted every single level to be different, and how everything was solid and mechanical -- even the UI moves in and out of the screen like a real machine. You can download and play Cogs right now on Steam or Direct2Drive, and it should be available on the iPhone soon.
- Global Conflicts: Latin America
The second in a series of educational/informative games about conflict areas around the world, GC:LA puts you in the shoes of a journalist given the task of researching and reporting various stories, about subjects as varied as political assassinations to ethnic riots. Each segment unfolds as you explore fully 3D areas (the game uses the Unity graphics engine), recreating different zones of conflict around the world. The team of creators at Denmark's Serious Games Initiative contains two PhDs and three Masters of Science, and their goal is to make games that both educate and entertain, that can be sold on the consumer market or to high schools and colleges. GC:LA can be purchased on the Global Conflicts website.
- The Maw
Since this action-adventure was released earlier this year on PC and Xbox Live, Twisted Pixel has become almost a household name on the XBLA: Splosion Man was extremely well-recieved this summer, and fans are looking forward to the studio's newest announced title, Comic Jumper. But of course, it all began with The Maw, a little blob-like creature that starts the game as a cute purple alien, and ends up as a gigantic purple planet.
Mighter is a platform/exploration game with a technological twist: by using a webcam and a special printout, players can actually create the levels just by drawing on a piece of paper. Lines on a paper get sent to the computer through a webcam, and then the game creates a customized terrain for a player-designed protagionist to explore. The game has been released as freeware by developer Ratloop.
- Minor Battle
Minor Battle is an intriguing game/installation put together by a group of alumni from the University of Southern California's Interactive Media Division. Apparently, there's a classroom on campus there with a wall full of television screens, and one day, one of the developers imagined what it would be like to have a stick-figure battle going across all of the screens. That led to the creation this game, which is actually played out on four screens, set up in a square facing outward. As the battle commences (there are multiple game modes, and the one on display at Indiecade featured four castles, with the four players trying to blow the other players' home bases up), players are encouraged to move around the screens, checking each others' screen to see what's happening, and sometimes even physically trying to keep other people from seeing their own screens. The game highlights the connection between playing with other people in both real and virtual space.
- Moon Stories
Moon Stores is a set of three extremely beautiful yet simple Flash games by Argentinean developer Daniel Benmergui. Storyteller is an interactive storyline in which consequences of choices (sometimes expected, sometimes not) are immediately and clearly seen. Today I Die (coming soon to the iPhone) is an arcade game that combines wordplay and graphical flourishes to tell a story about loss and redemption, and I Wish I Were the Moon uses an intriguing "photograph" mechanic to tell and retell a love story between a boy, a girl and the moon.
All three of the games are beautiful examples of how a lot of emotion can be conjured with just a little Flash.
Nanobots is a game created by three folks who have never met in person before: Erin Robinson, a Canadian University student (who charmed the Indiecade crowd by making jokes about how the "reality" of being an indie game developer is far less exciting than the fantasy); aan American living in Japan; and a European musician. The trio met on the Adventure Game Studio forums and decided to make games together. Nanobots is a hilarious point-and-click game in which the player has to control a set of brightly colored robots with different abilities and attempt to help them escape the evil Professor Kilfun. The game has been released as freeware by Robinson (who goes by "The Ivy" in her forum persona).
Canadian developers Hemisphere Games describe their games as "ambient" -- games that "move at your pace." Osmos is a game that, like the popular flOw, is about eating or being eaten, but the main mechanic, as described during Indiecade 2009, is that your propulsion is tied to your size. Eating makes you grow, moving makes you shrink. Combining that premise with dreamy graphics and an electronic soundscape makes for a trippy experience. Osmos is available on the developer's website for $10.
- Zeno Clash
Zeno Clash looks like a first-person shooter (and it does have the occasional gun to shoot, but Chilean developers ACE Team Software (founded by three brothers) actually prefer to call it a "first-person fighting game" -- the combat is meant to be close-up and melee, and the characters are designed with sharp personalities (many of whom are actually brothers and sisters of a fallen hermaprodite -- did we mention the game is weird) to fill out the colorful "punk fantasy" world. Zeno Clash can be played via Steam or Direct2Drive right now, and a sequel is planned for the future.
Akrasia is a game/experience put together by a group of students (along with an Austrian teacher) from the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab, a research facility designed to train students by asking them to put together game prototypes. During a semester-long development period, the students studied addiction, and how to take that strange experience and turn it into an interactive game. They created an environment where the player must navigate a maze -- taking pills makes the place bright and colorful, but then go on to take too many or too much and the dreamscape turns into something of a nightmare. The game explores using abstract gameplay and metaphors to define emotions and ideas that are otherwise difficult to understand. It's a free download from GAMBIT's website.
Closure is a brilliant little Flash game by 19-year-old Tyler Glaiel (along with artist Jon Schubbe, also 19) that plays with the Law of Closure, the tendency of the human mind to complete lines and close gaps when there are no visible connections between objects. Only lit objects in the game actually exist, so by carrying around tiny lights in a dark world, the game's main character can make his way through the many rooms and puzzles. Closure can be played online for free, and Glaiel is currently working on a full, professional version of the game (he says he's trying to replicate the actual atmosphere that the original has, not just the mechanics and visuals).
- Everybody Dies
Novelist Jim Munroe constructed this piece of interactive fiction, along with art splash screens by Michael Cho, about workers at a "CostCutters Megamart" and how they with deal with death approaching from almost all directions (or at least all the directions that have exits from this location). You can play it for free online.
