In the last article, we showed you five of the greatest Indie games to have hit the PC platform so far. But that hardly even begins to cover the range of quality available. So here’s another 5!
Minecraft is nothing less than a phenomenon. A nigh-perfect gaming experience which is addictive, expressive, personalised and open-ended. It’s a game which has spread out of the indie-gaming niche to become a supermassive mainsteam hit. It’s the kind of game played by people who don’t play games, and it works simply because it’s so adaptive.
The basic premise of Minecraft is to build (or destroy) the world around you by placing (or removing) blocks. Er, that’s about it. You can build structures, create art, imitate levels, or do whatever the heck you want. There are dozens of servers which support different game modes, numbers of players, pre-built structures and game rules. You see, Minecraft itself is just a sandbox. Much like the infamous Garry’s Mod or Little Big Planet, it’s what people do with it that make it so darned interesting. Check out this article to get some ideas. Or this one. Or maybe have a look here.
Minecraft was free for a long time during its genesis and open beta stages, which is where it really took off. While the game was being developed (and server struggled to cope with the demand of players logging in), people would talk about and share their creations and experiences. By the time the game was officially launched in November 2011, it was already a stellar hit. Today is has over ten million players.
There’s a demo available online, brazillians of YouTube video clips available, and even an old version which runs inside the browser. It’s not too late to discover Minecraft for yourself!
Monaco: What’s Yours Is Mine
Monaco is a brightly coloured heist game in which you must break into high class establishments like casinos, hotels and banks and rob them blind. It’s visually chaotic – all bright colours and fast movement – but there’s a beauty to its unique vision. While it’s essentially a puzzle game, its one which plays it fast-and-loose. Mistakes are recoverable and improvisation is often as effective as premeditation. It’s as much about playing the situation as it arises as it is planning the perfect clockwork crime.
Much like in Commandos or Desperados, Monaco sees you assume control of a team of characters with particular skills. There’s the Locksmith, who picks locks faster than the other characters; or the Alluring Redhead, who makes for a fine distraction. Some skills are common to all characters, while others possess unique abilities. To succeed in the heist, you must select your agents and co-ordinate their skills.
One of Monaco’s principal appeals is that it can be played with up to four players co-operatively. The different, interacting skills of the in-play characters make a great stage, ideal as a hot-seat party-game (it helps that the controls are dead simple).
Gameplay is tight, tense with just the right amount of frantic energy. It’s quite a complex game, but a fairly gentle single-player campaign painlessly teaches you how to play. While initially a little daunting, it doesn’t take long to pick up.
One of the very first breakthrough successes of the modern indie scene was Braid. It’s testament to Braid’s success that it’s developer, Jonathon Blow, is now developing the Witness: an indie game which is one of the flagship titles for the Playstation 4.
Braid is a time-travelling 2D platformer wrapped in a layer of poetry. It’s essentially the story of a man trying to come to terms with a broken heart, walking through old memories in an effort to find the mistakes which lead to his separation from his girlfriend. There are direct nods and parallels to Mario’s search for Princess Peach. But where Mario must fight evil to rescue a pretty anonymous princess, Braid’s hero must conquer himself to understand why she left. It’s a thoughtful, highly philosophical experience – somehow more than just a game, elevated to higher art by the relatable themes and reliance on poetry as a narrative device.
If the lovely-dovey-rhymey stuff doesn’t move you, rest assured that Braid is an excellent puzzle game, and the story doesn’t have to get in your way. The time travel mechanic forces you to think outside the box to solve puzzles are challenging but rarely insurmountable (your author may have had to hit a famous search engine once or twice). If they defeated you in one play session, you’ll normally see the solution after a break.
Gauging the difficult of a puzzle game is a tough business: too easy, and it’s not really a puzzler. Too hard, and no-one will get past the second level. The secret of Braid’s success is that it gets the balance just about right.
We’ve covered quite a few arty, alternative platformers in this collection – and it’s time to redress that balance. Hotline Miami is a violent action game which emphasises skill and creativity. It’s a little like Commandos, but turned up to turbo, injected with LSD, and set in the world of Drive (the action caper starring Ryan Gosling). Maybe that doesn’t exactly sell the game – but it turns out to be a very effective formula.
Hotline Miami draws inspiration from a number of action and gangster movies. It looks like something dredged out of an 80’s acid-trip. Come to think of it, it plays rather like that, too. You control your character in a top-down 2D world, rich in arcade high-scores and combo-bonuses. Action is shoot-on-sight and driven by a variety of weapons, often improvised, and environmental deaths. The sheer variety in the ways you can kill the thugs patrolling each level is dazzling: shoot them, whack them, slice them, drown them; drop them through coffee tables, knock them over with doors, or stamp their heads in.
While the action requires skill and fast reactions, there’s also a layer of strategy to effective gameplay. Death is frequent but part of the learning experience – and with instant-restarts of the level, they’re rarely punishing. Over the course of a level, you’ll get to know the guard’s patrol paths, learn where the environmental deaths are, and hone the perfect plan.
We end this indie love-in with a call to one of the most beautiful and atmospheric games you will ever play. Limbo, the story of a boy trapped in an alternative world, invites you to draw the curtains, dim the lights, and get lost in its spell.
It’s a bewitching experience like few other games. There’s no narrative, no voices, no music and precious few sound effects. The design is so minimal, and yet it achieves so much. It’s brilliant design. It also boasts the most terrifying game spider yet seen on screen.
There’s a question mark over the ending, and most people who played Limbo felt the experience was too short, too brief. But Limbo’s a game which is all about the journey, not the destination – as the sudden, mystifying conclusion suggests.
Image ©CC by Frédéric BISSON zigazou76 – Thanks!