Indie Game Watch

This column has recently shifted gears from games that were actively seeking funding to games that just happened to pique my interest. Hope you enjoy them as much as I have!

Mola Mola! Survive!

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A quirky game about a fish that’s not terribly good at surviving from Koya Nakahata. Silly, humorous, and a mechanic that has you wanting to die to help advance more quickly.

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36 Questions

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An emotionally powerful game from the ever-brilliant Squinky made during the Global Game Jam.

Patatap Tunes

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Play with sound and images with this lovely little browser-based game. Patatap was created by visual developer Jonobr1 and the musical duo Lullatone. Patatap Tunes was an initiative by the Dutch student and creative entrepreneur TM Wassenberg.

Played anything delightful lately? Tell us about it in the comments!

Indie Game Watch: January 2015

IGW is a look at a few great games from a few great indie developers. Think we missed a great project? Are you working on a game you think deserves a spot on the list? Email Cat (cat [at] qwerty cafe [dot] com)!

I’m going to break from our usual format this month to talk a little bit about what this column was, where it went, and how I’d like it to function in the future (feedback is welcome – dive into the comments if you have opinions).

It started as an attempt to highlight good up and coming games, usually by up and coming developers, with a side benefit of supporting independent creatives by signal-boosting their attempts at crowd-funding. Slowly it became a list of Kickstarter-only highlights, partially because it really takes a long time to keep up a list of interesting projects that are looking for funds and partially because I didn’t have enough time to explore each game, each company, each story, as fully as I thought they deserved. Then I had to take a traditional day job for several months (bills are bills), and my spare time for digging through Kickstarter to find the diamonds in the rough went down to zero. The column went with it.

I want to bring it back again, albeit in a slightly different format, on the usual last Thursday of each month. I still believe that there isn’t currently a great single source for finding new, interesting games and that our best bet, for now, is curating our own lists and hoping to connect with other similarly passionate content-curators.

Moving forward, I intend to share a broader mix of games that happen to catch my eye. I will purposefully avoid AAA*, but beyond that, I will not limit anything beyond my own personal tastes or exclusively to projects still seeking funding. This frees me up to include games that I have just discovered that may be a bit older, but still worthy of renewed attention/interest.

Because most of my work is in and around game development, I am actually quite excited to lift the “actively seeking funding” restraint. It means I can dive in and play the games that resonate with me, or explore leads friends and peers in the industry recommend, in addition to mining the usual sites like Kickstarter, IndieGogo, and the like.

Your recommendations for other ways/places to find interesting, progressive, arty, etc. games are welcome!

I’m looking forward to sharing my finds with all of you. :)

Thanks for reading!

* Officially reserving the right to define AAA for myself, as it can get a bit fuzzy.

Indie Game Watch: August 2014

IGW is a look at a few great games from a few great indie developers who are actively seeking funding. Think we missed a great project? Are you working on a game you think deserves a spot on the list? Email Cat (cat [at] qwerty cafe [dot] com)!

Stash: No Loot Left Behind – by Frogdice

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From their Kickstarter page:

Stash is a multiplayer online RPG with turn based, tactical grid based combat, an incredible housing system, an engaging story shaped by its players, and much more. It takes place in the high fantasy world of Primordiax: the game world of all Frogdicegames.

In many ways, Stash is the graphical successor to Threshold RPG: our text based, role play required game still in operation after 18+ years (since 1996). Stash’s core features include:

  • Turn based combat on a tactical grid.
  • Housing: Stash your treasures in your personal Base of Operations, which you can build and upgrade from bedroll to fortress.
  • Crafting: Use, sell, or enter items into competitions.
  • Massive character customization via class, race, build, gear, cosmetics, costumes, pets, mounts, and more.
  • Cool world story with a unique twist. Players affect the world and the story.
  • Hand crafted as well as procedurally generated/random dungeons.
  • Huge world with hundreds of unique locations, tons of monsters, and epic amounts of loot.
  • Clans: form with friends and compete for dominance as well as optional solo or group PvP.”

