Adam Smith gives an overview of the indie games showcased at the Gadget Show Live 2014; from Virtual Reality (VR) to 80s style shoot ’em ups.
The most impressive game that I played on the Oculus Rift; Ether One fuses exploration and puzzle aspects brilliantly. The player is a ‘Restorer’ that explores the minds of patients suffering from dementia in order to try and restore their memories, represented by red ribbons. While I only had a few minutes to play the game, it beautifully demonstrated how VR can operate in games; putting on the hardware really felt like I was diving into another world. Since every section of the world is a puzzle, it encourages the player to look around and examine every element of the patients’ mind to try and find out more about the pristine harbour town of Pinwheel.
Happily, this is not a game that has a set method to ‘solve’ the puzzles, which means the player can complete the game in (on average) seven hours, but that can shoot up to ten or possibly higher if the player really wants to get their head around their surroundings. One of my favourite aspects was a memory that told the player about how the workers of Pinwheel’s mine were complaining about its dangers. It does not take a creative genius to work out what happened; but the fact that the game is overtly show rather than tell is very refreshing, and I wish I had had the chance to play further.
Developed by Bumpkin Brothers, Space Farmers is a compulsive two-player game. I was apprehensive at first as forcing gamers into multiplayer that is not automatically competitive is an unfamiliar aspect, but it works rather well. Talking to writer Andy Yates, he told me about a parent and child that were not particularly talking; yet when they both sat down to the game they suddenly burst into life. I am not surprised – the aesthetic of the game is a cartoony Blockhead style, and the mechanics are friendly and intuitive.
The plot? You play as two farmers “forced to share your secret British agriculture secrets and with no means of escape or tea making facilities. How very uncivilized!” Certainly charming enough, and the challenge and variation in mechanics – from guns to Companion Cube-esque pigs to hover-backpacks – keep the levels feeling new. This reminds players of a lesson they’d known since Minecraft and Terraria: it’s hip to be square.
This cute little game comes from the Total Monkery studio in which you play as a robot that has to stop a range of malfunctioning “Bloxbots” (cube robots) by using a magnetic field to incapacitate them. The levels and gameplay mechanics are simple, as the game is trying to appeal to the ‘eight and up’ age range, so is not particularly challenging. What it loses in its difficulty curve, however, it gains in design. The beauty of the (as yet unnamed) protagonist’s design being half red and half blue to reflect their magnetic background is rather sweet, and balances nicely with the grey enemies and surroundings. I look forward to seeing this game when it is finally released, it’s certainly…attractive (I’m so sorry).
Mighty Tactical Shooter:
A game that has only been in development for a few months, Mighty Tactical Shooter from Sock Thuggery is a classic turn-based shoot-‘em-up. The player controls a ship that has been severely damaged and trying to get off the strange and hostile planet it has crashed into. The characterisation is confusing: three AI systems of Shield Buddy, Gun Buddy and Repair Buddy all fight for resource control. According to Johnny Marshall (the guy behind the gameplay and programming), the player is going to be put into serious doubt about what they are really controlling, and will be made to make some difficult decisions before coming to a “harrowing ending”.
Gameplay-wise, Mighty Tactical Shooter definitely still needs some polish. From the demo that was available there were too many weapons, and only six of those could really be classed as ‘different’, as the others were just variations on strength of the weapon. While I cannot say how successful this game is going to be on PC, Mac or Linux, the click and drag mechanic to control the ship would be perfect as a touch-screen game.
Adam Smith, Games and Tech Editor