Tag Archives: Indie games

Pay What You Want for 12 Great Games in Indie Gala V

This is turning out to be a positively great week for Indie game fans. Just a few days ago, the cross-platform “Because we May” promo went live. Now, we have another stunning indie-games deal in the form of “The Indie Gala V”.

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Indie Gala follows the pay-what-you-want model that has been popularized by the massively successful Humble Indie Bundle. The fifth edition of Indie Gala V contains as many as twelve new indie-games. However, how many you actually end up getting will depend upon your tip. Minimum payment of $1 grants you access to four games, but you will need to pay $5.99 or more to get access to all the twelve games in the bundle. Not only that, folks who beat the average will get access to indie music (presumably game soundtracks) and additional goodies that will be revealed in the second week. If you stick with the default split, a part of your tip will also go to charity. This edition of Indie Gala is supporting AbleGamers (charity for children and adults with disabilities) and the Italian Red Cross. It’s worth noting that the retail price of the games on offer adds up to $150, while the current average tip amount in Indie Gala is only $5.27.

Deep Discounts on Dozens of Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android Games

If you are a gamer, last week was probably pretty torturous for you. The eagerly anticipated Diablo III hit the shelves about a decade after its predecessor, but most gamers couldn’t play the game due to crappy DRM and sloppy Blizzard infrastructure. While Blizzard continues to firefight with infrastructure upgrades and hotfixes, Ron Carmel of World of Goo fame has strewn together a neat little package that should cheer you up.

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In an initiative called “Because We May”, several indie game developers have come together to offer their games at deep discounts (typically 50% or more). Unlike most other similar promotions, “Because We May” is as platform agnostic as you can get. It features games for Windows, Windows Phone, Mac, iOS, and Android. The promotion will last til June 1, and is meant to celebrate online stores that gives developers the freedom to determine pricing.

Games on offer include World of Goo, Osmos, Super Meat Boy, Beat Trip Runner, Penny Arcade, Dungeon Defenders, Zen Bound 2, Fieldrunners, Riptide, and dozens of other stellar indie titles. Head over to becausewemay.com to check out all the games on offer.

After PayPal Playing Spoilsport Paymate Screws Over Tiny Indie Game Studio

We have all heard of PayPal playing the bearded one-eyed villain who devilishly demolishes indie studios for no proper reason in many cases. Google Checkout has also played that part – albeit to a lesser degree than PayPal. Thus, when SeeThrough Studios chose Paymate as their payment provider, they were hoping for a buttery-smooth joyride to Uncle Scrooge’s vault. Turns out that indie game studios and payment providers have some sort of jinxed relationship.

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When SeeThrough Studios’ geometric game Flatland: Fallen Angle received a fair bit of coverage across websites they also saw their coffers fill up with a reasonable amount of money via Paymate. Later, however, the developers received an email stating that the payment service will be withdrawn and all the money in escrow will be refunded to the credit cards. When questioned by the devs, the Paymate officials responded like so:-

We don’t work with online games companies, because teenagers use their parents credit cards to buy games, and then we end up having to refund them. End of story.

That’s right. To not having to end up refunding some of the customers later, they ended up refunding all the customers now. Flawless logic. Moreover, it seems that all online video game sales are made by teenagers who steal their parents’ credit cards. Very interesting statistic that I am sure Paymate has spent at least a decade investigating.

Either way, this extremely stupid reason has made a small indie studio quite broke and they are still looking for ways to get past this mess.

Top 5 PC Indie Games of 2011

As the year draws to its close, we must do our duty as a blog to summarize the things that happened through the year. In addition, considering that I snoop around the PC gaming part of things all around, this post will mostly be about that. As the title says, these are the top 5 PC Indie games of 2011. The PC part is quite important in that all the games have versions made for a personal computer running Windows 7 or Vista (but seriously, why would you be using Vista?). Moreover, each of these games has affected me in one of many ways; from being extremely addicted to it, to playing it for casual fun, to eliciting intense emotional outbursts from the normally stoic person that I am. So, without further ado, here is the list.

