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Beginner’s guide to indie: part two

So your favourite genre of video games didn’t make it into the first part of my beginner’s guide to indie games on Wednesday? Well fear not, for I return with part two today! A big thank you once again to Dan from Now is Games for suggesting I write this series and being the inspiration behind it.

As mentioned previously: the following list 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 made a point of not making every entry a point-and-click (although there are still a few) and hopefully everyone will be able to find something that appeals to them here…

Horror

Ok, ok, I know I said I’d be careful about adding point-and-clicks to my list; but let me start off with one to get it out of my system and then I’ll leave them alone for a while. Stasis was a game I backed through Kickstarter and it’s one of the better titles I’ve received this way. It contains a few too many storyline elements to make it as cohesive as it could be, but the atmosphere is excellent and you’ll find the hairs standing up on the back of your neck.

If you’re looking for a more ‘traditional’ horror game however, Outlast may be the thing for you – especially with Halloween fast approaching. As investigative journalist Miles Upshur, you must explore the long-abandoned Mount Massive Asylum and try to survive long enough to discover its terrible secret; but without a weapon to hand, your only hope is to run or hide. Prepare yourself for jump-scares and a few screams along the way.

Platformers

Next up are a couple of ‘indie darlings’ and even if you’ve never played an indie release, it’s highly likely you’ve at least heard of them. Braid is a clever platformer that features a ‘time manipulation’ mechanic, which is extremely handy if you keep falling down holes and has an interesting effect on the game’s plot. It’s not however one for those who don’t like storylines open to interpretation or think ambiguous endings are pretentious and full of ‘hipster b******t’.

If you can appreciate a title which uses excellent narration to give otherwise simplistic shapes colourful personalities, it’s worth checking out Thomas Was Alone: a lovely little release about a group of artificial intelligences (AIs) who try to make their way to freedom before they’re deleted. If you’re not a fan of Danny Wallace though and can’t think of anything worse than listening to his voice for several hours on end, then I’d probably steer well clear.

Puzzle games

Little Inferno is a fun game whose cartoonish looks and cheery music disguise how clever it actually is. Players throw toys into their new Little Inferno Entertainment Fireplace and watch them burn as they figure out puzzle combinations, while the weatherman encourages them to stay indoors. But what’s really going on in the outside world and why does your weird neighbour keep sending you messages? It’s best to hide the matches after playing.

Meanwhile, The Witness is one of those titles where it’s more about the journey than the destination. You’ll find yourself on an island surrounded by beautiful scenery and hundreds of puzzles; and you’ll rage-quit often but still keep coming back for more. The lack of a plot to tie it all together is frustrating and has put many off Jonathan Blow’s post-Braid release (see above), but it’s worth getting for the experience.

Sport

Like cars? Like football? Then Rocket League is a match made in heaven. My other-half and stepson love this game and while it isn’t something I’d usually play, I have to say it’s one of the ‘nicer’ online multiplayers I’ve come across. Although there seems to be a habit of players on your team dropping out of a match soon after the other side scores the first goal, I’ve never encountered any kind of hostility while playing this title.

Unfortunately I can only give one option for this genre because I’m not really a fan of sports games myself! But if you have any recommendations, please feel share to share them in the comments below.

That’s all for now, so hopefully you’ve found a few titles to add to your wishlist! Part three of my list will be coming in a couple of days so keep your eyes open for that if you haven’t yet found the indie game for you.

18 thoughts on “Beginner’s guide to indie: part two

    1. When you play Little Inferno, it feels almost as if you’re playing a mobile game… and your eyes are opened when you reach the end. It’s hard to say more without spoiling it!

      The Witness isn’t to everyone’s taste but I’d definitely recommend it. It’s one of those games you can dip into when you only have an hour to spare, and it looks absolutely gorgeous.

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  1. If I’m going to be completely honest, I have to say that I appreciate Braid only to the extent that it’s a major reason why we have a thriving indie scene today, but on that note, I can also believe that the indie scene became the force that it is now without really paying much attention to Mr. Blow’s debut effort at all. Alternatively, if they did, then what happened is that they ignored the attempt at artsy storytelling and zeroed in on that rewind feature, thinking to themselves, “What out-there idea do I need to make MY work stand out?”

    I think a reason why The Witness didn’t really get as much esteem from fans is because the indie scene had largely moved past the ethos Mr. Blow and other pioneering artists had established by that point. It’s also worth noting that Braid didn’t really have much in the way of competition within the indie scene in 2008 whereas by 2016 when The Witness was released, he had to contend with people who were more than a match for him.

    At the end of the day, I could recommend the games to puzzle enthusiasts, but anyone else? Not quite as much.

