5 Awesome Indie Games for Independence Day
In the United States, Independence Day celebrates freedom. It comes right after Canada Day, a day also about freedom. No matter what part of North America you are in though, July 4th is also “shoot fireworks out of your driveway at my house” day. At least, it seems that way in my neighborhood. Keeping with the vein of freedom, supporting independent video game developers is of utmost importance to a free and just society. It is what our founding fathers fought for, to play indie games on Independence Day, and through the weekend.
Services like Xbox Live Arcade and Steam have given rise to a whole new slate of independent developers, all trying to make their mark. Like here at Gunnars, the independent spirit is strong with game creators. They have a hard road ahead, driving sales of their games against the major development studios. But gamers go for quality, and these five independent games showcased below not only prove developing an independent game can be successful, but are worth every penny. If you are spending your Independence Day vacation gaming, check out these games and support independent developers.
From Polytron comes the newest indie game to hit the market with an already full slate of awards, including the “Seumas McNally Grand Prize” at the Independent Games Festival this year. Available currently only in the Xbox Live Arcade, but coming to other platforms, in Fez you play as Gomez, a 2D character living blissfully in his 2D world. That is, until Gomez gains a magic fez that allows him to perceive a third dimension. Then the optical illusions start slipping in and it gets puzzlingly fun.
I talked to Nick Vaka, host of Retro Nick Radio and avid gamer to get his thoughts on this game, and the others on this list. As for Fez Nick sees it as the perfect game for those looking for a truly retro feel with challenging gameplay:
“Probably one of the prettiest games to be released over the past decade, Fez appears to be a simple 2D puzzle platformer, and then you rotate the world around you on its Y axis. The vibrant, 8-bit art style is perfect for the retro-minded, and rotating the world to solve problems is enough to keep hardcore, modern puzzlers engaged.”
Says Nick, “Not so much a game as an ‘experience’, Limbo stands out to me for a number of reasons-not the least of which is its stark, desolate setting that relies more on playing with light and shadow then worrying about an overly-complicated color palette.”
Limbo is from Danish game developer Playdead, and has introduced a new style of gameplay called “Trial by Death”, though it can be said that Space Quest first introduced that method of making your way through a game. Set in a dreamlike world and rendered entirely in black and white (and shades in between) the game is a gritty, beautiful and disturbing side-scrolling adventure.
The plot of the game is completely open to interpretation, depending on which school of psychological thought you subscribe to. Currently, the game is available via a Xbox three pack with another game on this list, and also on Steam and the Playstation network. Nick sums up the game and the experience it delivers:
“The idea is relatively simple, but the stark visual contrast makes puzzle-solving somewhat of a memory game, and the hidden terrors throughout actually keep you in a state of frightened suspense I personally haven’t experienced playing a game before or since.”
Released back in 2008 by independent software developer Jonathan Blow, Braid has become a modern indie classic. Blow created the game as a critique of contemporary trends in game development, funding the three year project with his own money. The game is a classic throwback to platform gaming, while integrating time-manipulation and jigsaw puzzles. Furthermore, each level within the game has its own properties of time-manipulation.
Says Nick: “Probably the most revered game on this list, Braid relies on more than just a few retro elements in its plot and gameplay mechanics (you can shift time and you’re trying to rescue your girlfriend). Braid also boasts incredible presentation with its soothing, water colored universe and smart, challenging level design.”
Braid engages more than just your hands, it engages your brain and is a very thoughtful and intelligent game to be playing while your neighbors destroy their lawns. It is available on Steam, Xbox Live Arcade and Amazon.
Super Meat Boy
What can I say about Super Meat Boy (pictured at top) that won’t sound completely weird? Over 300 single player levels, you play as a man made of meat trying to save his girlfriend made of bandages from an evil fetus jar wearing a tux. Seriously. Tack on a difficulty not seen since Mega Man this game will challenge your reflexes for sure. Either that, or give you seizures.
Nick is quick to point out that hiding behind the scrolling action is a puzzle game trying to get out:
“While it’s really a puzzle game masquerading as a platformer – at least as far as the inclusion of a loose plot, characters, and… well jumping are concerned. Super Meat Boy becomes quite addictive, quite quickly due to its layered instant replays and clever level design.”
Super Meat Boy comes from indie developers Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes and developed by Team Meat. It is a sequel to the 2008 flash game Meat Boy. In 2010 IGN aptly named it the most challenging game of the year and is available in the Xbox Live Arcade, via Steam or on Amazon.
Finally, we come to the most literally explosive game on this list. A game in which every action button causes the character to explode, after all, that’s his secret power. With the goal of escaping the facility in which he was conceived, ‘Splosion Man is a 2.5D retro style platform game developed by Twisted Pixel Games.
Pointing out the humor in the game, Nick also reminds us that making a character ‘splode constantly might be more complex than we think:
“Another classic platformer for the retro-minded, ‘Splosion Man places you in the role of a science experiment trying to escape a research facility. High on humor, all four buttons make ‘Splosion’ Man ’splode, and there’s an option to remap them… Think about it.”
‘Splosion Man is available in a Xbox three pack with Limbo.
Support independent game developers and head to the Xbox Live Arcade or Steam and purchase these games, and many more like them. Also, be sure to tune in regularly to Retro Nick Radio for chats about indie games, retro video games and assorted witty banter.