I love an Indie Game.
As an indie author myself, I’m all for the little guy. There’s just a ton of creativity that lurks there. Without the confines of profit margins or genre expectations of what makes a “good game”, the indie developer can mould together a game that is both personal, and different. They are a voice in the shouting hordes of banality that lights up the scene and makes you go “wait a dang tooting minute, we CAN do something unique!”
It’s why I am a big fan of the smaller games of the various direct download marketplaces. Among the usual retro goodness, you find games by smaller companies which may not exist if it wasn’t for this sales base. Think of the random games you picked up as a child; the games you bought for your Game Boy or Game Gear that wasn’t well advertised or reviewed, but held a special place in your heart. For me, for every Super Mario Land, there was a Pinball Deluxe.
On the direct download marketplaces – your Xbox Live Arcades, Playstation Store, Nintendo eShop, Steam – you find a treasure trove of delights that may have passed you by in your local video game store. If, indeed, they even existed at all. Lately, I’ve been lucky enough to play 3 very different, but very independent games. And you know what? I’ve enjoyed them all.
First up, was way back in the mists of time at Eurogamer 2013. Due to time and general word overload, it missed my Looks At series of articles, but that by no mean it meant any less. It was a game called Foul Play, developed by Mediatonic. At it’s base, it’s a simple little joy: a side-scrolling beat ‘em up that emphasises combos and co-op play. But look beyond the surface, and it’s so much more. The graphics are cute and cartoony, with an old tyme theme. Each fight takes place on a stage, with your controlling either Victorian demon-hunter Baron Dashforth, or his loyal companion Scampwick.
Already, you can see the humour shining through.
And that’s what makes an indie game like Foul Play. The charm. It could just be another generic side-scroller, much like the Scott Pilgrim game was in the past, but Foul Play is injected with passion. Each moment and level and enemy and piece of dialogue is loaded with fun and frivolity, making it more than a game. This is something that stands out, something that makes it’s presence known not only through good gameplay (which Foul Play has in spades), but also zazz. That unquantifiable It Factor that burrows in your mind and makes you go “yes, this is a dash of good stuff”.
Equally so is a game I’ve been lucky enough to discover called Forced, by Beta Dwarf Entertainment. I don’t want to say too much, as I’m popping a review up later this week, but this is another game that stands out for what it is. Heavily inspired by Diablo, Forced again has it’s own zing to it. While most games could just shamefully rip off the connotations of one of the most successful and popular Action RPGs of all time, Forced adds an extra dash of vitality to it. The gameplay is similar, yet different enough to grab your attention, and there are moments which woo you into it’s world. It’s everything an indie game should be, and one that hopefully will find an audience.
Finally, something a bit different (which, to be fair, is the theme of this article). If you’re like me, and you like your web-comics, you’ll be a fan of KC Green’s Gunshow. Equal turns hilarious, disturbing and surreal, it’s no surprise that when he made a game with Eric Colossal, it wasn’t going to be your average game. Available direct online, gooDDoog is about a “doog” helping the moon get it’s stars.
But of course, it’s much more than that.
The first hint you get is when you first return from acquiring a star, and seeing the person who gave you the quest looking a little… changed. Each quest to get the star is a gaming trope (Manic Miner and platformers were ever present, as well as a boss fight), but with the whole thing turned on it’s head. The whole experience, which won’t last more than 5 minutes, is absolutely brilliant. It’s what you’d expect from the creators and is pretty much what a game of this level is. An experience, more than a game, that is infused with the personality of those that made it.
So, if you plan to do anything today, buy yourself an indie title. Be it on Steam, XBLA, PS Store, Nintendo eShop, or even on your phone. Odds are, you won’t regret it.
Unless you do, and then I take no responsibility for your poor choices.