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The Best Indie Games You (n)Ever Played...

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May 1, 2008, 12:00 IST

Ahmed Shaikh

There are games that cost a small country\'s GDP to make, and are about as much fun to play as dipping naked into a pool filled with hungry piranhas must be. And then, there are Indie games. Small, short, fun, and brimming with unique ideas. These are the games that take the risk. These are the games that protect you while you sleep. This is thus a public service announcement: adopt an Indie game, save the world.

And Yet It Moves
http://www.andyetitmoves.at/

And Yet it Moves is a classic platformer with a twist—while it lets you run and jump around the game world, like any Mario game might, it also gives you the unique ability to rotate the entire world. This simple mechanic opens up opportunities in level design which are used to great effect by the game. Platforming puzzles take on a new bend asking you to literally get your head around them to solve: rotate the world around and walk on the ceilings or run along the walls! When you rotate the world, all objects are briefly frozen in mid-movement, only to continue in their original velocity after the rotation. The game, created by a group of students at the Vienna Institute of Technology, also uses an attractive “ripped-paper” look to translate its world. Give it a go!
                             

Cactus Arcade
http://www.cactus-soft.co.nr/

Jonatan Söderström is a young game designer from Gothenburg, Sweden and Cactus Arcade is a compilation of some of the best games he has released under the banner of his fledgling game development company Cactus / Games. The compilation consists of 17 games that vary across genres—from platformers to shoot ‘em ups.                                                     
Clean Asia, for example, is a vertical shooter in which you play the role of some US fighter pilots as they go against an alien menace. The game has three levels and two selectable ships, each with unique controls and abilities. It faces you off against fourteen bosses and around ten regular enemies.
The compilation also contains Shotgun Ninja—a platformer, and SeizureDome which Jonatan describes as a sumo wrestling game but with guns: the goal is to avoid letting the swarm of enemies push you outside of a ring; using powerups, and special weapons to garner combo kills.
Trilby: The Art of Theft
http://www.escapistmagazine.com/content/games/yahtzee/artoftheft

As its name suggests, this game is all about pulling off heists. In The Art of Theft you control Trilby, a thief out to “scare the ignorant rich by hitting them where it hurts—their wallets”. It is a mission-based, stealth platformer, presented in 2D and created by Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw—the British-born author of several adventure games and the hilarious Zero Punctuation series of video reviews.
Your goal in The Art of Theft is to infiltrate a variety of buildings in Chapow City, steal loot, avoid alarms and security guards and get out again without being caught. The game allows you to trigger a certain number of alarms each level, before forcing you to play the level again. Similarly, you can tazer security guards to knock them unconscious—this too can only be done a limited number of times each level. The game then scores you on the basis of time taken, loot stolen, and alarms triggered, and so on.
                                                      
Karoshi 2.0
http://gmc.yoyogames.com/indexphp?showtopic=369491

Karoshi and its sequel both consist of a series of levels in which the goal is for the player character to kill himself. The levels are essentially puzzles, each with a different goal—while some might ask you a simple Yes / No question (“Are you an idiot?”), others will see you pushing crates and collecting coins. With progressing levels, the puzzles get more bizarre and clever and the game succeeds in being fun by not resorting to obtuse puzzles. The second game is more varied in its content than its predecessor, which had one too many levels consisting of crate-pushing puzzles.
                                                       
You Have To Burn The Rope
http://www.mazapan.se/games/BurnTheRope.php

Perhaps the shortest game in this list, or not, depending upon the way you interact with games. The game has been described as a “joke” by its creator—the 21-year old half-Persian, half-Finnish Kian Bashiri. Kian describes it as “this really silly idea… a statement about how games are too hard and complicated. It’s also a subtle reference to how some games are kind of patronising toward the player, like too easy.” The tongue-in-cheek nature of the game is also reflected in the ending credit song which declares: Now you are a hero / you managed to beat the whole damn game / we are happy you made it / but how are you gonna spend the rest of the day?
You of course, hit refresh and play it all over again.
                                                           
Gesundheit
http://www.underwaterbase.com/

This game has you from hello—playing a sneezing pig to save a city from snot-eating monsters? If your heart doesn’t skip a beat to the idea, then you sir, have no soul! Geshundheit is a 12-level action / puzzle game created by Matt Hammill. The game features handmade “scratchboard graphics” and an original toy-instrument soundtrack, making it a true treat for both the eyes and the ears! Matt has only released a demo, but the demo contains the aforementioned twelve levels and a tutorial to teach you how to sneeze.
                                                      
The puzzle aspects make this game an interesting experience through its levels: while keeping out of sight, you must lure your enemies with your delicious nasal discharges. Objects scattered around town provide your pig with different ways of solving each puzzle. Boogericious!
PAROXYSM
http://neuralscan.co.uk/Paroxysm.html

