The Indie Game Insider team had the privilege of checking out five of the ten games under the new indie publishing label Midnight City at PAX Prime a couple of weeks ago. Climbing aboard a classy and dimly lit bus, we sat with developers and Casey Lynch himself as we got a first look at some sweet indie titles. Here are our impressions of the games we got to try out.
Videoball by Action Button Entertainment
Videoball excels at simple, direct competition. Taking cues from the recently released Divekick, Action Button Entertainment looks to mold Videoball in the same vein by breaking down its genre into the most basic mechanics to create a tense, highly competitive experience. The basic premise of Videoball has players competing against each other in teams on a basketball-inspired court. A ball will spawn in the middle and players must move it across the map and into the opposing team’s end zone to score a touchdown and gain one point. The team with the most points when the clock hits zero wins. Players are represented by an arrow-shaped icon that they can freely move around the court. Using one button they can shoot projectiles that will cause the ball to move on contact. Tapping the button makes small projectiles that will inch the ball along, while holding down on the button for a brief period of time will charge the shot and rocket the ball across the map. Hold the button a little longer yet, and you will create squares that can be placed around the map to help defend your goal. The end result is a highly addictive experience that will have you echoing the phrase “one more game” match after match. Its basic mechanics are not easily mastered and leave a tremendous amount of the game up to individual skill and strategy to be the best. If you’re a fan of competition, you’ll surely find something to love in Videoball.
- Andrew Matt
Blood of the Werewolf by Scientifically Proven
The high-difficulty, intense platforming scene is far from dead with indie titles becoming the norm in the game industry. Games such as Super Mario Brothers all the way to Super Meat Boy will be timeless titles. Scientifically Proven has proved to us that there is still more that can be done with the genre. The fast-paced gameplay never lets you get bored as the content continues to offer dynamic gameplay. Differing from most games like it, Blood of the Werewolf has elements often seen in role-playing games. It allows you to level up skills and your character’s statistics, increasing the sense of accomplishment much beyond just the excitement of advancing to the next level. The aspect that truly sets this game apart from other platformers is that the character that you play as, being a werewolf, has two different modes. Half the time you play as a crossbow-wielding heroine offering more of a Mega Man- or Metroid-style ranged-combat experience. In the other mode, you play as a wolf, capturing a more of a melee-brawler style of combat. The constantly changing game mechanics keep you from getting tired of playing even after a long time. Blood of the Werewolf brings an exciting mood to Midnight City’s arsenal.
- Alec Frey
The Bridge by Ty Taylor
Ty Taylor’s The Bridge is what would happen if M.C. Escher and Isaac Newton collaborated to make a beautifully designed two-dimensional puzzle game. Players can manipulate gravity and dimensional space to draw the main character through each level of the game by literally tilting the entire world left and right in a full 360 degree arc (think LocoRoco, only to the extreme), collecting keys and opening doors to other rooms. Although its game mechanics are enough to keep audiences captivated on their own, our team was heavily drawn to the game’s art style and level design. It’s not always easy to make an entirely black-and-white game feel immersive, but artist Mario Castañeda’s dark lithographic art is absolutely enthralling. Players face the danger of falling out of the level, but are also threatened by The Menace, a horrible, grinning, rolling ball that crushes the character upon contact. The enemy genuinely struck fear into us, as its malicious expression wonderfully complemented the game’s solemn, beautifully melancholic aesthetics. Taylor, the game’s designer, programmer, and project lead, is directly responsible for designing the game’s brilliantly challenging puzzles, which our team praised the entire time. The game features no death, but if a puzzle is failed, time can be rewound backwards (much like in Braid), and the level can be reattempted from any point, making it more of a relaxing and entrancing experience than a stressful one. An alternate version of the game can be unlocked after its completion, and several of the levels can be replayed alternatively to unlock a separate ending, providing more replay value than most scripted puzzle games. Fans of dark atmospheres and deep, thought-provoking puzzles will adore sitting down with a cup of hot tea and losing themselves in the opus that is The Bridge.
- Kaya Friedlander
Slender: The Arrival by Blue Isle Studios
I had the “privilege” of playing Blue Isle Studios’ Slender: The Arrival using the Oculus Rift on the Midnight City party bus at PAX Prime. The Arrival is the successor of Slender: The Eight Pages, the free indie horror game by Mark Hadley that instilled pure, unadulterated fear into the victims brave enough to play it alone. Using the talents behind the Blue Isle Studios development team and the writing skills of the people behind the famous YouTube channel Marble Hornets, The Arrival is sure to be just as terrifying as the last game. And the immersion made possible by the Rift only makes the horror that much more real. After strapping the device to my head, I got used to the controls. I could use the two joysticks on the Xbox controller I held to walk and turn my body, but to turn my head, I simply turned it in real life, adding a deeper sense of realism to the game. Walking through a dark forest, I was tasked with collecting more creepy notes randomly tacked on to different objects and buildings, much like in The Eight Pages. However, the developers confirmed to me that The Arrival will feature several missions in different areas, specific objectives and a storyline, and even new enemies besides Slenderman in certain levels. In one instance while playing the game, as the intense, atmospheric music drew my in, I checked my back to make sure Slenderman wasn’t on my tail. As I turned my head to face forward again, I found him a few feet away where no one stood seconds prior. I shouted and ran as my screen turned to static. In my short time with The Arrival, I feel it will be even more intense than the first game and that the use of the Oculus Rift is not for the weak of heart. - Jake Magee
Grapple by Tuesday Society Games
I got a chance to try out Grapple at the IGN/Midnight City after party during PAX Prime last weekend, and I found it both addicting and rewarding. At first glance, the game is a simple platformer wherein you control a ball of goo that travels across levels in space, sticking to surfaces and extending an elastic “arm” to hang from walls and ceilings to do so. However, Grapple proves itself more complex with red walls you can’t touch and significant gaps you must use well-time jumps and swings to reach. In my short time with the game, I got pretty good at finding unique ways through the short levels. Most are wide and expansive and feature more than one way to complete them. I sometimes surprised even the developers when I skipped sections of a map by using speed and my inertia to fly over and around certain obstacles, passing them entirely. While the camera and direction you’re “facing” (I use that term lightly considering the goo ball doesn’t really have a face) can sometimes disorient you, Tuesday Society Games has done a good job at making the game feel fair in all instances, whether you’re blasting through levels in unorthodox ways or dying constantly due to nothing more than your lack of skill. - Jake Magee