Every month, as part of the regular monthly meetings of the Austin, TX independent game community JUEGOS RANCHEROS, we do a very casual & chatty rundown of the ten or so games from the previous month for the audience, to give people — especially those curious onlookers from outside the indie community itself — a look at what they may have missed. The featured games are both local and global, and both indie and, on occasion, a bit-bigger-budget — what binds them together is simply that they’re all amazing.
In keeping with the tongue-in-tobacco-packed-cheek tone, we call these run-downs A Fistful of Indies, which are presented here on Venus Patrol for your reference, each fully-annotated, -linked, and off-the-cuff blurbed, in addition to their home on the JUEGOS RANCHEROS site.
Developer: Exotworking | Platform: Web | Play it: Here
“… a brief and clever little short story of a game from Exotworking, a group that includes a guy who’s currently interning at Double Fine, which should give you a hint about the sense of humor you can expect. I won’t go into too much detail & spoil the fun, so let’s just say it’s an exploration of the ethics of the traditional retro platform game & leave it at that.”
“… just recently landed on the 3DS — which is my new favorite way to play it — it’s a serene bedtime story of a game from a Swedish indie called Nifflas, who’s sort of the resident master of quiet, ambient platformers, which is exactly what you should expect from this.”
Developer: The Catamites | Platform: PC/Mac | Get it: Here
“… a 3D dungeon crawler from the same developer of the amazing game Murder Dog. If you’ve played that, you’ll feel right at home with the sort of anarchist punk vibe happening here. If you haven’t, you’ll basically be wolloped across the face by how bizarre and brutalist it is, but underneath the sort of terrifying severity, there is actually a lengthy adventure here.”
Mark of the Ninja
“… a super polished stealth platformer from Klei, and is maybe most remarkable for the fact that it’s the first game that’s given me the choice between pacifism and genocide and I’ve not just chosen but almost like lusted to kill every single person — it’s an incredibly satisfying game all around.”
Developer: Colin Northway | Platform: PC/Mac/Linux | Get it: Here
“… the new game from our friend Colin Northway, best known as the guy with the big mutton chops and a blue safari hat in Spelunky. Like most of his games, this is a heavily physics-based game where you construct your own characters, here by adding limbs & muscles to give them life and solve puzzles. It’s insanely beautiful & super satisfying.”
God of Blades
Developer: White Whale | Platform: iPhone/iPad | Get it: App Store
“This has been featured at a previous JUEGOS, but if this is your first time hearing about it, it’s a pulp fantasy inspired swordfighting game for iPhone & iPad from our own White Whale Games that’s got a ton of soul, and is just about to get a big new dose of content in the next couple weeks.”
Developer: Twinbeard | Platform: Web | Play it: Here
“…basically impossible to describe without ruining it, except to say that I know that based on this screenshot you’re not going to believe me that it’s not just one of the funniest and absurd games to come out in recent memory, but one that basically has the most ideas crammed into one experience. You’ll see what I mean.”
Developer: Honeyslug & Dick Hogg | Platform: PlayStation Vita | Get it: PSN
“… a minigame collection that teaches you about all of the hardware features of the Vita, and also a super funny, absurdist, irreverent game with a ton of unbelievably amazing guest artists. If you’ve got a Vita, you need this game.”
The Unfinished Swan
Developer: Giant Sparrow | Platform: PlayStation 3 | Get it: PSN
“… if you’ve only seen screenshots like this, where you splatter black paint on a fully-white world to explore more deeply, you haven’t seen anything yet. As a sort of magical children’s storybook of a game, it’s just unbelievably completely delightful. ”
Developer: Dennaton | Platform: PC | Get it: Steam
“…an extremely violent and blood-soaked action game that also manages to be both fantastically stylish and awesomely thoughtful in how it handles its violence. Also worth noting is that this screenshot here will be part of an update to the game that should be ready by the time you read this, which lets you play a special level that takes place right here in the Highball.”
One of the core tenets of Venus Patrol, and Offworld before it, and really basically all my work over the past several years is that bringing in artists of all stripes not traditionally immersed in the world of games can (and has) only ever resulted in some of the most sublime work videogames can offer.
That’s only one sliver of why I think Honeyslug‘s Vita minigame collection Frobisher Says is so brilliant — there’s also its self-awareness, and its irreverence, and its holistic approach to wringing out basically every absurd interaction you can manage with Sony’s hardware — but it’s a very non-trivial sliver.
For as much as I’ve been a fan of the art Honeyslug and cohort Dick Hogg have produced — going back to their 2010 Gamma IV contribution Poto & Cabenga (and going back even further to some of Hogg’s work for UK design house Airside), and their gorgeous and still in-progress adventure game Hohokum — Honeyslug themselves have as voracious appetite for amazing art, something that shines through blindingly with the dream team of illustrators they assembled for each minigame in Frobisher Says.
And so, to get a better sense of how they hand-picked their lineup, I asked designer and programmer Ricky Haggett (above, right) and Hogg (above, left) to go game-by-minigame to give us the whos and hows and whys behind every artist chosen for what’s become, hands-down, one of Sony’s “coolest” games — in that old, original PlayStation Designers-Republic-doing-art-for-Wipeout sense of “cool”.
And then, without warning, the wonderful news I have been waiting for quite literally since the launch of the PlayStation Vita itself: Sony’s stateside blog has just announced that Frobisher Says, the minigame collection from Hohokum & Passing Time developers Honeyslug will finally be released in U.S. as a free download on October 23rd.
Though often compared to games like WarioWare for its fast-paced & fractured play, Frobisher‘s less a frenetic exercise in reaction time and more a petulant and self-aware tour through the Vita hardware itself, guided by the titular narrator, played — pitch perfectly — by Kevin Eldon, who you almost certainly know, even if you don’t know you know (or, at least, you should know), from appearances in British comedies like Spaced, Black Books, Brass Eye, Jam & I’m Alan Partridge.
The game also contains a laundry list of amazing illustrators & fellow indie artists, from co-creator Dick Hogg (the same as behind the Venus Patrol Training Facility logo) to Johnny Ryan, David ‘Swatpaz‘ Ferguson, Greg Wohlwend & Pixeljam.
Long story short, it’s an essential download and the best reason to get re-acquainted with your Vita since Sound Shapes — expect to hear more here on it closer to its release.