Check out the video:

Back Stash by or before September 12, 2014 here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/frogdice/stash-no-loot-left-behind-pc-mac-linux-consoles?ref=dash.

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Moon Hunters, a Myth-Weaving RPG – by Kitfox Games

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From their Kickstarter page:

“Build your mythology! An action RPG for 1-4 players about earning a legendary reputation in an ancient, occult world.

On your search for the missing moon, you will travel the world with your fellow Hunters, build up your tribe, and become a living legend for your deeds. Your choices each become part of the myth, joining your tribe’s pantheon of heroes. How will you be remembered by your tribe in generations to come? “

And here’s the video:

Back Moon Hunters by or before September 26, 2014 here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/kitfoxgames/moon-hunters-a-myth-weaving-rpg?ref=dash

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Godzilla Deluxe – by Jeremiah N thom

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Check out their Kickstarter description:

“First, is City Destruction mode. Where you play as your choice from Godzilla, Gigan  and Ebirah from the famed Godzilla series and for the first time in a video game, Gamera. Two other original characters round out the current roster. Almodosus, a giant elephant Kaiju and Choas, an invading force from another dimension. Your goal is to destroy the city of Tokyo while fighting the full force of the Japanese military! Fight jets, tanks, helicopters and a varied assortment of special vehicles from Mazer tanks and Cryo tanks to heavy assault aircraft and bombers. Show these humans who is King of the monsters!

Second, is Battle mode. Where you face off against the other monsters or players in multi-player arena style combat, destroying the city until you face Chaos.

And last but not least, is Defend the City mode. Where you are the Japanese military/ G-Force soldier and must defend the city from monster attack. All while using an assortment of vehicles to aid in your defense of the city.”

And here’s the video:

Back Godzilla deluxe by or before September 1, 2014 here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/571607828/godzilla-deluxe?ref=dash

Indie Game Watch: July 2014

IGW is a look at a few great games from a few great indie developers who are actively seeking funding. Think we missed a great project? Are you working on a game you think deserves a spot on the list? Email Cat (cat [at] qwerty cafe [dot] com)!

Jenny LeClue, from Mografi

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Beautiful art, a rich story, and inclusivity – here’s more on Jenny LeClue straight from its Kickstarter description:

Help make Jenny’s story possible in a beautiful exploration based adventure game focused on story, character & mystery!

FEATURES

Beautiful Handmade Art Style – Sleek and gorgeous hand drawn style with vintage midcentury aesthetics.

A Living World – The goal is for everything to be interactive, to reward players who poke and prod at every last item and object with insight, secrets, and humor.

Choosiness On A Massive Scale – Players will make choices in their individual game, and some of those choices will be tallied to permanently influence subsequent chapters, essentially “writing” the story collaboratively. The choice players make about the cliffhanger ending of episode one determines the beginning of episode two.

Female Protagonist – Jenny is a brilliant young detective, sharp eyed, intuitive and a ruthless pursuer of the truth. In short, she’s no ones trophy.

Dialogue With A Twist – Jenny is able to move the camera around during dialogue scenes and observe the subject for visible clues that might reveal their guilt or innocence that would otherwise go undetected.

Story Within A Story – Jenny LeClue weaves a rich metanarrative. The “author” of Jenny’s adventures, Arthur K Finklestein, acts as narrator and guide, but his presence also allows you to change the way Jenny’s story is written. Players choices will also affect Finklestein’s own story.

Not Just For Kids – Complex relationships will be explored with themes of family, loss, and identity influenced by horror, sci-fi, and mystery genres.

A Diverse Cast Of Characters & Locations – Explore Arthurton’s expansive world including the abandoned mines, the forgotten graveyard, the misty mountains, the old observatory, the police station, the shops and eateries on Main Street, and Gumboldt University’s Library. You will meet many intriguing and suspicious characters, in a town whose population is representative of the US Census demographics.”

