IndieCade 2014: Five noteworthy games you might have missed

Oct. 16, 2014 | 8:25 a.m.
2022298 et 1013 theplayer indiecade wrap 5 ajs IndieCade 2014: Five noteworthy games you might have missed

A group plays the game "Elbow Room" during IndieCade 2014 in Culver City on Oct. 11, 2104. (Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

2022298 et 1013 theplayer indiecade wrap 3 ajs IndieCade 2014: Five noteworthy games you might have missed

Mitch Swenson plays a virtual reality game using the Oculus Rift Development Kit 2 inside a customized Airstream trailer during IndieCade 2014 in Culver City on Oct. 11, 2104. (Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

2022298 et 1013 theplayer indiecade wrap 7 ajs IndieCade 2014: Five noteworthy games you might have missed

Alex Marx of Los Angeles tries out the virtual reality experience "Use of Force" during IndieCade 2014 in Culver City on Oct. 11, 2104. (Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

2022298 et 1013 theplayer indiecade wrap 9 ajs IndieCade 2014: Five noteworthy games you might have missed

Evan Campbell tries out the virtual reality experience "Use of Force" during IndieCade 2014 in Culver City on Oct. 11, 2104. (Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

2022298 et 1013 theplayer indiecade wrap 10 ajs IndieCade 2014: Five noteworthy games you might have missed

Will Brockmeyer, 16, of Arcadia plays "Hack 'N' Slash" during IndieCade 2014 in Culver City on Oct. 11, 2104. (Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

2022298 et 1013 theplayer indiecade wrap 11 ajs IndieCade 2014: Five noteworthy games you might have missed

Game designer Daphny Drucilla plays "How Do You Do It?" from Nina Freeman and Emmett Butler during IndieCade 2014 in Culver City on Oct. 11, 2104. (Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

2022298 et 1013 theplayer indiecade wrap 12 ajs IndieCade 2014: Five noteworthy games you might have missed

Aaron Higgins, Fletcher Cole, game creator Shawn Pierre, and Colton Spross play "Henka Twist Caper" during IndieCade 2014 in Culver City on Oct. 11, 2104. (Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

2022298 et 1013 theplayer indiecade wrap 4 ajs IndieCade 2014: Five noteworthy games you might have missed

Heather Conover of Lake Forest plays the game "Framed" during IndieCade 2014 in Culver City on Oct. 11, 2104. (Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

2022298 et 1013 theplayer indiecade wrap 1 ajs IndieCade 2014: Five noteworthy games you might have missed

Nick Zadno of San Diego tries out the wireless Sixense Stem System motion tracking system with the Oculus Rift while playing a virtual reality game during IndieCade 2014 in Culver City on Oct. 11, 2104. (Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

Some of the most creative and innovative work in the video game industry is coming from independent developers working alone or in small teams with limited budgets. Many such games were on display this weekend at IndieCade, the annual expo held in downtown Culver City.

The festival attracted video game designers, publishers and fans worldwide who came to showcase and play games that veer from the mainstream. Hero Complex spent a day in the arcade, playing games and talking to creators. Here’s a look at five video games that caught our attention.

‘Gemini’

Playing “Gemini” feels a bit like the scene in Pixar’s “Wall-E” in which two robot lovers dance and twirl in space, trails of light tailing behind them.

In this single-player video game, an NYU thesis project from designers Nick Zhang and Atlas Chen, the dance is between two falling stars whose flight lights up the world. The player becomes the bigger of the two stars, and when their movement is coordinated, flight is achieved.

“The only point of this game is that you go up to the sky together,” Zhang said.

Easier said than done. It takes time to learn the small star’s movements and “personality.” Plus, there are obstacles to overcome and strange, organic forms to illuminate along the way.

“We thought about the creation of life,” Chen said, noting that he and Zhang were “inspired heavily” by Greek and Asian mythology.

Factor in “Gemini’s” lovely and strangely nostalgic piano score, composed by Yi “Tony” Yan, and the twin star dance becomes a mesmerizing and unexpectedly emotional journey.

‘Hack ‘n’ Slash’

The winner of IndieCade’s Grand Jury award, “Hack ‘n’ Slash,” lets players use their hacking skills to subvert the oppressive edicts of a tyrannical wizard.

The game, from Double Fine Productions, requires players to hack creature behavior, reprogram object properties and even modify live-running code in order to solve puzzles and defeat enemies.

“I’ve always loved games with lots of secrets in them, and when I first discovered a hex editor in an emulator, it dawned on me that I could be a kind of digital treasure hunter – no game could keep even its deepest secrets from me if I adventured log enough in its code and memory,” project lead Brandon Dillon writes on the game’s blog. “‘Hack ‘n’ Slash’ is a game about that mystery and romanticism. It’s rich in secrets, but with a bit of cleverness, you’ll be able to hack and slash your way to the heart of all of them.”

‘Framed’

Framed,” a narrative puzzle game from Australia’s Loveshack Entertainment, lets players rearrange noir-style comic book panels in order to save a fedora-wearing character from certain death.

“The thing that I really like about comics is the sequential nature in which it tells a story — a very visual sequential nature,” said Loveshack’s Joshua Boggs. “What would happen if you designed a comic where you could read it in any order and it would have a different meaning?”

The game won Indiecade’s visual design award.

‘Lyne’

Lyne” is a beautifully simple puzzle game in which players draw lines on a grid to connect matching shapes. It’s easy to learn, pleasing to look at and hypnotic to listen to.

“I like to think of the game as meditative,” said Australian creator Thomas Bowker. “It has kind of traditional mechanics, but I wanted to focus on other things that surround those mechanics, like audio-visual design. … I feel like a lot of games are very noisy, and I wanted to take a lot of that down.”

Available for purchase and play on mobile and desktop, “Lyne” comes with 650 puzzles built in, and Bowker generates 25 to 75 new puzzles every day.

‘Never Alone’

It seems rare for popular entertainment to honor a culture instead of exploiting it, but “Never Alone” does just that and more.

A collaboration between game designers and Alaska Native storytellers and elders, “Never Alone” is steeped in Native art, imagery and language. The game’s little heroine, Nuna, and her Arctic fox companion set off on a quest to save Nuna’s village from a never-ending blizzard, and along the way, they must solve puzzles based on indigenous folklore. The game is atmospheric, compelling and completely gorgeous.

This standout game comes from Upper One Games, an initiative launched by Anchorage’s Cook Inlet Tribal Council in 2012 in an effort to fund education and services for tribal members and descendants.

“We told stories from one generation to the next,” the game’s trailer explains. “But what good are old stories if the wisdom they contain is not shared. … We have so much to share, and now we have a way to share it.”

What a gift to gamers.

– Noelene Clark | @NoeleneClark | Google+

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