Away from the first parties, the Rezzed (or 'Indie', if you'd rather) zone felt an awful lot bigger than it had been in previous years, particularly as larger companies have started muscling in, and groups of developers have started to band together to create showier booths.
There was a notable number of Switches dotted about on indie dev booths- certainly more this year alone than I remember seeing Wii Us in all the years it was going, and that's not including the demo units on Nintendo's own indie booth, featuring Flat Heroes
, which is a multiplayer precision platformer which expects you to move around and avoid bullets, rather than reach a goal, Dandara
, a retro-styled cross between a Metroidvania and Gravity Rush
where the player traverses the world by bouncing from wall to floor to ceiling rather than walking like a normal person, Dimension Drive
, a port of a PC shmup where you shift between two sides of the screen, Super Meat Boy Forever
and Rogue Trooper Redux
Being a 2000AD property, Rogue Trooper
comes from the dubiously indie Rebellion, whose latest, Strange Brigade
made a showing in a faux-Aztec booth with its own zeppelin.
While there's clearly a lot of very straight lines to be drawn between Rebellion's Sniper Elite
franchise and this, it's also clearly the direct opposite. Short, linear corridor areas lead to slightly more open and chaotic combat arenas, filled with loads of easily-dispatched enemies and one big enemy that needs to be defeated to progress.
In order to help this process along there's various boobytraps you can trigger by shooting nearby orbs, and every kill you get charges up a meter which you can exchange for what is best described as a Shoryuken. Multiplayer communication is evidently key as a light puzzle element managed to elude the pair of us playing and could probably have been avoided. I'm blaming the noise inherent in expo halls.
Square-Enix Collective, the Japanese firm's indie label, had a large showing- much of this was repeats from last year, including what seemed to be the same demo of Forgotton Anne
and the already released Black: The Fall
. All are on PC, but some are getting released on one console or the other.
Games that are already out are slightly less disappointing in the indie section, so it's worth giving them the time of day. Goetia
- out since April- is a point and click where you control the ghost of a dead girl from the Victorian era, it's mostly straightforward, but the ability to posess items suggests it could go a bit Ghost Trick
The same developer, Sushee, also had Fear Effect: Sedna
on the show floor, which is simply an isometric shooter, but in controlling two characters you can pause the game and draw a track for them to both follow for pincer movements, a bit like in the first Rainbox Six
, before returning to a more traditional control system.
-released in May- seems to be the publisher's attempt at getting in on the CoD
market and everything that entails. Superficially, though, it resembles PS1-era Medal Of Honor
. Deadbeat Heroes
is a scrolling fighter from Lionhead and Rockstar alumni and influenced by comics from the sixties and seventies. Clearly early in development, as evidenced by some limited and as a result annoying barks, its relies on normal people acquiring superpowers (or special moves, if you like) infrequently.
The last notable game from Collective was Octahedron
, a neon-soaked disco platformer where you traverse levels by creating platforms underneath your feet, like that New Super Mario Bros. U
mode but with one player. It features some nifty tricks like platforms that appear and disappear based on how far across the screen you are.
No Truce With The Furies
- which is begging
to be mis-spelled- is a 'dark noir' Planescape Torment
-'em-up with a wordy narrative focus and a strong oil-painting aesthetic.
Yoku's Island Express
is a surprisingly compelling pinball platformer on PC and Switch about a dung beetle who's got a job delivering the post, and has to do this by rattling around pinball-like worlds collecting fruit because videogames.
, which is getting a name change you were able to vote on on Twitter
to avoid confusion with thatgamecompany's Sky
, is a relaxing game where you control a flying snake and solve the problems of people living on floating islands- that's coming to XBone and PS4.
Still beating the pair of them for 'quirkiest premise', though, is the iOS-focused Astrologaster
, replicating the real life 16th-century tribulations of medical astrologer (again, 16th-century) Simon Forman
. This involves using astrology to give advice to his patients- good advice will see them come back for more and continue their story, while bad advice will not. This is all wrapped up in a pop-up-book interface which suits the tablet platform brilliantly.
Students of The National Film And Television School also showcased their works, the most notable being Jonathan Nielssen's Falling Sky
, a spectacularly ambitious one-man attempt at being David Cage, but less pretentious. A short demo sees you visit home after repeatedly phoning up and getting no answer, because Mum's gone missing. You pick up your little brother and drive him to a diner, and the demo ends.
The Grand Mission
, by William Blake, is a comedic game about managing a steampunk spaceship, involving very carefully deploying workers to different parts of the ship (engine rooms, weaponry and so forth) in order to re-open space tea trade routes- like a slower, Victoriana Lovers In A Dangerous Spacetime
Gracie Drake has created the most obviously 'gamey' game in the selection in Supremely Excellent Goblins
, which is a dungeon crawler in the vein of the Zelda
likes that made up the Game Boy Advance library.
My Last Son
, by Sam Rowett, is Ben-bait of the highest order, being an adventure game based on the five stages of grief. That'll probably get some attention from him on its own at some point.
There's more on all the NFTS games, including four we've not covered, here
Back in commercial indie games, Attack Of The Earthlings
pitches itself as "reverse XCOM"- not that you start with a load of permadead soldiers which come back to life, but that you begin as one alien infiltrating a spaceship and, by eating the human crew, birth more aliens and evolve them into different forms (or 'classes', if you're being traditional).
Much like Fear Effect
above, this features a 'group attack' where you line up a move for each character in turn for them all to be executed simultaneously.
was one of the few games showcased for Apple TV, and played using the remote. It's a two-player party game which is fundamentally competitive Minesweeper
. One player places oil in a grid (while the other charitably looks the other way and isn't peeking, promise) and then they both take it in turns to dig the oil up, with the winner being the one getting the most.
has a go at Proper Topical Politics, centering around the hours leading up to a Government vote on the secretive 'Union Act'- allegedly set in 1980's Britain but feeling very
American, you play as a reporter trying to uncover the law's details and get them out to the public. The Union act is hinted to be highly draconian and invites paralells to current real-world laws surrounding protest and surveillance, such as our own Investigatory Powers bill and the US' PATRIOT Act.
Over in the Leftfield Collection, we see the flipside of this is in Off Grid
- which concerns itself with a much more fictionalised near-future approach to the matter of big data and mass internet surveillance, and using the inherently insecure network it needs to achieve your goals. (Amusingly, the game's website
Just up from that is Semblance
, a platformer about deforming platforms by smashing into them, making them the correct shape to collect the tokens you need to progress. Pleasingly odd, and a proper head-scratcher when it starts to add rigid platforms and objects that reset the deformed platforms into the mix.
The two most compelling games of the Collection, though, weren't videogames at all. Mystery Box
was a box covered in various buttons and switches, and you had to press the one highlighted on a screen attached to it, but always displayed from an obtuse camera angle. A bit like the bomb in Keep Talking And Nobody Explodes
, but nobody explodes. RotoRing
, meanwhile was two rings of LEDs- you turn a dial to move the white one to avoid the red ones and reach the one that's not switched on.