If you’re a regular Later Levels visitor, it’s pretty obvious I’m a fan of indie games. Starting up a large RPG can be an incredibly daunting experience when you’re short on spare time due to a hectic job and family. But smaller titles can fit in well with a busy routine, and there’s something nice about being able to complete a game within several sittings before moving onto the next one.
During a recent conversation with Dan from Now is Games, he asked if I’d ever written a guide for gamers who were new to indie releases. It wasn’t something I’d ever considered but it seemed like a good idea – so thanks to Dan for being the inspiration behind this post!
A disclaimer before I launch into my list: this contains only titles I’ve actually played myself and, as pretty obvious from the content on Later Levels, I tend to favour adventures or games with strong narratives. However, I’ve done my best to ensure not every entry is a point-and-click (although there are still a couple) and hopefully everyone will be able to find something that piques their interest. So without further ado, here’s the first part of my beginner’s guide to indie…
Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller remains one of my favourite point-and-click adventures despite being released back in 2012. It features FBI agent Erica, who has the ability of postcognition, while on her search for her brother’s murderer: the Cain Killer. This is a grown-up murder-mystery and not a game for children, and it’s one of those titles that’s so deserving of a sequel. Come on, Phoenix Online Studios – make it happen!
Are you a fan of harmless smut, very naughty boys and humorous tales of redemption? Then Four Last Things may be just the indie release for you, as it’s almost as if The Secret of Monkey Island had been made in 16th century Flanders by a time-travelling Monty Python fanboy. It’s also worth checking out Joe Richardson earlier adventure, The Preposterous Awesomeness of Everything, even if it’s just for the ‘backflip’ button and cat on the title screen.
The next two titles are ones with amazing soundtracks, so I’d highly recommend checking out the music even if you’re not a fan of action games. First up is Bastion and if you’re looking for a beautiful RPG you can get lost in for several hours, then this may just be the one for you. Sure, it doesn’t provide as much challenge as some other releases out there; but does everything really need to be as difficult as Dark Souls?
Next is Hotline Miami and this isn’t a video game for anyone who’s offended by blood – even the pixelated kind – or gratuitous violence. But if you’re looking for vicious enemies, bullets and action, along with a storyline about taking on the Russian Mafia, then it will prove to be right up your street. It’s actually not my cup-of-tea but it generally receives positive reviews and has made it onto my list for the soundtrack alone.
Overcooked is a great game if you’re looking for something to play with the family that doesn’t feature anything inappropriate for the little’uns. Players take on the role of chefs in a kitchen and must work as a team to prepare meals, all while under a time limit to complete as many dishes as possible. It’s a lot harder than it sounds – and be careful you don’t spend too long wondering who on earth designs their cooking station like this.
If you’re looking for something a bit more ‘adult’ however, why not give Quiplash a try. Players give answers to prompts such as ‘the worst thing you could discover in your burrito’ and the audience votes for their favourite. There are no wrong answers but it’s definitely necessary to prepare yourself for some rude ones and jokes at your expense; it’s highly likely that ‘Dad’s bum’ always appears on-screen whenever my stepson is involved in a round.
The year is 1989 and Henry has taken on the role of a Shoshone National Forest fire lookout. Why are the strange things happening to him and supervisor Delilah connected to a mystery from years ago? Firewatch is an awesome-looking game with some of the best writing and voice-acting I’ve ever come across… but it’s probably not one to play if you have a fear of being alone in the wilderness while someone is watching you, however.
Gone Home is another title that probably won’t be for you if you don’t like being alone, but there are no jump-scares here despite the abandoned house you find yourself in front of at the beginning of the game. It’s a beautifully-told story: here is a bittersweet tale about love, loss and sacrifice, and it’s very touchingly and expertly written. You’ll probably have a tear in your eye by the time you reach the end so you might want to keep a box of tissues handy.
That’s it for now, so hopefully I’ve pointed you in the direction of something new to play if you’re not already familiar with indie games. But if your favourite genre didn’t make the list this time, come back for more on Friday when part two will be published.