Live Free, Play Hard: The Week’s Finest Free Indie Games

By Porpentine on December 2nd, 2012 at 2:00 pm.

Close your eyes, the real ones. The only skill in this game is cheating. Alien civilization’s version of Metal Slug. Grow your own vignette.

Kim’s Story by Kim Moss

“When I was a young girl, I was a member of the Boy Scouts.” is one of the best opening lines I’ve ever read. Kim’s Story is so good and so sad. Why can’t I see anything. What’s wrong with my eyes.

Kim’s Story knows exactly what happened in that icy wilderness. We aren’t here to choose a different path, we’re here to talk about it. This is a conversation with the reader, a heart to heart, a story that wonders about your own story.

And it’s about the way society chooses a person’s gender, sexuality, and identity before they can even think for themselves, telling people the clothes they’re expected to wear for the rest of their life, telling them the name they must say to every person they ever meet no matter how uncomfortable it sounds to their own ears, telling them who to love and who they can never touch.

Get a new iPod case change your wallpaper buy a car go wild with decisions that matter only on the meanest level of existence but God forbid you choose your own identity.

This game speaks to the fact that everyone was a scared, confused kid once. I can’t imagine being cruel to someone while that thought is still in my mind.

Oh My Gorgons! by Alan Hazelden and Sarah Marshall

Wander a maze full of monsters who kill you on sight–and only on sight. Some enemies charge when they see you. Those aren’t so bad. The gorgons kill you instantly. Unless you close your eyes in real life. Trust me.

Oh My Gorgons! surprises us with how well we can play videogames with our eyes closed. Would I have beaten this game if I didn’t have a lifetime of WASD navigation seared into my fingertips? Who knows. I’m going to go play TF2 with my eyes closed and see if I kill anyone. I will be playing pyro.

A Fortune in Gold by John Candy

Beautifully deranged RPG about murdering tsarist autocrats in the wilderness of Russia and winning A Fortune in Gold. Seek marriage, ride boats, rob graveyards!

This scratches the same itch as Space Funeral. What itch is that, I guess it’s the itch to wander through a world painted with a glitched-out brush where the boundaries and inhabitants feel unpredictable and the music is glorious. An RPG that’s more of an uneasy truce than a vending machine.

I hate random battles but every enemy can be killed in one or two hits so it isn’t that big a deal. After a while they mysteriously stopped fighting me, ending combat after a wordless pause. I’m not sure if I had anything to do with that. Maybe it was the murder I did. Like I said, unpredictable.

I can’t call this ugly. I love the jaggedly evocative tiles, the dark blue river that conveys freezing cold so well, the NPCs drawn in minimal blotches of pixel.

Humbug 2 by pixelcontinuous

Humbug 2 could be called a puzzle platformer, but you won’t be pushing many crates or reversing gravity here, you’ll be breaking the 4th wall and exploiting metagame features to escape from a castle populated by knights and cannons. What changes when the game is paused, when does dying help me win, how can I mess up that guard’s word bubble so the “not” in “You may not pass.” is covered up? Less reflexes, more lateral thinking.

I always have to use a walkthrough at some point for the Humbug series but somehow I don’t mind. If I figure it out on my own I feel smart, if I use the walkthrough I’m like ahhhh that’s clever. Humbug is bullshit but it’s a good bullshit.

A Man’s Quest by Drunk Devs

You’re a kid wandering the 2D world in search of adventure. Fortunately your house is next to miles of spikes arranged in increasingly challenging formations. Must be a coincidence. You meet a bully, a ghost, and lots of those spikes. One of them is actually quite nice.

Jumping feels good. You can solve most of your problems by jumping. That’s the platformer guarantee.

A Man’s Quest deftly avoids what makes some platformers horrible to play, with superb controls and checkpoints ubiquitous as air. No masocore brutality here, just a simple interest in you blazing through the levels and enjoying the wind on your face.

Titan Flux Kapacity 2 by Jake Clover

Titan Flux Kapacity 2 is an alien civilization’s version of Metal Slug, a run and gun through hyper-saturated, myopic battlefields shooting slimy blobs and hijacking vehicles. It is not for human consumption. We can consume it anyways like a banned off-planet drug or turpentine.

Through the haze I begin to identify details. Running out of ammo leaves you helpless. You hurl grenades further if you’re in motion. These are vehicles, those are enemies.

The worth of TFK2 lies in deciphering enough of the chaos to progress. I wouldn’t call it a crowd pleaser but alien transmissions have always had their worth.

bluelit by Berkeley Staite

Bluelit was inspired by this tweet by Leon Arnott, “A Grow-like Twine game where you have a single scene and eight verbs that can be performed once in any order.”

In bluelit you have speak, touch, breathe, and cry. The verbs are well chosen and feel natural in any order.

Sitting on a bed next to a woman you–love? Betrayed? Just met? I won’t spoil the myriad outcomes (65 nodes total) of this emotion labyrinth. There’s a lot of anger, sorrow, and despair in this, so finding little triumphs on that bed feels sweet.

The author left behind Twine source code where all you have to do is plug in new values to make your own version. I love the idea of setting a story with four verbs–Stab Spell Delve Run, Wait Whistle Hide Walk, Drift Rain Storm Lightning–what an excellent way to structure a vignette. Just picking them is an art unto itself, trying to find four that work together as harmoniously as bluelit.

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12 Comments »

  1. Zerbin says:

    Oh My Gorgons had a neat trick. Pretty fun way to begin the day.

  2. SuicideKing says:

    You know the biggest reason i really started liking RPS? You lot actually look at games in a critical way. You realise they’re an art form, they’re a medium of entertainment, and that they impact the way we think, and that they influence society.

    This is probably one of the maturest sites i visit.

    And it’s so punny. :D

  3. samuraiweasel says:

    I liked Bluelit almost as much as Loneliness http://www.necessarygames.com/my-games/loneliness/flash .
    Its hard to bring an emotional response in people but these two do it simply, and well.

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      Oh, loneliness is rather good. I would say I’d seen it linked to earlier on RPS except I can’t recall trying it at all.

  4. berv says:

    Wow, thanks for the inclusion!
    “bluelit” was my first real outing with interactive fiction and it’s really encouraging to hear from people who’ve enjoyed it.
    Kudos to you, RPS (and special thank you to Porpentine), for being supportive of the strange and exciting things happening in indie space.

  5. Uniguinwarrior says:

    Kim’s Story was beautiful and great. Thanks for telling me about it.

  6. kukouri says:

    Oh wow. Nice list! I consider myself pretty in the know when it comes to what games are about, but hadn’t heard of any of these, good finds!

  7. SavageTech says:

    Titan Flux Kapacity 2 and A Fortune In Gold need to borrow Oh My Gorgons’ “close your eyes” mechanic. I’m not a big stickler for graphics but those games look like visual representations of seizures (and would probably induce one as well). I get that not all designers and/or coders like to make art, but if you can’t spend a few moments making something with more definite shapes than a pixellated Jackson Pollock painting then I can’t be arsed to download and play your game.

    That said, Oh My Gorgons and Humbug 2 were fun. I wish there were more levels in Oh My Gorgons but that’s not really a mark against it.

  8. Barts says:

    Please, keep these coming. I absolutely love the discoveries you’re making. I don’t always have the time to play them all, but almost each new article equals some little gem that I would not have found otherwise (and that from someone who reads indiegames.com quite regularly).

  9. LTK says:

    I’m a bit annoyed by how Gorgons seem to be able to look around corners. Otherwise, great game. We’ve had a game where you hold your breath, and now one where you close your eyes. When do we get a game that tells you to mute your sound?

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