Don't underestimate the little guys.
The indie scene, due to its very nature, is like panning for a tiny golden nugget in the Pacific Ocean. There’s so much out there and only very few have the potential of becoming the next Super Meat Boy or Minecraft. It takes a solid idea, a tonne of work and more luck than many of us will experience in a lifetime to make an industry-changing game.
As a consumer with shallow pockets and limited time, trawling through the five hundred iterations of Floppy Bird and Cube Mining Simulator is more than a chore. The result is an area of PAX AUS that’s often overlooked.
We toured the PAX Rising stands and have picked out the best of the best independently developed games so you know what to keep an eye out for in the coming months.
The Gardens Between
This is a cute little puzzle solving game that has you controlling time rather than a player. It features small levels that are essentially little islands with spiralling pathways to the top. They present various stoppages such as a missing bridge or a pile of Jenga blocks that prevent the progression of two characters.
Puzzles will make you move time backwards and forwards and interacting with specific items in the world. These cause and effect puzzles gradually increase in complexity but are always logical. During our demo of The Gardens Between, there were some enigmas that took a few extra minutes to get through, but each one had an almost literal light-bulb moment as though I should have known the solution all along.
Developer Hendrick said, “I wanted to make a game that even my Mum could play.”
With such simple controls and logical puzzles The Gardens between is most certainly challenging, yet accessible to everyone. Even ya Mum!
Sinner: Sacrifice For Redemption
This is a game you want to play if you hate yourself.
Inspired by Dark Souls in terms of both challenge and aesthetics, Sinner pits you against gigantic bosses, each representing the seven deadly sins plus an eighth that represents something significantly more evil.
What separates Sinner from most other games in the genre is that at the beginning of the game, your character is as powerful as it will ever be. We’re talking maxed-out health, strong weapons and plenty of abilities. In order to fight each boss you must first make a permanent sacrifice to continue, be it a weapon, some health or an ability. Rather than the bosses you face getting harder, your character gets weaker.
If that’s not challenging enough, the enemies you face change their attacks and patterns each time you play, so just when you feel you’re getting somewhere, things change and you inevitably die shamefully. This is on the assumption that the developers hate you and take pleasure in your suffering.
The visual style, animations and abundance of hitbox porn are almost at triple-A levels so check out Sinner here when it launches next year. I’ll be keeping an eye on its developer as I think there’s a lot of potential with this crew.
Projection: First Light
No doubt people glancing at trailers or screenshots of Projection will assume this is either a spiritual successor, or a complete rip off of Limbo. On the surface, there’s no denying the similarities. But Projection is quite a lot more than that. With characters and sprites beautifully designed to look like shadow puppets, it’s a puzzle-platformer in which your character manipulates light to create shadows which she can interact with.
For example, when facing a platform that’s too high to reach, you’ll have to manipulate the game’s only light source so the platform casts a shadow in the right direction essentially creates a temporary ramp you can walk up.
In the short demo I played, puzzles involved not only manipulating the light itself but also picking up and moving objects and pulling leavers which had varying effects on the world. The act of redirecting the light to cast shadows is a challenging thing to get your head around and you really need to adjust your way of thinking in order to figure things out.
This platforming shooter was at PAX AUS last year, but it’s now much more refined. It’s a super fast-paced platforming shooter that has your character saving hostages, diffusing bombs and killing baddies. Friendly fire is always on both for your character and the enemies. That means you can easily kill hostages if you’re not careful; if you’re clever — and lucky — enemy fire will thin their own herd.
The controls of this game are so tight I’m going to go out on a limb and compare it to Super Meat Boy. It feels absolutely perfect to play; short levels with a series of objectives and the desire to complete them all within a timeframe will have players coming back to this one over and over again to get that perfect run. It’s expected to be out on PC and consoles (including Switch) in Q2 2018 and is certainly one to look out for.
For now the demo is available here for free and it’s definitely worth trying out.
These are only a select few of some amazing games on show at PAX AUS this year. While the games were all very different in their own light, all displayed an unbelievable amount of creativity, innovation and passion. Don’t be too quick to dismiss indie developers. You never know when you might stumble across the next big thing.
Did you tour the PAX Rising pavilion this year? What was your highlight game?