At their best, indie games are quirky, emotionally resonant, and outside-the-box. At their worst, they're overly-preachy, poorly paced, and have dialogue that reads more like a teenager's diary than a professional product. This year's Indiecade had helpings of both these extremes, so I thought I'd focus only on the positive. Here are my top five Indiecade favorites:
5 - Cloud Chasers
Developer Blindflug Studios described this tablet game as “a steampunk roguelike game about a father and daughter based on the stories and fates of immigrants.” I'd say it's more dustpunk, but fewer people know what that is. The father and daughter in question must cross an inhospitable desert to get to the nearest town, stopping along the way to collect water from the clouds using a flying machine. However, both the elements and airborne soldiers are out to stop them from reaching their goal, and careful resource management as well as solid flying is required to survive.
4 - Butt Sniffin' Pugs
Believe it or not, the title is accurate. You are a pug. You sniff butts. For the demo station, developer SpaceBeagles even set up special controllers that use a giant tennis ball as a track ball and a stuffed pug butt as an action button. It was really weird, but it sure shook off that dreaded indie game pretension. And I love pugs.
3 - Curiouser and Curiouser
Based on the Alice in Wonderland stories, Curiouser and Curiouser is an interactive pop up book synced with the on-screen game. The player interacts with the book in various ways, pressing buttons to make Alice shrink and grow, using tangrams to make the participants of the caucus race, and whacking a hedgehog with a miniature flamingo. Each page has a different activity to complete, and though the concept is simple, it's charming in that simplicity.
2 – Armikrog
I'm not quite sure what this game was doing in Indiecade, since it's the spiritual successor to the 1996 game The Neverhood, by some of the people who worked on Earthworm Jim. That being said, it's a pretty snazzy looking, quirky claymation point-and-click adventure game about a space adventurer who gets locked in a fortress called Armikrog with his colourblind talking dog (Seriously, when you control the dog all the colours disappear). Armikrog was definitely one of the most polished looking games at Indiecade, and it's about time we got another dose of Earthworm Jim's brand of weird.
1 - Tribal & Error
You're a robot sent back in time to make sure a tribe of cavemen survive the coming ice age! Problem is, you can't understand a word they're saying! Described as “a game about language without language,” this point-and-click puzzler by Grotman Games revolves around learning to “speak” caveman through context by recording and playing back the caveman grunts in different combinations to form new sentences. It's super cute and it hooks you quickly. I loved this game!