Gray is a game by Greg Wohlwend and Mike Boxleitner that approaches politics from an apolitical view (leaving most of the game's conclusions to to the game's player to figure out). You play as a character trying to convince a rushing horde to become a different color, but once you change the horde, the horde changes you, too. And when you change the horde again, well ... let's just say this is a game you should play all the way to the finish.
Papermint is a virtual world populated with characters that look like they're cut out from a paper doll accordion. You can chat with friends, roll yourself into a ball and play games, or just explore on a whim. The game is meant to be a "playground of imagination," combining silly-enough-to-be-abtract gameplay with the fun of a social online world.
- The Path
The story of Little Red Riding Hood is revisited and reimagined in this Gothic horror game by Belgian developers Tale of Tales. The game is dynamically created, with the way to Grandma's house determined differently each play-through, and then, upon arrival at the house itself, players will find that it's different depending on what they've done on their journey there. You can buy the game right now on Mac or PC for $10.
Sowlar is the product of four students at the Digipen Institute of Technology calling themselves Odd Man In. It's an old-school ASCII game that the team calls "an intergalactic farming simulator" -- as a farmer, it's your job to plant elements in the ground and, through crop management and a day/night and weather cycle, grow them up into aliens who can then restore planets and make a gray, cold universe alive with color again. The game is available for free on Digipen's website.
Spectre is a "recombinant narrative platformer" by a team called Vaguely Spectacular Team out of the University of South Carolina's Interactive Media Division. The game follows a shadow of a man at the end of his life, and it's his job to navigate through his past memories (represented by bright and dark points of light) and try to discover a theme to his existence. The catch? You can only play nine of these memories on any given run-through, so you'll have to play the game multiple times to get more looks at the old man's life. The game is available as a free Mac or PC download on the team's website.
This game was made by Edumund McMillen (who also made the excellent and artful platformer Gish) and Tyler Glaiel, and is designed to bring back the excitement and curiosity of childhood, as you control a little circle who can swing through the clouds up into other planets and a universe of strange puzzles and life. The game is available for free online.
- Deep Sleep Initiative
Deep Sleep Initiative is actually an alternate reality game (ARG) that spans lots and lots of different media, including multiple websites, social networking profiles, Flash games, and even a set of real-life, handmade journals distributed in secret places around the real world. Unlike most ARGs, however, this one is designed to work independently of an offical sponsor, and the creators hope it will be self-sustaining and live on even without their acting as "puppetmasters" within the game's universe. You can read through the game's blog to find clues into where the rest of the media can be seen.
Eliss was released for the iPhone and iPod touch by Spanish game designer Steph Tirion. It's a 2D multitouch game that has you moving, assembling and disassembling differently-colored planets to fit into certain-sized spaces on a field of stars. The game's frantic multitouch gameplay combined with a sparkling electronic soundtrack makes of a one-of-a-kind iPhone experience.
- Radio Flare
Radio Flare is a cross between Rez and Gradius -- it looks like a regular space shooter, but the object is to use multitouch to mark out a series of targets, which your ship will then destroy on the beat. It's available from Austrian developers Radiolaris, who are working on a whole slew of games for release on the iPhone and iPod touch.
- Ruben and Lullaby
Ruben and Lullaby is an "opertoon" for the iPhone and iPod touch by Erik Loyer that allows you to "play" two separate characters in a scene of a couple having their first fight. By twisting and turning (and touching) the iPhone's screen, you can change the output of their fight, and all of the movements and motion are backed up by a dynamic jazz soundtrack. The app is now available in the App Store.
- Shadow Physics
Shadow Physics is still more of an experiment than a game at this point, but the idea is that you play a shadow character who can walk around on shadows rather than real objects. That makes for a very strange platformer, as shadows have many properties that real objects don't have. There is no actual release date yet cited, though the idea is already going to be used in other retail titles.
Train is not actually a video game, or even a commercial product -- it's a one of a kind art installation/boardgame designed by Brenda Brathwaite in which the goal (or at least the stated goal -- you can follow or not follow the rules as you like, and the rules themselves were typed up on a real-life typewriter owned by Nazis) is to get a number of people into train cars and across a small set of tracks to a destination later revealed as Auswitz. Braithwaite says making the game has been a learning experience for her as well -- she showed it to a rabbi and got it blessed as a "work of Torah," and she says she's discovered while making Train that games can be "more than fun."
Tuning is an almost confusing, abstract platformer in which the platforms are shifting, rotating cubes, constantly moving around so that the path you're meant to take is not always clear. The game is made by Swedish developers Cactus, but as said on the offical website, don't expect it to ever "actually be released. Especially not right now."
- You Get Me
You Get Me was unfortunately only presented as a video at Indiecade 2009 -- it's actually an interactive installation set up at two different sites in London: Some players run around Mile End Park, while at the Royal Opera House five miles away, players at computers track the runners around the park, answering questions about their thinking and their lives when virtually "caught." The idea is to think about the physical space between the two places, and how it can be digitally crossed (or not) with the game mechanic.
- Modal Kombat
Modal Kombat is not actually a game -- it's really a video game battle between two musicians, David Hindman and Evan Drummond, in which they control video game characters as diverse as Raiden and Mario, all while playing real guitars as input devices. Hindman and Drummond perform on a stage in front of an audience, playing music that actually controls the characters they're fighting each other with on screen. Indiecade's official program recommends the guitar controllers as "a teaching tool," but let's be honest: this is two guys jamming to the tune of Mortal Kombat special moves.
- Dear Esther
Dear Esther is a mod for Half Life 2 that is a narrative interwoven in a video game map -- as you wander around the level, various parts of the story are revealed to you the player, thus creating a unique interactive experience through exploration and first-person gameplay.