This past weekend, I traveled to Culver City for my first-ever visit to Indiecade, an annual conference and festival celebrating the best in independent video game development. Every aspect of Indiecade felt so different compared to other “geek gatherings” I’ve attended. For one thing, most of the venues were outdoors, bringing something of a “county fair” vibe to the festival. And what made Indiecade incredibly special was I got to try out some builds of spectacular upcoming independent games, most of which I had never heard of before the event. So, here are six of my favorites from Indiecade 2013 that you need to look out for. Most of these games, I should add, either are already released or are coming out within this next year:
Winner of this year’s “Grand Jury Award,” this new adventure from the developer of Gravity Bone and Thirty Flights of Loving expands upon the world of espionage that was developed in his previous games. But this game introduces a surprisingly fun new game mechanic: your missions in Quadrilateral Cowboy will require you to use coding to hack your way through the level. With the aid of a portable supercomputer, your character will disable lasers and unlock doors, strategizing an entrance and escape plan by determining what code is the most efficient to use in each puzzle. Think of this game as Portal meets The Matrix: you’ll be finding ways around challenging obstacles by manipulating the world around you as if you were Neo.
This is an amazing arcade-style 2-player game that combines fighting game controls with a good ol’ fashioned race-to-the-finish. As the yellow or orange player, your goal is to fight past your opponent and reach your end of the map. Each player is armed with a sword and can perform sweet stabs, swings, rolls and punches to kill your opponent. Once he’s dead, start running because they’ll respawn a couple seconds later! This game is starting to make its rounds, appearing on one line of arcade cabinets and even making an appearance at a recent fighting game tournament. If you’re into one-on-one competition with your friends, then keep an eye out for NIDHOGG.
I can’t believe I had FUN playing an iPad app. Spaceteam is a new co-op game for iOS and Android devices that has you and up to three friends shouting crazy technobabble commands at each other as you try to man your own spaceship. If you ever wanted to feel like you’re on the crew of the Enterprise and love Hitchhiker’s Guide-style sci-fi humor, then make sure to download this app. Right now, it’s free on the App Store. What have you got to lose?
If you’re a fan of Super Smash Bros., then you will probably enjoy Towerfall. Much like Smash, this game is a chaotic 4-player fighting game. The difference? This game’s combat places emphasis on fighting with a bow and arrow. Items can be found in chests that give you special powers that aid in the brawl, from wings that make you fly to upgrades for your arrows (bomb, homing, laser, etc). This game is also much more fast-paced than Smash Bros., with lots of things to watch for as you play. For example, if you run out of arrows, you need to find more strewn about the stage. Also, watch out above you, because opponents jumping on you kills!
Coming out for the PC, the PlayStations 3 and 4 and the Xbox 360, Contrast is a game that really has potential. The visuals are beautiful, the gameplay is unique and smooth, and the story sounds incredibly interesting. To sum it up, you play as a woman named Dawn who has the ability to turn into a shadow and run along other shadows on the wall. Through this mechanic you solve puzzles to advance the story. The story follows Dawn after she meets a young girl named Didi at a train station. Didi has a depressingly dysfunctional family (her mother was murdered and she has an estranged father), and asks Dawn to use her powers and change these past events. Contrast may just be the first breakout indie game of the next console generation.
Spin the Bottle: Bumpie’s Party
Forget the next Smash Bros. If I’m getting a Wii U, it’s going to be for this game, designed by two Swedish game companies. While labeled as family-friendly, there are certainly some entertainingly awkward moments to be had playing Spin the Bottle. The game focuses on a very innovative approach: using the Wii U’s unique controllers to revitalize classic physical-challenge party games. One minigame may have you going on an Easter egg hunt for Wiimotes around the living room, and for the next game you might be forced to lock arms with one of your friends and spin really fast as if you are a drill. This game focuses greatly on interaction with other people rather than your television screen, which is a breath of fresh air in today’s techno-savvy world.
While these were my top picks for games at Indiecade, that doesn’t mean there were no other games the festival had to offer. There were 111 games featured at Indiecade this year, far too many to include in one article! If you want to see what other upcoming indie games tickle your fancy, check out the complete list on the Indiecade website.
The Minus World is written by Steven Brasley. You can keep up with his thoughts on gaming via Twitter.