Indie games have had a strong and growing presence at EGX for years now, and it seems like the move to a larger venue in the NEC has lead to an even bigger space for indie games. Those of us who visited the show saw plenty that grabbed our attention, so we’ll be bringing you a few of our highlights over the coming days. To kick things off, lets talk about a cardboard box.
Unbox | PC | TBA
To say that Unbox is a bit weird would be quite the understatement. You play as a cardboard box, in a land of sentient cardboard boxes. And I’d like to be clear here, we’re not talking about some simple box-based society, there’s an airfield they’re running and one area features construction workers. It’s certainly unusual.
The game’s central mechanic is unboxing, which essentially acts as double jump of sorts. Contained within the box you’re playing as are a number of other boxes, and expelling them gives you a boost upwards. You can regain them via powerups liberally spread throughout the world, but if you use them up while trying to make a particularly long jump then you’re probably going to find yourself out of luck.
As for the actual gameplay, Unbox is an open-world physics platformer. While there didn’t seem to be a core storyline driving the EGX build, there’s plenty to do. Beyond simply exploring, there’s quest givers – also boxes of course – lurking around the world who’ll set you challenges.
It’s the physics based platforming that’s the real star here, with one quest tower climbing mission featuring particularly good level design. Elements like swinging platforms and fast moving conveyor belts combine well with the unboxing mechanic to make a game that’s much trickier than it looks, although it never crossed over the line into being unfair.
In fact I’d say that keeping the gameplay on the right side of toughness is a good move, making the game perfect for kids. The gameplay is easy to grasp but tricky to master, there’s a fun world to explore, and the whole thing was bright and welcoming. Judging by the other gamers enjoying the game it seems like Prospect Games have really captured this audience.
If you’d like to see more of the game then I suggest you go vote for it over on Steam Greenlight, where the game is currently awaiting approval.
Aaero | PC, Xbox One | 2016
Aaero certainly channels the spirit of Rez, a Dreamcast/PS2 classic on-rails shooter that had the action sync with a dance soundtrack, but it also has its own interesting twists on the cult classic. By guiding the ship along a line on the screen, I was able to make a heavy dub-step tune resonate through the headset.
Because of this, Aaero felt more like a rhythm game than anything else; the visuals striking because, as Mad Fellows’ Technical Director Dan Horbury put it, each of the levels was designed by a different artist. It’s obvious that there was a scope for each of the level’s core palette, but the creative freedom of what was in each level is paramount.
As with most rhythm games; the goal of each level in Aaero is having the multiplier last as long as possible to obtain a high score. This was done by moving the ship against a line of light that changes its position on a constant basis. The three demo levels had progressively more taxing line patterns to keep track of, combining positioning with shooting down enemies on occasion. It’s a little difficult to get at first, but getting that perfect run is addictive.
One level could have you flying around a tunnel reminiscent of the Death Star attack scene from Star Wars, weaving between pillars that can destroy your ship with a mere clip, another has you fighting a giant sandworm in the middle of an arid desert as bugs fire at your ship. Transitions between scenes in each level keep the action fluid.
According to Dan Hobury, there will be more levels available at launch of varying difficulty and differing artistic style. I certainly hope that the locales show more in terms of style and that the frame rate is stable on all platforms when it launches around March 2016.
Giant Cop | PC | TBA
Giant Cop is a game that really does what it says as on the tin. You play as a giant cop, but you’re a rookie in the Micro City police force. Sadly the force has seen some cut backs, so as the game starts you’re left to patrol the streets by yourself.
Given your rather large frame you don’t solve crimes by chasing down criminals or anything like that, instead you simply pluck from the street and toss them into prison. It seems that Micro City has done away with any form of trial, with you left to act as judge and jury.
If the basic concept isn’t enough to catch your attention, then maybe its 1970s aesthetics will seal the deal. The game draws heavily from 70s cop shows for inspiration, with the music fitting perfectly, and perfect overlays popping up when you manage to draw in enough criminals for a specific crime.
The game’s visuals also do a fantastic job of helping you spot criminals. If you’re trying to catch those guilty of assault then they’ll be barrelling down the street, taking a swing at everyone in their path, while chasing public decency sees people who are quite clearly naked, save for some well placed black bars. My personal favourite were the cars that were breaking the city’s regulations on emissions, the small cloud of black smoke that followed them making them particularly easy to spot.
As you throw more criminals in jail and impound cars, you’re rewarded with cash that you can use to unlock upgrades like a police helicopter to help you spot crimes, as well as funding the passage of new laws to help you lock up even more criminals. It’s this latter mechanic that seems to act as some form of social commentary, as the laws quickly shift from being something we all agree should be punished heavily, like assault, to more borderline issues like jaywalking.
Talking to developers Other Ocean, they hinted at some darker undertones in the game as you progress. That’s not to say that the game will turn into a noir thriller, in fact it’s refreshingly bright and cheery, but there’s certainly the potential to leave you questioning the ethics of your actions as you punish increasingly minor infractions.
As EGX served as the game’s reveal, we don’t have a release date just yet, but you can expect to see the game coming to PC in future.