My final recap of PAX 2013 covers independent gaming. Indie gaming is in what many feel is a Golden Age right now and that couldn’t be more evident than the amount of space devoted to indie games between the Indie MEGABOOTH and PAX 10. But it isn’t just limited to PC or mobile anymore. Consoles are making a huge push for indie games. Sony had an impressive showing of indies, some of which were featured in the Magnificent Seven, the seven best games at PAX 2013.
We first mentioned Aaru’s Awakening coming from Lumenox Games in a recent post. After having played it for myself, Nick was spot on with his description of Aaru’s visuals. It is beautiful to say the least. It just so happens that Lumenox pays attention to its press and contacted me to swing by their booth at the Indie MEGABOOTH to try it out.
It has a wonderful, painterly art style. It has an interesting story premise, though nothing in their demo at PAX 2013 featured any kind of story elements. And it has some tight platforming gameplay. I was told that the seven playable stages represented roughly 25% of the game and the boss fights were not in yet either.
It is designed for the player to get through each stage faster as they become more comfortable with the controls and mechanics. Using the W key to jump while moving left and right with the A and D keys is a little quirky. It gets better when Aaru gains the ability to dash with the space bar and eventually fire a projectile that can be used as a teleport device. All of this starts to come together as Aaru has to traverse breakable walls, lots of platforming, and pitfalls or enemies to reach the end of each of the progressively more difficult stages. Thankfully, deaths lead to instant respawns on checkpoints.
My only real concern is with the style being so gorgeous and bright, sometimes its hard to discern pits or rays of light that can kill you.
Games like this are a labor of love for these indie developers. This game needs to happen.
Aaru’s Awakening is currently featured on Steam Greenlight. Lumenox is also looking into releasing on the Nintendo eShop, PSN, and Xbox Live Marketplace.
Imagine walking through the Indie MEGABOOTH and this game literally jumps out and grabs you as you turn the corner. Contrast blew me away with the wonderfully dark, fantastical art style. I had to know what this game was about. I rounded up the nearest Compulsion Games representative and said, “Tell me about Contrast.”
It is a game that will draw comparisons to the American McGee Alice series or even BioShock with its stylish 1920s Parisian dreamscape setting. The playable demo features an 8-year-old girl, Dawn, who employs her imaginary friend to traverse each stage as they search for Dawn’s father. At its core, it is a platforming game that makes use of shifting in and out of light.
It took me some time to get used to the game’s mechanics. The puzzles are not easy, but once I got a better idea of how the phasing into light worked, it all clicked.
Honestly, it is quite mysterious and I simply love the what Compulsion Games was presenting. PS4 and indie game fans are going to be spoiled this year and next.
Would you care for some stealth in your turn-based strategy game? Klei seems to know a little bit about stealth with the critically acclaimed Mark of the Ninja.
Incognita is like this mash-up of XCOM and Metal Gear. The demo started me out with two playable characters one is a stealthy spy kind of guy and the other is a robot engineer. They complement each other perfectly as the engineer is able to hack computers to earn puts used to then hack things like security cameras or open safes. The spy character can sneak around and either attack or use a dart gun to put security guards to sleep.
Every blown move adds to an alarm meter, as does the end of each round. If the player hasn’t accomplished their goals by the time the alarm meter is full, a squad of reinforcements enter the game to hunt you down.
Once I settled in with the idea of moving around, peeking around corners, knocking out enemies, and taking cover facing the proper direction in case a guard walks into view, I started playing a little loose and fast. Seeing as this is just pre-alpha demo, I have no doubt that I wouldn’t be able to do that sort of thing for very long. Some of the more interesting concepts are the ability to kill a knocked out guard if you’re the bloodthirsty type or you can extend the amount of rounds they are knocked out before they wake up and attempt to look for you. I even managed to rescue a sniper and it was all but game over as I waltzed to the exit.
