In a market that is saturated with dozens of big budget games it’s nice to sometimes get a little time off and try out some of the smaller but infinitely more creative entries from the indie game sector. Once just fan projects available on-line on sites like Newgrounds, Gambolio or www.ArcyDarty.com indie games now have a global following and some have managed to break into the mainstream. So we here at Smashing Tops decided to come back from the winter break with a three part look at some of the best indie gems out there.
Passage is a fantastic game by a visionary gamemaker Jason Rohrer. It is a perfect little philosophical exercise that is beyond minimalism and is an honest, straight look at life and the process of living. It is also a game that makes people cry, not through beauty or through challenge but simply by allowing them to take a good long look at themselves and ponder upon the meaning of it all. Oh, and every game lasts just 5 minutes. So if you have 5 spare minutes and a philosophical disposition give the game a try and try not to cry at its minimalist but beautiful message.
flOw is a game from thatgamecompany, the group also responsible for Flower and Journey two of the massive, beautiful indie hits of the past few years. Flow started as an MA thesis project and its original incarnation is still available for free online. It has since been re-done in glorious graphic detail for the PS3 where it joins thatgamecompany’s other roster of indie hits.
Machinaium is an old school adventure game but one that has a fantastic hand-drawn world and no endless lines of dialogue. In fact it has no dialogue but communicates with the player and NPCs via thought bubbles. A fantastic game that nobody should miss, Machinarium is now available on all major platforms that you can think of. Yes, that includes Linux.
7. I Wanna be the Guy
I Wanna Be the Guy lies at the other end of the indie spectrum from all the above. It is a fast paced, tongue in cheek mindless fun game that tests your reaction skills to the frayed ends of sanity and quite a bit beyond that. It has numerous references to a lot of other 8-bit style games from times long gone and is overall one of the most nerve-wracking challenging indie games that you could play.
Speaking of Challenging, here’s Canabalt, a platformer where you run and jump and… that’s about it. Canabalt doensn’t pull any punches. One hit and you’re dead and there are plenty of chances to get hit as you run around an apocalyptic scenario involving aliens and robots. The game is available online for free or on your mobile phones for a modest sum.
5. Zen Bound
A wickedly cool game with a cult following Zen bound is a perennial iPhone favourite now available on several other platforms as well. Using a finite rope the player has to cover an object with paint, which appears when rope is applied to the object. Challenging and cerebral, Zen Bound has a certain zen like aspect to it and you will relax and destress with this little gem on a long, crowded commute.
A long time PC favourite now available cross-platform, Darwinia has you controlling personified computer programs as you struggle to free a computer mainframe from under the control of a virus. Darwinia is, as the March 2005 issue f PC Gamer puts it “Proof that not all game developers have sold their souls”. If you’re a strategy fan and you don’t own it already head out and find this game now.
3. Geometry Wars
Not really ‘indie’ in any sense of the word Geometry Wars is another highly stylised game somewhat reminiscent of our previous entry. It is an arcade shoot-em-up where you pilot a small ship and shoot everything around you while dodging attacks in a style very much reminiscent of old school asteroids meets ship shooters with a healthy dose of LSD. Initially an minigame in a mainstream racing game it found a cult following on its own prompting a sequel and a Nintendo exclusive.
2. Legend of Grimrock
Legend of Grimrock is a game that is perfect for anyone that has ever played an old school dungeon crawler and misses that mix of despair and anger that it provoked. It is a challenging party-based dungeon crawler, but one for the 21st century. And it is absolutely fantastic and highly replayable.
Minecraft is a massive success story, one that took the world by storm. The brainchild of a Scandinavian game company Minecraft propelled its creator to international superstardom and made them a powerful force on the gaming market. The premise of the game is simple. You dig blocks and build things ranging from houses to electric circuits from a first person perspective. Everything is modifiable and customizable and you can build great things over time. But at night you have to hide away because monsters come out and try to eat you. The game has evolved tremendously since its early versions and it has all been for the better!
Stay tuned for part two, featuring some more indie masterpieces.