Articles tagged with indie

Blackbird's Kraken
Jul 20
Posted by Mark at 16:08

There's a lot to be said for the Expandalone.

It's a format that ticks a lot of boxes that the business side of gaming likes, but in a way that doesn't put players off. It lets the publisher make a Service Game and recieve the longer-term revenue stream associated with it, but by being more than simple DLC players feel so much like they're getting exploited, but less than a sequel meaning you avoid coming down with the relevant '-itis' and fatiguing the series.

On top of that, because the Expandalone isn't reliant on the presence of the original it can reach a new audience- a new entry point for people, rather than limiting yourself to people who already bought the main game. A good example would be Death of the Outsider, the expansion for Dishonored 2.

This is where Blackbird's Kraken comes in. An expansion to the now only two-and-a-half-month-old Slime-San, a precision platformer, much the same as Super Meat Boy. The objective is to fling your fragile protagonist from one end of the level to another, bouncing off walls and avoiding sawblades and projectiles as you go. In each of these levels, there's a bunch of bananas hidden somewhere, and if you can pick it up, you can use it to buy new characters with their own physics.

The gimmick Slime-San brings to the table is tied into its limited colour pallete. Everything is either white (and therefore just a platform), red (which kills you on contact) or the same colour as the protagonist, green- and by holding the left shoulder button, you can pass through these objects as if they weren't there- time even slows when you use it.

This is all paired with a double jump, as well as a mid-air dash.

If this sounds complicated, it is. The precision platformer really lives on its simplicity, and giving you two tools to use in the air, both of which are functionally very similar, overcomplicates things. If you couple this with inconsistent-feeling rules on how they can be used in tandem (sometimes you can use your second jump after you've dashed, sometimes you can't. Even then, if you'll pardon the pun, that can be all up in the air if you've walljumped) it can be challenging for the wrong reasons to traverse even relatively simple levels.

These abilities and the level design try to push together the speed of Meat Boy, but the puzzles of something closer to Switch- or die trying, and these things don't necessarily go together. Very often the reaction to landing a jump is a case of OHGODWHATDOIDONOW, rather than more instinctively feeling the character's intertia and rolling straight into the next one, and that's on the rare occasion that you don't feel like you've succeeded by accident.

Bafflingly, all the levels are bundled into batches of four, but your progress doesn't save until you've beaten them all. While the four levels tend to share some common theme, this save structure means that once you've bluffed the third one, if the fourth frustrates you into quitting out, you've got to do the first three again later. If you do subsequently bluff the fourth one, but miss the bananas in the second, then you have to go through all four again to have another go.

A short tutorial aside, Blackbird's Kraken drops you in at the deep end, and doesn't really give you a lot of time to get used to the mechanics. When the DLC was announced, much was made of the quirky way it's being released- as an Expandalone for a nominal fee, or as a free addition to people who already have the main game.

So unlike the Dishonored DLCs, which dial back a little bit and start you from zero again with a new storry and a new lead character- effectively a new, short game. Blackbird's Kraken is simply Slime-San's next hundred levels, and as such it's harder to see this as an Expandalone- if you've got the original game and you're prepared to overlook its flaws it's more and it's free and that's wonderful- alone, it's very hard to see the point.
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Feb 18
Posted by Mark at 20:27

This is more of a 'First-ish' Play, as I'd had time to give this a quick go before streaming it.

Anyway, it's another one of them tough-as-nails precision platformers indie developers are so fond of creating- the gimmick this time around being that you get a double-jump.

As you can see from the occasional excursion into the level selection screens, this is very clearly a preview build, but we do get a decent look at much of the game's second and third worlds.

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Jan 04
Posted by Ben at 14:20

Event[0] on paper sounds a very known quantity, maybe it is, but it plays its hand pretty well. You find yourself marooned on a mysterious spaceship, the crew long dead, and your only company an A.I. youíre not entirely sure you can trust. Think 2001: A Space Odyssey crossed with Event Horizon, only without the obelisks, the gore, and Sam Neill. And you do need eyes to see. Event[0] is actually more playful than the comparisons it brings to mind, admittedly diphtheria is more playful than Event Horizon, but their rogue A.I. has a bit of personality, and the game itself is less horror focused than the likes of Soma or Routine.

Event[0] isnít an especially long game, which helps keep its aim focused. After an unexplained disaster befalls your ship youíre shot out in to space, drifting aimlessly, until you chance upon the Nautilus, an experimental ship from the 1980ís, equipped with a futuristic engine that allows rapid, deep space travel, and a lonely A.I. who wants you to destroy it. I wonít go any further in to the plot than that, for one thing because thereís not a lot else to it, superficially at least, secondly because discovering the rest is kind of the point of the game.

