Ever since its early days, the IndieCade international independent games festival, spearheaded by Sam Roberts, Stephanie Barrish and Celia Pearce has represented a discovery pool of untapped talent, a motivator for creative development and think tank for the future of the gaming industry in all its permutations.
IGR, of course, feels included in the symbiosis between developers, gamers, curators, reviewers and critics and the marketplace. We live for the experimenters, mavericks and risk-takers, and we respect the masters and teachers that have so much to pass on to the next generation of ludologists, producers, artists, programmers, distributors and publishers.
This year IndieCade is bigger than ever, and the VR sector of the industry is growing rapidly. We will be there with writers from all over California and also from Toronto, Canada – two of the world’s hottest indie game nests in an attempt to cover over 200 titles and events. But for this list, we are going to cover only digital independent video games, and are leaving out VR, board and card games and the big games.
Here are some of IGR’s first look picks from the IndieCade 2016 festival.
West of Loathing
From the people behind the legendary absurdist low-fi MMORPG Kingdom of Loathing comes West of Loathing, a similarly low-fi Western-themed RPG for digital devices. Developers Asymmetric actually have a distinctive philosophy to their game design, with both their visual and comedic approach aimed at bringing in a wider cross-section of people than hardcore video game fans, but also, c’mon, stick figure cowboys!
by Team Overdose
Meditative music and simple, softly psychedelic graphics belie this game’s narrative of dealing with chronic illness by balancing the side effects of prescription drugs. The complexity comes in the side effects of each prescription’s interaction with other drugs.
by Wisdom of the Elders with Elizabeth LaPensee
Survivance: a portmanteau of “survival” and “endurance,” coined by Native American scholar Gerald Vizenor. The term gives its title and inspiration to this game that explores nonlinear storytelling and the lingering historical effects on indigenous people of the colonization of North America.
A game about hacking, programming and software-debugging with a decidedly atypical aesthetic approach. A “cyberpink” adventure to remind people of the playful, even magical aspects of computers. We had to take a second look to check this wasn’t a new piece from Michael Brough perhaps taking on Match 3, just to tousle its hair. But nope, Hexecutable offered to do it instead. Plus glitch is so very right now.
by David OReilly
True to its title, this game allows the player to play the role of literally EVERYTHING in its model of interacting natural systems. Sounds like a pretty ambitious approach to ecological theory, the Buddhist idea of dependent origination and video game design.
Created as part of developer Aquma‘s MFA thesis, this series of mobile vignette games within a fictional telephone interface functions as an autobiographical “mix tape.”
by Florian Veltman
This is the kind of game for which the term “walking simulator” actually applies. Take a walk in the woods with your grandmother, gather mushrooms, have a conversation. Deliciously winsome illustrative style and an endearing theme pull together into a magical sojourn.
Killing Time at Lightspeed
How would you post on social media if you were travelling at the speed of light, knowing that for every minute that passes, your loved ones on earth experience hours, days, even years? How would that effect your relationships? This critically acclaimed interactive fiction title explores the role of social media in space travel.
IndieCade 2016 is also highlighting several already-released games. Some of our favorites include:
A government snooping simulator, Replica puts the player in the position of an imprisoned citizen blackmailed into snooping through a potential terrorist suspect’s mobile phone. IGR’s Adam Fimio was impressed by the way the game conveyed “the dilemma of fully supporting a neo-fascist government versus risking all to gently nurse the remaining embers of freedom.”
Hyper Light Drifter
by Heart Machine
IGR writer Evan FP called this action RPG “at once a love song to the best design choices of the past and a brave aesthetic push into the future” and praised both its image-driven narrative and a combat system “designed to foster graceful, intentional dives through mobs of enemies, picking off one at a time while dodging the attacks of others.”
by Misfits Attic
An atmospheric drone simulator of paranoid space horror, Duskers puts you in command of a lone space ship, using remote controlled drones to explore monster-haunted derelict ships floating in the depths between the stars. IGR’s InfinityWaltz praised its easy-to-grasp but immersive command line interface as well as its “creeping sense of dread.”
Kingdom: New Lands
by Noio & Licorice
The New Lands expansion adds additional content and a significantly altered end-game to the tranquil, side-scrolling strategy of the original Kingdom. It also features nine new tracks from ToyTree – we were impressed enough by the music in the original game to include it in our Top 10 Indie Video Game Soundtracks of 2015.
by Alienware Games
Presented by Sony as a sponsored game, Cryptark is a science fiction action roguelike. IGR writer HappyWulf gave the game top marks in his Early Access review for its visceral twin-stick action and its call-backs to genre classics like Metroid and Contra.
What games are you most looking forward to seeing at IndieCade 2016? Let us know in the comments!