Spinning blades, swinging axes, pools of blood, and lots of fun, that’s Paroxysm in a nutshell. If you crave for a platformer with cool traps and fiendish jumps to sink your afternoon into, this game will do you little wrong. The concept is simple: You have fallen into the Dungeon, and the only way out is through it.
As the game says, “Be quick, be smart. Your life depends on it.”
                                                        
Cottage of Doom
http://sourceforge.net/project/showfiles.php?group_id=197730

If Geshundheit (read on) grabs you by its concept and artwork, Cottage of Doom does so by the sheer force of its name. Cottage, OF DOOM. DOOM. Admit it: you want to play this bad-boy right now, caress its DOOM, rub your mouse all over…
                                   
CoD is an arcade shooter with a survival-horror bend. The game puts you inside a Cottage (of DOOM) and throws an ever-increasing number of zombies at you. The goal is simply to survive as long as possible. What makes it cooler than cool is that you can interact with your surrounding—repair doors and windows to serve as barricades, pick up and use furniture to get ammo and planks, and of course right-click to shoot (combo kills rack you bonus points). It’s a hectic little shooter that fittingly always ends with your DOOM.
Dot Fighters
http://www.indiegames.com/blog/2006/10/news_39.html

Takase’s Dot Fighters is a 2D fighting game with a unique art style. The game’s sprites are made up of exaggerated pixels and coloured squares. As a fighting game, while it does not reach the level of complexity of a Virtua Fighter or even a Dead or Alive—its fighting engine is nevertheless satisfying enough to entertain. Two attack buttons are used—to punch and to kick, however there are plenty of moves that emerge from this two-button combination. Successful fights see you accumulate Dot Power which can then be used to unleash special attacks. Four fighters are available in the latest version of this Japanese title. Gameplay is extended slightly by the Quest Mode which adds additional boss fights and bonus rounds.
                                                     
(CONTROLS: [A] = punch [S] = kick. [ESC] = pause the game. [Alt] + [Enter] = fullscreen mode). Combos are usually initiated by tapping one of the action buttons repeatedly. Additional moves such as air combos, reversals, throws, safe landings and rolls are all here.
Toribash
http://www.toribash.com/

Toribash is an idea that at first seems bizarre and gimmicky but soon presents itself as a wickedly good twist to an age-old genre. Toribash is a turn-based fighting game. Yeah, you read that right. The turn-based fighter features character customisation, online multiplayer, saving and sharing of replays, and plenty of gore and dismemberment. The core of the game sees your character represented by a rag-doll (the appearance of heads, limbs, and joints can be changed).
                                                 
The game is then played by manipulating the various joint that comprise this rag-doll, and then hitting the spacebar to inflict dangerous kung-fu on the opponent’s rag-doll. When properly manipulated your rag-doll will strike the opponents and will do a certain amount of damage based on the angle of attack, the momentum, and so on. The hours disappear into Toribash as you seek to find the best combination of angled arms, twisted hips, bent ankles and so on… to effect flying limbs and fountains of blood from your opponent.
De Blob
http://www.fun-motion.com/physics-games/de-blob/

De Blob entered the mainstream radar when THQ picked it up for a release on the Wii console. The game was a project by students at the Utrecht School of the Arts, developed by a team of nine in just four months. De Blob is a 3D game in which the player controls a blob of paint rolling through the city. The goal is to paint the entire town—not just red but in various colours available. The blob absorbs new colours by rolling over characters in the game world and as it does so, it also becomes larger. The game also allows mixing of colours to create new colours: if you need to turn green you’ll have to pick up a blue and a yellow person. Almost everything in the game can be painted—the trees, the buildings, the cars, the blob even leaves a trace of paint on the ground as it rolls along. The game offers 17 landmark buildings which must all be painted to fulfill the goal of the game. De Blob also hides 50 coins across its level that can be found by meeting platforming challenges.
                                                          
Chalk
http://www.konjak.org/chalk.htm

Draw your way to glory! Chalk is a unique action game created by Joakim Sandberg—some of his professional work can be seen in games such as X-Men 3: The Official Game released for the Nintendo GBA and Contra 4, released for the Nintendo DS. In chalk your drawings are the means to interact with the game world. Your right mouse button controls player movement, while you draw shapes with the left button to interact with the game elements.
                                                            
Chalk allows you to draw lines across shapes in the game world in order to destroy them, or turn bullets back at your enemies, and defeat bosses by bouncing stuff off them, much like a game of Arkanoid.
The game comes with six levels. Beating each of them with an A ranking, unlocks the endurance challenge.
Phun
http://www.phun.at/

Phun is a game in the most classic sense of being an open sandbox which allows you to do pretty much anything that is anchored with a pretty good simulation of the basic laws of physics. As a sandbox game, how much fun you have with it, is entirely up to you. It was created as a thesis project by Computing Science student Emil Ernerfeldt. Think of Phun as The Incredible Machine meets your physics professor.
                                                    
