The Gadget Show Live once again invaded the NEC recently to showcase all the latest tech and computer wizardry that we can expect to see hit shelves in the near future. With flying drones commanding the air above the show and RC cars running about on the floor, navigating the three giant halls full of gadgets was somewhat of a game within itself.
However, the real games of the show were hidden away in the back corner of the event. Nestled between the two giants of Evolve and Sniper Elite 3 was the Indie Game Zone, a small and inconspicuous stand that housed a handful of great indie games currently in development. All the games being showcased brought something unique to the stand and were manned by their brilliant developers who couldn’t wait to show everyone who looked even the slightest bit interested their games.
So as you can probably tell, I enjoyed my time at the Indie Game Zone at the Gadget Show Live. If you couldn’t make it to the show (or if you didn’t find the time to play them all) here are the five Indie Games that stood out the most to me.
5. Salvaged (Opposable Games)
Despite only being able to play quite a small vertical slice (or proof of concept) level I was mightily impressed by Salvaged. Its biggest defining feature is that the game is running on a PC but you control the action via a tablet (it was an iPad in the demo I saw). By using some technical magic, the team behind Salvaged have made the link between tablet and PC seamless.
The tablet is used for manoeuvring your squad of four around a space ship, looking for salvage. Tapping on the birds-eye-view map will move your selected squad member to that location to search for the item you need to recover. Obviously to add some challenge, enemies will try and stop you from finding your salvage. In the level I played alien like monsters would run towards my squad members, so I simply watched the PC monitor (which shows a first person view of each of your squad members) whilst they destroyed whatever came their way. Once we found the salvage I needed to enter a key code displayed on the PC monitor into a keypad on the iPad, and once that was done the level was over.
The technology behind the dual screen experience and the possibilities it allows for are perhaps the most exciting part of Salvaged. Weather the developers manage to take advantage of these possibilities remains to be seen but there is a very high chance that Salvaged could transition into a great game, with one of the most unique control schemes I have seen in a while.
A KickStarter campaign for Salvaged has just been launched. The team is looking for $125,000; you can contribute towards that amount right here.
4. MagNets (Total Monkery)
Billed as a collect-em-up, MagNets was the game that surprised me the most. Sitting down to play I was shown the simple controls (left stick to move and the A button on a 360 pad to deploy my net) and a quick look up at the screen showed some relatively basic graphics. However once I started playing I fell in love with the simple yet incredibly addictive game play.
Explaining the gameplay with words alone would ne nigh on impossible, so here is a pre-alpha video from Total Monkery (seen above). The general idea is that you deploy your net before trying to surround as many Bloxbots as possible within its reach. Trap a Bloxbot twice in the net and it will be destroyed, giving you their scrap metal. If you collect enough scrap metal you can take it to a machine that (in the demo I played at least) gave me a transistor like object that needed to be placed in certain location on the floor. Collect three of these transistors and the level was won.
What really struck me as I was playing MagNets was just how easy it was to pick up and play. I didn’t really understand what the aim was when I first started, but within a matter of seconds it became clear what must be done. Playing the game is incredibly fun, the gameplay is so simple, yet there is a certain level of skill involved. Hopefully MagNets will still be just as fun when it launches later this year.
3. Space Farmers (Bumpkin Brothers)
Space Farmers has perhaps the best basic plot idea ever. Listen to this blurb taken from the game’s website:
You’re trapped on an alien space station and forced to share your secret British agriculture secrets. With no means of escape or tea making facilities this is all very uncivilized!
If that doesn’t already warrant a pre-order, then taking a look at the game itself certainly will. Not only is the art beautiful (and the character models even more so), but the level design is smart, fun, and exciting. Even in the four levels I got to play, numerous mechanics and clever design were employed. At the start of each level each player has to pick up equipment, but there will usually be limits on what can be taken. The first level saw us both with guns; the next couple of levels saw one with a gun (which I handed off to the lovely developer who was my co-op partner) and another slightly more abstract option. One level offered some goggles that would reveal hidden mines to both players but only in a small cone of vision, meaning planning and precise movement was in order. Another level saw me grab some gloves that allowed me to pig up and move pigs, which believe it or not were vital for completing the level.
Space Farmers easily has the potential to be one of the best co-op games of recent time. Not only are the levels well designed but they also make working together a necessity, something a lot of co-op games are missing.
2. FortressCraft Evolved (ProjectorGames)
Unlike the rest of the games on this list I’m going to guess a lot of you have already heard of FortressCraft. Having already become a mega hit on the Xbox LIVE Indie Games service, thanks in part to its obvious similarities to Minecraft, the voxel building title is heading to PC – but as its title suggests it has evolved slightly.
The biggest and most instantly noticeable change from the 360 version is the Oculus Rift integration. Although I’m still somewhat skeptical about the hardware, its use in FortressCraft works surprisingly well. Feeling like you are in a world made of blocks is certainly strange but is also great fun. The core gameplay is still the same, and I’m sure you can guess the general idea of what you will be doing. Building things is still the main activity, and the tools available to you make this easier then ever. With massive worlds that are apparently “quintillions of times bigger than Minecraft”, the possibility to build mega structures on a never before seen scale is obvious.
I spent hundreds of hours in the Xbox 360 version of FortressCraft and made some impressive structures including a complex hedge maze within a giant pyramid. The new additions to the PC version mean that I will probably put in just as much time, and you should too. FortressCraft may look like a shameless Minecraft clone, but the differences are so obvious once you start playing. Give it a chance and it will surprise you.
1. Tiki Taka Soccer (Panic Barn)
Football games on mobile devices have traditionally been a very basic affair. That’s not to say they aren’t great, but none have really managed to recreate anything close to a real match situation. Step forward Tiki Taka Soccer, a mobile game that manages to bring a full football match experience with simple controls and cute art.
Looking at the pitch from a top down view, you control your full team of eleven players by simply tapping where you want them to go. When you have the ball you tap open ground to dribble, tap a player to pass, or swipe towards goal in order to shoot. Without the ball you tap a player to select them, and then tap the opponent with the ball in order to make a tackle. The basics of gameplay really are that simple and lead to an incredibly easy to play simulation on a mobile device. Playing matches isn’t the only thing on offer in Tiki Taka Soccer, as when the game launches this summer you will be able to manage and grow your team in an attempt to take them to the top of club football.
The on-pitch action of Tiki Taka Soccer is unlike anything I have seen on mobile devices. Not only is playing incredibly fun, but it is surprisingly realistic, and the pixel art graphics make it beautiful to look at. I am very excited for Tiki Taka Soccer and can see myself putting in a lot of hours.