The star of the game is Kaizen, the A.I. whoíll help you make progress through the ship, so long as youíre nice to him at least. The selling point of Event[0] is that Kaizen can procedurally generate an abundance of dialogue, and will change how he reacts to you dependant on your dealings with him. If youíre friendly, laugh at his jokes, thank him for his help, heíll be nicer to you, obtuse, but friendly. Act the dick and heíll clam up and stop helping you. Itís an interesting idea, one it explores a little with the few other characters Event[0] features, but not one youíll likely experience the full breadth of in your time with the game. In fact itís something I wish theyíd focused on more, put in a few more moments where your instinct pushes you to behave in a way that betrays you, makes you shed your friendly demeanor for a while, or makes you grateful or warm to Kaizen

Given that your dealings with Kaizen are such a large part of the game I wish they were a bit better. Too often I found simple questions garnered unrelated answers. To me they were obvious questions that a lot of players would have, but the responses were that of a system that had picked up on a word , ignoring the context, and carried on a conversation we werenít having. Getting a straight answer is like pulling teeth, deliberate Iím sure, but still frustrating when you have to ask the same thing repeatedly to get a response that moves things on. Which is really what Kaizen is about, and what he should be better at. He did, sometimes, point me in the right direction, and Iíd always thank him for that, but quite often I was looking for hints outside the game to get me moving again. Not solutions, I wanted to discover things for myself, a strength of the game, but something to stop my standstill and get the game moving again.

Itís why I prefer the exploration aspect of the game I wish there was more of that, looking for clues around the environment, discovering things about the world and characters outside of Kaizenís grip. Truth be told itís indicative of Event[0]ís other problem, thereís not enough of it. I donít mind the length so much, itís around 2 hours long, with alternative endings if thatís something that interests you, itís more that itís not a very big world. You donít feel like youíre stuck in a huge space ship because you see so little of it. Maybe there just wouldnít be many usable rooms on a ship like this, but there really are only a handful of rooms, and only a few events to shake up your experience.

Credit elsewhere to Event[0] though, itís a good looking game. Walking around the Nautilus, youíre always pleasantly surprised by how good it looks. Thereíll be sparks, good quality textures, well designed objects, even slightly worrying dust particles floating around (I never did get an answer to what they were). The sound design is great too, from the clickety clackety keyboard to Kaizenís voice, the bleeps and bloops, and some of the ambient music, itís indicative of a very well put together game.

My only qualm really with Event[0] is how many times you run in to a wall with it. Maybe thatís the fun of it for some, maybe I suffered because I heard it was a short game and was there for the ride, rushing through it a little too quickly, and while Iíd like to give specific instances I can only talk around them rather than spoil an aspect of the puzzles for you. All in all though I enjoyed it, itís not a game that will stay with me forever, but it is one Iíd recommend people check out
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Posted by Ben at 02:13
I really liked Freedom Planet, and after a WiiU port that made absolute sense given the game's sensibilities, it seems Freedom Planet is heading to the PS4

An early post on the Playstation Store let slip the ports existence, although beyond some screenshots there;s no detail such as price or release date.

If you're a fan of the old Sonic games, or even 16 bit games in general (and Freedom Planet does capture that feel better than most), then it's definitely worth keeping an eye out for Freedom Planet, especially with the sequel on the way next year
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Posted by Ben at 13:50
Freedom Planet has just received an update on steam, and as well as a host of other changes and touch ups, Milla has been added to the Adventure mode

Milla had previously been playable in the arcade mode, but now she has her own adventure, with scenes altered to take in to account her new starring role.

I'm not sure when, or if, these changes will be coming to the WiiU version, but there's a full link of the PC update on the Steam page
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Posted by Ben at 17:22
While the gap between indie games and full releases has closed immensely over the last few years itís still easy to find an excuse to miss them off your game of the year list (cue link to ours). Not that this is a ďbest indie games of the year listĒ, more some that we played, that most people maybe didnít, and we think do something interesting. Theyíre not intended to be perfect, only interesting, although some of them are in there because we really enjoyed them. Because of the stipulation that you, Ďaverage gamerí, might have missed them, thereís no Rocket League, no Undertale, but thereís also probably a load of indie games you loved that we never even touched, so just take this as our chance to give a shout to some stuff we enjoyed, or Ďenjoyedí depending on the game

