A scene from "Tengami," created by Philip Tossell, Jennifer Schneidereit and Ryo Agarie, with animations by Christiaan Moleman and music by David Wise. (Nyamyam)Link
A scene from "Hidden in Plain Sight," an Xbox game created by Adam Spragg. (Adam Spragg)Link
A scene from "Super Space_" created by Alexander Baard and David Scamehorn. (DigiPen USA)Link
A scene from "Guacamelee!" (Drinkbox Studios)Link
"Bloop," by Rusty Moyher. (Rusty Moyher)Link
Game designers from across the globe descended on Culver City, Calif., for IndieCade this weekend, and some of the most memorable games they offered weren’t necessarily the award-winners in the juried festival. Hero Complex spent a day in the arcade, playing games and talking to creators. Here’s a look at five video games that didn’t take home a trophy but certainly won us over.
As iPad and mobile games proliferate in both mainstream and indie spheres, the puzzle and adventure game “Tengami” (from U.K. developer Nyamyam) makes exquisite use of the platform’s tactile nature. Players use their fingertips to explore a pop-up world, folding and unfolding their way through a fairy-tale Japan, accompanied by a hauntingly beautiful soundtrack by renowned game composer David Wise.
“Our artist is actually Japanese, and we all have a fondness for Japan, particularly the traditional arts and crafts of Japan,” said Phil Tossell, half of the Nyamyam creative team. “So we knew we wanted to make something that is almost like a love song to traditional Japan. Everything in the game is kind of inspired by that. The textures we use in the backgrounds are actually real Japanese washi papers, and it gives it this unique kind of look to it.”
Tossell expects the game, which will run three to four hours, will be completed in May, when it will be sold in the Mac App Store.
‘Hidden in Plain Sight’
This little gem of a game doesn’t boast much in the way of graphics or narrative, but its addictive qualities certainly fill the void. The conceit is simple: Players try distinguish (and then eliminate) each other from a host of computer characters, all while attempting to blend in themselves. There are five game modes — including “Knights vs. Ninjas” and “Catch a Thief” — but the most popular by far is “Death Race.” Players race each other and more than a dozen computer-controlled characters to the finish line, but each player is equipped with a single bullet; get too far ahead of the group, and you’re likely dead meat.
“Most of the time in games, it’s really humans playing against other humans, or humans playing against the computer,” said Adam Spragg, the game’s creator. “But there’s something about sort of switching the tables and flipping the script a little bit that’s interesting. Instead of running full out, full speed, now all of a sudden you have to restrain yourself. You have to observe what the computer’s doing and blend in with them rather than doing what might be your natural impulse. One interesting thing about this game is that it’s local multi-player only. Everybody has to be in the same room, playing. And so that creates a real energy between the players themselves. You know, every time they play, there’s a lot of screaming, a lot of shouting going on.”
Spragg, based in San Diego, said he spent about two months creating the game, using free artwork, music and graphics. “Hidden in Plain Sight” is available for download on Xbox Live for 80 Microsoft Points, or $1.
‘Super Space _’
Pronounced “Super Space Blank,” this game of guns and physics cleverly combines cooperation and competition. Up to four players man the same spaceship, each with a gun control that serves as a thruster and as a shooter, taking out asteroids. Players work together to navigate the ship, avoiding a red border that denotes doom. But they also compete to destroy the most asteroids. “Super Space _” was developed as a “party game,” said David Scamehorn, who created the game along with fellow DigiPen student Alexander Baard.
“I’m really interested in contemporary minimalism, so I kind of wanted to have an abstract representation with kind of a minimalist approach to visuals,” Scamehorn said. “It was economic, as students, because we don’t have much time, and we’re only two people. It turns out people responded to this really well. It communicates information clearly. People know that if you touch something red, you’re going to die. So we just kind of went with general colors.”
It’s that intuitive design that makes the game so accessible, as evidenced by the constant (and all-ages) crowd around its IndieCade demo.
“The funny thing is we intended for it to be this really vocal game where people would be communicating all the time and yelling and shouting, and here that almost never happens,” Baard said. “People communicate almost synaptically. It’s like they vote on the direction they’re going to go with their shots.”
The PC-only game is expected out this winter, the creators said.
This colorful action-platformer from Toronto’s Drinkbox Studios is more than just eye-candy. Set in a magical world inspired by luchadores and Mexican folklore, the PlayStation exclusive game features dimension-switching between the world of the living and the world of the dead, a cast of humorous characters and plenty of melee combat. “Guacamelee!” is set in a Metroid-vania style world — meaning players gain new abilities as they progress, allowing them to return to previously discovered areas and more deeply explore them.
“The idea was pitched to us internally from our animator. He’s from Mexico originally,” said Drinkbox’s Chris McQuinn. “So we wanted to make a brawler, but he said, ‘Hey, guys, why don’t we base it in a luchador, Mexican-inspired world?’ We started to look at the amount of material there is in Mexican folklore, and it’s amazing, so we said, ‘Let’s do it!’ … The style of the game is really original. I mean, we personally feel that Mexican folklore and culture is really underrepresented in video games. There’s so much material, it’s mind-boggling.”
McQuinn said the game is slated for PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita release in early 2013.
This iPad social game proves Leonardo da Vinci’s quote: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” “Bloop,” created by Rusty Moyher, also might prove to be a valuable babysitter. In the game, up to four players race to tap the most tiles of their assigned color in a about a minute. The tiles start off large and shrink as the game progresses, leading players to become more frantic in their tapping. The game is aggressive but also addictive and versatile, thanks to its simplicity.
“I was with my friends at a bar, and I was working on a different table-top game that was far more complex, and they were like, ‘This is terrible. We need something simple we can play right here at the bar,'” Moyher said. “I made [‘Bloop’] eight days later. It was just born from frustration with a more complex table-top game. … The game is simple, but it’s people that make it interesting. You don’t know where it’s going to go. You don’t know whether they’re gonna push or shove. And they make up rules as they go, like, ‘Oh, you can’t shove!’ or ‘You can only play with one hand!'”
“Bloop” is available to download from the Mac App Store for 99 cents.
IndieCade 2012 award winners
Grand Jury: “Unmanned”
Impact: “Reality Ends Here”
Game Design: “Armada D6”
Story/World Design: “Botanicula”
Special Recognition: “The Stanley Parable”
— Noelene Clark
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