Indie Games are more important than Kratos and his Dumb Son.
Posted On May 23, 2018
Indie Games are more important than Kratos and his Dumb Son.
Let’s just take a moment to appreciate that click-bait title…
Ok, now that we’re done with that let’s talk turkey, and by turkey, I mean Indie games, and how my recent brush with them has me rethinking how I experience gaming. You see, I recently spent some time at PAX East, and I met a lot of devs, and the small indie guys at PAX Rising were amazing and I’m proud to say I’ve backed 2 Kickstarters, and will in the future be backing indie games more often.
When I went to PAX East, it was my first time ever going so I did some recon on what would be happening, what exhibitors would be there, who was presenting what, and all that jazz. I found that PAX had this thing called PAX Rising where they would showcase rising new devs who were making new and engaging games! I found myself really drawn to 3 specifically and I’m gonna focus on them!
ARMED AND GELATINOUS By Three Flip Studios: Dumb fun, with my dumb friends, on my dumb couch.
I have one pretty big qualm with gaming these days. A lot of the local multiplayer I grew up with, has fallen by the wayside. It’s more about online multiplayer than in person multiplayer or split-screen co-op. Now while that criticism can be contested by some great local multiplayer games that are out there, it is a good point, most games don’t have a way to play with your buddy unless your buddy is on their own console online. Great example “Gundam Versus”, the best Gundam game I’ve ever played, it is a fantastic mech fighter with a huge skill cap and a plethora of options for play, with quality character models and nostalgia inducing soundtrack. The problem is that Gundam Verus has no local PVP even though it is a fighter, which is insane. Fighter games are like the one game that truly needs Local PVP. It baffles me. Truly.
Regardless, At Pax Rising two of the games I saw that I’m going to talk about are local pvp, and seemed like a damn good time. One of them was Armed and Gelatinous, a dope free-for-all 2d space shooter where you play as gelatinous blobs armed to the teeth with firearms of varying power. It was easy and controller friendly and I went back to the A&G box to play a bunch of times at PAX. The game has a lot of variety to its playstyle and had a bunch of different game modes, but the ultimate premise is you play as a goofy little blob and fight other goofy little blobs. It actually reminds me of a game called Agar.io. If you know this game you get the base premise. You collect some objects, in this case, guns, and your character grows, and you can absorb your enemies to grow as well. Yes, the American way finally brought to you in an astute allegory as you play a flabby blob of varying colors fight over guns and kill each other… too poignant? Meh… fight me. Anyways, it was a lot of fun, speeding over the small arena grabbing guns that randomly assort themselves over your body as you then proceed to shoot them in an attempt to destroy your enemies. The guns wedge themselves into your blob character literally engorging them. The blobs start off cute and composed and tiny, but once you get like 6-10 firearms in that little bastard they look more bloated and uncomfortable than me after having one too many yummy tummy rolls at my favorite all you can eat sushi restaurant (Foody Goody in Lowell, great place, pictured in this paragraph). What I found to be an interesting quality of the game was that the guns are placed randomly over the blob and will end up making you jostle around the arena to better set up your shots. Also to add to the challenge of where your guns are placed is that they all fire off at the same time whenever you shoot! That sounds great until you realize your opponents are doing the same things as you and there is now a cadre of projectiles firing over the map, making it near impossible to dodge everything. It is a rowdy good time, the Kickstarter page refers to the game as a Bullet-hell space-shooter, and that is still easily the most perfect description of this game. Needless to say, I funded the game on Kickstarter, which has as of writing this met their goal! What honestly really drew me to this game as well as the next one I’m going to talk about is that it had local multiplayer which means I could get drunk with my friends at my place and engorge blobs as they ran around a map shooting errant projectiles at each other murdering and subsequently cannibalising their foes, which is just a solid way to spend time with your loved ones.
SYNTHRALLY By Roseball Games: The Legendary Descendant of Pong
Now, I’ve played games from every generation, from the earliest Atari BS to the cutting edge VR and high rez console blockbusters of today. So I’ve always found it interesting when a game or genre can be taken to a new height, in spite of all the history it is fighting against. Synthrally is such a game as it is for all intents and purposes in my humble opinion, a direct descendant of the pong games of old.
Pong is kinda boring, let’s be real. If you to this day would rather play classic pong over a lot of whats out right now, well then you and I just have drastically different tastes. It’s an old game with simple play, and no draw, and low engagement; Pong is an iconic game and has had a lasting effect on gaming, but still, it is not that fun now in comparison to what else is out there. It should be noted that in Synthrally you play more of a dodgeball Tron disk fight style of gaming, rather than a game of ping pong, but the similarities are there so just bear with me.
So why then is Synthrally a game based in pong playstyle(mostly) so important to me? Well, it’s what it does with it. Synthrally offers the variety of new playstyles and a very cool new aesthetic and executes on both of these factors perfectly. Most games who draw from classics like this do this, but I want to commend Synthrally for taking on this process and perfectly nailing it. Sleek and Tron-like, the game menu, to the game itself is just cool, it’s a solid visual experience that is accompanied by audio that really just emits that cyberpunk vibe I kind of crave. The game looks good, neat, so what? Well, that is not all my dear internal monologue I am using as a narrative device. No, you see Synthrally then makes the game by adding in its own take on game modes, which is fine, nothing really to write home about until we get to how clean it’s done. It’s tight, it works, the game modes are uniform and diverse, they add new challenge and flesh the game out of its simple back and forth rut. That’s what’s important about any game sequel, or a homage to an old game. You have to do new shit, but the new shit can’t be shit. So many times a sequel gives you more of the same, just cleaner, or they give you new but not nearly as refined as where you started.
