Indie games in space: The Bundle In A Box: Deep Space collection

Deeper in space: a new indie games bundle
Indie games are a strange breed. On the one hand, they offer unique experiences big publishers are reluctant to deliver to mainstream audiences. On the other hand, some are quite arthouse-oriented, like The Path, and lack what games are actually made for: being fun.
After an interesting selection of adventure games in its first bundle, Bundle In A Box goes right for the arcade jugular with Deep Space. As the title suggests, the pay-what-you-want model allows to experience old-school-shoot’em’ups, the long-forgotten space-sim and even an RPG set in space, among other arcade games.

Dig a little bit deeper with not much time and space
The number of games on offer is quite impressive and due to time constraints, I only had the chance to play them in short sittings. With most of them that can be the best way to get into them, some other may need some more time to fully realize their potential. Therefore I’ll only briefly give my first impressions, to have an idea what to expect from this cool package.

(2010, developer: Psytronik)
PC remake of a C64 classic side-scrolling shooter in which the player controls a ship through waves of enemies and has to defeat big bosses.
Unfortunately I didn’t even complete the first stage due to the aforementioned time constraints and because of the high difficulty level. Very old-school learning-enemy-attack-patterns and precise navigation through the levels is required. Nice soundtrack, even if sound effects and graphics are a bit dated, but then again it seems to be a faithful conversion of the original. Also offers two-player mode.
Some game to bite your fingernails in order to finally get through.

Bagfull of Wrong
(UK 2012, developer: Rob Fearson)
A collection of arcade one-screen-shooter projects.
My first impression was “WTF?!, is this for real”? Maybe it’s just a series of prototypes, things which didn’t work for the final product. But when looking closer and forgetting the unfair War Twat in which you more or less die instantly, and never mind the Ambiomat I still haven’t figured out what the purpose of that was… you find quite some fun and unique takes on the genre.

Fish Fish Bang Bang! has a fish in the middle of a pentagram which goes in circles, shooting beams at incoming enemies from the star’s points. The player can only influence the direction of this thing by one mouse click which makes it go counter-clockwise (and back again). Simple but fun.

Squid and Let Die is a creative combination of dodgeball and Pac Man in that the player can move the ship on a grid, collecting blinking dots by trying to avoid the laser shots from the sidelines. Another fun idea.

SYNSO (short for Squid Yes Not So Octopus) and Squid Harder are fast-paced Stardust, Asteroids-like one-screen-shooters which become quite hectic and unfair due to the quick movements of the player ship and enemies. Still in quick bursts fun to play, for eye-straining and epileptic people not so.

Dark Scavenger
(USA 2012, developer: Psydra Games)
With a crew of three aliens, the player has to collect source material to repair his ship and ends up in an intergalactic conflict.
Again there wasn’t much time to experience the whole game, which doesn’t do an RPG like that justice. Still the idea of scavenging the planet, finding more material and then using it to upgrade one’s equipment is quite refreshing for a turn-based first-person RPG. Depending which crew member the goods are given to, one either gets a better weapon, new items or even another ally (monster) to fight alongside. Characters and enemies are drawn nicely, music is varied enough, and the sense of humor makes it a light-hearted affair to play.

Death Ray Manta
(UK 2012, developer/publisher: Rob Fearon)
A one-screen player-vs-lots-of-moving-enemies shooter.
Reminiscent of Asteroids and with fireworks-flashy visuals like Stardust HD, there’s quite a lot of fun trying to escape the enemy waves and then finding room to blast them to hell. Having a drone after picking up an upgrade fire backwards is a useful tool, but it’s still a difficult game, especially with mines all over the place and not much time to react when the level starts. Could have used a continue-system or more lives, as the player always starts from the beginning. Awesome psychedelic techno-soundtrack as well. Fun fact: It’s better know as DRM, some kind of statement against recent game-copyright-protection-developments?

Miner Wars Arena
(Czech Republic 2012, developer/publisher: Keen Software House)
Mining vehicles with guns battle it out when carving their way through stone.
Very good graphics, explosions and effects. Even if it gets a bit stale in the mission-mode as one usually has to destroy the other enemies, this arena-based top-down shooter should be a lot of fun in multiplayer.

(USA/Germany 2011, developer/publisher: Retromite)
A small robot has to shoot and jump his way through spaceships by destroying their core reactors.
Interesting mixture of jump’n’gun with puzzle solving. Controls are a bit clunky, especially when it comes to precise platform jumping, but all in all it’s a fun little game with a catchy soundtrack as well. There are even bosses, unfortunately I couldn’t make it there yet.

