There are several reasons why I prefer indie games to mainstream video games. Mainstream games (with a few exceptions) prefer the rock-solid foundation of ideas that their fans have always liked and these ideas change slowly over the years. Evolution, if you can call it, happens with mainstream gaming.
Indie games on the other hand, are playgrounds where ideas evolve in a matter of minutes and are put to test in a relatively shorter time. Where mainstream games stagnate, indie games surprise, amuse and entertain you above and beyond what you paid for.
Frozen Synapse is one such game that took me by utter surprise. Developed by Mode 7 Games, an Oxford based indie game studio, this simultaneous-turn-based competitive match-oriented tacticalgame (that’s the official description!) is insanely addictive even in its beta that is playable if you pre-order the game. I shot a few emails to Paul Taylor, Joint MD of Mode 7 Games along with Ian Hardingham regarding the game that I’ve been playing off-and-on for a few months now and I have mostly tried to convey whatever he said in this post.
The genesis of [Frozen Synapse] came from Ian playing a load of Laser Squad Nemesis and thinking about the things that could be improved or brought up-to-date
While Laser Squad Nemesis was a lot of fun to play, the time needed to set up units, clunky UI and other aspects of the game took much of the joy away when you actually wanted to sit down for a few minutes and play. Frozen Synapse, however, is built like the tactical gamer’s Solitaire; fire up the game and you’re almost good to go with a new game set up with random placements of your units. As Taylor says:-
We don’t enjoy spending ages setting up units; all of the fun of those games seemed to come from the situations you’d eventually get into during the middle phase of the game, so we streamlined everything in Frozen Synapse to create that straight away.
The game forces you to use whatever advantages you have to the maximum, and can provide for long hours of play if you are in the mood (and, of course, if there are others willing to play with you as well). Yes, although this game sports a single player mode, it shines in its multiplayer modes. It uses the old Play-By-Email method of engaging players (since it is turn-based) so you can play this game at your own pace. Again, I reiterate, for a game in its beta, Frozen Synapse almost looks like a finished product. When I asked Taylor what should the general strategy behind a pre-order beta, he replied,
If you’re going to do [a pre-order beta], you have to do it right: you have to be geared up to be commercial and attend to your community, while still working on development. And you have to have a game that is ready to go: the beta has to be fun and it has to look good.
The attend to your communitypart has been done right by Mode 7 Games. Their forums are lively and full of jibes and jokes with the jargon of the game, as well as a couple of calls for a tourney as much as you’d expect from a fully finished game. Also, the developers wanted to enhance the UI and the general setting of the entire game in conjunction with the community for a more streamlined experience.
The game’s retro-futuristic look, great community support and ridiculously funny single player tutorial in combination with instant death, destructible environment and gameplay suited to your time make this an instant hit for me.
If the pictures and words have failed to have an impact on you to buy this great game ($26 for two copies, DRM-free OR $35 for the premium edition featuring 2 copies of the game, one copy of their earlier game Determinance, a music pack and the chance to have your face on their THANK YOU!!11!list!) I certainly hope that this video will change your mind about it. Support indie games, everyone!