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    1. I think Braid is one of those titles it’s good to play in terms of understanding the history of video games, but I wouldn’t necessarily say the indie scene wouldn’t exist in its current form without it. It was possibly more a case of right time, right place. The industry was prime for someone to come along and shake it up, what with changes in internet distribution, free engines and reduced programming barriers; and Blow was able to be one of the first to step into the gap.

      He said himself in interviews that The Witness got less attention than Braid because the ‘climate had changed’ so you hit the nail on the head there! It’s one of those games you’re either going to love or hate – or love and hate all at once. I’ll be interested to see where Blow goes next…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Neither would I. I think the indie scene benefitted from Braid’s release, but I feel it didn’t achieve true greatness until they stopped following in Mr. Blow’s footsteps. I think you’re right about the “right place, right time” factor being a major contribution to his success, and if it turned out that most the current indie artists never heard of Braid (or only heard of it in passing), I wouldn’t be surprised.

        I don’t think there really was a game that can be said to have singlehandedly made the indie scene what it is now, but I’d say Cave Story was probably more directly reasonable than Braid because it was one of the first (if not the first) indie game to truly feel like a professional product the AAA industry would have issued.

        I myself liked Braid slightly more than The Witness, though I kind of think they had the opposite problems. With Braid, I don’t think he got enough mileage out of his central concept and with The Witness, I feel he tried to get way too much mileage out of his central concept.

        Do you remember which interview that was? It seems like it would make for an interesting read/watch.

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        1. I’d never fully considered the differences between Braid and The Witness before, but I think you’ve got it spot on there. It’s almost as if Blow learnt from the success of his first release and considered how he could push it further – and then perhaps pushed it too far in his second. I wonder how he’ll adapt to this with his third?

          Let me see if I can find that interview… yep, here we go: http://time.com/4355763/the-witness-jonathan-blow-interview/

          Liked by 1 person

  2. “Meanwhile, The Witness is one of those titles where it’s more about the journey than the destination.”

    Yes. I still don’t understand what’s so wrong with that for so many people. Maybe it’s different for younger people who didn’t grow up on multiple generations of games that mostly had no story? I don’t know.

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    1. I think part of it is that everyone expects a strong – and somewhat ‘direct’ – plot nowadays because we’ve been spoiled with The Last of Us, BioShock and the like. When stories are more subtle or open to interpretation, such as The Witness, they’re sadly often not as well received.

      Which is a shame, because it’s really worth a play. Never has a title made me love it and hate it both at the same time before.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Another great post, thank you so much for putting this together!

    I really didn’t get on with Rocket League, I feel like it requires more skill than I’ll ever have, because I just end u driving around all the time.

    Some of those others do sound interesting, I’m bookmarking these posts ;p

    What I’m liking so far about playing these types of games is that an hour will often do. With the bigger titles that have more content, it’s a huge commitment of time.

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    1. I love RPGs with huge plots and hundreds of side-quests, but it can be so difficult to fit them in. Sometimes all you want to do after being at work all day is collapse on the sofa rather than pick up the controller!

      At least with an indie game, you know you can complete it in several sittings so it’s not so daunting. There’s one final list coming later this week. 😉

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  4. Another great list of indies! In regard to horror, I would definitely add in Claire and Detention. Both are really great 2D horror games with more emphasis on exploration and adventure game inventory management. SOMA is another great one, from the folks who made Amnesia. Indie horror is definitely tricky to get into, though, since it’s one of the more congested genres.

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    1. Claire is one of those games that gets a mention every so often in articles I read online but I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen it…

      *Googles ‘Claire’*

      Ah it’s on Steam! The pixel graphics look as though it’s something that would appeal to me; how scary would you say it was?

      I wrote a post a while back about the good and bad sides of the horror genre, and picked up on the congestion in the latter section. It’s sadly got to the point where if a game appears in my Steam suggestions with the ‘horror’ tag I’m more than likely to skip over it – which could potentially mean I’m missing out on some gems.

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      1. It’s not intensely scary, but has great atmosphere. Feels very much like a 2D, combat-less Silent Hill 3. I love it very much.

        Detention is the newest one I’ve stumbled across, and while the animation isn’t admirable the storytelling and atmosphere is so. fucking. good. My jaw was on the floor when it was over.

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        1. Detention appeared on my Steam suggestions a while ago so that one rings a bell. Every time I speak to you, I seem to end up with another game to add to my wishlist. 😉

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  5. i’m not familiar with most of these game, but a big YES to rocket league, whether you’re a fan of sports or not. One of my favourite multiplayer games since it’s release.

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    1. It’s not really my type of game but I like the fact I’ve never seen any hostility from its players. To be honest, I’m terrible at it – I’d much rather watch someone else than play it myself! 😉

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