Sol: Exodus
(USA 2012, developer/publisher: Seemless Entertainment)
As a commander and last hope of humanity, the player has to find a new home for his kind and fight against an unknown enemy.
Amazing graphics for such an independent game and high production values even in the voice acting, music and cutscenes, this is truly a worthy sequel to the Wing-Commander-X-Wing-etc.-space-sims of yesteryear. I only played the tutorial and first mission, but the sense of immersion brought me right back to the good old joystick-flight-control days…even by using a mouse-keyboard-combination. The bundle is worth the price alone for that game!

Space Giraffe
(UK 2007, developer/publisher: Llamasoft)
A trance-shooter like Jeff Minter’s Tempest (who is also the developer here), the player has to defend himself in a grid-space environment against alien invaders…or plants or whatever they are.
Trance, Schmance, it sure is addictive and one can be lost in this score-attack game (game over only resets the highscore, but one can still continue from the current level). The only problem is that due to the many explosions (enemies leave behind fireworks-like beams all over the place) strategy is sometimes futile as the screen is filled with light and one frantically tries to shoot and avoid everything. With a bit of practice, it becomes fun to blast through the levels in rhythm with the music.

War Mac 2000
(UK 2012, developer/publisher: Rob Fearon)
Even if I couldn’t play this version, as it’s MAC-only, it should just play like War Twat, meaning instant death if one is not careful and fast enough to avoid enemy fire in a close-space-arena.

The Wreckless
(Australia 2011, publisher/developer: Duct Tape Games)
Reinventing the space-sims of old, the player has to take control of a space ship and get rid of the typical enemy ships.
True I didn’t have much time to get into this game, but what can be said is that the voice acting is pretty horrible. Even for an indie game, it doesn’t help the atmosphere. Music was absent as well, at least in the first mission, story introduction not there as well. Controls were pretty difficult to get a grip on, as unlike other space sims the three-dimensional space was used to a detrimental effect. It was like controlling a helicopter. Maybe I should give it another go, but there are way better sims out there, and with Sol: Exodus, there’s also an indie game which is a much better alternative.

What’s left of the space
Even with not much time playing the games, the time spent was worth it and there are some games which demand more time investment (like Dark Scavenger or Sol: Exodus to fully appreciate them (maybe even giving The Wreckless another go.

Pay what you want to get and some more
A few words about the pay-what-you-want “business” model: If you pay the minimum price of 0,99 dollars, you only get Armalyte, Bagfull of Wrong, Dark Scavenger, Death Ray Manta, Space Giraffe, War Mac 2000 and The Wreckless. That’s still an impressive selection of good-value-for-no-money-at-all, and there is some additional content as well:
Armalyte Extras (concept art, behind-the-scenes making-of, jukebox with soundtrack), Dark Scavenger OST, Dark Scavenger Storyboards, Play SF digital magazine Issue 1 (which covers space and sci-fi gaming) and Droidscape: Basilica Book.
Especially the last goodie is interesting, because it paves the way to a soon-to-be-released smartphone game by Kyttaro Games in the near future, a "unique sci-fi action puzzle game featuring stunning graphics by acclaimed visual artist Hariton Bekiaris, music composed by Chris Christodoulou, stop-motion animation, over 70 taxing levels, a deep plot and, well, much more." if you believe the indie bundle-developer's Website.

Soon more exclusive content will be unlocked as well: Miner Wars OST, Sol: Exodus OST, Sol: Exodus Artbook, Miner Wars Encyclopedia.
Paying a bit less than 5 dollar (at the moment 4,60 dollars), you simply get the remaining games, and Sol: Exodus is, as said before, worth the price alone.

A box full of good stuff
All in all, this is a very good bundle of games with additional content one is hard to find anywhere else. Take into account that you don’t pay more than 5 dollars (you should actually give some more money to support the developers and the indie-bundle people, though), it’s easy to give a heartfelt recommendation for Bundle in a Box: Deep Space and hope to get many more indie collections in the future.

Power to the indies!
It goes without saying that one does not only get an awesome bunch of games for little money, but one also supports charity and the great Indie Dev Grant, giving new developers a platform to be creative and offer old-school experiences with innovative gameplay to a wider audience. Get involved NOW!


About nufafitc

Being an avid gamer, cinemaniac, and bookworm in addition to other things the internet and new media present, I'm also very much into DIY music, rock and pop in particular. Writing short or longer pieces about anything that interests me has always made me happy. As both an editor for German website "Adventure-Treff" and UK website "Future Sack", I like to write reviews and news about recent developments in the movies, games and book industry.
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