Tis the season to get stuffed with good indies
Thanksgiving is already over, but there’s more than enough time to stuff oneself with lots of games in the new Indie Royale bundle. Or actually there’s not so much time as the offer expires in less than a day. It seems I never get these features done any sooner…
Either way, what’s on offer here is quite a selection which should please anyone’s taste for good gaming. So get ready for some not-in-depth-but-overview-like discussion of the Indie Royale Stuffing Bundle.
The Dream Machine
(Sweden 2009-2012, developer/publisher: Cockroach Inc.)
An adventure game with characters and setting made out of cardboard, it presents itself in an unusual style and fuses puzzles and arthouse aesthetics into a strange, but compelling mix. I haven’t been able to play more than the first episode, but it already becomes clear how well written the dialogues are, how the characters aren’t the stereotypical heroes and victims, but believable real-life people.
Together with a beautiful soundtrack, the atmosphere pulls you in, even if the puzzles aren’t that challenging. But then again they are very well implemented in the story, and unlike a lot of adventures, it becomes quite natural how to solve them as it rarely happens one gets stuck. Might also have to do with my long-term experience with these types of games (especially at the beginning of the episode), but this is definitely something for a wider audience who can appreciate the art style and slow-paced storytelling.
Only chapters 1-3 are included in the bundle, but others haven’t been released so far anyway. It is going to be a five-part-game and hopefully it won’t take long to experience the others.
Gameplay is very Layton-esque in that the player progresses in the story by talking to characters and then solving small puzzles which could be out of those puzzle mags which people browse through to pass some time. Usually those vary in difficulty and sometimes they feel a bit out of place with the story, but the atmosphere more than makes up for these shortcomings.
There is quite a bit of sarcastic humor which already distinguishes the game from Level-5’s franchise, but what makes this puzzle game even more interesting is the creepy atmosphere. Believe it or not, but small creatures which could be Santa’s little helpers, can be quite scary. Add a moody soundtrack and minimalistic sound effects, and you get more than just Twin Peaks with puzzles.
Adventure Apes and The Mayan Mystery
(Germany 2012, developer/publisher: ScaryPotato
A jump & run game with Metroidvania game mechanics, i.e. collecting special weapons to get through certain obstacles, this is quite an enjoyable romp of retro goodness. Not only does the music offer cheerful tunes, but it is not as unfair as a lot of platformers, because there’s a health bar and plenty of fruits to replenish it.
The only problem the game faces is what plagues many platformers on the PC: The keyboard controls are over-sensitive and falling into pits happens very often. Still a fun little game worth investing time, especially since there’s an even bigger version with bosses.
Anomaly: Warzone Earth
(Poland 2011, developer/publisher: 11bit Studios)
It has been a long time since I played an RTS. Back in my formative PC gaming years I think I tried out so many of these that I got sick and tired of the genre after a while. It is therefore surprising to have such a good indie game in the collection. Not only is the presentation amazing with a fantastic soundtrack, good voice acting and IMHO very good graphics, but the gameplay is also very enjoyable.
I only played the first mission, but the way how one can only control a commander, set waypoints and be on constant alert is something nowadays might not be that innovative anymore, but this doesn’t mean it’s less entertaining. It remains to be seen how the further gameplay and story structure evolves, but so far this is quite an achievement for an indie developer and deserves the attention a lot of by-the-book mainstream RTS games already get.
It’s also fascinating how the intro and first mission already set the scene for a story which makes the player very much engaged in the proceedings. It will also be interesting to see if there will be memorable characters and suspenseful storytelling with unexpected twists and turns, something which always made me involved in the genre, but which kind of got lost outside of the Blizzard strategy fare.
Children of the Nile: Enhanced Edition
(USA 2004, developer/publisher: Tilted Mill)
Just like RTS warfare games, there was a time I played quite a few build-your-own-civilization games (even though I never got around the concept of the original or subsequent Sid Meier games). It’s always interesting how it starts with simple actions and gets complex the more people inhabit the places, just like The Sims, or better Sim City. Not that those games are the best comparisons.
Sticking to the Egyptian theme and concentrating on an Age of Empires aesthetics with some elements borrowed from the Anno series, it plays rather well, even if the graphics are not that impressive. Sound design and music on the other hand are quite excellent.
As there wasn’t much time to delve deeper into the game mechanics, it’s hard to say how warfare and later levels play out. But suffice it to say that this is an interesting alternative to the countless sequels and me-too strategy games which are available on the PC platform, even if it means it’s difficult for such a game to stand out in a crowded market.
Get your indie meal while it lasts
All in all there are some amazing games for less than 5 dollars here on offer. Actually either one is worth that price alone. Definitely one of the best bundles I’ve come across so far. So make sure you don’t miss this deal before it expires and pay what you want.