I’ve been on a bit of an indie gaming kick of late, so this post made sense to me when I started writing it. You’ll have to forgive me if it’s less coherent than what you’re used to- I’m essentially running on fumes at the moment, so my mind isn’t exactly functioning at its best.
Today, we’re going to look at a few awesome indie games which, if you’ve not done so yet, you should make the effort to play. With the advent of Kickstarter and the Humble Indie Bundle, independent developers have really come to the fore lately. And why shouldn’t they? The very nature of their development means that they can go in new, unique, and innovative directions which larger publishers might often shy away from, they’re inexpensive, and they’re made just as well as any AAA title you might see.
Coupled with Baldur’s Gate 2, they’ve been consuming much of my leisure time of late. Here are a few titles from my own personal list of favorites, sans Minecraft- everybody knows about that game by now. Same deal with Amnesia.
I love Bastion. I love everything about Bastion. The top-down platforming gameplay is polished, varied and enjoyable, the music is amazing, the graphics are pretty much scenery porn, the world design and backstory are interesting and unique, and the voice acting…well, this speaks for itself. If you ever enjoyed old-school platformers, you need to give Bastion a go.
Give the kid a chance- he’ll grow on ya.
I picked up Lone Survivor with the latest Humble Indie Bundle, and I must say, I was rather impressed. It actually manages to be creepier than most modern survival horror titles with only 8-bit graphics, and the plot is somewhat intriguing, to say the least- going between what seems to be a classical zombie apocalypse in the real world and a bizarre, hellish, Silent Hill-esque “other” dimension. The way the game’s structured raises a lot of questions about what’s real and imagined, and the protagonist seems…disturbed, to say the least.
I’ve only gotten to play twenty minutes of it so far, and I loved every moment.
This is it- the original indie game. If you’ve not heard of Cave Story, I pity you. An immense, creative, challenging 8-bit platformer with excellent chiptune music and an engaging plot, Cave Story was the work of one man- a strange little fellow known as Pixel. It was, in every sense, a labor of love. Setting an example that should make most big name developers feel ashamed of themselves, Pixel refused to release the game until everything was absolutely perfect- every bug was squashed and every kink was ironed out.
It took him more than four years.
Did I mention he originally released it for free? There’ve been remakes and re-releases, of course- most notably, Cave Story + on Steam. Pick it up, and avoid the Wiiware release. Trust me.
The Binding of Isaac
I just recently picked up The Binding of Isaac, and I’ve gotta say, it impressed me. At its core, it’s a roguelike, with many of the elements that made the old genre legendary. Maps, enemies, and treasure are completely randomized, and death is permanent- you need to start over if you die. It’s fairly difficult (or maybe I’m just particularly sleep deprived), so if you’re looking for a walk in the park, look elsewhere.
It’s fairly disturbing if you think into it in any capacity, by the way- there are very obvious elements of decay and extremely obvious allusions to some rather severe child abuse. The initial final boss battle is…unnerving, to say the least, and the battle against the Duke of Flies always makes me uncomfortable, though I can’t quite place why.
I love it.
Super Meat Boy
Feeling masochistic? Want to punish yourself or challenge yourself to the point that you want to break your face against your computer screen? Play Super Meat Boy. Designed by the same guy who created The Binding of Isaac, Super Meat Boy is a platforming experience which forcefully brings the concept of “Nintendo hard” back to gaming. You play an intrepid, rather fragile hero made of meat who’s desperately trying to rescue the love of his life (a lady made of bandages) from the insidious Doctor Fetus.
Yeah, it’s pretty tongue-in-cheek.
Still, it’s a bloody difficult game, and if you’re looking to challenge yourself, give it a go.
The first most striking thing about Aquaria is the music. The second most striking element is the gameplay. It’s an underwater platformer (somewhat in the style of Echo the Dolphin) in which your character explores the ruins of long-dead civilizations in an effort to unlock the secrets of her forgotten past, gaining new songs which can be used to shapeshift and affect the surrounding environment. Bastion might be a damned fine game, but Aquaria definitely takes the cake for the most beautiful on the list.
Roger Ebert ignorantly claimed that video games aren’t art. Braid essentially spat in his face. You’re put in the shoes of a despondent young man in search of his Princess and with the ability to modify and shape the flow of time. This ability is used to solve a series of puzzles. At the end of each ‘level,’ you’re provided with another cryptic shred of the game’s deeper plot.
Honestly? I’m not doing this game justice. Go and play it yourself.
That’s all for now, folks. See you next week.