I can’t even begin to tell you how many small publishers contact me asking to check out their games in assorted forms of completion. No complaints at all on this as one thing I love is seeing how games come together. That said, I’m a wee bit backed up in codes thanks to all the medical stuff I’ve got going on, but I’ve been playing and compiling lists over the last few months on a few games you may want to take for a spin if you’ve a Steam or console account. Some of these are also on gog.com, gamejolt or itch.io, three of many other very awesome spots to get indie games you absolutely should check out even if you want to browse and be amazed at the variety on display. Actually, you can and should support indie games outright by at least playing demos where applicable and/or buying titles you like outright.
Mercenary Kings Reloaded Edition (PS4/PS3/Vita, Xbox One, Switch, PC) – Merry, merry, quite Contra-ry, what do we have here? A pretty damn awesome side-scrolling run ‘n gun from Montreal based independent game studio Tribute Games (Flinthook, Curses ‘N Chaos). Actually, it’s more like Metal Slug with a hefty crafting system and a more diverse cast of characters.
If you’ve played this previously, you’ll find the Reloaded edition adds a bunch of improvements that make this a great deal more accessible without lowering the difficulty. In addition to the stellar pixel art and animation, Tribute’s packed this one with tons of fun and challenge throughout, making a game that’s highly replayable and an excellent arcade experience that’s a must-buy no matter what you play it on. Now, if only Tribute would get Wizorb out on PS4, Vita and Switch, I’d be an even happier guy.
Bevontule: Altar of Roots (PC) – Currently about 30% funded with 20 days to go, this absolutely lovely Unity engine game (created by two people) is one of those that demands to be played if you’re a fan of turn-based tactical JRPGs. There’s a great and free demo out you can (and should) play before you commit to helping fund this, so go do that and tell a few friends so they can follow suit. Between the excellent use of color and that wonderful draw distance, the tough but fair once you get into it gameplay is some pretty awesome icing on a very tasty cake. Hey, I’m up too late writing this post and a bit hungry. Just download and play the demo, folks.
This is one of those games that you want to see blow past its target and end up on consoles at some point in the future just because the genre could use something with a few nifty twists to the tactical RPG formula. It’s come a long way from those early demo builds and is certainly shaping up to be a game worth looking out for once it’s complete and ready for its close-up.
Bleed 2 (PS4) – I was late to the party on this one until Matt from Digerati sent me a code for the first Bleed and I saw what the fuss was about. The first game is a hilarious riff on arcade classics with a light plot that’s a sort of even more oddball take on the Kill Bill films. As for the sequel, Wyrn, the world’s greatest (and only remaining) hero is back in action and isn’t messing around at all.
You’ve got seven levels full of enemies and bosses to tackle in side-scrolling, fiercely packed to the gills arcade action. If that trailer above is any indication, fans of the first game will be grinning and wall-jumping like old pros as these new and somewhat more brutal bosses do their best to slap you off the screen. Yep, SOLD. Of course, Play-Asia has this as an exclusive physical PS4 version with both games included if you want to take this home in a nice box with some cool extras included.
Tangledeep (PC/OSX/Linux)- Impact Gameworks’ gorgeous pixel art rogue-like RPG (which was also a Kickstarter project that got funded) looks pretty lovely doesn’t it? While it’s currently only available on Steam or gog.com, yours truly hopes this one rolls up onto home consoles at some point because it truly looks and feels perfect for them. A taste of the story for you:
For hundreds of years, people have lived in the safety of underground settlements and villages – where the only route to the surface is “Tangledeep,” a mysterious and ever-changing labyrinth. With memories of the surface world long forgotten, you set out for the labyrinth to discover what lies above. With each floor – full of magical beasts, ancient automatons, bizarre environments and hybrid biomes – the mystery grows ever deeper…
Of course, in this day and age, that means a game such as this needs to sell well enough on PC before it hits consoles, so you know what to do, right? No, not that – I mean just go buy this one if you like that trailer above and yes, tell people about that purchase, particularly if you know they’d like to play this on their own computer.
