It’s time for the final part of my beginner’s guide to indie and, if you didn’t find something that tickles your fancy in part one or two last week, then hopefully we’ll manage to put that right today. Once again, a big thank you to Dan from Now is Games for suggesting I write this series and being the inspiration behind it.
As mentioned in my last posts: the following list contains only games I’ve actually played myself (except for the final category below) 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 so hopefully there’s something for everyone here. Without further ado, let’s round this series off!
Epistory – Typing Chronicles is a game I’m not sure many people know of but it’s definitely worth checking out if you enjoyed The Typing of the Dead: Overkill (my guilty pleasure). There are no zombies this time however: the world unfolds in front of you like an origami storybook and it tells the story of a writer who’s stuck for inspiration. You defeat your foes by typing words shown on-screen and every element in the title is controlled exclusively with the keyboard.
On the other end of the typing-game-spectrum is Hacknet, a simulator based on UNIX commands and real hacking rather than the Hollywood-version of it. The hacker responsible for creating the most invasive security system on the planet is dead and it’s now up to you to unravel the mystery and ensure that Hacknet-OS doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. If you’re not good under pressure or tend to type with two fingers only, then it’s probably not one for you.
I’m not a huge fan of visual novels and so my knowledge is somewhat lacking, but here’s one I actually enjoyed playing. Cinders is a mature take on the classic Cinderella fairytale and it’s not as cutesy as you’d imagine: this heroine isn’t afraid of taking fate into her own hands, even if it means breaking the rules. There’s plenty of player choice and my Cinders became an independent lone traveller who didn’t need a man by her side – you go, girl.
Next up is one of my favourite video games: To The Moon. It’s been called an adventure and an RPG but its gameplay elements are so light that it’s more like a visual novel with some movement. If you’re looking for action then it won’t be to your taste; but if you want to get drawn into an amazing story then I urge you to pick this up as soon as possible. Just be aware that you’ll be crying like a baby by the time the credits roll and will probably need a hug.
Looking for something different? Then you’ve come to the right place. First in this section is Her Story, a full-motion video (FMV) game which has you sorting through clips of old police interviews in order to discover what happened to a woman’s missing husband. Viva Seifert plays the protagonist and she does so perfectly; her body language, expressions and tone of voice all come together to make you wonder if she’s lying about what she knows…
Proteus isn’t a title that will appeal to everyone but if you’re in need of a ‘digital holiday’, then here’s your stop. Although the only mechanic is exploration and all you can do is walk, it’s a lovely and calming experience: this procedurally-generated island is home to creatures and ruins with magical properties, and a dynamic soundtrack changes in response to the world around you. A new island is generated each time so you’ll always see something unique and can use the ‘postcard’ feature to capture it.
There are loads of indie titles waiting on my wishlist and here’s what I’m playing next. I’ve heard good things about Night in the Woods, an adventure game focused on exploration, story and character. College-dropout Mae returns home to resume her former life but things aren’t the same: it seems different now and everyone has changed. Leaves are falling, the wind is growing cold, strange things are happening and there’s something in the woods…
Athena from AmbiGaming has been playing RiME recently and she has convinced me to give it a go! You play as a young boy who has awakened on a mysterious island after a torrential storm. Wild animals, long-forgotten ruins and a massive tower beckon you to come closer; and armed with your wits — and the guidance of a helpful fox — you must explore the enigmatic land, reach the tower’s peak and unlock its closely guarded secrets.
It can be an effort to work up the motivation to turn on the console or PC after a long day at work when you have only a spare hour in the evening; and sometimes the thought of jumping into another 100-hour open-world RPG can be a bit daunting. But it doesn’t mean you have to give up gaming completely because that’s where smaller indie titles can fit in nicely. Although huge big-budget games do have a certain appeal, there’s also something nice about being able to make good progress in sixty minutes and complete a title within several sittings.
Hopefully you’ve found an indie release among the 23 I’ve listed in my three-part beginner’s guide that has inspired you to give them a try. If you have any other recommendations, please feel free to leave them in the comments below and give me a few more to add to my wishlist!