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Top 7 Indie Games of 2012

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Pretty much every game on this list I chose because yes, they were some of the most memorable experiences in games I had in 2012, but also because of the atmosphere that they produce, the aesthetics found within and each game's unique visual style. All of these 6 games are very different, yet they are tied together by the fact that they are interesting, unique, and above all fun to play. Some of the games, Dear Esther for example, give a sense of unease to the player, making them feel like something just isn't quite right, while never saying it outright. The game isn't scary, it's just rather unsettling and sort of ominous. While in contrast Lone Survivor is suprisingly disturbing, due in part to it's sound design (jesus those monsters sound scary) and it's cool visual style and representation of the slow but apparent decay of the main character's sanity (shown through visual tricks such as seeing double of things and screen flickers etc). Botanicula and Fez bring about a sense of wonderment, joy, and discovery as you journey through the fantastic worlds presented in them. Spelunky takes the exploration and excitement in discovery found in Botanicula and Fez and combines it with the extreme difficulty of FTL: Faster than Light and Hotline Miami, making for an enjoyable and challenging experience.

2142965-botanicula_cover_600_thumb.jpg 1. Botanicula

One of the most charming games I played in 2012, Botanicula is a joy to play. The game is a point and click adventure game by Amanita Design, of Machinarium fame, who have some excellent credentials when it comes to point and click, and Botanicula is no exception. The game focuses on a small group of critters, and you'll end up using each one to solve different puzzles throughout the game. Like I said, the game has it's charms, such as a part fairly early on in the game where a genie grants all of the bugs a wish which plays out in a sort of mini-level. The sound design in this game is amazing. From the buzzing of bees, and the wizzing of assorted insects, the game really captures the sounds of nature. In a similar fashion, the art is like nothing I've ever seen. Combine all this together and you get a fantastic, unforgettably charming game that is hard to put down.

2166793-box_fez_thumb.png 2. Fez

Some may see the perspective flipping mechanic as a gimmick, I on the other had think it is a very interesting puzzle mechanic and put to good use throughout the game. Pretty much every adventure game penalizes you for dying and has enemies you have to deal with, taking away from the actual adventuring. Fez does a great job with focusing on the adventuring by having no enemies and doesn't penalize the player for dying. Not to mention the music and pixel art are fantastic, however the map system is overly confusing and generally unhelpful. Despite that minor flaw, I would say it was definitely worth the five year wait for this indie adventure/platforming gem.

2188072-lone_survivor_l__en__2012_133356 3. Lone Survivor

Lone Survivor is creepy. Sure, it's a 2D side scroller, but it is CREEPY. This side scrolling psychological survival horror game by British game developer Jasper Byrne harks back to the proper survival (and not action) horror games of old such as the original Silent Hill. The game forces you to scavenge for things such as food, ammunition, and batteries for your flashlight. It's nice to see a survival horror game that puts an emphasis on the SURVIVAL aspect as well as the horror, and doesn't just let you run around and shoot everything *cough* resident evil 5 *cough*.

2343271-hotline_miami_poster_728x1024_th 4. Hotline Miami

This game oozes cool (and blood). This hyper violent top down action game is set in an alternate universe 1980s Miami, Florida, and the over the top killing is accompanied by a wonderfully bizarre story (you go forth on a murderous rampage at the behest of voices on your answering machine) and a pounding electronic soundtrack that fits perfectly in tune with the fast paced combat to make for an exciting, trippy, and adrenaline-fueled experience.

2174133-dearesther_thumb.jpg 5. Dear Esther

I've heard many say that Dear Esther isn't "an actual game". Sure, it doesn't have actual gameplay persay, other than walking around, but I think this game represents a new way to see games. Games don't necessarily have to have intricate gameplay to be enjoyable. Where Dear Esther succeeds is in it's ability to tell an interesting story. Not only that, but the island in which the game takes place on looks fantastic. The player has no clue where they are exactly, but there certainly is an ominous feeling about this mysterious island. Also it gets my vote for best socks in a video game. Yep.

2288493-spelunky_thumb.png 6. Spelunky

Spelunky takes the exploration and excitement in discovery found in Botanicula and Fez and combines it with the extreme difficulty of FTL: Faster than Light and Hotline Miami, making for an enjoyable and challenging experience, as you explore different worlds from the mines to the jungle to even Hell itself, collecting gems and gold, stealing golden idols, and rescuing damsels in distress. It's a quick, fun, tough as nails permadeath adventurer that is a great joy to play.

