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.
See more posts about: 50 Short Games, A Fistful of Indies, Asher Vollmer, Ben Esposito, Bo-En, Broken Age, Double Fine, Eliss, Eliss Infinity, Global Game Jam, Greg Wohlwend, How Do You Do It, Jazzpunk, Jimmy Hinson, JUEGOS RANCHEROS, little--eyes, Messhof, Necrophone Games, Nidhogg, Octodad, Pale Machine, Steph Thirion, Stoic, The Banner Saga, TheCatamites, Threes, Young Horses
If you’ve been following Offworld for any amount of time, you’re probably well familiar with Steph Thirion’s iPhone debut, Eliss, one of my first (and, alongside Drop7, still most fervent) recommendations for the platform — especially now in its kinder, gentler state.
As Thirion himself will admit, though, it’s not the easiest game idea to get across in words, images, or even video (above) alone: it’s something that you really have to touch for yourself. And so: he’s just sent on word that a Lite version has just made its debut in the App Store (iTunes link) that’ll give you the first three sectors of the game, so you can see for yourself why it set my heart all a-flutter way back when.
Though I was unabashed in professing my love for Steph Thirion’s iPhone debut, Eliss, there’s no getting around the fact that our relationship (and the one she had with most others) was — to put it frankly — an abusive one.
As Thirion would go on to tell me at GDC, and has now explained fully via his new blog, a startlingly small number of people made it even halfway through the game, and a micro-percentage managed to finish it (and then, in one case, not for some 40 odd hours for its 20 ‘short’ levels).
After a period of post-conference reflection, then, he’s settled on a way to ease players in a bit more gently, and in the process, added a quarter more levels to the game. He explains:
On the original group of sectors, there was a serious jump after sector 2. Too many new things were introduced on sector 3, there was no time to get prepared for them. To fill up that missing space, four new sectors were added in between those. None of these sectors brings anything truly new compared to version 1.0, but they allow a better pacing. I also moved quite a few sectors around, to make a more logical difficulty progression, and did some tweaking in specific sectors. In the process I also added a little bonus, sector 14, which is a new thing. Also, the suns’ appearance has been modified to be spotted earlier, making the much dreaded sector 10 (which has been moved to sector 20 by the way) easier to beat.
Progress on your original game has for the most part been saved and adjusted for but in general, says Thirion, the game is “better balanced, less jumpy, more user friendly,” and therefore comes even more universally recommended than it did at last mention.
As a bonus, Thirion’s written a lovely letter to his audience here, which doubles as an illuminating look at a creator struggling with the “Fairy of Reason.”
The 1.1 update for Eliss is currently live on the App Store, or can be purchased, now at a reduced price, via this iTunes link.
It was exactly one week ago last night that I fell in love, and to be quite honest I’m still at a little bit of a loss for words. The new object of my desire? She’s Eliss, an iPhone game, and I say that only slightly facetiously, because I’m not entirely exaggerating when I admit to getting goosebumps every time I even just see her in the video above.
If her name rings half a bell, it’s because Eliss, from Barcelona/NY designer Steph Thirion, is up for this year’s design innovation award in the Independent Games Festival’s mobile division. I’d known that, but, even after posting about the entrants in this year’s awards, didn’t even pay it much mind: its preview shot was so abstract and frankly fairly ugly, stretched and muddied with jpeg compression that it didn’t make a lasting impression, like trying to size up a new Facebook/MySpace crush on poor photos alone.
But as soon as I’d laid hands on the playable code, it clicked. Like I said: I’m still not sure exactly what it is in me that Eliss laser-targets and tweaks, but for as many games as pass my eyes and hands in any given week, it’s a connection that’s rare. Part of it’s the music, surely, the tender electronic loops somewhere in the neighborhood of I am Robot and Proud or E*vax, but it’s also the game’s design itself.
Because there isn’t another game like Eliss — she’s one in a million. Thirion describes it most poetically:
Your job is to keep up harmony in an odd universe made of blendable planets. Touch-control multiple planets at once, join them together into giant orbs or split them up into countless dwarf planets, and match their size with the squeesars. Wipe off the stardust, resist the attraction of the vortex and other space phenomena, and slow down the passage of time. Each of the 20 levels will require creative ways and strategies in using your fingers. Warm up your hands, you’re up for some serious finger gymnastics in the bizarro galaxy.
But you don’t really needs words — and the game actually offers you precious few, just the iconic instructions seen in the video above — because for as abstract as it is, it appeals to exactly that innate sense of order and accomplishment as Tetris. Keep like colors together, join and split shapes to fill the vibrating ‘squeesar’ frames, and at all costs don’t let mis-matched colors touch.
Eliss gets all its vitality out of the economy of those three simple rules, multi-tasking them on a second by second basis, and is only made more difficult over time by overcrowding the field more quickly and introducing elements like those vortexes which slowly draw the objects together.
is currently undergoing the gauntlet of Apple’s approval process, but Thirion expects it to be released by the end of the month, is now available on the App Store [iTunes link] and I’m excited for you all to meet her, because there’s a lot to her that typifies precisely what good gaming should be about.