Indiecade this year returned to a new location at the University of Southern California campus and provided attendees the opportunity to play and preview indie games across genres from all over the world. These curated games challenge expectations and conventions. It’s always exciting to discover the different interpretations of what gaming can encompass, for the player and audience alike. So what stood out at Indiecade Festival 2016? Trevor and Will have hand selected a few of their favorite games from the show. Check them out below.
Dobotone was the most fun I’ve had in the four years I’ve attended Indiecade. Developed by Argentina based studio, Videogamo, Dobotone is basically a party video game console. Four people can play a variety of mini games by using two one-button controllers. A fifth player can manipulate the action via a set of remix knobs on the console itself. When I sat down to be the game remixer, I mischievously influenced the outcome of every match. In one mini game that tasks players to guide their character into a goal with a jetpack, I discovered how evil I can be when it comes to Dobotone. I was able to turn the gravity in the game all the way up, which meant no players can get off the ground, meaning no points can be scored until I lowered it. There’s also a knob to zoom in or out, which would affect the distance players had to reach to score a point in some of the game modes. Another knob can allow the remixer to add in glitches or affect the sound of the game. There’s only one of these consoles out there, but Videogamo hopes to further develop the party console in the future.
Each year Indiecade has several e-sport titles on display. Many of them are what you come to expect with slimmed down graphics and simple mechanics. But each one of them is as fun as the last. Botolo is one such game, developed by Ian Snyder as part of the New York University Game Center. The game pits two players in a hybrid match of keepaway and king of the hill. The arenas are divided up by zones that players capture by holding a ball within each zone’s borders. Players can steal the ball from their opponent’s but a well time push of a button can deflect any attack. My time with Botolo was short, but I left very satisfied with its fast pace and simple design. During the course of the match the tactics would start to uncover itself leaving me to think high level play in this game would be chaotic.
One of the best parts of Indiecade is it’s variety of games showcased. It’s important to remember many of these games are not computer or television based. There’s several tabletop and physical based titles known as “Big Games” showcased during the show. Threadsteading straddles the line between video and tabletop games. In fact it’s in its own category: quilt games. Threadsteading is a turn-based quilt game tasking two players to lead a scouting party through a hex-gridded quilt. Both players take turns deciding which direction the party will go by spending points. Players will earn back points after exploring certain territories, with an overall score deciding the winner after the entire grid is filled in. The game is played with a quilting machine via a custom input controller drilled into the side. As players input a command the machine will thread a single line along the path player chooses. At each tile, the machine will mark the player’s individual insignia. My time was short because it was the end of the day and Indiecade’s staff was rushing everyone out the door (boo!). But it was enough time for me to appreciate it’s unique play style. Instead of trying to grasp a set of mechanics and controls, I was only in charge of my tactics in winning the game. Some simple math is needed to decide which patch you want to lead the group and each decision had a risk and reward. I enjoyed that instant feedback and wish I can spend more time with Threadsteading.
Speaking with Navid Khonsari, I was given more insight into 1979 Revolution, a personal and powerful take on events in the Iranian Revolution, specifically Black Friday. Having worked as a Cinematic Director on Rockstar franchises such as Grand Theft Auto, Max Payne, it was easy to see the storytelling influences through the documentary-style and key character, Reza Shirazi, who is a photojournalist by trade. Told in an adventure game format, the choices and consequences gameplay allow for multiple endings and playthroughs. It’s also available now on Steam and the App Store.
Wheels of Aurelia
Similar to the time period as 1979 Revolution, Wheels of Aurelia also takes place during the end of the 1970s but focuses on the socio-political turmoil in Italy. The premise is a road trip, played as an isometric arcade racing game with adventure game themes. The best example I can think of here is OutRun. As Lella, a woman on the run, players interact with the world and cast of characters on the famous Via Aurelia. Driving on the highway, discover your passenger’s motivations and their desires to leave home. Some of which lead to illegal street races and police chases. Those interested can check out this roaring racer on Steam and Playstation 4 as a digital download.
EarthNight is not your typical endless runner. From start to finish, the visuals and mechanics feel like a painting come to life. The developers, Cleaversoft, imagined a world engulfed in a dragon apocalypse and it’s up to a 14-year old high schooler and freelance photographer, unexpected heroes to save the world. Geared for multiple runs, players alternate between skydiving, running on the backs of dragons, and journeying down to Earth. “Hand drawn procedural generated levels” comprise Earthnight and it’s certainly feels that it has enough variety for playthroughs, just watch out for the hazards along the way.