Synthrally I believe hits this note of new and refreshing, executed with precision, in it’s 4 different equipment types. You see while it has multiple game modes, and it has customizable maps, and a clean play style that is often quite simply reflect the pong ball/disk, the real charm in the game is it has 4 distinct ways to interact with the pong ball. You can choose between 4 play types or types of equipment in the game each with varying special moves. These types are Shield, Barrier, Bow/Arrow, and Boomerang. I found my self often picking the boomerang as it was a very dynamic playstyle with high-risk/high-reward gameplay. You start off in an arena bouncing a black and white disk back and forth dodging it as best you can while it zeroes in on the enemy of whoever hit the disk last. You have two melee close encounter types in shield and barrier, or the two distance ranged types like boomerang and bow/arrow. It really adds the depth the game needs to push me from casually playing it as a web-game to actually investing money into having it on my console. This game also follows the theme of in-person multiplayer so I can play a good looking, sporty, Tron pong dodgeball game with my buds, which is genuinely all I care about at this point. Hats off to Synthrally for taking something simple and making it rad as heck, without muddling what it was trying to do, or just giving people more of the same, its important we take note of stuff like this, when companies think they can all just go make their own battle-royale to keep up with the hype of games like PUBG and Fortnite, or companies who revive games like Battlefront and absolutely bungle everything with a hamfisted, overtly capitalistic, and hurried approach. Ahem, FUCK YOU EA. Ahem. I didn’t cough, I just wanted to audibly pause and let everyone know my disdain. Onto the next game!
FAELAND By Talegames: Did Zelda and Castlevania have a baby? OH HECK YEAH THEY DID!
I’m garbage Metroidvania games, I’m passable at RPGs, and generally speaking, my gamer tag MediocreManChild is actually pretty dead on when it comes to me as a gamer. I’m needy and overly particular, I am not all that good or impressive, and I also identify as a man. Which brings me to a game I will undoubtedly be just passable at, Faeland! Faeland is a Metroidvania RPG style game and it looks amazing. It won’t be out until December of 2019 most likely, but it still looks amazing and I wanna talk about my experience with it and why it has me excited. Faeland first off, looks beautiful, ever since I took a Game Art class in college I’ve found pixel art and 8-bit music to be just plain amazing. This game does that stuff perfectly, describing itself as a homage to the 8-bit classics of old, made me warm all over. The game is centered around a hero, who goes off on adventures in dungeons and does quests, pretty simple. It brings in the concept of a changing inventory of weapons and gear and armor which will change and develop different playstyles, adding the diversity of gameplay that I crave in a gaming experience. I honestly just want choices folks, even if I’m just gonna pick the big heavy weapon and be a big dumbo for most of the game. I got to play it briefly at Pax and alongside the Dev Carlos, who has a pretty heavy hand in the game’s creation and development. He figured out pretty quickly I’m awful and offered me comfort. We talked about the skill that the game will demand of players and how much the game will grow in the coming year. I can’t wait to see how it grows, and as a backer, I get early access, and alpha testing privileges, so It will be chill times for a 1 TimwittedGenius.
What I think I’d like to talk about, because there is not much more I can go into about the game other than how it is literally Castlevania meets Zelda, is that it’s on Kickstarter even though it is a fantastic looking game that handled great. My question at first is why is such a solid game in need of funds, indie devs aren’t poor(They are), this concept is great(So what), most indie games don’t need crowdfunding (actually…). Yeah actually indie devs don’t have the money to be funding any project willy nilly, great concepts don’t get funded great money makers do, and actually, a lot of indie devs resort to crowdfunding to help make their games possible. Which is sad because crowdfunding is risky for the person offering up their money, and without a confirmable game and a history of scams on the internet it is hard to just hand over your hard earned money to a game that just looks cool. Yeah, you pre-ordered the new God of War, it’s motherfucking GOW, it has a history, a huge gaming studio and a console behind it, its got money up the dick to make it the best. That’s not to discredit GOW, I’m very excited by that game and when I have time to sit down and play it I will write about it. Back to the point at hand. Kickstarter is risky, but indie games need crowdfunding to succeed. So what do we do? As consumers we have to be responsible, buyer beware rings true in this day and age more than ever. My friend Dan, who helps me host this blog wrote a fantastic piece about Kickstarter scams, you should read it HERE after you’re done with this post. I mean look around, one example I often think of is Yooka LayLay, a game heralded to be the next Banjo Kazooie, fucking tragic. The game fell flat, took a long time to dev, left a lot of donors in limbo. Conversely because of Kickstarter me and my big sister got a Veronica Mars movie, which was hecka rad, and the card game Exploding Kittens is now in game shops all around. It’s definitely a difficult road for the little guy in an industry dominated by AAA game companies who get away with a lot of bullshit, and sometimes don’t deliver new and interesting but instead put forth safe and consistent. I think what we need to do, as gamers, is to genuinely look at the industry and rethink how we vote with our dollar. Stop for a second and remember that we are not starved for options, there are some fantastic alternatives. Yes, crowdfunding is risky, but like any investment, if you do your legwork and research a bunch, you could get a lot of dope games out of it.
I’ve Spoken my piece! here are the links to the 3 games I spoke about, and another link to my Buddy’s piece on Kickstarter scams! I’d love it if you left a comment on your take on all of this, or maybe what you think I should focus on in the future!