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6 Pre-Release Indies that are Pretty Great Already

Some indie titles worth remembering

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The first EGX may have been held just seven years ago but yearly offshoot EGX Rezzed – itself only in its second year – is already one of the best demonstrations of indie gaming in Europe and beyond.

This year’s crop of titles ran the gamut of small scale creativity, with well over a hundred games in a playable state on the exhibition floor. Among them were the usual smattering of accidentally repeating dialogue and unexpected environment clipping but there was plenty more that proved just how much there is to get excited about in the coming months and years.

Here’s a list of titles that already nail at least one or two parts of game design whether they be two months into development or twenty.

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Not a Hero

A brand new IP from the London based developers of Olliolli, Not a Hero carries excitingly little over from Roll7’s breakout title and yet it’s oppressively brutal world is already more vibrant, stylish, and utterly stupid than most could ever hope for.

In a world run and governed by BunnyLord – an anthropomorphic, seven foot tall, purple bunny rabbit mayor from the future, (in case you were wondering) – the game’s tone is immediately set and subsequently run with through a rapid series of fast “2¼D” cover based gun battles.

How the fast and furious missions will escalate throughout BunnyLord’s Campaign for leadership is uncertain but with the tight gameplay and bright audacious visuals already taken care of, it seems like there’s a good chance that Not a Hero might poll well with the gaming community.

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Bedlam

Bedlam’s head coder, Jeff ‘Japple’ Johnson is more than willing to discuss Bedlam’s influences and it’s hard to argue that there isn’t plenty of Blade Runner, a fair whack of Mad Max, and more than a sprinkling of 2000 AD to the procedurally generated RPG.

To me though, Bedlam’s keen recreation of 1980s sci-fi instantly evokes Warren Ellis’s fantastic Transmetropolitan series and anyone who’s read the ten book treatise should get a heady rush of nostalgia for those absurd graphic novels.

Dystopian mega-cities aside, there’s something liberating about Bedlam returning to an era of character design when the rounded-ness of a protagonist was measured by how many bits of futuristic technology they had stapled to their torso. And one look at the game’s characters confirms they have the gloriously gaudy color palette to match.

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Knee Deep

Over the last few years, Telltale Games has made a name for itself for creating compelling narratives that highlight player choice between reasonably untaxing puzzle segments. Of all the component parts of their games, it’s the lackluster puzzles that are most often criticized and that’s exactly why developer Prologue Games has done away with them altogether.

Described as a “swamp noir in three acts,” their game, Knee Deep, is still a little rough around the edges. But even with no voice acting to speak of and the occasional piece of buggy code holding back the experience, there’s still plenty outside of the production values to get narrative fans excited.

There’s the strange three character set up, a set of choices that offer a truly branching narrative and although the game’s story seemingly takes place in the swamps of Florida, the swamps themselves are a set on a truly gigantic stage. The artificiality of the thing is played up throughout, with characters walking between sets and parts of the scenery being pulled away to give the audience a better view.

Still, it’s one thing to make a game that gets a little ‘meta’ (*whince*) but quite another to make one with characters you care about.

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Heat Signature

Since Gunpoints released to generally very positive reviews in 2013, journalist turned developer Tom Francis has been working on a different kind of stealth game. It is in fact a spacey stealth game and one with no jump button at that.

Played from a top down perspective, gameplay switches between two very different methods of movement and control: Piloting a spaceship via mouse clicks – with all the concerns over velocity and course correction that consists of – and on foot, wrench-based stealth combat using a mixture of WASD and mouse controls.

At first, gauging the various degrees of jet propulsion between multiple starships, can be a little finicky but it’s nothing that twenty minutes of goofing around in space couldn’t rectify. The freedom of movement allowed for in both control skews, however, has the potential to create some incredible, immersive moments involving lightspeed chases, turret hijacking, space wrenches, and rescuing yourself from the endless void of space.

It’s also always gratifying when a piece of science fiction is based off actual, you know, science, so Heat Signature’s gameplay premise – that interstellar craft in the infinite void of space would best be able to sense one another based on a build up of heat – is an instantly pleasingly one.

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Friendship Club!

In my short time with (Timmy Bibble’s) Friendship Club, I got through quite a few multiplayer rounds. Rarely was I not among the first two people – The game supports up to four – to meet their own colorful demise but I was always eager to start my next twelve seconds with the cutesy bullet-hell shooter.

There’s a couple of mechanics that make for some fresh feeling gameplay: Endlessly ricocheting bullets create fast and furious matches, while procedurally generated arenas mean that those matches never feel stale. But there’s a warmth and humor to Friendship Club that’s the real draw (Don’t believe me? Check out and early trailer for the game here for further reading take a look at the developers Manifesto of Value, too).

The clean, colorful visuals seem influenced by the best Cartoon Network and the like have to offer (Foster’s Home, I’m looking at you), and while the procedurally generated levels are constantly changing, they’re always fun and the tiny arenas often lead to matches that feel brilliantly too close for comfort.

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Unbox

Unbox is one of the silliest multiplayer games in development right now. Thankfully, it’s also one of the most fun. Think of Mario Kart 64’s battle-mode, with a range of methods of traversal, a bunch of new power ups and player avatars made up of cardboard cubes. Movement is imperfect – as you’d expect from controlling a box that rolls and leaps around levels – but it’s quite simply great fun.

Within the movement is a risk/reward system that requires seriously quick thinking: As well as rolling and performing leaps, players can “unbox” themselves, performing a giant vertical leap that can stack multiple times for a huge amount of height.

When used to reach high or difficult to reach places, unboxing can be an important tool in your arsenal, particularly in the game’s ticket collection mode. But unbox with caution: Boxes are in limited supply so if you find yourself descending between two platforms and towards a watery grave, you’d better hope there’s at least one more box to unpack.

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But where’s…?

This list is by no means exhaustive but if you’re wondering why great looking unreleased games like Gang Beasts and Volume aren’t on the list, it’s because they’ve had a fair amount of exposure already. If you haven’t taken a look at those two already, you might have to hand in your indie game badge, and portal gun.

That said, I’m sure there’s plenty more indie games that you’re excited for, so if your mate Dan is making the next Super Meat Boy, let us know in the comments.

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