Here’s the promo video:

Back Jenny LeClue here by or before August 21, 2014.

AquaSphere, from Stefan Feld

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This one is a group game!

Can your research team acquire the most knowledge in this undersea brain-burner by Stefan Feld for 2-4 (25 min per player)…

The game board in AquaSphere has two main areas: A research station comprised of six sectors in which your scientist conducts experiments and a headquarters where your engineer supervises preparation of the bots. During each of the four game rounds, you take several turns, and on each turn you either:

  • Use your engineer in the headquarters to program a bot; each round you can choose from three of the seven actions.
  • Have your scientist bring a bot to a sector to perform an action.

Through actions such as improving your lab, sending out submarines, collecting crystals, and examining invasive octopods, you expand the abilities of your team or gather knowledge points, which are necessary to win. Additional challenges result from the limited size of your lab, which is your personal stock; you can increase the size of your lab, which makes life easier, but this costs valuable time.

AquaSphere is a challenging game of strategy and tactics with different paths to victory that requires planning in advance as well as skillful use of short-term opportunities.”

Here’s the promo video:

Back AquaSphere here by or before July 31, 2014.

The Hole Story!, from Girls Make Games

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Who can resist a unicorn? Check out this description from their Kickstarter page: “A girl aided by her trusty shovel embarks on a quest to find a missing princess. GMG 2014 Grand Prize Winner!…

When an unsuspecting young girl finds herself transported to a mystical world, she must rely on her trusty shovel and quick wits to find her way home.

After digging up a strange portal in her backyard, budding young archaeologist Wendy falls through time into a strange new land. She quickly discovers that her best chance of returning home is to rescue Alonna, a princess who has gone missing from the kingdom. Her goal in mind, Wendy sets about resolving the problem the best way she knows how – by digging of course! “

Here’s the promo video:

Back The Hole Story! here by or before August 12, 2014.

Indie Game Watch: June 2014

Indie Game Watch: June 2014

IGW is a look at a few great games from a few great indie developers who are actively seeking funding. Think we missed a great project? Are you working on a game you think deserves a spot on the list? Email Cat (cat [at] qwerty cafe [dot] com)!

For My Brother by Crooked Tree Studios

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For My Brother follows a girl who is willing to give everything for her younger brother. As she fights to gain the powers of untamed nature in order to save him, she becomes less and less human and their bond is changed forever.

    • 2D puzzle platformer movement
    • Enemy-sparse environment with epic bosses
    • Defeat a boss form, gain its powers
    • Use your powers to explore more areas
    • Gameplay influences: Shadow of the Colossus, Megaman, Super Metroid”

Back For My Brother by or before Tuesday, July 22nd here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/859254890/for-my-brother?ref=dash

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Spaceteam Admiral’s Club by Henry Smith

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“The Spaceteam Admiral’s Club is a new way to support innovative, accessible, independent games. By directly supporting Henry you are helping to bring free games to the world for a whole year.

I’ll be working on two brand new games, which are still in the prototype stages but I can share the ideas with you now:

We came so close last time, reaching 81% of the goal with over 1400 backers. This time, with your help, I’m sure we can beat it.”

Blabyrinth is a cooperative local multiplayer game for phones and tablets (like Spaceteam) about working together to follow clues and find secret treasure in a mysterious labyrinth. It will feel a bit like the board game Escape: The Curse of the Temple. I’m also inspired by SpelunkyEscape the Room-style games, Indiana Jonesand TV game shows from my childhood The Crystal Maze and Knightmare.

Shipshape is a single-player game for phones and tablets about exploring a quirky galaxy in a spaceship that you snap together from modular components. It’s designed to be easy to play with simple gestures. It’s inspired by the board game Galaxy Trucker and the video games Escape Velocity and Star Control 2.”