Fallen Legion+ (PC/Switch) – Both the PS4 and Vita games were quite solid, so now PC and Nintendo Switch owners get this version that features both chapters in one download. This is one of those games with a learning curve that requires a bit of patience to grasp its gameplay, but it’s all worth the effort when you start pulling off well executed attack and defense moves. The game might look like a swipe of VanillaWare’s games, but it’s a bit more strategic in nature and has a few interesting additions to the gameplay that add a welcome randomness to things.
The land of Fenumia needs your aid and in this pair of games, you get to play both sides of the conflict and see how it all turns out. Hint: it’s not all smiles and roses, that’s for sure. This is a pretty dark game overall, but developer Yummy Yummy Tummy keeps things pretty intriguing as both stories play out their different perspectives.
Tesla vs Lovecraft (PC) – My brain yelled out “SOLD!”, based on the title alone (yeah, I’m a sucker for stuff like this). Thankfully this latest game by reliable developer 10tons (Crimsonland, Neon Chrome, JYDGE) more than makes for a great and challenging top-down shooter you’ll love for its intense difficulty and fast-paced gameplay. Nope, it’s not supposed to make any sense at all historically, but it’s more than fun enough to keep you entertained. While currently only available on PC, it’s pretty hard not to see this on consoles at some point down the road. Which means I get to play it again and get the same adrenaline rush.
What, you’re still not sold on this? Hmmm… okay. All you need to know is this plot snippet to get your interest piqued:
You are Nikola Tesla, world-famous inventor and genius extraordinaire. At the eve of your greatest invention, your laboratory is burned down by the horror author H.P. Lovecraft, who claims that your actions have put the world in peril. With the help of his occult book, and a vast army of monsters, he has stolen your most precious inventions!
Yep. SOLD. Now go get yourself this one and have a blast, I say.
Conarium (PC/Mac/Linux) – Speaking of Lovecraft, here’s a scary little indie from Zoetrope Interactive published by Iceberg Interactive that’s on Steam now, console bound at some point and well worth checking out. Inspired by (and taking place after the events in) “At the Mountains of Madness”, this one’s a pretty intriguing mix of adventure game and “walking simulator” with a few action-based scares and an unsettling vibe throughout to keep you dialed in for about 5 hours of play.
Yeah, yeah, ol’ H.P. was a bit off in his own mindset when it comes to some of his more controversial views. But I kind of give him a pass because he’s 100% dead now and at least stuck his fears on paper and didn’t take them past that point. That and he never really made much of a dent in the world until he was worm food and people started discovering and expanding upon his work in a few forms. I think Cthulhu might leave me be now, but I’m sleeping under the bed for maybe the next two weeks just in case. Or getting like 30 hungry cats because I’m hoping they like seafood-looking elder gods (ha and ha).
All Our Asias – Hey, let’s end this installment on a weird, free/pay what you want note with this intriguing indie from Sean Han Tani. Let me just copy/paste the plot so you know what you’re getting into beforehand:
All Our Asias is a free, surreal, lo-fi, 3D adventure, about Asian-America, identity, race, and nationality.
The protagonist is Yuito. 31, Japanese-American. Hedge fund analyst. One day he receives a letter from his estranged father, who is dying. It’s too late for Yuito to speak to him. But, his father is on life support, so Yuito has an opportunity. He can under go a Memory World Visitation, and enter his father’s Memory World – supernatural landscapes where Yuito can explore his father’s experiences and secrets. It is risky, Yuito feels compelled to make the journey…
While it’s short and simple to play, it’s also one of those special game experiences for those who like a little more narrative depth to their games. While you can indeed get this for not a single cent on Steam or itch.io, I say pony up a few pennies (or more like $4.99) just for the Fan Pack. For that five spot you get the game, soundtrack, and a 150+ page digital art book (which contains art from the game, commentary on the game’s visuals, level design, soundtrack, narrative and more).
I’m a fan of these sorts of experimental games because as I’ve noted at the top of this article, seeing games come together is a pretty pleasing experience because it’s quite like watching a language being translated from design document to code with the final part of the process being each player “translating” the final part through their own gameplay.
Yep, I’m nuts, but comfortable with that, thank you much. Back with a few more indies shortly – my inbox is quite packed with them these days.