I'm amazed that Deathtrap didn't get more coverage. Not just because it's a good game, and Deathtrap was a good game, but because of how it played. A cross between Diablo and a tower defence game, with maybe a touch of DOTA, it's exactly the sort of game that should have found favour on the kind of sites that specialise in video content should have lapped up. There's no revolutionary plot in Deathtrap, but it's fun, and quite polished in a simple kind of a way

David Szymanski appeared on our list last year, and put out a couple of games this year (3 if you count the Steam release of Fingerbones). A Wolf in Autumn was thematically very interesting but it was short, and a little clumsy. The Music Machine though is much greater in scope. It's hardly Witcher 3, but there's an ambition to the narrative, a bigger picture, that builds over the game's length.

The Music Machine starts as a simple wander around a deserted island, but every step of the way there's something clever. You control a vengeful ghost, killed by the father of a young girl whose advances he'd spurned, who is now controlling her body, seeking the perfect way to kill her. The Music Machine is abstract and then fantastically on point, it really is too good a narrative to miss.

Gunman Clive 2 split the site this year. I, correctly, rate it as one of the best games of the year, others are less enthused. It's on the list, partly because I'm in charge of the list, but also because I wanted something console based here. Gunman Clive 2 is a tough little retro platformer with a fantastic aesthetic. It's also a step up on the first game, more varied with tighter platforming.

Weirdly the WiiU release of Gunman Clive HD Collection showed that the series works best on the 3ds, not that it's bad on the home console, but the loss of 3D does take something from the game in a way I didn't expect

While not exactly a massively unknown game, the principled stance its developer, Thomas Happ, took meant Axiom Verge didn't find itself in any Steam sales or Humble Bundles until Christmas, which meant that it will have bypassed a lot of people.

This is a shame, as a better love letter to the Metroidvania genre (the former half of that in particular) you will struggle to find, as this game manages to pay tribute to its forebears without falling too far, as many faux-retro indie games can, into deference or pastiche.

With this having spent five years in development, Happ's next game can probably be considered to be some distance away, giving you plenty of time to explore every inch of Axiom Verge's world.

Lisa was actually released right at the end of last year, and who knows, maybe releasing in the barren month of December helped it find an audience, but I feel like no one's talked about it this year. Not unlike Undertale Lisa is an Earthbound inspired rpg, where the humour belies a darker story. And that's the thing that most struck me about Lisa, I picked it up because it looked funny, but it's actually one of the darker games I played this year.

Be prepared though, it's a difficult game. So difficult the developer added an easy mode but then hid it, which is pretty in keeping with the spirit if the game. What I will say though is that Lisa's difficulty is what stopped me playing more of the game. I liked it, wanted to play it more, but after being wiped out again it was time to stop. If only I could have found that easy mode... assuming there actually is one.

I'm a bit unsure about including Yatagarasu: Attack on Cataclysm in this list, we were sent a code by its publisher PQube, and if it has a publisher then it's not an indie game. However Yatagarasu is very much an indie game, with Nyu Media picking up a series of Japanese indie games and getting them on to Steam. It's another example of the term 'indie' getting muddied, Grow Home, Ori and the Blind Forrest, Amplitude, they're all games with an "indie" appeal produced by big publishers, Yatagarasu is different, and so I think it gets a pass.

To explain what Yatagarasu is, well, it's a fighting game. That didn't take long. Yatagarasu is a beautifully refined fighting game, it brings to mind Garou Mark of the Wolves in that regard. It's uncomplicated, more Street Fighter 4 than Blazblue. In a year that included some fantastic fighting games, not least the aforementioned Blazblue and Arcana Heart Love Max!!, Yatagarasu held its own, were it a bit more feature packed and with better net code I think it may well have been my pick of 2015's fighters.

Home Is Where One Starts is a game I was a little, not sniffy about exactly, but at the time it didn't catch me the way I hoped. I felt it was a little unexplored conceptually, there was nothing wrong with the story, and nothing wrong with the execution on its key points, but it was underdeveloped. You play as a young girl from a tragic home, a lot is left unsaid, but it's clear that her father is no good for her. You explore the nearby environment, finding hints and memories about events in her life. That I wanted more from Home is Where One Starts is a back-handed criticism, and despite my initial instincts it stayed with me. It's cheap too, very short, nice looking and well acted, I actually do recommend you try it out.