Back Spaceteam Admiral’s Club by or before Sunday, July 6th here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/hengineer/spaceteam-admirals-club-relaunch?ref=dash

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FranknJohn – a head swinging roguelike by bitSmith Games

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“FranknJohn is all about dynamic, super-tight and fast-paced gameplay. You will swing and jab your head at fearsome enemies and powerful bosses throughout your adventure that will test your skills and resolve.

Some key features in FranknJohn:  

  • Launch FranknJohn’s chained head with full 360° control
  • Experiment with dozens of Skullcaps that alter gameplay in many different ways
  • Random generated, sprawling levels packed with items, collectables and secrets – no two playthroughs are the same!
  • Swappable body parts allow you customize your stats to your own playstyle
  • Original Soundtrack by Ben Prunty
  • Battle through four uniquely themed worlds and piece together the dark history of its occupants
  • Perma-death, challenging enemies and powerful bosses will keep you on your toes.

Our influences for the game include SNES classics Zombies Ate My Neighbours and Super Smash TV, to more recent games like Dark Souls and The Binding of Isaac.”

Back FranknJohn by or before Wednesday, July 9th here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/bitsmithgames/franknjohn?ref=dash

Indie Game Watch: May 2014

Indie Game Watch: May 2014

IGW is a look at a few great games from a few great indie developers who are actively seeking funding. Think we missed a great project? Are you working on a game you think deserves a spot on the list? Email Cat (cat [at] qwerty cafe [dot] com)!

Knitted Knerd Dice by Tabletop Crafts

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Check out these cute “knerdy” dice bags! Fruit, sushi, mana vial, and the classic bomb – and those are just the basic bags. Chelle Neveux is basically trying to boost her business with this Kickstarter campaign, and she’s already well on her way to being funded. If you want to help push her campaign to the next level, you can contribute here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/576490336/knitted-knerd-dice-bags?ref=category nerddicebags

Here are a few words from Chelle herself:

“I’m turning to Kickstarter to fund creation of a set of dice bags and other hand crocheted gaming accessories. This funding will allow me to focus on producing these bags quickly, and with the highest degree of quality crafts for the lowest price.

The finished products will each be hand made. Each will be one of a kind, although they will be similar to the examples you see in the pictures below, as well as in the video. If you have special requests or questions, please feel free to message me. I’m always interested in brainstorming new designs!

Everything I make is unique, and if you have specific ideas or requests for color, size, etc. please let me know. Some options or requests might cost a little extra if they’re very extravagant, but I’m also excited to try new things! “

And check out the promotional video here:

Fund Knitted Knerd Dice Bags before June 18, 2014.

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Breach TD by Space Rhino Games

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I am always a sucker for tower defense games – and Breach TD promises to be an “evolved” version that … doesn’t have towers. The pitch is that there are battle units (AKA Guardians) instead of towers and… well, look at it yourself!

Their goals with the project are certainly ambitious and I have to say I typically love the classic tower defense format (even though they call it boring), but I’m certainly curious. This could be fun.

Here’s more of their pitch from the campaign page:

“Breach TD is a competitive, team-based multiplayer, cross-platform strategy game that fuses tower defense elements with the fast-paced nature of MOBA and RTS.

Two rival teams clash in a fight for survival against the Void, where players choose 4 out of an ever-expanding roster of powerful Guardians to take to the front lines in an action-packed 3v3 match-up. Commanding these mighty Guardians, and wielding Relics that offer a dynamic array of powers and abilities, players are free to create unique strategies to match their favorite playstyle, where Breach TD offers near endless replayability.

A match is divided into 2 mayor phases:

A. The Building Phase where you have a limited amount of time to both buy and strategically place your guardian units out in the field as well as potentially upgrade your economic structure, which allows you to send Rift Attacks to your opponent, distracting his units from their defense.

B. The Combat Phase where your guardians head into battle to defend your base and support them with the power of Relics.”

Fund Breach TD before June 1, 2014.

