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The Friday Indie Forecast

We've been inundated with news of forthcoming indie games over the past few months, and the trend looks set to continue. While we'll always try to link to the best of them - and especially those which are released and have demos - I want to be a bit more systematic about previewing a few of the titles we see each week. I'll be doing that every friday. This week we have Waves from Squid In A Box, Alien Zombie Megadeath from PomPom Games, and Vertex Dispenser from Michael Brough. Click below to take a look!

Also, if you are an indie developer and you want to send me news of your forthcoming unreleased game please do so here. Emailing in does not guarantee coverage, obviously... But it's worth a shot, eh?

Waves is in a private beta right now, and should be just a couple of months from launch. It's Rob Hale's first indie project, which he's now doing full-time after having spent years working in mainstream development. The game is being developed in UDK, but it's most certainly not an FPS. This top-down arena shooter's protagonist is a rolling ball which can shoot in any direction, and it's under attack from platonic shapes! Hale himself admits that he's not a visual artist as such, but it's undeniable that this minimal, abstract approach is reaping some exquisite psychedelic visuals. See here in this trailer:

Watch on YouTube

You'd think that the game would work best with a pad, with the two thumsticks control movement and direction of fire - and that does work - but I was actually far more effective with the mouse and keyboard. I'd say that was probably because the mouse is a bit more accurate. That in mind, it was a bit wobbly to start with, because I was playing in a windowed mode, and the cursor kept vanishing. But anyway, Waves consists in classic score and time attack modes (get high score, or survive for as long as you can) as well a challenge mode, in which there are twenty distinct levels, and neat mode called bombing run, in which you have to get a bomb into a point in the arena while avoiding being killed by the spawns. On every mode the spawns keep coming and things only get tougher for you to blast them all, and so fortunately Waves has one last trick to ameliorate this accelerating challenge: you can briefly slow time - perfect for getting yourself out of trouble.

Waves is pacey and extremely challenging. I think the odd slowed-inerita of the "craft" you rolling around the arena will put some people off, because it feels like it should be marginally more responsive, but dealing with that is certainly part of what makes this a tough game to master. Best of all though, is the presentation and polish of it. The neon glow and understated visuals give it a credible feel, and seat it firmly within the realm of potentially being a great arena shooter. In fact it reminds me a lot of Mutant Storm, which we were keen on long before that was launched. Speaking of which...

...Mutant Storm's makers, PomPom Games, are bringing out a new game on PC, and it's called Alien Zombie Megadeath. The name might sound a bit like an attempt to clean up something that MUST do well on Google, but it's also yet another strong arcade offering from the tiny studio. PomPom, in case you aren't familiar with them, have made a bunch of fine arcade games. I'd say Mutant Storm is one of my all-time favourite arena shooters, and Space Tripper is resplendent too, if a bit tricky for me. You can pick up both of these on their website, and the rather more involed Mutant Storm Empire is on it's way for PC too, apparently this Autumn.

Anyway, Alien Zombie Megadeath sees you take on the role of a suited astronaut with a gun, who must defend his spacecraft from alien zombies. It's a single-screen platform shooter which requires you to dash along and between the various platforms to deal with the waves of enemies that come in. It looks like this:

You collect different types of weapon as you go, and collect crystal things for hi-score. As you'd expect from PomPom's games, that's about as complicated as it gets (although there seem to be a few other puzzles thrown in along the way) and the real reward is just how solid the game is and how much it demands of your twitchy skills. This should be out on PC in the Autumn, hopefully, but I believe it has to arrive on console toys first. Boo!

Finally (but holy crap this is exciting) we will all soon be able to play Vertex Dispenser by Michael Brough. This game is spectacularly clever, as I can attest from having spent a couple of hours with the preview code. Here's the trailer, which is almost certainly too abstract to give you a good idea of what is going on.

Watch on YouTube

I know, you're not expecting much, but I swear to Horace that this will devour you.

Essentially you are firing along these vertices to capture areas and take down other enemy craft. It's as simple as that sounds, and yet as cerebral and tactically demanding as almost any puzzle game I can think of. It's one of those games which is somehow fine-tuned to your spatial reasoning, so that you become partially mesmerised within just a few moments of playing it. The levels are all huge grids that curve across various shapes, and despite this very basic aesthetic it somehow manages to be atmospheric, perhaps because you get the feeling there's a malignant AI pulsating behind the scenes. Actually, I'm not going to say any more about this because I want to do a full-on article when it's out, which should be very soon. Brough says it's delayed to fix a bug, and then will be up on Steam. It should be fantastic.

More soon!

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