I got to feel more than a little hipstery back when The Stanley Parable came out. I'd played the original mod, even recorded a video for another site, so being ahead of the curve, being able to push people towards it was cool. That said the re-used ideas made the game feel a little too familiar Things that would have made me laugh were jokes I already knew the punchline to, twists had already been spoiled, but it was still a game I had a lot of time for. The Beginner's Guide suffered from a kind of residual familiarity, I was still too burned out by The Stanley Parable and left The Beginner's Guide until the end of the year. I'm glad I waited to give it some space because it's a special thing.

The Beginner's Guide is a collection of not even half-finished games cobbled together by a narrator. I won't spoil what the narrative is, but it's an exploration of game design and of intent. The problem The Beginner's Guide has is that the games themselves aren't very good, which is kind of the point, but it does mean that the game isn't especially fun. It's a hell of an experience though, a hard sell compared to The Stanley Parable, but well worth the work.

The Old City: Leviathan is a game I played right at the end of the year to get ready for this feature. Thereís still a handful of games Iíve not got around to, and The Old City: Leviathan was supposed to be towards the bottom of that list, maybe thatís part of why I wasnít feeling it initially. If you check out the video I put up, it moves at a glacial pace to begin with, I was waiting for it to reveal itself, and by the end of the video it still hadnít really, I even start talking about what itís missing, why itís not engaging me. So what happened after I hit stop on the capture software?

The Old City: Leviathan turns in to a stark dreamscape, both nihilistic and obsessed with theology. The world has ended and the new world is doomed to repeat itself. You go in search of a truth but begin to doubt that youíre even capable of recognising the truth if you saw it. Thereís a vein of existentialism running through the game, and while it is slow going, having you reading literal pages of text, it does pay off, and it explores theology in a way I canít recall any other game doing. If that sounds like your sort of thing, and granted, itís an acquired taste, track it down and stick with it.
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The Old City: Leviathan
Gameplay Video
Posted by Ben at 14:41

We continue our look through some of 2015's more interesting indie games with a look at The Old City: Leviathan

The Old City: Leviathan is slow to get going. Incredibly slow. So slow that even if I wasn't capturing I might have still skipped the literal wall of text at the beginning of the game. And, to be fair, there's not a lot of excitement in the video, there's barely anything interesting, and I did start to write the game off

I was wrong though. The second half of The Old City: Leviathan becomes fascinating. It never quite manages to capture the tension that seeps in to something like Dear Esther, Gone Home, and Everybody's Gone to the Rapture, but its focus on theology did grip me. Granted though, the often repeated mantra of "not for everyone" really rings true here, I didn't think it was pretentious, but it's a walking simulator with an obtuse argument about theology running through the whole thing

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Posted by Ben at 16:43
I really liked Freedom Planet. If you didn't play it, it was kind of what would have happened if people carried on copying Sonic in to the 32 bit era

Good news then, developers Galaxy Trail have announced Freedom Planet 2. Beyond that there's not a whole lot to say. The trailer below looks much sharper than the original game, but without seeing gameplay footage it's hard to say if the chunky pixels have been replaced or not.

The one reservation I'd have about Freedom Planet, 2 actually, are that it sometimes felt a bit rough around the edges, you'd pass through things for example, the other that there was maybe a bit too much story in between missions.

Good game though

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Gameplay Video
Posted by Ben at 19:15

As mentioned the other day we're taking a look at some indie games in preparation for our Game of the Year articles

Kholat is a stunning looking horror game, set on a Russian mountain, where some Russian students have died under mysterious circumstances (based on a true story... ish). It's a little confusing at first, the map system especially, but it gets there and starts to make sense

I've not finished it yet, and I'm not sure how special it will become, it's worth taking a look at for how it looks and the atmosphere it creates, but it will need to improve a bit to really stand out amongst the myriad of other horror games on Steam

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Gameplay Video
Posted by Ben at 14:33

Every year at bitparade we do a Game of the Year thing, everyone does, I'm half way through a blog post explaining it all, that we don't post until January but we've pencilled in our lists. we also go a feature about indie games from the year, which is why I took a look at Lisa

Lisa actually came out in 2014, but it was right at the end of the year, December, so there's no reasonable way it would have been considered for most people's, nor our, game of the year.

So, a bit about Lisa before I post the gameplay video, it's a turn-based rpg, kind of like Mother/Earthbound, and it's hard, so hard the developer added an easy mode, but hid it and I've no idea where it is. It's a game that sold itself to me by how funny it looked, but it's actually a brutal game thematically. I'll save the details for the video, but I'm very glad we took a look at it

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