Best Indie Games of 2011 – Very Honorable Mentions:
Ok, ok, get out the vitriol. Finished? The damn thing is officially out. No matter how you slice it, in 2011 there is no avoiding the elephant in the room, and that elephant’s name is the cultural phenomenon and massive indie success story that is Minecraft. We raised some eyebrows for omitting it from our 2010 list, but we stuck to our guns and insisted we would wait until an official release. Now it is a year later, and Minecraft will not require our endorsement, so we just had to slot it out, at the last moment, to give a slot to a game that perhaps those newer to the indie game space may not have been exposed.
Is it a sandbox game, a zombie shooter, an MMO, a city builder, a tribute to Dwarf Fortress, an art tool, a Lego building set, an alternate reality? None of that describes what Minecraft truly is. We can finally say – holy shit what is this amazing thing? And maybe I will build a waterslide in my garden, while the sun goes down and hey what is that fire coming from the ground? Since it’s so dark out, I’ll go see.. whaaaaa????
Asking why Minecraft matters and what it is, exactly, is not unlike asking why Tetris or Pac Man matter and what they are. Is Pac Man an action platform puzzle game? Is Tetris? Minecraft is the answer in a world of DIY, 3D, interactive, open-world action titles.
A game big enough and socially resonant enough to host and populate its very own conference, that has over 4 million users, and dozens of also-well-selling imitators, Minecraft is the undeniable indie breakout story not only of 2011, but 2010. We thank you, Markus Alexej Persson aka Notch, for the incredible thing you have wrought and for drawing global attention to the indie game scene. Good enough?
“Hard Reset is an impressive indie outing from Flying Wild Hog that most certainly hearkens back to the pure adrenaline gameplay of id Software’s early days, recalling the balls out, speedy graphic engine, take no prisoners mayhem that was Wolfenstein 3d or Doom but with graphics that showcase the best of today. In other words, it might just make John Romero proud, except, being a true single-player experience there will be no deathmatches here.
“What really matters is that it paves the way for a jaw-dropping setting. William Gibson and Ridley Scott would both weep at the visual depth of Hard Reset.” – Patrick Bartholomew
(Arrowhead Game Studios)
To an outsider, Magicka may have appeared to be a title released by a proper studio with its slick-looking graphics, constant rollout of DLCs and widespread popularity, when in fact it was put together by Arrowhead Studios that comprises some eight students out of Skellefteå, Sweden. With the self-referential gamer humor that we also saw in Blocks that Matter and Unepic, this creative RPG title did a very interesting thing indeed in designing a magic casting system that let you more or less “make it up as you go along”; by combining any number of elements (that include Arcane, Earth, Fire, Water, Cold, Lighting and so on) you have literally hundreds, if not thousands of spells at your disposal, akin to the alchemical system in Elder Scrolls games where combinations of ingredients form a variety of potions. Spells can be cast on oneself, outward in a jet, on an area and so on.
While the solo campaign often fell a little flat in that it guides you along rails into head-scratching near-puzzle-based progression through the landscape, the mutiplayer mode was where Magicka showed its true virtues, leading to some truly outrageous scenarios and surprising solutions via the spell combos cast by your “peers”. The myriad themed DLCs included such scenarios as Vietnam, Halloween, and even a tribute to 8-bit games. If you have the patience to get into it, or better yet a couple of friends to bomb around with, this was a terrific offering in the indie verse in 2011.
Check out the hilarious live action trailer for “The Stars Are Left” expansion below:
Dungeons of Dredmor + Realm of the Diggle Gods DLC
(Gaslamp Games, Inc.)
“If you’ve ever wanted to get into a Rogue-like after hearing about the genre’s deep gameplay elements, it’s incredible difficulty despite the fact that it’s rewarding to players who can think their way out of a nasty encounter gameplay, yet were put-off by their typically minimalist ASCII non-graphics, then this one is for you.
I’m really glad that I waited until after the DLC launched to complete this review. At launch the game was plagued with crashes to desktop that would effectively “kill” your character, which obviously made progression daunting, if not impossible, and with the same old enemies over and over on the upper levels, it got older, faster. But now, I think it’s right where it should be. There is even room for more classes and abilities to be added in, and I would welcome new DLCs, if they were forthcoming.
Gaslamp, the micro-indie that it is, has successfully created a witty, fun adventure that will open the door for players who might not have tried a Rogue-like otherwise. It is definitely worth the less-than $5 entry fee they are asking for admission.” – from the review by HappyWulf
Click Next for More Honorable Mentions and Most Anticipated Games for 2012 and beyond…