PAX AUS 2014 Indie Games Preview
This post is a preview of one that went up over at our friends’ site, The Action Points Podcast. Head on over to the podcast to hear interviews with all these developers with The Action Points Crew (Aaron, Evan and Adam), or read on to get straight to our impressions of some excellent indie titles. They were on hand to snap interviews and check out some great Aussie games, as well as a few from our neighbours in New Zealand. With an independent spirit, let’s start with some of the Australian Indie Showcase devs.
ASSAULT ANDROID CACTUS
A riotous combination of bullet hell, twin stick and arena combat, Assault Android Cactus pits an all-female cast of adorably bad-ass androids (Cactus being the lead character) against swarms of robotic monstrosities. From the multi-coloured hair styles, to the bullet-hell-inspired patterns of projectiles, to the triple-barrelled name, AAC wears its Japanese influences on its sleeve.
We caught up with Sanatana Mishra from Witch Beam to have a chat about inspirations and influences and how the game evolved to only include female characters as part of its aesthetic. It kind of reminds me of Touhou shooters, but in a way that seems to make marginally more sense. I always did wonder wear those schoolgirls stored their bullets… Here at the Action Points Podcast, we’re always looking for more couch multiplayer games, and AAC is a blast alone or with friends. We had a great time chatting with Sanatana, and we’d love to get him on a future episode for a longer session of comparing beards.
AIRSCAPE: THE FALL OF GRAVITY
Evan was lulled into a false sense of security by the cute graphics and the Cephalopod-(mostly)-out-of-water player character, and found himself dashed against mines, lasers and all sorts of nasties.
The main pull (zing!) of Airscape is the way in which the gravity changes with the contours of the land. Developer, Daniel West told us how some of his favourite tough-as-nails platformers inspired this project (like Super Meat Boy), while Aaron tried and failed to keep the interview on track, as Evan was drawn to the screens showing a stream of attempts as the poor octopus creature exploded again and again.
At the request of Sanatana (from the Assault Android Cactus team), we made sure to ask why Daniel had chosen such a silly name for his game as “Airscape“, and why he hadn’t come up with a name half as cool as Assault Android Cactus. It was great to see love between indie developers.
We love our couch multiplayer games on the Action Points Podcast, and one that we enjoy is SpeedRunners. Prismania reminded me of it, in that it was a competitive multiplayer platformer.
You jump around a level that’s actually on the side of a cube and you’re trying to get to a key which will open one of the doors that will get you to another side of the cube. On your way there, witless charlatans will be trying to steal the key from you to get to a door first but you’ll just avoid them or steal the key back because they don’t deserve it and you do. YOU’RE WORTH IT, FRANCES.
There’s also cool items because items are cool, although you shouldn’t let them pressure you into doing things you don’t feel comfortable doing. The wall jumping is “stickier” than I was used to, but once you get a hang of it, it works well and is a lot of fun. It’s a student project and I’m not sure how many levels there are or will be but it’s looking very promising.
HAND OF FATE
We spoke to James in the expo hall, but I, Aaron, later had a geek out moment with Morgan Jaffit, the developer, who is also James’ brother, about Dream Quest. I swear he saw the crazed look in my eye when I mentioned the similarity of his game to Dream Quest and he must have thought, “Alright, better agree with this crazy guy and his rantings about someone else’s game otherwise I might end up breathing through a new orifice”, but he was very nice about it.
Look, I really really like Dream Quest and if I’m mentioning a game in the same breath as Dream Quest, that means it’s a good game, okay? Hand of Fate is a rogue-like with deckbuilding elements. Kinda like Dream Quest. Sorry. That’s the last time I’ll mention that game. The dungeon tiles you navigate are made up of cards, and you can customize the cards that make up the dungeon deck as well as the item deck which is essentially the loot table. It’s very cool to be able to customize your experience but there’s still an element of uncertainty which prevents it from getting stale. It also looks really great.
Combat actually takes place as a 3rd person action style affair, which looks good, but the things I really enjoy are all the little touches. Things like the cards dropping down and materializing into your equipment, the animations for the dealer setting up and dealing the cards, and representing your health and food as cards in the main UI. They all remind you that this is a game with heavy tabletop roots, but also capitalizes on its digital presentation to create a very cool hybrid.
Bearzerkers made Adam’s girlfriend sad. She loves pandas, and in Bearzerkers they’ve been turned into bloodthirsty monsters that’ll eat you and your armadillo pals. With a variety of arenas, it’s a case of not needing to be faster than the panda, but merely faster than the rest of your armadillo friends. With power-ups of ice and fire, along with the ability to trap your friends (but not the pandas) with a trail of nettles, Bearzerkers makes for a gory day at the zoo. And why do they keep airlifting in MORE PANDAS?! We need FEWER pandas of death, not more! After a successful Kickstarter, we can’t wait to get the crew around the TV to watch our friends get eaten.
NINJA PIZZA GIRL
We’ve had them on the podcast before, and their story is a great one – the family dev team that are creating an action-platformer around their daughter’s experiences of bullying and pizza delivery. Nicole and Jason Stark – along with their daughter, Raven, an artist on the game – completed a successful Kickstarter campaign and the product as it stands is a blast.
It’s fast-paced, funny, and just feels great to play. The heroine bounces around the bleak, futuristic cityscape to score victory for the little guy against the BIG PIZZA BARON, and faces ridicule from competing delivery folks as well as inappropriately-dressed customers. As the player character’s self-esteem takes a hit, so does her speed. Their family studio is called Disparity Games, and their first major project, Ninja Pizza Girl, is set to be something special.
Swordy took us to a place of analogue input and weighty momentum. Contrasted with the low-detail, high-res game assets, Swordy made for a wonderful throw-back to the future. It’s way too much fun.
From the blocks of pixelated blood, to the heft of swinging the various weapons, to the joyous game of cat and mouse, Swordy made for a pretty version of a gladiatorial fight to the death. Evan couldn’t stop staring at those sheets of rain, as the colourful field of death flickered in and out of focus. Silly, spinning death makes for great multiplayer gaming. Thank you, Frogshark. (Aaron: Also, shield bash is OP. SHIELD BASH 4 PRESIDENT)
We hope you enjoyed our indie games roundup for PAX! Check out our other PAX coverage to hear interviews with all these developers, and stay tuned to The Action Points Podcast for more PAX Aus 2014 content!