The first european edition of the Indiecade festival took place in Paris last November. Usually happening in the US, this festival is a nice opportunity to gather talented game designers from around the world. Many talks and workshops were presented by professionals in what made those two days really interesting. It reminded us how much the indie gaming community is a rich and fascinating one. During our visit to the festival we discovered many games that got our attention. In this post you will get our impressions on some of our favorite projects we have come across.
Chameleon Run by Hyperbolic Magnetism
The first game I sat down to play in the cold, stone walled room in Conservatoire national des arts et métiers was Charmeleon Run made by Hyperbolic Magnetism. It is a 3D platform game, where you play as a small colourful man who is running and jumping from platform to platform. It is a classic “runner” game, where your character runs continuously and your job is to time the jump so your character gets safely to the next platform. I was initially bored by the concept, but after a couple of introductory levels I started to like the progression in the mechanics. I suddenly also had to make the colour of my character match the colour of the platforms or he would blow up and fall to his death. Next, I got the option to jump under (yes, indeed under) the platforms and not only on top of them. The levels got harder and in the end I had to put down the controller and walk away in frustration. Not a bad frustration, but a sweet frustration after having been challenged in an original and interesting way. I am still a little sceptical of the artstyle which was very standard and rayman like. With a simple game like that, I would have liked something more interesting to look at. Regarding the gameplay, I was pleasantly surprised and based on this first impression I will definitely recommend it as an alternative to Candy Crush or other games you play while being stuck with a hundred other people in the crowded metro.
Monster Garden by Game Make World
Monster Garden was the most “indie game” experience for me at the Indiecade. While the most of the other games had a standardized setup with a professional desktop computer, controller and headphones, Monster Garden had a simple setup of a Macbook Pro standing on a table in the middle of the room. The developer was there and explained the concept of the game to me with a very laid back american accent. I felt like I was in a coffee shop in San Francisco. Even the business cards were handwritten of torn up pieces of paper.
The game had exactly the same spirit as the atmosphere around it. It was a simple RPG about making friends with monsters. The artstyle was very handmade and looked like an old school children show from the 90s. Instead of the usual RPG mechanics of monsters, combat and evolving stats, Monster Garden was about talking to monsters around you, going through conversation trees and slowly filling up your garden with strange looking creatures. What I liked about the game was it’s uncompromising style and casual dialogue. It did not take itself too seriously and most conversation ended with either “man” or “dude”. I could feel how the game was an extension of the personality of the creator who was by my side during the playthrough. I am not sure if the game will have a lot of longevity, though. In the long run I think the lack of challenge and failure state might take away the fun and except in my most casual moments, I think I will choose a game that requires more skill and thinking.
My Mom is a Witch by Bigosaur
I stumbled into My Mom is a Witch while I was standing looking at another game. The developer approached me, said they needed another player and asked me to fill in a seat in the 2 – 4 player multiplayer game. I said yes and sat down next to a very enthusiastic man who had obviously played several rounds already.
My Mom is a Witch is a roguelike game set in a cartoony fantasy world where you move from room to room and fight monsters until you die. The game is definitely meant to be a party game, where you play several people at the same time and work together using the different classes and abilities that the game proposes. The world is a very classic fantasy world, where you can choose to be either a warrior, magician or ranger, who each have different strengths and weaknesses. Though not a very original world, the game makes up for it by having a very fresh artstyle. It is very comic book like and does not take itself too seriously. Each room had a pretty varied design, but unfortunately they all had the same square format with different obstacles and enemies spread around. I would have liked more creativity in that area. I was never surprised when we stepped into another room. Except for the mages who had different spells to cast, the mechanics did not seem to evolve a lot either. Playing as a warrior basically consisted of a lot of button mashing mixed with some side stepping to dodge fireballs. Maybe the game will surprise as you get further into it, but the first impression was not the most exciting of the conference.
Reigns by Nerial
London based developer Nerial presented their latest game Reigns. Released last summer on smartphone and PC, the game sets you as a King during the middle age era. The gameplay is very straightforward. With a set cards displayed on the screen, the player must swipe them left or right. Each of those swipes results in taking decisions that will have important consequence on the kingdom’s prosperity. A fire has just started in the castle, should you save the garrison or the food barn? These are the kinds of issues you will have to deal with.
Reigns features a beautiful art style made by japanese designer Mieko Murakami and a humoristic narration that gives the game a unique look and feel. As it was inspired by Tinder (swiping, swiping, swiping…), it is a pleasure to play Reigns on the go, you just can’t stop getting back at it. I was so enthusiastic that I actually bought it the moment I set foot outside of the festival…
Chalo Chalo by Sparpweed and Redshift Media
As a racing game enthusiast, I was intrigued by Chalo Chalo’s proposition. Indie developer Sparpweed believe they have developed a “really slow racing game”. The racing takes place on a minimalistic landscape made of grounds of different colours. Players must reach the yellow goal on the right hand side of the screen as fast as possible. With Toke, we sat on a sofa placed in front of the TV. 3 more players joined us and we were ready to go. With no one knowing the game or the rules, we began to understand the different mechanics the game had to offer bit by bit. By round 3, we all started to plan our route to the goal and how to cope with the different grounds and their respective nature. Strategic planning became essential to win a race.
The best part in all that was that it was great fun! Local multiplayer games tend to disappear and it is always nice to see that some developers are still attached to making us have fun with friends. Still in early access on Steam, I can’t wait to see if the game can live up to my expectations after such a good impression.
Illumine by Dejima
When entering the main show floor at Indiecade, you immediately heard this minimal techno emanating from the illumine stand. Developed in Japan by french developer Dejima, illumine is what you would call a strange and intriguing roguelike. The player plays as a letter and must find out what to do and where to go. With no explanations given, the player discovers a world filled with letters from foreign alphabets. Music is an essential feature in illumine. It guides you towards your next objectives with very subtle addition to the background music. For example, each time you go through a wall, a hi-hat sound blends into the music and books that the player must collect produce their own sound that inform you how close you are to it.
According to game developer Dejima, each player have to understand the true meaning of the game. I have yet to discover every secrets illumine has but this game have been on my todo list since I saw it at Indiecade.