5. The Binding of Isaac

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Equal parts shooter and roguelike RPG, Edmund McMillen (of Team Meat fame) has come up with a truly wonderful and grotesque creation known as The Binding of Isaac. You play the titular Isaac who is going to be sacrificed by his mother to appease her god. Thus, to escape her insanity, you dive into the cellar and find that your tiny home’s cellar is in fact an infinitely long dungeon with creatures both ugly and macabre roaming its cavernous depths. Each dungeon is generated randomly and indeed each time you save, quit and reload, the dungeons are randomized again making no two playthroughs exactly the same. The difficulty, therefore, is not linearly scaled with Isaac finding bosses instead of treasure in one room and being forced to fight said boss. It constantly keeps you on your toes right before opening a door to a new region, adding the thrill of the roguelike with treasure and level-ups into the mix. The game, with its convoluted connotations of religion, genre-breaking game mechanics, and simple cartoony gore is a blast to play. Buy The Binding of Isaac here.

4. Frozen Synapse

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Although my real play of the game has slackened off in the months after its release, Frozen Synapse is nevertheless one brilliant tactical game that must not be forgotten when we are dealing with great indie games of this year. With the minute tactical and strategic thinking of a traditional game such as Chess or Go coupled with frantic shooting and explosive rocket blasts, this simultaneous turn-based strategygame deals with you guiding your soldiers through many randomly generated levels, picking off the enemy soldiers and completing objectives on the way. The game is well made for those who like to play in short bursts, with mechanics made to match the play-by-email style of play native to online Chess or Risk, and matches with 8 or more complete turns take days to finish between to equally matched opponents. A wonderful multiplayer matching system as well as a video-recording of the game provides a fertile ground for passionate strategic players to push their foxy plans into fruition. The game’s futuristic neon tones and sublime electronic music works well to enrich the atmosphere. Buy Frozen Synapse from Mode7 games here.

3. Terraria

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I must confess that my own play time of Terraria does not match up with those of the previous games. However the time I have spent looking at YouTube videos of the endlessly beautiful creations of this labor of love have been much greater than a lot of time I have spent on complete games. Terraria is wrongly being accused of being a Minecraft rip-off. Sure, it is a sandbox game. Sure, it also involves blocks and crafting and monsters at night. Yet, there is a greater difference between the 3D voxel-based Minecraft and the 2D pixel-based Terraria. While Minecraft focuses on the crafting part –   to build new things in a virgin world Terraria has definite Role Playing elements, especially when one plays with friends. The fact that one can play for hours and hours based on just the overworld (to say nothing of the dark and dank underworld) is testament to the great game that Terraria truly is. With a tiny 16MB download, one cannot go wrong with Terraria. Buy one for yourself and one for your friends and you are all set to roam around a colorful pixelated world full of things to discover.

2. Bastion

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I cannot stop talking about this wonderful, colorful, heart-wrenching little game from Supergiant Games. Bastion has a soul that very few games of this era have one that briefly joins with you every time you do anything in this game. While it is at its heart a hack n’ slash adventure game, what makes Bastion brilliant is its narrator and the extremely poignant music. I never skipped a moment of conversation in the game, mostly because of the old narrator’s voice that was simultaneously warm and pained with sorrow. As the Kid trying to save a broken Caelondia, you will go to different places of your land, fight monsters and rebuild Bastion, the one place everyone agreed to go to in the time of the Calamity. You get to upgrade your weapons and buy new bonuses, but the crux of the game lies in whether you can truly build your world anew. Featuring a lovely soundtrack one that has been on repeat in my music player for a long while now Bastion is one of the must-play titles released this year. Read our review here to know more.

1. To The Moon

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It is not often that a piece of art is made from cheaply available tools with an amateurish look and feel to it go on to redefine the medium and successfully bring it into the forefront as a vibrant and true medium of art. This is pretty much the definition of what To The Moon actually did. It is sad to know that it has less of a fan base when compared to the previous indie games in this list. At its heart, To The Moon is a point-n-click game made using RPGMaker that is set somewhere in the future when science has sufficiently advanced to change a person’s memory at his or her dying stages. The game follows the quest of two such science agents who go into an old, dying man’s mind because he wants to go to the moon as an astronaut in his memories. Yet he does not know exactly why he wishes to do so. The two agents go back into his younger years to find the source of this compulsion and make startling discoveries. I can freely say that the last part of the game literally made me cry and that has not happened before with any game (Planescape: Torment came close). It is the best game that I have played all year, and you must buy it from the brilliant developer.