2326566-ftl_box_thumb.jpg 7. FTL: Faster Than Light

This rogue like spaceship sim is a kickstarter success story: It garnered a huge following and got a ton of money during its funding time on kickstarter, and the developers delivered on their promise: an extremely difficult but addicting and fun space rpg. The game has you captain a space ship through 8 different sectors with the rebel forces right on your tail, meaning you will have to watch your back and hurry as you explore each sector.

2012's 2011 game(s) of the year (top 5)

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So I wanted to do something like this because there were quite a few games that came out last year that I only got around to playing this year, and there were a good number of them so I decided to make a top 5. Here you are!

Honorable Mention: Dungeons of Dredmore

1821524-box_bastion_thumb.png1. Bastion

The top two games on this list, Bastion and S:S&S EP are both beautiful, artistic games. Bastion for me was one of my favorite experiences I had this year. Bastion is beautiful. Simple as that. The game's fantastic art style is accompanied by an epic soundtrack and the one and only narrated, who provides commentating on dynamic events, keeping the game fresh and adding a sense of humor at times. The Bastion becomes the hub of the game, as you collect cores you can upgrade the Bastion to have an armory, distillery, etc. allowing you to upgrade the protagonist's gear.

1563810-image3_thumb.jpg2. Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP

Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP was unlike any game I have played. The game is played in short "sessions", as the narrator puts it, lasting about 15-20 minutes a piece, perfect for the mobile platform which it is on (IOS but it is out on PC as well). The game, as the title may lead you to believe, is about swords and "sworcery", and combat is quick and fun, having you flip your device to enter combat, and granting you the ability later on in the second session to cast spells. The pixel art is utterly incredible, and the soundtrack is one of my favorite game soundtracks of all time. An interesting experience that is not to be missed.

2104838-dnr_thumb.jpg3. Dig-N-Rig

Having played this game for countless hours and mining out the entire world. Yeah this game is fun. You may not think it from just looking at it, even playing it, but this is a student game developed by students at Digipen in Washington, the samecollege ofwhich the creators of Portal attended. The game has a simple goal: mine your way to the core using different dig tools, rig tools, and gadgets such as mega bombs and your jetpack (which trust me you will need). The game has old school graphics and a great 8-bit soundtrack, and you will become enthralled with trying to mine to the core which houses a secret as well as the end of the game. In addition, you can mine another area that I will not spoil, seeing as when I found it I had already played through the game without noticing it and I just thought it was great. The one complaint I would have with this game is it has limited replay value, because well, after mining out the entire game world you don't really have anywhere to go with it, although I suppose it is a student game so I can't be complaining because for a student game it is very deep, and a very fun, nostalgic experience that I enjoyed immensely.

1669000-cthulhu1_thumb.jpg4. Cthulhu Saves the World

Another sort of throwback game if you will to the days of 16 bit JRPG's. This is a game in which you play as cthulhu who's powers have been taken from him. In order to get said powers back again he has to become a hero! Cthulhu is not happy about this. At all. The game pokes fun at the standard JRPG tropes while being quick witted and providing some hilarious interactions between Cthulhu and the narrator. A fun little rpg, and extremely cheap too, which you know is always a plus side.

2266543-box_tboi_thumb.png5. The Binding of Isaac

God dammit. I didn't play this game for some time after purchasing it for the sole reason that I knew I was going to get addicted to it, especially from what my friends were telling me about the game and the insane amount of time one friend in particular has logged on it. The game comes the twisted yet disturbingly-funny mind of Edmund McMullen, designer behind indie classic Super Meat Boy. The Binding of Isaac is clearly heavily inspired by the original Legend of Zelda, with players exploring Isaac's basement room by room, fighting enemies and collecting items. There are a ton of hidden secrets in almost every room, so it is worth your while to look around before blasting through the rooms the boss room (there are also item rooms, torture rooms, etc.). Also the game is hard. Really hard. Like perma-death hard. There are different characters to unlock by completing certain objectives, and each character has different stats and health (again reminiscent of Legend of Zelda with health being measured in the row of hearts in the top right corner). Isaac starts off with three hearts, so needless to say you are going to die a lot. It's a weird, twisted game, but with old school sensibilities and the challenge of perma-death dungeon crawlers, this game is a great one to play and you will get hooked immediately.

