Indie Games. There sure are a lot of them around these days. Let’s see what happens if you play over a thousand of them.
Hello! My name is Danny, and I might be an idiot. A little while ago, you might remember indie game website itch.io hosted the “Bundle For Racial Justice and Equality”, which bundled together a whopping selection of 1,741 art assets, soundtracks, books, tabletop games and, what we will be focusing on in this series: video games. Of the 1,741 items in the bundle, a still-crazy 1109 of them were video games, and the lineup boasted some extremely hot-ticket games like Celeste, Oxenfree and Octodad. The bundle only cost a meagre $5 US (a minimum donation, which you could exceed), and all proceeds were donated to charities supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.
Here’s where the whole “me being an idiot” part comes in: I bought the bundle, and now I’m going to play all 1,109 of those games, and tell you about them. Here’s how it’s going to work:
- Every week, I’ll play 5 of the games for a good amount of time (an hour usually, but longer if I feel like it and shorter if the game’s not an hour-long)
- I’ll rattle off my first impressions of each game in a weekly article.
- Hopefully, within the decade, I’ll be finished, and I’ll have brought light to some great hidden gems in the process.
In this inaugural edition of “Impressive Indies”, the games I’ll be playing are as follows:
- Indie darling platformer Celeste
- Kitty sandbox Catlateral Damage
- Lo-fi retail horror Night of the Consumers
- Trippy Pico-8 game anthology Pixel Session Vol.1
- Time-twisting Metroidvania Vision: Soft Reset
To make it absolutely clear, these are my first impressions of the games and are in no way full reviews. So, if I say something that sounds stupid in the context of the full game, please forgive me!
Perhaps this was not the best game for me to start out with – I mean, what can I say about Celeste that has not already been said? Although I’m ashamed to admit it, this was my first time playing Matt Makes Games’ 2018 platforming powerhouse, and it was every bit as fantastic as I’d been led to believe it would be. Needless to say, I sunk far longer than an hour into this game.
Celeste is a game about movement. It’s simultaneously frustrating and soothing in such a way that encourages players to enter a kind of flow state that, once cracked, is immensely satisfying. Non-existent loading times and snappy controls encourage that elusive “just one more go”-factor. The game’s gloriously gratifying gameplay works alongside a beautiful soundtrack, gorgeous visuals and funny writing to create a final product that feels genuinely special. You don’t need to hear it from me, but Celeste is undoubtedly worth your time. Go play it.
Cats and the Internet have coexisted for generations now. From the heady days of the infamous LOLcats to more modern cat antics, the Internet has, notoriously, served primarily as a means of cat appreciation essentially since its inception. Catlateral Damage is a game that seeks to further this relationship by allowing players to fill the shoes (or, er, paws) of their feline friends, and cause a little havoc in the process.
I won’t lie to you: Catlateral Damage is not a complicated game, by any means. You choose a cat, choose a level and you’re in. You have a set amount of time (or unlimited, if you choose the game’s “Litterbox Mode”) to knock as many things onto the floor as possible. Socks, DVDs, shop items and more are all fair game in this first-person paw-’em-up. There’s an essence of the Katamari games here, between the pastel-hued, cel-shaded art style and the chaotic gameplay. You unlock cat pictures. It’s a cat game. What more can I say? If it’s for you, you’ll know it is by now. It’s great cathartic fun for an hour or so, but I can see the gameplay wearing thin on longer play sessions.
Night of the Consumers
This game genuinely terrified me. Whether it was the fact that I have real-life retail experience and some of this game’s horrors are a little too real; or it was simply that I’m a wuss and much of my playtime with this game was spent alone, in the dark wearing headphones; one thing’s for sure: Night of the Consumers knows how to make you anxious.
In Night of the Consumers, you play a newly-hired retail Assistant in a supermarket. Your job (quite literally) is to stock shelves and occasionally help customers find what they’re looking for. Sounds benign enough, but the game’s horror comes from its visual and audio design. Night of the Consumers, like many indie horror titles, draws from PS1-era graphics to create an unsettling lo-fi atmosphere. Paired with this aesthetic is some unnerving sound design, with music and effects helping to make the customers feel like genuinely horrifying creatures, their shrill cries of “excuse me” sending a jolt up the player’s spine every time. Night of the Consumers combines a novel concept with skilful presentation to create an oppressive, adrenaline-pumping gaming experience.
Night of the Consumers is only available for the PC on itch.io.
Pixel Session Vol. 1
So this game is actually a compilation of sorts, with 5 games playable in one package. Only the first edition and I’m already breaking the format somewhat. The games are all made for the virtual console Pico-8, which challenges developers to make games under harsh limitations. This means that they’re all easily playable on your browser, but here’s the catch: apart from the first game, each game in Pixel Session Vol. 1 is locked behind a passcode, which can only be found after getting a certain score in the previous game.
I could give a detailed rundown of each game in Pixel Session, but to do so would feel a little reductive. Any dry attempt I could make at explaining the games would, I feel, do Pixel Session a disservice, especially lending to the discovery-forward format of unlocking the games within the package. With this in mind, know this, dear reader: Pixel Session Vol. 1 is absolutely worth your time. All five of the games here are tricky, addictive and use the limitations of Pico-8 to its advantage to create a uniquely trippy and energetic set of games.
Pixel Sessions Vol.1 is only available for the PC on itch.io.
Vision: Soft Reset
So… Metroidvanias, huh? There sure are a lot of them these days. And, I mean, why not? It’s a very interesting gameplay loop. It lets players develop a familiarity with your world, encourages exploration, gameplay experimentation, and is generally a great way to show off an art style. However; it’s impossible to overlook the sheer amount of Metroidvanias that there are; and with heavy hitters like Hollow Knight, Bloodstained and the Ori games leading the charge, smaller indie titles really have to have something unique to show off. Luckily for Vision, this exists in the form of the game’s time-bending mechanic.
Vision: Soft Reset is more Metroid than ‘Vania, seeing you battling your way through an alien civilisation and uncovering its secrets, unlocking new abilities as you go. Where Vision differs itself from its genre peers is in its Prince of Persia-esque mechanic where you’re allowed to rewind a couple of seconds back a limited amount of times. On top of this, you see a shadow of enemy attacks and positions about a second before they happen.
These two elements add an element of strategy to fight encounters, allowing players to choose between conserving health in smaller fights by rewinding, or to conserve their rewind for boss battles. I, admittedly, haven’t gotten as far as I’d like to in this one, but I definitely plan on playing it to completion soon. Its art style is nice (if a little uninspired), it’s got a decent original soundtrack, and the standard moment-to-moment gameplay is pretty satisfying and fun.
So, that’s my rundown of 5 of the 1,109 indie games I’ll be covering over the next century or so. Only 1,104 to go! Tune in next week for more! If there’s a game in the bundle you’d like me to look at next, let me know, and I’ll give it a go!
As always, thanks for joining us here at Gamer’s Waypoint. If you enjoyed this, please share it with your friends and check out our Twitter page!
We’ve got a YouTube channel too – our newest video is about Siren: Blood Curse and it’s a very good watch. Or how about reading our Steins;Gate review?
18,145 total views, 10 views today