Indie games on show at PAX AUS 2014

There were a lot of games at PAX, indie video games owning a huge chunk of that, so I’ve reviwed the ones that have stuck in my mind the most. I’ll note which ones are still unreleased (in production), the amount of time I devoted to playing the game, and in some cases, whether I actually played the game or just looked into all the information available.

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I’m going to start with one of the games in the Australian Indie Showcase, a group of games especially chosen by Penny Arcade to warrant some extra promotion. Expand is a monochromatic (though the colour red does appear later) labarynthian puzzle game where you constantly move around a central point making your way through the maze/puzzle. I can understand how Expand made it into the showcase as it does a lot with very little. You simply screen1control the red block with the direction keys and the game gets increasingly harder as you revolve around the central point, providing new challenges like moving mazes, corridors that require you to move quickly and logic puzzles.

I do feel Expand falls into the cliché category of “award-winning”. Great, unique premise with solid game-play. A soft, electronic soundtrack composed by a young, upcoming local. And of course, wanky metaphorical and philosophical narration. It didn’t really need it to be honest. It’s a great game and I don’t really need to read, “Do you feel alone, travelling into death?”

Set to be released on PC, Mac and Linux in 2015. Played for approximately 10 minutes.

Framed

Screen_Shot_2013-05-05_at_1.51.17_PMFramed is another puzzle game. This time the puzzle is arranging the comic-style cells in the correct order to allow the narration to progress, like re-arranging the frames and their contents on the page of a comic book. Sounds pretty simple right? Well in concept it is, but not so much in actuality. The comic is noir style with a lot of frames looking very similar.

Once you press play, each frame acts out in the order you’ve arranged them. And this is where the game gets really good. What happens in each frame is affected by the previous frames. The best example I can give is one scene where the protagonist is running through corridors, escaping the fuzz. One frame has you being caught by an officer. But if framed1you place it later, the officer turns the other way at a later time, causing you to sneak past. Also in the same scene, one of the frames has you running through a door and immediately tumbling over a chair. But by placing the frame after a different one, you come out into the room from a different direction, avoiding the insidious chair.

The only problem with this game is that it’s been in development for a little too long for my liking. It was at last year’s PAX as an unreleased game and was still at this year’s PAX… unreleased.  I don’t know how it’s won so many awards as it hasn’t even made its debut yet, not that they’re undeserved.

Currently available on the App Store for $4.99 and set to be released on Steam (maybe) in 2015. Watched people playing (played at the 2013 PAX).

Rogue Singularity

rogue-singularity-logoNot a puzzle game, Rogue Singularity is a procedurally-generated 3D speed-running platformer. Yep, that’s a lot of words to roll into the description of a game. And before I say anything more, I have to disclose that I did help out with this booth, so to maintain some level of impartiality, I’m going to relay the general opinions of other people.

Rogue Singularity is the product of about 4 months worth of work and has resulted in a playable demo which conveys the basics of the game. You have to get from point A to point B on a series of platforms, avoiding rogue-thumbnailmultiple hazards like swinging paddles, rotating lasers, floor zappers and rotating platforms.

This game can be brutal. The levels are long and if you get knocked off, you have to start all over again, and the majority of things knock you off or kill you. But in its brutality, it invokes the “one more try” effect, similar to Super Meat Boy. 3D platformers generally do better with gamepads for the sake of movement AND camera controls (something this game does well), but can be difficult if you’re not use to console controls.

Rogue Singularity also relies on a certain amount nostalgia for its appeal. It reminds me a lot of the old 3D platformers like Mario 64, Gex, Croc, Spyro with an element of Mirrors Edge thrown in. I’m generally not a fan of games for the sake of nostalgia, but I am a fan of games that take nostalgic ideas and bring them into this decade. Rogue Singularity is the latter, and so it’ll be interesting to see where this game goes.

Set to be released on PC, Mac and Linux mid-late 2015. Played a lot.

Keebles

screenshot-9-bannerWorld of Goo meets Bad Piggies is the best, if not the only way to describe Keebles. And for a bit of context, World of Goo is a physics game based on arranging balls of goop that cling to each other into constructs to solve puzzles. Bad Piggies is a more recent phone game set around those green, engineering swine from Angry Birds as you try to construct make-shift vehicles to run a course.

So what does this mean for Keebles? You use goo balls as well as other miscellaneous items to construct a vehicle to collect all the Keebles (little, pre-gremlin fuzzballs) and reach the end of the course. The levels get harder and harder and you get a rating based on how fast and how many Keebles you collect.

Keebles is fun in a casual way, the perfect game to play in public transport or on the toilet… so definitely a Keebles-screenshot-treephone game. The art is a little basic and doesn’t hold up on the big screen, not to mention the mouse controls are a little clunky. So if you’re interested in this game, I’d only recommend it on a handheld device. That being said, still support their Steam Greenlight, as it will help support their efforts.

Set to be released on PC and Mac in early 2015, and iOS, Android and Windows Store in late 2015. Played for approximately 20 minutes.

Primal Carnage

157About three years ago, we saw the crest of a wave of shooter dinosaur games emerge on the beachfront that is Steam. Dino D-Day, ORION: Prelude, Stomping Land and Primal Carnage. A lot of them are pretty average, but Primal Carnage set itself apart by being slightly better than the rest. The main issue with these games is coming up with a simple, yet standard set of controls that allows you to control various species of dinosaurs but also allows you to control the humans defending themselves.

Primal Carnage does this reasonably well, and looks very pretty while doing so. That being said, a key-bindings map still would have been handy as I wished I knew how to control the Pterodactyls. No matter. It was fun and empowering if you’re the dinosaurs, or fun and tense if you’re the humans. Either way the teams are surprisingly well-balanced with each class has its own features.

trex-om-nomPrimal Carnage was one of the few games that was fully developed with no bugs (that I found). Also the developers just letting people play rather than having to backseat game or give a spiel. Personally, I find that this is a good measure of confidence in the product, letting the game sell itself.

Primal Carnage is currently available on Steam for $14.99. Played for approximately 15 minutes.

I would also like to give a special mention to Hand of Fate, the deck-building, action game that is in its alpha stages and is already an amazing game; Armello a role-playing strategy game that is so close to launch; and Screen Cheat the split-screen, multiplayer FPS where you need to screen cheat to win.

Next review in 3 weeks will be on Frozen Synapse Prime

Next time

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