The independent game market has exploded over the last few years, largely due to more accessible means of distribution, such as Xbox LIVE and the Playstation Network. In fact, many of the games developed for these platforms owe their huge success to the exposure garnered from their IGF wins.
Even still, the Independent Games Festival goes significantly unnoticed by the gaming community at large, despite numbers continually growing for the San Francisco based event. In fact, this year’s IGF is the largest to date and with good reason: the entries for this year are simply amazing in design, concept, and execution.
If you haven’t been following the nominations and news that have peppered gaming websites since this January, read on to learn more about the five finalists that will likely be gracing your console of choice soon enough.
There are several categories for the IGFs, but the most prestigious of honors is the Seamus McNally Grand Prize. Previous winners of the Seamus McNally award include Crayon Physics Deluxe, Aquaria, Darwinia, and Gish, all excellent games that have received a cult following.
This year’s finalists are true contenders, with each of the five bringing something different to the table in terms of gameplay, design, and graphics. In fact, I would venture to go so far as saying this year’s competition will be one of the toughest to decide, and I commend the judges for their efforts. It will be a hard decision indeed. Without further ado, here are your five IGF finalists:
Monaco is being developed by Pocketwatch Games, which is comprised of one Andy Schatz. Previous games under his belt include Wildlife Tycoon Venture Africa & Venture Arctic, but it looks like Andy is taking a completely different direction with a top down stealthy action game.
The game draws inspiration from French heist films, with a team of crack pot thieves working to solve the levels co-operatively. From the hacker to the locksmith, each team member can complete any job, but using the specialized skills of each team member means getting access to areas quicker so you can get in and get out without being caught, the true objective of any heist.
Super Meat Boy
Super Meat Boy saw its start simply as Meat Boy, an insanely difficult flash game made popular on Newgrounds. In fact, Meat Boy is still playable on Newgrounds, for anyone looking to get a taste of this squishy platformer.
Team Meat, the boys behind the game, have stressed that Meat Boy was not designed for the casual gamer, though it’s quite easy to pick up. In fact, Meat Boy’s only skills include jumping and leaving meaty trails behind him, but timing your jumps with the hazards in the level will leave even the most hardened platform veteran screaming in anger.
Super Meat Boy is the spiritual successor to Meat Boy in both form and function, as it features the same gameplay that won the hearts of many on Newgrounds, updated with the ability to unlock new characters, some of which are cameos from other indie games.
The most notable of these cameos is the tuxedo’d protagonist of Braid. Super Meat Boy is also nearly three times the size of the original, so it’s easy to see why the game is up for a win.
Game developers seem to be exploring the possibility of telling a story interactively, which is what has made games like Heavy Rain and to a lesser extent, Deadly Premonition draw such attention. Regardless of whether these games get the formula right or not, the indie community has been experimenting with it as well.
The Path was perhaps the first interactive story told through gameplay, and this year’s Trauma is no different. In fact, Krystian Majewski describes the game on her website as, “…a story of a young woman who survives a car accident. Recovering at the hospital, she has dreams that shed light on different aspects of her identity – such as the way she deals with the loss of her parents.”
Trauma plays out like a point and click adventure told from the first person, but the flashes of images and storyline that seep into the viewer’s subconscious as you explore the world quickly build the suspense and the story of what happened directly before the car crash and the results afterward. It’s an interesting look into the psyche of a confused victim attempting to piece her life back together after a deadly change of events.
Joe Danger will allow you to relive the glory days of motorcycle stunt riders such as Evil Knievel from the safety and comfort of your own home. The game explores the wide world of stunt riding, with co-op races and stunts set up in a cartoon world.
It’s probably the only game in the finalist list that doesn’t take itself too seriously and with good reason; some of the antics that can be pulled off with the game’s stunt engine are truly epic. Of course, one of the major draws for the game is the fact that it will include a level editor, so you can create levels and share them with friends, sharing the love and fiery inferno of stunt riding in all its animated glory.
Rocketbirds is the only flash game to make the top five finalists, but one glance at the game play and it’s easy to see why. Rocketbirds utilizes its flash assets to create a cinematic adventure told in true Sin City style. It’s a humorous take on the rather serious subject of oppression, as you take control of HardBoiled Chicken in order to free the world of its penguin oppressors.
Featuring outstanding tongue-in-cheek humor and a look at some of the best visuals you’ll find in a flash game, Rocketbirds is deserving of its nomination if not based on story alone. Of course, aside from the grand prize nomination, Rocketbirds has been nominated for three other categories. While I find it unlikely that this game will take the show, I do believe it’ll find a win in either Visual Art or Audio.
There you have it! That’s a look at your five finalists for IGF 2010 and how they play. My choice for the show is Monaco, as it’s an innovative game that features co-op play and nerve-wrecking action, something that the gaming industry has been exploring more and more with games like Left 4 Dead and Borderlands.