July 9th, 2009

Level 2: The GateChains is a puzzle game created by independent developer 2DEngine.com, and published by Meridian4. Released in November of 2008, Chains is the first game to be built on 2DEngine.com’s proprietary cross-platform game engine AGen, which they make freely available for non-commercial development.

There is only one direct action to make in Chains: link three or more circles together. Though the means may be simple, the scope of Chains’ gameplay is anything but narrow; this is not a run-of-the-mill “match 3” game. Never mind the smooth, minimalist art style facilitated by vector graphics, or the haunting electro soundtrack; simply consider that each of Chains’ twenty levels presents for players a different objective and a different obstacle. Take, for example, stage 2, “The Gate” (pictured right), wherein the objective is to clear 200 bubbles before their collective weight becomes greater than the counter-weight keeping the gate below them closed. Compare that time-based level with something more relaxed like stage 7, “Gulliver”, where the objective is to clear 100 bubbles by creating 10 chains or less, and it becomes apparent that Chains offers something uniquely challenging from level to level.
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March 11th, 2009

The GraveyardThe Graveyard is a very short experimental game nominated for the Innovation Award in the 2009 Independent Games Festival. It was created as “An experiment with realtime poetry, with storytelling without words.” by developer Tale of Tales.

Not much more can be said without spoilers, which I’ll save for below, so give this game a play first by downloading the trial through Steam or, for Mac users, from this link. The entire game can be played in the trial, though $5 unlocks one feature. Think of it as a donation.
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January 15th, 2009

Gish Box ArtFor this weekend only, the DoSu-featured independent game Gish is on sale for $3.99 on Impulse, StarDock’s burgeoning competitor to Valve’s Steam service. Gish on Impulse usually costs $19.95 as opposed to Steam’s $9.99, which is why it isn’t linked in our database.

If you’ve never used the Impulse service before, it’s very similar to Steam. You can browse and purchase games as well as download demos either from their website or from within the Impulse client. Games you own show up within the client and can be downloaded there. One key difference from Steam is that the Impulse client does not need to be running in order to play your games; there isn’t even a background process for authentication. Pricing, game selection and community features leave a bit to be desired when compared to Steam, but it’s still a fine place to purchase games when the price is right.

This is a Cry for Help CD JacketTo make some sense out of the second half of the title, I also wanted to bring up a relevant item from Edmund McMillen, creator of Gish. This is a Cry for Help is a CD collection of ten years worth of Edmund’s work as an independent artist. The CD includes 17 games (including Gish), 15 comics and a ton of extras including artwork and animations. While some games – such as Cunt – are flash games which can be played for free through a browser, I felt the collection was worth purchasing not only for the sake of convenience, but to support the creator as well. If you’re thinking of buying Gish anyway, I suggest getting this CD instead as Gish is included and it will only cost you $10 plus shipping.

May 30th, 2008

I have another “Shmup” (Shoot’eM-Up) for you here today, similar to Geometry Wars from a couple of weeks ago. Unlike Geometry Wars, however, and more similar to Every Extend Extra Extreme from Q Entertainment, the object of this twin stick shooter is to create chains of explosions over top of some pretty interesting music. The game is Everyday Shooter, created by Jonathan Mak of Queasy Games, and this formerly PS3-exclusive shooter is now on the PC. As the winner of three IGF 2007 awards including Design Innovation, Excellence in Audio and the GameTap Indie Award, it’s very much worth a look.

You’ll forgive me if I refer to Geometry Wars more than a few times. It’s just the most convenient point of reference that I have on hand. Anyway, in Everyday Shooter, like in Geometry Wars you will be navigating your way through a 2D board while avoiding shapes of all colors, shapes and sizes that are swarming around and toward you. Unlike in Geometry Wars, however, your objective is not to destroy as many enemies as possible, as quickly as possible. Rather, you’ll be attempting to set off a chain of explosions that will take out as many enemies as you can. By creating chains you will cause your fallen enemies to “drop” you points that you’ll then have to pick up manually. Bigger chains will net you larger point rewards, so take your time on setting them off.
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May 21st, 2008

Synaesthete is an action-rhythm game created by four students at DigiPen. It was the winner of the Best Student Game award at the 2007 Independent Games Festival (IGF).

Synaesthete, at first glance, looks far more complicated to play than it actually is. It follows familiar principles that we have come to know in the mainstream rhythm games; watch for “notes” to descend to a certain point, typically denoted by a button, and then hit the corresponding button at the appropriate time. Missing a note in Guitar Hero, for example, will cause your music to skip and it won’t pick up again until you’ve gotten yourself back on track. In Synaesthete, however, missing a note does nothing to disrupt the flow of the music.

In Synaesthete you control an avatar called the Zaikman. The objective is to navigate the Zaikman through a series of rooms. Enemies spawn in these rooms, and Zaikman will be locked inside until he defeats the enemies. You help the Zaikman accomplish this by hitting “notes” successfully; this will fire energy beams at enemies based on his proximity to them. The Zaikman can be damaged and his health is indicated by a meter that is located just below your “note bar”. You don’t have to hit every note, but since the notes are your weapons, you don’t want to miss too many.
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March 11th, 2008

See what I did there? No? Well, you might once you start reading about the game I’m going to be talking about today. It is from a developer called Cryptic Sea and it won awards for Innovation in Game Design as well as the grand prize at IGF in 2005.

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