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Indie Focus at Rezzed Part One: SALT, Enter the Gungeon and Inside My Radio

Innovation Indie Heart of London.

If my diary posts didn’t tip you off, it was Rezzed this last weekend, the indie sibling of EGX. Although smaller and more intimate than EGX, Rezzed is still absolutely bursting at the seams with indie goodies. Over the three days of the show I saw an almost ridiculous number of indie titles, and I’ve catalogued a few of my highlights below.


 

Enter the Gungeon | PS4, PC, Mac & Linux | 2015

I wasn’t sure I’d like Enter the Gungeon at first. Dungeon crawlers aren’t really my kind of thing, and the twist of putting a whole heap of guns in it didn’t seem like it would be enough to appeal to me. I will freely admit that I was completely wrong.

Enter the Gungeon is both brilliant and bonkers, with crisp controls and an incredibly fluid feel to combat that took me off guard. While adding a bunch of guns to a dungeon crawler wasn’t enough to win me over, it turns out that adding to a game that controls as a radial shooter really did the trick.

Beyond the twin stick movement, you can shoot, roll and interact with objects. It’s simple, but it’s all you need. While shooting is obviously key, rolling is vitally important too. Not only does rolling allow you to jump over pits and other traps, but it makes you invulnerable for the first half of your roll. As enemies will waste no time in trying to fill you lead, that brief period of invulnerability is vital, as is the ability to flip tables onto their side, where they serve as makeshift cover.

There’s a lot to be said for the game’s comedy as well. This largely shines through in the enemies, who range from bullet shells with bat wings attached, to shotgun shells that try and assault you with, naturally, a shotgun, to ghosts who, for some reason, are granted machine guns as their weapons. Each enemy type seems to stick to its assigned weapon, allowing you to build up strategies for dealing with each of them.

With a procedurally generated dungeon filled with plenty of secrets there’s more than enough to keep you coming back to Enter the Gungeon for quite some time, and I can see it taking on an almost Spelunky like appeal for many, myself included.


 

Inside My Radio | PC & Xbox One | TBA

To a casual onlooker Inside My Radio looks like your average 2D platformer with a distinctive visual style. However, when you actually sit down to play it the difference becomes clear – you can only move to the beat of the soundtrack.

Yes, Inside My Radio essentially combines rhythm gaming elements with 2D platforming, and does a far better job of it than I was expecting. Although you can move left or right freely, if you want to jump, dash, ground pound or activate a switch it has to be done to the beat of the dying beatbox the game is set inside. If you need a little help sticking to the beat the game features a nice “rhythm helper” that clearly indicates the beat.

It’s a smart twist on your typical platformer, and one that is very well implemented. It adds a nice level of difficulty to the game without ever punishing you, and also helps to inform the game’s narrative, visuals and sound design. It’s rare to see a single mechanic inform every other element of a game so completely, but Inside My Radio achieves it comfortably.


 

Mighty Tactical Shooter | PC, Mac, Linux, iOS & Android | Q4 2015

Most people don’t think of turn based controls when they think about shoot ‘em ups, but that didn’t stop the developers of Mighty Tactical Shooter. While there have been a handful of turn based entries into the genre before, Mighty Tactical Shooter still stands out as something different, particularly in the way it controls.

Instead of your shoot ‘em up controls, Mighty Tactical Shooter gives you two navigation waypoints you set at the start of a turn, with your ship automatically guiding itself through both. As you plot your course the game not only projects the trajectory of your weapons, but also the path enemies will follow; all you have to do is set your course in such a way that the two intersect.

You also have elements like power consumption to manager, as well as selecting which particularly weapon will cause the most damage in the next turn. Weapons can even be disabled to conserve power between enemy waves, an approach I frequently took advantage of.

While purists may turn their noses up at what Mighty Tactical Shooter brings to the table, it genuinely feels like something new in a genre that could do with a bit of a shakeup. There’s a lot to like here, and it’s very much worth keeping an eye on.


 

SALT; A Social Story | PC & Mac | Late 2016

Although social media has become an integral part of many of our lives, games don’t really seem to have woven it into worlds yet. A few have flashes of it here and there, but there aren’t many where it’s a part of the character’s lives in a meaningful way.

SALT aims to redress the balance by being exclusively about social media. The entire game’s interface is that of the fictional social media site Mugshot, and the only mechanics are reading through the updates of your friends and adding new friends.

You play as Jane Doe, who’s recently had a, presumably messy, breakup with her boyfriend Jon. As a result of her breakup she’s completely cleared her Mugshot account, leaving you to reconnect with her friends and try to piece together the details of the breakup, as well as gaining insight into her friends lives.

You’re limited to adding one friend a day, and as the final game is set to feature fifty friends but only thirty days you’re never going to get the whole picture in a single playthrough. It lends the whole thing a very choose your own adventure feel, and forces you to really consider who you want to befriend.

It’s probably fair to say that SALT isn’t for everyone, with a text based interface and a complete lack of anything that could be described as action. However, if you find yourself glued to social media or curious about the way that social media is changing how we interact with our friends then SALT is more than worth taking a look at.


 

Pro Puzzle Wrestling | PC, Max & Linux, Consoles Later | Q3 2015

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of wrestling, so having a crack at Pro Puzzle Wrestling was pretty much a no brainer. I was expecting a score based versus match three game with a wrestling theme, but it was clear from start that this is a fully fledged fighting game that just happens to use a match three game as its input mechanism.

Rather than using high or low kick to execute a move, you match up three taunts or attacks Bejeweled style for each attack, stringing them together to form your traditional combo.While I do fear that it may be difficult to remember all of a wrestlers combos without the muscle memory that a traditional fighting title features, it’s not something I can judge without more time with the game.

Presentation wise, Pro Puzzle Wrestler does a good job of hitting all of the usual wrestling tropes. Each wrestler falls into a clearly defined archetype, with some drawing on real wrestlers for inspiration.

It’s worth noting that these wrestlers don’t actually grapple during a match, instead each stays on their own side of the puzzle board, attacking or taking damage as the situation demands. Some might find it a little disappointing, but given the importance of the board I’d rather it stayed in clear focus the whole time. Some flair for entrances or finishes might be a nice touch though, even if they are pre-scripted.

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