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Go Extinct! – Go Fish… evolved by Ariel Marcy

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“Use science to topple your opponents” – I’m in!

Go Extinct! is a revolutionary evolutionary card game for humans aged 8 and up. The game set includes a deck of 54 beautifully-illustrated animal cards and a simplified, yet accurate, evolutionary tree board used for reference during play.”

Simple, educational, and seemingly well-executed? Yup. I like this thing already. Check out the promotional video:

Fund Go Extinct! before May 31, 2014.

Indie Game Watch: April 2014

Indie Game Watch: April 2014

IGW is a look at a few great games from a few great indie developers who are actively seeking funding. Think we missed a great project? Are you working on a game you think deserves a spot on the list? Email Cat (cat [at] qwerty cafe [dot] com)!

Storium by Stephen Hood

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Collaborate with your friends to tell a story with Storium.

From their Kickstarter Page:

Storium is a web-based online game that you play with friends. It works by turning writing into a multiplayer game. With just your computer, tablet, or smartphone, you can choose from a library of imaginary worlds to play in, or build your own. You create your story’s characters and decide what happens to them. You can tell any kind of story with Storium. The only limit is your imagination.

Storium uses familiar game concepts inspired by card games, role-playing games, video games, and more. In each Storium game, one player is the narrator, and everyone else takes on the role of a character in the story. The narrator creates dramatic challenges for the other players to overcome. In doing so, they move the story forward in a new direction. Everyone gets their turn at telling the story.

“Story and Game had a baby, and it’s Storium. This is vital stuff, equal parts revolutionary and fundamental — giving the old ways of storytelling a major digital upgrade.”— Chuck Wendig, novelist and screenwriter”

And check out the promotional video:

 To back Storium, visit this link by or before May 8th, 2014.

 

Baffledazzle! by Rachel Happen

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Baffledazzle! is a beautifully crafted puzzle game that’s more than just fitting a few oddly shaped pieces together.

From its Kickstarter Page:

Every puzzle leads you to something real: a moment in history, a scientific discovery, a hidden culture, a tradition forgotten by time, an ancient joke. So there are endless ways to solve the puzzle. Most of what you need to get to the solution exists outside of the box.

Hundreds of wood, acrylic, or felt puzzle pieces start you off. You start to gather clues from the piece shapes and textures, from the images they form, from the words etched into their face. A cryptic printed riddle helps you along; it gives your efforts direction and nudges you back onto the trail when you get lost. Mysteries and gaps in information challenge you to look closely, think deeper, and search for sources that bring you closer to the solution. No two paths to the answer are exactly the same.

The puzzles

I’ve developed five puzzle series for this campaign. Each series comes with a number of physical puzzles, a written riddle, a hint in case you get stuck along the way, and the solution, so you can be sure you’ve solved it. The riddles are delivered by a guide that helps you navigate the clues, beautifully illustrated by the wonderful Jerel Dye.

The puzzles are cut from solid wood, acrylic, or 100% wool felt. The designs on the face of the puzzles are made by etching into the wood with a laser.”

Here’s the promotional video

To back Baffledazzle!, visit this link by May 4, 2014.

Scratch Jr.: Coding for Young Kids by Mitchel Resnick

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ScratchJr teaches young kids (aged 5-7) how to use a basic programming language. 

From the Kickstarter Page:

ScratchJr is an introductory programming language that enables young children (ages 5-7) to create their own interactive stories and games. Children snap together graphical programming blocks to make characters move, jump, dance, and sing. Children can modify characters in the paint editor, add their own voices and sounds, even insert photos of themselves – then use the programming blocks to make their characters come to life.

ScratchJr was inspired by the popular Scratch programming language, used by millions of young people (ages 8 and up) around the world. In creating ScratchJr, we redesigned the interface and programming language to make them developmentally appropriate for younger children, carefully designing features to match young children’s cognitive, personal, social, and emotional development.”

Here’s the promotional video:

To back ScratchJr, visit this link by April 30, 2014.