Everything plays out in overhead, isometric view. There is a surprising amount of detail in the various rooms and offices. Which brings me to one of the most important points of Incognita. There will be story in this game but the levels are procedurally generated. No two levels should be the same and they drew heavy inspiration from games like FTL. They are shooting to combine roguelike elements and difficulty to make a game that is challenging, but not unbearable.
It only makes sense that this game will sneak onto PC sometime in 2014.
Yet another indie game to come out of nowhere. This one has some pedigree behind it though. Housemarque, developers of the Super Stardust games, brings their next shmup, Resogun, to PS4.
The premise is very simple. You move a ship around the screen and shoot. There’s a slight twist. The stages are on a circular plane that is sort of like a doughnut. The ship can move back and forth on the stage to blast anything in its path. One stick controls the ship. The other stick shoots front and behind as enemies can swarm from both directions.
It wouldn’t be a good shmup if the screen weren’t littered with bullets, ships, and eye-popping effects. The action is frenetic, but not impossible, at least in the demo. The music seems almost as important as the visuals as it thumped, thumped, thumped to the action. It all comes together as well it should. Housemarque has been making great shmups for a while.
Resogun is a PS4 exclusive. You may commence dodging bulletstorms on Nov 15, 2013.
Secret Ponchos is a PS4 exclusive online arena combat shooter developed by Switchblade Monkeys. I’m a fan of Westerns and stylish art. Secret Ponchos definitely has that going for it. I played with the devs in a two versus two match but there are also one versus one and free-for-all modes. Of the five playable characters in their demo, I got a chance to to try out four of them. Each one had their own unique art and gameplay design.
The game is top-down and makes me think of games like Loaded on the original PlayStation. It is a frenetic fast-paced game with some gameplay elements that require a little more thought than just running and gunning. If a player is using a character with a six-shooter, they’ll have to hit a button to reload. That could put them at a disadvantage in the open. But the ability to take cover makes the character reload faster and regenerates a stamina bar used to dodge. Every characters has their unique primary and secondary weapons.
According to their website, there is character progression and because the demos were running split-screen, I assume that it will not be online only.
One of the most interesting tidbits I gleaned from my conversation with the devs is that it will be available for free to PS Plus subscription members. Otherwise it will retail for $14.99. I asked why they chose to go that route and their response was that they had talked a lot with Sony and they felt it was a good opportunity to get the game exposure. I’m curious how that plan works out. My biggest concern with an online only shooter like this that it goes unnoticed and the community dies out.
Secret Ponchos releases in Q1 2014 on PS4.
I named Transistor not only one of the Magnificent Seven, the seven best games of PAX 2013, but THE Best of Show. There is no other PS4 game that I’m looking forward to in 2014 as much as Transistor. It is by stroke of luck that I even got to play the demo that would bring me to this PS4 epiphany.
I know. Why in the world would you not consider a AAA game as the most exciting upcoming game for the PS4? Transistor will be flat out amazing. The art design is out of this world and the visuals are so bright and detailed.
Music is a big part of Transistor. It features superb sound design. Transistor, Red’s talking sword, speaks to her. This is how the story unfolds much in the way Bastion’s narrator told its story.
The gameplay is a perfect blend of action and turn-based RPG. Red has simple slashing and charging attacks for real-time combat. When things get crazy, like groups of enemies or bosses, players can activate planning mode where they can choose movement and attacks that consume an action bar. Once the commands are in place, Red executes them with super-speed. Depending on her placement, she earns bonus damage for attacks like backstabs.
One of my absolute favorite features wasn’t even part of the gameplay. I think it actually surprised Greg Kasavin when I brought it up because it wasn’t intended to be a feature as much as them playing with the hardware. Because I got to play it on a much behind a curtain and it was dark, I could see the blue light on the PS4 control pulsing with the beat to Transistor talking. What amazing attention to detail. And that’s what I think of in regards to Bastion.
Transistor will rock gamers in 2014 on PC and PS4.