Skip to main content

Welcome To The Arthouse: IndieCade 2011

A gallery of ingenuity

IndieCade kicks off on October 6th and that’s as good a reason for October the 6th as any I can think of. If you’re not aware of it, IndieCade is a festival, in its fifth year, that aims to celebrate all that is good in the world of indie games. Creators submit games and a roster of finalists is chosen for the event, at which they get lots of helpful exposure, such as these words that I’m writing at this very moment. Now that the 35 finalists have been announced, I’m going to take a look at the most interesting ones. By which I mean most of the ones that aren’t iOS games.

IndieCade can resemble an art gallery more than an arcade at times. The organisers have the noble aim of showing the cultural and artistic significance of gaming, which I’m all for, but it does mean there’s a lot less shooting and jumping, and a lot more ambience and contemplation.

just wait til you see the video

That said, let’s jump straight in with Terry Cavanagh’s At a distance. You may remember Terry from VVVVVV, which was a game everyone can understand. There’s a little person and some spikes. You’re hardly going to smooch the spikes, are you? At a distance doesn’t look quite as easy to penetrate, partly because when I watch videos of it I feel like I have a terrible eye infection. But also because it’s “a cooperative two player asymmetric puzzle game about solitude in shared experiences. One player is an explorer, the other a storyteller”. That makes it sound a little like Sleep is Death, but I don’t think it is at all. Here’s a short video.

Whew, eh? What? Told you we’d be going to some strange places. Well, I said ambient and contemplative. I meant strange. Terry’s game was actually made for an exhibition and he says an Expo floor is the perfect place for it because people are supposed to join and then leave the game at will. It’ll be at the Eurogamer Expo this month so hopefully we’ll have a chance to investigate.

There’s another co-op confusion-piece called Improviso, which puts two strangers together online and requires them to collaborate in a performance. The performance in question is a story about an alien encounter but it all sounds highly experimental. The ultimate goal, apparently, is to use the data produced to train an AI. Sounds dangerous to me. You can download it here if you foolishly want to train our future robot overlords. I was going to say it reminds me of The Restaurant Game and then realised it’s by the same people. That would be why then.

BasketBelle is next up. It’s a game about shooting hoops and, judging off Michael Mollinari’s earlier work, making me nostalgic and sad. We’ve covered it before but I’ll put the trailer here for you all to see, because I’m good like that, and it is worth a watch. The basketball mechanic looks quite slick but the flashes of narrative that punctuate the learning experience are probably going to be the heart of this one.

Watch on YouTube

From there to something altogether more vibrant. In fact, revisiting the website for this game was probably the most vibrant thing that will happen to me this week. It’s Deepak Fights Robots, a scribbly, platformy death-by-robot game. It frazzled John’s eyes a few months back and, to celebrate being an IndieCade finalist, it’s currently available at half price. That’s $4.95. If I was picked as a finalist for something, it’d give me self-worth and I’d start charging double, but different strokes, eh?

Mad trailer with funky sitar in 3…2…1…(click play now)

Desktop Dungeons is another game we’ve written lots about it in the past. It was one of Alec’s favourite games of 2010 and he feared it may be one of his favourite games of 2011 as well. It’s a roguelike logic puzzle that can hold an entire office full of people under its sway. Previously a free game, it’s had a proper spit and polish and is available to preorder now, which gives full access to the beta. Alec has written about it far more eloquently than I ever could, so I direct you here for his thoughts.

Way, which has a lovely trailer that I’ve included below, is yet another co-op game. This one encourages players to create a non-verbal language. There’s no way to communicate except by waving limbs around, Ragdoll style, so a form of signing must be developed in order to solve the world’s puzzles. It’s a fantastic idea and there’s an alpha version available for download.

I also want to say a little about Proteus, which is at an early stage of development but is already a very beautiful thing indeed. It’s a pure exploration game, with a musical overlay, that generates environments for no other reason than to give the player somewhere to wander and listen. I love it. Jim has talked about it before. It’s well worth your time. Great heaps of your time. It's the one I'd pick to win, even though I haven't even played some of them. I am a cruel and blatantly unjust judge, which is why no one asks me to judge anything.

exploration is the new shooting

The enchanting Dream Machine is also among the finalists. Word reaches me that chapter three should be out early October. It's inconceivable that people don't already know why the wait has been too long.

Finally, to bring things full circle, another puzzling first person somethinger. We’ve talked about Antichamber before and there’s no new information at the moment. But here’s some words about it. May also contain an image.

There are more things to see, so check out the page here. There’s plenty of interesting stuff for whatever iDevices you may currently be augmented with, as well as a game controlled by going ‘pewpewpew’ into microphones.

Read this next