If you’ve only got one hour for an indie game this week, make that game Terry Cavanagh and Stephen “increpare” Lavelle’s Judith.
Like Gravity Bone, it’s a game where less up-front explanation is better, but I’ll give away this much: imagine a parallel universe where Id had used its cutting edge 1992 technology not to create a game about escaping a Nazi prison and hunting down a robotic Hitler, but instead to tell a simple story through shifting narratives and timelines, each shift peeling away one more narrative layer and giving you subtle hints about where you’ll be headed in the next.
It’s heady, atmospheric stuff, and, like last week’s Enviro-bear 2000, probably a very early winner of the week’s best indie development.
The next logical step after infographics, the fairy tale music video? Infographics the game. Collaboratively created by indie devs Jiggmin and Greg ‘aeiowu‘ Wohlwend of Intuition Games, Effing Hail‘s cleanly textbook-illustrated graphic conceit is the instant draw, the game’s just as interesting an exercise in indirect control.
Your task is simple: control an updraft of air to keep falling hail in the upper levels of the bee-, sea-, dee- and effing-spheres so that it has time to grow into massive stones, which you then let fall free to crush an increasingly complex ecosystem of houses, skyscrapers, planes, satellites and civilians themselves below.
The game is only hampered by its just-on-the-side-of-too-restrictive time limit, though, granted, it’s intentionally about making the most of that time, and, like Katamari, can quickly snowball (no pun) into a near-unstoppable winning streak under the right conditions.
It’s a steep uphill climb to learning those conditions, but unleashing massive destruction does do nicely as its own reward. The game could still do well with a tutorial or unlockable sandbox mode (again, like Katamari) as stress relief after racing against the clock, but, even without, is one of the best indie developments of the month.
We’re only hours in, but barring some cosmically monumental development, this week’s (and very possibly this month’s?) most delightful indie game will surely remain Crackerblocks’ Enviro-Bear 2000: Operation: Hibernation.
Created as part of TIGSource’s ongoing “cockpit” competition, the PC game sees you playing as the titular bear with five minutes to collect pre-hibernation sustenance by — naturally — driving a sedan into trees and through ponds to collect loose berries and freshwater fish.
All built around simulated physics, the challenge comes as your cab soon fills with unwanted junk — pinecones, leaves, wasps, rabid badgers and discarded bones — and quickly turns into a game of micromanaging the chaotic situation with nothing more than a single paw.
It’s fantastically manic and unapologetically absurd, and any would-be quibbles about the touchiness of its vehicular controls are instantly headed-off and negated by the bare fact that bears don’t know how to drive cars.
Enviro-Bear 2000: Operation: Hibernation [TIGSource forums]
Take one part classic 8-bit platformer (somewhere between Lode Runner and Solomon’s Key) and one part cerebral space-shifter (not exactly Portal, but close enough to tweak precisely the same logic centers of the brain), and you get Polygon ★ Gmen’s Transmover: instantly accessible, instantly recommendable, infinitely customizable, and completely unquittable.
You might be forgiven at first glance to draw quick comparisons between Minotaur China Shop developer Flashbang’s just-released Blush and thatgamecompany’s PS3/PSP indie bedrock fl0w, but the two have little in common past their deep sea struggle.
Instead, Blush is another game in what is emerging as a Flashbang studio-signature as reliable as the Animal/Heavy Machinery meme they’ve seemingly just now deposed: as also evidenced in their original Raptor Safari and the later iPhone Raptor Copter, Flashbang have a passion for flagellation, be it by industrial mace [this kind] or, now, with literal flagella.
Because unlike fl0w or its later twice-removed cousin in the first stage of Spore, Blush is less about eat or be eaten — less about the head and more about the tail. It’s more about tracing graceful but deadly arcs through the water, and quickboosts to waypoints to deposit eggs collected through your kills, which grow your tentacles and further increase your speed.
As with nearly all of its web and iPhone ilk, it’s an arcade-style race against the clock for high scores and achievements — almost more of a sport than a natural sim, with a steady ramp of earned skill and subsequent challenge, and that ever present one-more-go urge when you see how pathetically you’ve stacked up to the rest on, even your best runs.
It’s also aggressively beautiful, everything softly and semi-translucently neon lit, and while it may not have the mathematical complexity or the slapstick charm of something like China Shop (in fact, it might be their most ‘serious’ game to date), it’s every bit as confidently constructed and polished as anything they’ve done.
Shortly before Offworld launched, EA let slip a limited beta of another in its very forward-looking campaigns with Mirror’s Edge 2D. That it was a cute Flash mini-game meant to promote the release of the proper console/PC game wasn’t much to celebrate, that they’d specifically partnered with an indie developer to create it was.
In this case, it was Brad Borne of BorneGames, who’d already worked up a name for himself with his two entries in the Fancy Pants Adventures series, a smart pick given their single-minded focus on momentum and stylish platforming.
