MONTHLY COLUMN – OCTOBER 2019 TOP 3 CURIOSITIES
Given the slew of horror games – including but not limited to this year’s Top 10 Halloween list – you could be forgiven for not realizing that there were plenty of October indie game releases that fell outside the pumpkin spice cloud of black cats, vampire bats and witches’ pointy hats.
For example, there were also some extremely good procedurally generated science-fiction action titles, which happen to make up my top three not-particularly-spooky underrated indie games of October:
by Luxorix Games
Fine, this one’s a little spooky. It does have zombie-like night monsters that come out after dark. Overall, though it’s a light but deceptively difficult top-down shooter.
As the sole survivor of an abandoned mining mission, you’ll have to fight all the way across a hostile planet; die, and it’s your clone’s turn, which means you start back at the very beginning.
While you can upgrade your home base with objects obtained via special achievements – doing a run using only melee weapons, for example – giving you a slight edge in future runs, Space Robinson is a difficult grind, but it never feels halfway as punishing as it actually is.
For one thing, the monsters are pretty adorable. Pudgy little Cthulhu things; waddling UglyDolls-inspired creatures…even the night monsters with their pulsating, partially exposed brains and Day-Glo drool are arguably less frightening than the dog you can unlock as a companion.
For another, Space Robinson nails that addictive urge better than any game in its genre since The Binding of Isaac. This article would have been published a week sooner if not for the dozens of times I thought, “One more run, and then I’ll write it up for my column.”
The Endroad team previously worked for big budget developers like Ubisoft and Amplitude Studios (the developer of such indie favorites as Dungeon of the Endless before being purchased by Sega), and it shows in this game’s high production values.
Using an unusual camera-shifting perspective to provide rich 3D depth to what is essentially a fairly simple, procedurally generated side-scroller, Fallback is visually glorious.
Its premise, a pale, oxygen mask-dependent human resistance driven underground by ecological catastrophe and fighting back against mechanical oppressors is reminiscent of the cave scenes from The Matrix trilogy by way of bande dessinee. Brief glimpses of artificially grown plant life positively glow in contrast to the dingy subterranean landscapes.
And not to be outdone by the graphics, Fallback is incredibly satisfying on the sonic and tactile levels, as well, from jumps clumsily boosted by smoke-belching jet packs to the joyous violence of slashing your way through robot guards.
A one-person project from Russia, Dreadborne Drifters and its brand of 8-bit ultra-violence immediately bring to mind a post-apocalyptic version of BroForce.
What it lacks in that game’s exquisite, destructible level design and action movie parody it makes up for in explosions and a variety of ways to create them, from drones to psychic vampire powers to good old-fashioned guns and grenades.
With multiple missions to choose from between each visit to stock up on armor, equipment and accessories at the home base – and each mutant-blasting mission potentially as short as 30 seconds or so, if you’re very good or very bad – this is another game that manages to feel casual despite its blistering pace.