Honorable Mentions

Minecraft: Well it released this year but it is still more or less the same game as the alpha as far as game mechanics and enjoyment are considered.
Gemini Rue: A dark, neo-noir point n click game that took storytelling to a whole new level.
Limbo: Though released for the PC in 2011, the game was developed last year for the XBLA.

Indie Darling VVVVVV Comes to the 3DS

This is a lovely early New Years’ Gift for all US fans of the 3DS as well as Indie gaming! Terry Cavanaugh’s acclaimed super-hard and incredibly addictive 2D platformer VVVVVV has come to the US 3DS eShop for $7.99 and is apparently quite a blast to play with the 3DS’ much loved 3D-without-glasses screen as well as the second screen that makes the game quite a lot of fun to play.

VVVVVV

With its simple controls and simpler graphics, yet extremely convoluted puzzles using the gravity-inversion trick of the game, VVVVVV looked like the best kind of game to be ported to handheld consoles such as the Sony PlayStation Portable and the Nintendo 3DS. So when Cavanaugh decided to go through for developing it for the 3DS, using the secondary screen as a map for the game (one of the more useful ways of using the second screen with this game, although I cannot say I did not see this coming).

The 3DS version, being $3 dearer than the PC version, includes the ability to download fan-made levels on the PC and playing it on this game. In effect, for $7.99, you are getting an unlimited array of levels to keep playing with on your 3DS. Considering how easy this game is to pick up and play, this perfectly supplements the handheld nature of the platform.

Really Big Sky: A Review

One of my first forays into gaming was with a top-down shooter game called Flying Tigers, which my dad constantly tells me is the best video game he has ever played. It was mostly because of the fact that the game’s goal was very simple: shoot everything, and on top of it the only controls you needed were those that were required to move (you automatically kept on shooting). It’s an excellent game and on many counts, is still fun to play. How is it relevant to this review? If you liked Flying Tigers or any of its kind of top-down shooters, you are going to love Really Big Sky.

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Boss Baddie’s second game in the Big Sky series (they do not have a storyline as such, but it is a sequel of sorts), Really Big Sky is a blast to play from get go. The visuals are crisp and colorful, bordering on the edgy and epileptic. Unlike other randomly generated level games, Really Big Sky does not look somewhat unfinished, working practically like buttery smooth toast with the enemies, your ship and the satisfying explosions. Much of the levels’ time consists of you shooting colorful lasers and blasters at your enemies and collecting odd power-ups, evading asteroid fields, fighting bosses and pummeling planets with your drill before dying in an altogether dramatized explosion.

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Dying is a core part of this game, because there are no health bars to speak of. If you touch an enemy laser, you’re dead. While this makes the first attempt, where the player is assaulted by both enemies on screen and the brilliant fountains of color from the screen itself, terribly hard, it also gives the player the opportunity to convert the points accumulated in the level into cash to buy power-ups such as improved blasters and adding on a shield. Accumulating more points, skills and kills unlocks other game modes such as boss-only, retro, arcade and others.

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Drilling is also a very important point of the game. Your ship features a drill that you can activate by pressing a key. This stops the automatic shooting, but allows you to drill through a planet’s core, getting point multipliers, speed increments and other such bonuses. On top of that, while you are using the drill, your blaster gets more powerful for a short while of use because of the pressure build-up. Seriously, that is the explanation given.

While it is a generally fun game to play, Really Big Sky suffers from some minor issues. First and foremost being that the Esc key exits the game without confirmation, and there is no pause button. This led to many hair-tearing moments when I, at a humungous score, had to leave the game for a moment and inadvertently pressed the Esc. key, thinking it would pause the game. It ended the game, instead.
Much of the game and the bonus power-ups are not explained at the start, leaving you to understand, through trial and error. While this is not necessarily a bad thing in my book, it may be so for others.

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Whereas at the start of the level it looks rather harmless and even easy, the game gets progressively tougher fitting closer to an exponential graph rather than a linear one. The game is very addictive, nevertheless, and the adrenaline pumping soundtrack in the background makes it quite a lot of fun to survive waves upon waves of ships, asteroids, planets, bosses and space dinosaur skulls (I am not kidding)

You can buy Really Big Sky from a number of places for about $7.99. Go get it!

 

World of Goo Lands on Android

After conquering the PC, Mac, Wii and the iOS market, 2D Boy’s World of Goo is ready to rock the Android world. World of Goo burst onto the scene in 2008 and garnered rave reviews thanks to its simple but addictive and smart gameplay, storytelling, and visual design.

