Disclaimer: This feature is powered by Dell Alienware. We used the Alienware 15 laptop for all of our PC features & reviews. It’s a tad overkill for this feature when you think about it.

In a frantic rush to finish up my current gaming library of 2018 before the year ends, I have been dabbling and playing a ton of indie games. Let’s do a quick roundup and see if they’re worth the current price tag. Call it a “late to the party” post, because it clearly is that.

But hey, if you’re done with all that triple-A gaming nonsense and see if a couple of guys and programmers can make magic this year, read on. You’ll definitely find something to love here and it won’t murder your wallet.

Celeste

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What’s It About? It’s about a little girl who wants to climb a mountain and has stuff to deal with along the way. Whether it’s physical or mental in nature, that’s up to you to discover in the game’s story and the dialogue with the sparse-but-meaningful cast.

And this isn’t some endurance simulator, oh no: you climb the mountain and its many obstacles via 2D hardcore platforming. Celeste has a dash/air dash that goes in different directions and has access to new dashing/platforming abilities along the way. There are a ton of curveballs thrown your way, be it a room filled with laundry and clutter that you have to slowly clean up with the power of platforming or fighting against strong winds while timing your jumps.

And this is coming from the guy who created Towerfall: Matt Thorsen. Clearly his pixel art style makes this game as vibrant as it should be.

Is It Worth It? Yes, it is. Not only is the game’s narrative meaningful, but the game’s challenge level is tough but fair, much like your Mega Mans and Super Meat Boys. The pitfalls and jumping puzzles are fun and consistent, and the difficulty ramps up in a fair way that smacks your knuckle with a metaphoric ruler time and again.

The Messenger

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What’s It About? You play a ninja who has to deliver a scroll to the top of a mountain. Easy enough, but the game is laid out in 2D platforming ninja action glory. Your messenger can slash, jump, wingsuit glide, grapple hook onto horizontal ledges, and use a “cloudstep” technique that lets you double-jump as long as you slash something mid-jump.

This game will test your platforming and simple jumping puzzle skills while also sending a barrage of enemies your way.

Is It Worth It? Kinda. The game has a humorous tone amidst its 8-bit-slash-16-bit throwback, and Ninja Gaiden enthusiasts back in the NES days will enjoy this. Apart from that and that one big aesthetic twist midway after the 2nd hour of the game, the game’s level design doesn’t feel substantial enough to stand out in this “best indie” list.

Dandara

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What’s It About? A Metroid-vania action adventure game with a twist: you can only move around the stage and area by jumping from surface to surface. No walking, no running, and no crawling: you have to vault onto safe spots repeatedly to advance while also fighting enemies with your smart tools.

The movement system here means that the game’s levels and the world literally revolve around you: ceiling and walls are floors while former hazards can turn into combat advantages. With so many Metroid-vania games out there, Dandara stands out with its unique movement mechanic and rather off-kilter aesthetics and tale. The latter probably requires substances from your end to fully comprehend and enjoy.

Is It Worth It? Yes. You could say that if you get used to its “platforming” mechanic, you’ll go off the wall for this 2D action game. Ignore the abstract story, and you’ll do fine here. It’s worth it at RM32 (better when there’s a sale going on).

Donut County

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What’s It About? You are a hole in the ground that eats up trash and listen to stories of people who hang around your general area. Sounds mundane, but your appetite for anything cannot be contained; you must eat and shove trash and junk down your gullet to forward the plot.

Just like in Katamari Damacy, your objective is to get as big as possible. There’s no deadbeat space dad & time limit here: just you, the townsfolks, and the county you’re in, accompanied with a quirky aesthetic and audio jingles to amp up the surrealness of the game.

Is It Worth It? Yes, if you don’t mind incredible short experiences. It’s selling at about RM30 or so on Steam; check it out if you want a quick yet insatiable time-waster that’ll leave an impression.

Sinner: Sacrifice For Redemption

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What’s It About? This boss battler RPG is part Dark Souls, part boss rush ala Furi. Only without the crazy aesthetics and a goth vibe. The kicker here is that you get weaker as you progress later in the game.

You can choose which aspects you can dampen before progressing further. On the upside, you can earn weapons that help complement your weaknesses.

Is It Worth It? Maybe. Sinner has a few great ideas in its Souls-esque gameplay, but its narrative and aesthetic needs more fleshing out.

The one big sin here? It feels like half a game instead of a full package, but fret not: the game is getting some fixes and will be re-released later in February 2019.

Return of the Obra Dinn

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What’s It About? You are an insurance adjuster from the East India Company in 1807 who is tasked with finding out what happened to the ship called the Obra Dinn after it has surfaced back in England. How do you do this? With a Memento Mortem device that recalls how a person died once you come across their remains on the ship.

To say more would be robbing you of the fun of discovering what happened on the ship. Drama, intrigue, and crazy s***: that’s all I’m going to say. It’s one large logic puzzle and adventure from Lucas Pope, the same guy who did Papers, Please –another stellar indie game. And it’s presented in monochrome ala old-ass Macintosh games. This might not gel well with some, but I friggin’ love it.

Is It Worth It? Yes, only because it’s a well put-together adventure game using an old graphics style mixed with 3D. As you put the pieces together, you find out what happened inside the ship and use processes of elimination & deductive reasoning to figure out whether all the crew members died or not.

All in all, it’s fun stuff if you’re into adventure games of yore with a little shipwright lingo inside.

Black Bird

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What’s It About? Remember that old Sega arcade game where you controlled a ship and scroll either left or right shooting stuff up? This is the 2018 version done by the guy who did Chulips. Yep, that game where you impress and then kiss random strangers on the streets.

There’s a story in here about a little girl who died in a city and turns into a floating bird’s head that shoots bubbles from its mouth. And it goes on a rampage, killing folks in a city. And then you fight a Santa Claus-esque doll and a giant wheel that’s piloted by a rat. You also get a heckuva opera soundtrack filled with nonsensical ramblings and a ragtime muted aesthetic in pixelated form.

The 2D shooting here feels good too; like I said, think Fantasy Zone but with a cool chain scoring system. The more things you take down, the higher your score and multiplier. Power-ups are simple (speed, lives, and bombs), and your bird’s hitbox is really, really tiny so you’ll get some bullet hell moments. But the kicker is that once you completed the game, you get more difficulty levels that offer new avenues for a higher score.

Is It Worth It? Yes, but only if you like to see a rather peculiar take on Defender and Fantasy Zone. This game may not be for everyone, but if you’re a fan of the previously-mentioned Chulips and don’t mind a score-based challenge, you can’t go wrong. It’s going for RM39 on Steam.

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