Racing Pitch
http://secretexit.com/games/racingpitch

Well here’s a strange one from an independent game development company of two called Secret Exit. Racing Pitch calls on you to race around the track using, wait for it, your engine-mimicking skills to race down tracks. A microphone is an essential tool for the game as you literally blow “vroooom vroooom” noises into the phone to move your race car around. The speed of the car is controlled by the pitch of your engine mimicry and no other control points are required except for your voice.
                                                                   
Racing Pitch also has party games to break the monotone, and its track challenges add another layer to this simple concept. The game also allows you to take a break from the racing by taking a flight in a hot air balloon. While not a game one would sink hours into, it’s definitely one that will leave you breathless!
Rose and Camellia
http://nigoro.jp/game/rosecamellia/rosecamellia.php

In Rose and Camellia, the goal is to slap your opponent silly, in order to climb the social ladder. Why are you still reading this?
Since this is in Japanese: To launch your slap, move the mouse from the bottom right of the screen to the upper left, creating a line that crosses the opponent’s cheek. Click on the evasion button to avoid your opponent’s attacks, and counter attack. Move the cursor from the bottom left of the screen to the bottom right to sidestep a slap.                               
                                                          
Ocular Ink
http://pistachioproductions.com/dart/

An oldie from 2005, Ocular Ink is a bizarre game that features you as the role of a paintbrush-wielding eyeball. Gameplay is through gestures rather than button presses—think Black & White—these gestures play a variety of effects on your surroundings and help you vanquish the evil dismembered body parts (are those kidneys?!) that roam the countryside as you make progress to defeat the evil eye-pirate known as Patches Deadlights. Cute.
                                         
The game also comes with a full-featured level editor, called DARLA which can be accessed from the main menu. All the game assets are available to edit and you can either alter existing maps or create your own levels via neat features such as terrain height manipulation, which allows you to lower, raise, and deform terrain to create landscapes.
Knytt / Knytt Stories
http://nifflas.ni2.se/index.php?main=02Knytt_Stories

Knytt is a 2D platform game developed by Nicklas Nygren. The game sees a creature called Knytt (“tiny creature” in Swedish) abducted by an alien and taken to a planet, where the abductor’s ship crashes trapping both Knytt and the alien on an alien land.
                                       
The story then sees Knytt venture into the alien world to look for the missing parts of the spaceship. The game has no bosses or alien creatures to defeat—it is described as “ambient gaming”, in that you explore a world which is at best oblivious to your presence. The game has a prequel to its name called Knytt Stories which builds upon Knytt by offering four worlds of varying sizes to explore. Each world is a self-contained adventure. For example, in one particular level, you have to stop a machine that sucks the life out of the planet.
                                         
Warning Forever
http://www18.big.or.jp/~hikoza/Prod/

Warning Forever is an amazing shoot ‘em up that throws in the mechanic of a boss-rush to make it an absolute must-play for fans of the genre. The game pits you against a constant stream of battles that increase in difficulty as you progress.
                                            
Each of the game’s stages consists of a single boss battle. To progress to the next stage, the boss must be completely destroyed within the time limit. The game starts with a default time limit of 180 seconds, with 30 seconds rewarded for every boss defeated and 20 seconds lost for each time the player is destroyed. It’s fast, it’s frantic, it’s clever, and it’s a lot of fun.
Cave Story
http://agtp.romhack.net/project.php?id=cavestory

Cave Story is perhaps synonymous with Indie game development. First release in 2004 by Daisuke Amaya, it is the second Metroidvania game in our list and is perhaps the most sublime game created, not with a large budget, but with over five years of love and attention to detail. Simply put, Cave Story is a must-play for every gamer.
                                          
The game starts you off without any weapons but items are soon acquired throughout the game’s progress. Jet packs, beam weapons, bubble gun, and so on are some of the weapons and items that see you through the game’s tale of amnesiac robots, bunnies, and power-hungry scientists. The graphics, presentation, and music are deliciously retro and serve to underline the classic roots of this title.
                                                   
The Underside
http://www.superfundungeonrun.com/insignificantstudios/preview.php

Described by the author as an “exploration platform game”, Underside is a Metroidvania game similar to Castlevania, Metroid, and Cave Story. The difference lies in how progress is made: while classic Metroidvania games reward free-roaming exploration, Underside is more driven by plot.
                               
The story revolves around ‘Ip’ who must make his escape from the Underside, and prevent the world from being destroyed by the world’s god—The Universal King—while he’s at it. The game’s creator, Arthur Lee, claims to have been inspired by the classic Earthbound series (also known as Mother in Japan) in shaping the game’s concept of a flat world turned upside-down. Underside sees characters and dialogue that take on a quirky appeal, with a decidedly whimsical plot.
                                          


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