At EGX, we saw a lot of indie games. In fact, I think the team spent most of our time in that section. We’ve already dedicated several previews to ones which really captured our hearts and we got to spend a lot of time with, and there are still more to come, but there were many more which we felt would fit better in an indie round-up article or two. These are all games which are a while off yet, having rather vague 2015 release dates. So, without further ado…
Calvino Noir | PC, iOS | 2015
There’s something very gratifying about a game that really runs with an art style. A game doesn’t need to be running at some crazy resolution or be ultra-realistic to look good, it just has to select a niche and make it its own. Calvino Noir does this fantastically, playing with shadow and light to evoke a classic noir film look. It’s not an easy look to pull off, but the game manages it more than competently. Throw in a world presented in cut away fashion and you’ve got a game that’s generated a striking visual look.
The game’s cut away presentation lets you navigate the noir setting in a 2D point-and-click style, although the game is more focussed on stealth mechanics than your traditional point-and-click staples. Guards patrol the world with torches and guns, and you’ll really want to avoid the latter as a single shot is all that’s needed to send you back to the last checkpoint.
Fortunately guards are clearly marked by their torches, providing a kind of contextualised vision cone. Not only do their torches help you keep out of their way, but they also give a nice dynamic element to the game’s lighting, enhancing the noir vibe. Sound is just as important as the graphics in Calvino Noir though, and the development team has managed to create a simply wonderful soundscape. The way that sound is muffled as you move away or close a door is simply fantastic, with the hubbub of a bar or jazz club fading away quite naturally.
Story wise, the game is set in the 1920s in a fictional European city. You play as an English detective who seems to do a bit of spying on the side (or quite possibly the other way round), presented with an opportunity to expose a corrupt government official, although a broader story involving a revolutionary faction is heavily hinted at. Given that the game is being billed as “The noir heist game”, I think we can fully expect a complex theft to come into play later in the game as well. While some of the visuals and controls were a little shaky at points, the game’s still got a little way to go before its release next year. Personally, I’m really looking forwards to seeing how this title shapes up.
Octahedron | PC, PS4 & Xbox One possible | 2015
2D platformers have become somewhat of a niche genre ever since the rise of 3D gaming. There’s still the occasional entry into classic 2D platforming series like Sonic, Mario and Rayman, but there’s little in the way of genuinely new titles out there from the big hitters. Fortunately, indie developers do still manage to provide on occasion, with titles like Braid and Super Meat Boy proving popular.
While I’m not yet sure if Octahedron will meet the standard set by its indie brethren, it’s certainly meeting one metric – difficulty. A good platformer should, in my opinion, be tough, and Octahedron is certainly that. Based around a core mechanic of placing platforms, Octahedron sees you trying to climb to the top of the level. This verticality is where the platforms come in useful, you’ll need to place them carefully as you jump to breach gaps that will otherwise see you fall back to a lower point in the level – dying isn’t on the cards here.
While this may seem a simple task, matters are somewhat complicated by the fact that you only have a finite number of platforms available during each jump. At EGX you were capped at two, so the question is where you need to hit the platforms in your jump if you want to cross the gap in front of you. Later sections of the game give you access to other platforms that you can use to kill enemies or trigger certain elements in the level (one of the demo levels featured a trampoline), but the core idea is still to use them to climb to the top. Like many platformers, the whole level serves as a gigantic puzzle, and it’s a puzzle that can be frustratingly difficult to solve if you haven’t quite mastered the mechanics.
Visually, the game has a very abstract look, with platforms only appearing as outlines in a world filled with pulsating colours. It may sound a little odd, particularly when I relate the fact that you play as a figure with a glowing, colour shifting octahedron for a head, but it’s a look that really works, and is only enhanced by the electronic music that comprises the game’s soundtrack. If you’re looking for a tricky platformer with a unique aesthetic then Octahedron is one for you, although I can certainly see its difficulty curve splitting opinions.
Super Rude Bear Resurrection | PS4, Xbox One, PC, Vita possible | 2015
During EGX I saw my fair share of strange concepts for games, but there was one idea that stood out. In this game you play as a bear, who wears a cap, and you must guide this bear to safety in a world full of deadly traps. However, dying is all part of the plan with the bear’s corpses piling up to create platforms the resurrected individual can use to get to safety.
During the demo it became clear that death was inevitable when faced with certain traps. After all death was not the end of the journey but the next step in quite the literal sense. Using one or many of Rude Bear’s corpses is the key to solving the puzzling maze before you, and there doesn’t appear to be a limit to how many corpses can be stacked up. The more there are, the easier the game will be, though sometimes those bodies do get in the way.
At one point I witnessed a body blocking the way to the next area, resulting in death instead. This led to more bodies arriving, making progress all but impossible. However, you can use a handy laser to erase the bodies from existence and clear a path to move on, so you don’t become stuck in an area.
The game itself can be pretty fast paced with Rude Bear’s movement over and around obstacles being pretty speedy. I can definitely see speed runners taking to the game due to how smooth it feels going through levels. Players won’t just have to contend with getting past traps quickly but also working out the correct path in some cases.
There was one spot where you could take the long way round by jumping from block to block, or you could drop down and try to avoid the spikes. It’s quite difficult too, and it is fair to say that you will die a lot, not counting the areas where you are meant to. However, due to what appeared to be incredibly quick respawns you will get straight back into the action.
Soul Axiom | PS4, Xbox One, PC | 2015
Master Reboot was a game with a really interesting core concept of memories being uploaded to a cloud for you to replay when you passed, which was let down by the mediocre mixed bag of puzzling elements. Thankfully, Wales Interactive have taken this on board for their spiritual successor, Soul Axiom. At first, this game may appear to be very much along the same lines, but it’s running on a new engine, and there’s a clear focus on a central ability, which should hopefully solve the issues with the first game.
It’s not a sci-fi horror this time around, instead the developers are describing it as a thriller, something which is rarely seen in games. The focus is puzzling – gone are the tedious platforming elements – and at its core lies the ability to add or remove things from the world using your left and right hands, with the left and right triggers respectively.
This can lead to some interesting puzzle elements – block and unblock sections with crystal-like formations to redirect a laser beam, move a giant monument to alter the scenery, and so on. There will also be other power-ups, though focused on the same dual-hand system, as the game progresses, which look to make the game a more action-packed affair.
Despite the new engine, the visuals are quite similar to Reboot, with an intriguing sci-fi style; it’s not the best looking game around but there’s certainly the ambition in the art design which makes it quite distinct. And while Wales Interactive are remaining quiet on the matter right now, there will be a story at the game’s heart, with multiple characters and a new corporation eager to get into the digital soul storage business.
We’ll be back tomorrow with four more indie games in part two of our EGX round-up.