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World of Goo for Android is a massive 47 MB download, which will undoubtedly annoy many users. However, once you get the installation out of the way, it’s all smooth sailing. If you have played World of Goo before, it will be a familiar experience. However, the game’s re-playability ensures that everyone will be able to get their money’s worth.

The objective of the game is extremely simple. In each level you are provided with different kinds of balls of goo. You have to use these balls to build a structure for carrying unused goo balls to the destination pipe. Each level involves a different terrain, and you often have to use your wits to surmount hills, cross valleys, and scale walls.

Unlike most other popular games (Angry Birds, Cut the Rope etc.), World of Goo has decided to skimp the ad-supported free version. Instead 2D Boy wants Android users, who typically spend less than iOS users, to shell out $4.99 for the game. However, World of Goo will be available at a special launch price of $2.99 until December 4.

[ Download World of Goo | Demo ]

A Look at Frozen Synapse

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

Sleep is Death is Cheap as Living – Pay What You Want!

While I bought this game for $9 (and no regrets, thank you), Sleep is Death is worth at least $15. There is a special level of pixelated charm that this storytelling device (as it does not entirely fit into the common definition of video gamein my opinion), and from all accounts this game is awesome. The games stories I played/made on this platform had a whole new level of new-ness attached to them.

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So when Jason Rohrer, the creator of this game, tells you that you can buy this game for as much as you are willing to pay for it, you know it’ll make your day. Yes! Though you have to pay the minimum price ($1.75) that covers the cost of the bandwidth for download and payment processing, you get two copies of the game (since this game is two-player only). So, if you will take our advice, GO BUY IT!

Seven Indie Games for $10. Steam Midweek Sale

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Time once again for the Steam Midweek Sale. This time it’s a sure-fire winner. Steam has released seven Indie games for a great price of $9.99. Yes, 7 games, 10 dollars. This steal of a deal has some great games in the bundle that, though not visually as pleasing as Braid, have addictive gameplay and unbelievable style. Did I mention that you will be getting seven games in the Midweek Madness sale of Steam? Oh, and each game is separately available for $2 as well. Go buy!

And what precisely are these games you ask? Well, the seven games are:-

1. Altitude: This little multiplayer dogfight-em-up has already stolen about 4 hours of my life in a day. Extremely addictive, choose from five different planes and play a game of plane-football, team deathmatch, free-for-all or team base demolition. Addictive after the first few minutes and an insane amount of fun. This one is a must buy (get it for $2 during the sale!) and goes above and beyond the expected.

Altitude

2. Bob Came in Pieces: Bob has a problem. He has crashed on a strange planet and broken his ship into crazy pieces, and he is late for work. Rebuild Bob’s ship in any way you like as you use the ship and your custom attachments to solve physics-based puzzles in a beautifully crafted environment.

Bob Came in Pieces

3. Bullet Candy: An arena shooter that is basically asteroids on steroids and acid. Psychedelic environments notwithstanding, this game is tons of fun with addictive gameplay and an excellent online leaderboard system. Also, Steam cheevios!

Bullet Candy

4. Galcon Fusion: Conquer the Galaxy with 38564 triangles! This simplistic galaxy conquest game has you controlling planets with their triangular ships. Though the game sounds simple, it gets progressively harder and has frantically large amounts of triangles on the screen at any time. A must buy, just because of its addictive nature.

Galcon Fusion

5. Gridrunner Revolution: The next step in Gridrunner evolution. Featuring several game modes and several levels across 4 difficulty levels, this game promises to waste a large amount of your time. Also, procedurally generated backdrops and enemies make it a great companion for your Pink Floyd playlists.

Gridrunner Revolution

6. Space Giraffe: Simplistically presented as a shooter, this game takes you to new heights (especially if you already are high). Flashy graphics synthesized in real time make every game of Space Giraffe unique.

Space Giraffe

7. Super Laser Racer: Geometric racer with weapons and a crazy techno soundtrack and very simple controls. I need say no more.

Super Laser Racer

I bought this pack as soon as I found out. Do buy this pack if you liked more than a couple of games. You are helping independent devs with their work. Also, Steam achievements! (Ha)

Get the Midweek Madness Sale off Steam now!