The original trial only included a single level, but now EA has officially launched a new full version of the game, which is fully networked with leaderboards for top Story Mode and Time Trial players, and an unlockable ‘Baddie Rush’ mode, should you find all of the game’s evidence files.
It’s wicked stuff, exactly the kind of free-running you’d expect from both Faith and Borne, and just the kind of indie success story the scene needs much more of.
Mirror’s Edge 2D [EA/Borne]
On the momentum in Mirror's Edge – Offworld
Mirror's Edge, running the void – Offworld
Faith chaser: a look at Mirror's Edge Synesthesia – Offworld
Gimme Indie Game: Runhello's Jumpman – Offworld
Gimme Indie Game: Konjak's Legend of Princess – Offworld
Gimme Indie Game: Minotaur China Shop, happiness in shattery …
Gimme Indie Game: Gravity Bone – Offworld
The most interesting thing about Yoshio Ishi’s Cursor*10 games isn’t its multi-single-player conceit that sees you playing cooperatively with the ghosts of all of your previous nine lives, though it’s hard to deny that that is a wickedly mind-bending concept.
It’s that Ishi’s managed to counter-balance all of the would-be help from those failed attempts (reminding you where not to move your mouse) with increasingly difficult or coordinated actions as you progress futher up its levels that make even your mistakes not good enough mistakes.
Ishi’s just done the second in the series and I’ll be frank and say I might just not ever have the gumption to get past that four-switch floor, but still think 2nd will likely be one of the smartest Flash games of the year.
If this is your first exposure to Ishi, don’t miss his much older monochromatic set of more literally Neko (cat) games.
cursor*10 2nd [NEKOGAMES]
Explains TIGSource member mcc of his inventively everything-old-is-new-again PC/Mac platformer Jumpman, which is already garnering lots of “!”s from around the indie gaming niche:
The thought was to kind of take all the things that have become possible in games in the last 29 years– physics, 45 degree angles, a z axis– and bring the new technology into an early-80s-style platformer while at the same time changing the platformer’s basic nature as little as possible. The hope is to try to make you believe that every 2600-era platformer would have looked like this if only you’d pulled the camera back about 4 feet.
You might not ‘get’ it right away, but — as you literally peel back its layers and dive further into its puzzling core — you’ll know when you do.
There’s been one game tearing breakneck across the blogs throughout the day, and it’s for very good reason. Joakim ‘Konjak‘ Sandberg, the indie dev whose creations have consistently hit that sweet spot of “retro with modern processing power,” has dropped PC freeware Legend of Princess, his take on where Legend of Zelda could have gone, “for no reason but being a big damn nerd.”
Like his earlier games, notably his 2008 IGF grand prize finalist Noitu Love 2 [YouTube trailer], a beat-em-up shooter which is almost more Treasure than a good number of that developer’s own games, Princess does Zelda by way of Capcom’s cult action arcade title Magic Sword and the deep-impact of Treasure’s rock-solid melee mechanics [YouTube].
As such, it feels like the parallel-universe Zelda we never got — the game Miyamoto might’ve made if he hadn’t cold-feet reversed his move after sidescrolling with Zelda II, and had given the SNES’s all to an action game. And, to our pleasant surprise, it feels brilliant: Konjak’s interpreted all of the series’ best enemy tactics and the best of Link’s item-bag of tricks to 2D, and topped it off with as memorable a boss fight as has come from Nintendo’s own.
The hitch: it’s not a full game by any means (done “to take a break from having little motivation with Solar Plexus“), but Sandberg’s added depth by making your two secondary items selectable from the start, each set making the game more challenging than the original — expect speed-run videos to invade YouTube in short order.
If you don’t mind spoiling some of its best kept secrets (and for non-PC users burning to have a look), IndieGames’ playthrough video showcases the game well, otherwise grab the game directly here, and give us your best Zora-thrashing tactics via the comments below.
Gimme Indie Game: Gravity Bone – Offworld
Gimme Indie Game: Minotaur China Shop, happiness in shattery …
Gimme Indie Game: Daniel Benmergui's I wish I were the Moon – Offworld
Gimme Indie Game: Derek Yu's Spelunky – Offworld
Gimme Indie Game: I Fell In Love With The Majesty Of Colors – Offworld
Gimme Indie Game: Rescue: The Beagles – Offworld
This one’s been on my to-do list for several days now, but I’ve only just got around to it, and now comes as highly recommended as I imagined it would. Developed by Tyler Glaiel and artist Jon Schubbe, Closure is, like Gravity Bone, a game where the less explained the better, other than to say that it’s a sort of a playable version of the WYSIWYG rule, topped off with an ambient ‘Eraserhead’ soundscape that leaves you dreading the dark as much as you ever have.
If you haven’t already, also try Glaiel’s Aether, the plaintively nostalgic game he co-created with Edmund McMillen in late 2008. The initial learning curve is fairly steep and will take some adjusting to, but feeling my entire body relax once I understood I’d broken through gravity’s bonds was a bit of a magical moment, and its universe is fantastically realized.