ScrewAttack has always focused on the g1 community, but they also create content about what makes certain games fun. While the crew still focuses on video content as originally planned, they eventually started to branch out into partnering with developers to make their own video games; hence, they created their ScrewAttack Games. With their push towards creating their own games, and their continued content that celebrates discusses them, it’s no wonder that the crew would invite Indie developers to show off their wares at Indie Heaven. There were too many good games at the event, so I decided to create a condensed Top 5 list of the indie games I thought were the most impressive at SGC 2014.
I played the prequel to Super Rad Raygun at SGC 2013, so it’s interesting for me to see how much the series has changed in just a year. The original game purposefully emulated the floaty controls of the Gameboy while embracing the portable console’s monochromatic color scheme. It also happened to be fashioned after the excellent platformer Mega Man, except that Rad could fire his gun at an upwards, diagonal angle. Super Rad Raygun doesn’t quite make enough changes to warrant a comparison to Mega Man X, but it still features the same great elements that made Rad Raygun fun while smoothing out the rough spots. The controls feel tightly woven and more responsive, and, although it may lose the Gameboy feel because of it, I think it’s a welcome change. The crew also spiced up the presentation a little bit, as sprites look more akin to ones found in NES games, and boss characters look like caricatures of popular culture rather than just mechanized weapons. Finally, the team subscribes to the more is better philosophy, as there will be 25 levels as compared to the original’s five.
I don’t usually expect my platformers to examine the psyche of the main character, but I welcome this feature in this fascinatingly depressing puzzle-platformer. The protagonist in Disorder is trapped in a surreal, nightmarish world that looks like his suburb, as if his entire world is falling apart. The streets have been replaced by floating rocks that serve as platforms, and mysterious gems eviscerate him and even block his path. In order to get around this, he must switch back and forth between a light world and dark world. Each time he does this, an on-screen glitch effect appears, and it opens up new pathways. Sometimes, challenges are as simple as switching between worlds, but other times he’ll need to rely on proper timing, often switching while simultaneously jumping. It’s a fun platformer, but that fun is abruptly brought down by the horrific tragedy at the end—and I’m still talking about the demo, not the finished product.
Conventions are a good place to set up multiplayer matches, and Stardust Vanguards is the perfect game to inspire gamers to exercise their competitive instincts. Players take on the role of MECH pilots who battle in an arena in space. Ships are color coded, so it’s easy to distinguish which ship is yours and which one is your enemies’. Stardust Vanguards is at its best when played with four other players, which makes the game pure, chaotic fun. It has simple mechanics that are executed perfectly, making the game an addicting experience. Each player begins on a corner of the screen that holds a giant meteor; once they venture out to the middle, the battle begins. Players can safely shoot their enemies from a distance; however, ammo is scarce, and you’ll quickly run out—the only way to gain more ammo is to die and respawn. This means that battles quickly become close and personal, and it’s always intense attempt to close the distance for that one hit kill while avoiding your enemies’ attacks. Players have maneuvers that keep them alive longer, however, such as dashing out of the way, which you repeat until your ship overheats. You also don’t need to fear your enemies’ projectiles, as you can reflect them back at them with a single slash from your blade. Finally, as you kill your enemies, you collect RN, and you can use it to summon ships that fight your battles for you.
I knew I had to include this 3D platformer on the list when the developer reminded me that it was time for me to head to my next appointment, like I had asked him to, and I briefly considered skipping it. In the end, I decided to remain professional and make my appointment, which thankfully led to me playing another good game. If I hadn’t, I probably would have stayed at Grapple’s booth and continue admiring this unique platformer. Grapple has a simple premise: you are a gelatinous ball and must reach the checkpoint at the end of the level. The problem is that the ball is in space, and the terrain is broken up into platforms that are usually too high to reach by jumping. As long as the reticle shines orange when you hold the mouse over the terrain, the ball can swing from it. What I like most about Grapple is that you can save yourself by quickly latching onto a surface and swinging wildly around terrain until you land somewhere. It’s like I made a mistake but somehow passed it off as something I did on purpose.
Of all the games shown off at SGC 2014, Titan Souls stood out to me the most. I can think of two ways to describe this game: the first is that it’s a focused, simple experience, and the second is that it’s a combination of The Legend of Zelda, Shadow of the Colossus and Dark Souls. You navigate the temple from a top-down perspective, fight only giant boss monsters, and experience excruciating one-hit kill difficulty. You only have a bow and a single arrow; however, you can retrieve the arrow using your psychic powers. Thankfully, you can damage enemies while retrieving the arrow, so you can set up plans for attack; however, this also leaves you vulnerable for the giants’ surprisingly agile strikes. As long as you hit the weak point, you only need a single shot to kill these enemies, and, should your arrow fly true, you will feel rewarded for accomplishing such a daunting task.