Top 10 going to be put off for a bit

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Hey guys I know I promised to have it up this weekend but seeing as mid years are coming up for me in a week, I am going to be waiting a while to do my Top 10. So hopefully I'll have that up soon, and sorry for the delay.

Killian

Thirty Flights of Loving: not what I thought it was going to be

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With all the game of the year deliberations going on lately, I'm sure you've all heard thirty flights of loving come up at least a couple times, with people praising it as "innovative" and exclaiming that it has "groundbreaking storytelling". Well clearly I'm missing something, because what I just played for 15 minutes was a disjointed and stiff game that cost me $4.99. I had heard a lot of great things about this game leading up to me purchasing it and playing it, so I was really excited to see what kind of fresh method of storytelling this game could bring to the games industry, as something this industry needs is new and exciting ways to tell a story. The story is told through vague, disjointed (what are essentially) interactive cutscenes. After completing the 15 minute long story, I was had a fair idea of the plot, however the story was (in my opinion) so vague that I had to search online for the answers to some of the questions I had, such as "what the hell just happened". From what I gathered after playing the game (and what I ended up looking online for) is that the plot is centered around a three person crime team smuggling alcohol (the brand is named Midnight Hobo) into the German bar they operate out of during a prohibition. The team executes a grand heist and things don't go nearly as well as planned (no spoilers I promise). You play as a nameless and silent protaginist, and the team is made up of two others, who's names are Anita and Borges. Anita is the love interest of the protaginist, and it is suggested that the player and her are both casual friends and sexually attracted to one another. It is also shown in a well done cutscene (one of the best I think along with Borges' cutscene which is similar) that she is the technical weapons expert of the group. Borges (and his mighty beard!) is the getaway driver and operations specialist for the three. He is possibly the leader of the group and a good friend of the player (this is shown later in the game when the player makes a certain choice, perhaps showing the player is more emotionally and professionaly invested with Borges than Anita). All interaction with Borges takes place within the mission aspects of the game, while interaction with Anita is almost entirely in the non-criminal scenes of the game.

So all in all, I'm not really sure how I feel about this game, but I would say I ws rather let down. Now, I know earlier it perhaps seemed I was rather disgruntled with this game. Don't get me wrong, I don't HATE the game, I just don't think it is worth $4.99 or a game of the year nod.

Top 10 of 2012 coming soon!

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Hey guys quick update here. Going to (hopefully) have a top 10 of 2012 up soon, possibley this weekend (at least that's what I'm aiming for). So that will definently happen if I'm not playing Dayz, Fez, or Hotline Miami the whole weekend (don't worry I'll try to get it up!).

Killian

The New Year and the Humble Bundle

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Well, it's a new year. With a new year comes a lot of stuff, whether it be the every day hustle and bustle that comes with life, or something else, this year seems like it's going to be just as busy as the past few have been, at least for me. But hey! This is a blog about games, and with a new year comes loads more games to play. I may have talked about this in my previous blog, but I really need to start finishing games. Now I love games, and I'm excited to get new games and to see what they have to offer, but I feel like I am purchasing games faster than I can finish them. I have a ton of games that I have yet to finish, despite enjoying them immensely. Red Dead Redemption, Halo 4, Skyrim, are all games I love, but I haven't had the time to finish. I got a bunch of games over Christmas, and I haven't started about two thirds of them, however I plan to as they are games I have been eyeing for a while (Fez, Braid, Bioshock). So hopefully I will have some time to play them in the coming weeks, but with mid terms in two weeks, looks like those games will be waiting a while (except for Fez because that game is fantastic).
I actually forgot to talk about Christmas in my last entry, so I figure I'll give you guys a summary of what happened over Christmas break. It was actually really good that break came when it did, I was starting to get a little overwhelmed with the amount of work I've been recieving from school as of late. So that was nice, and it was really just a relaxing vacation, which is just what I needed really. I played some games, as I mentioned last post I started one of the games I got for Xmas, Bioshock, and I am loving it. I'm planning on doing game reviews, so that might be one of the first when I get around to finishing that. So all in all, a good vacation.

And with that, I figured I might start talking about some games (and a movie!).

Indie-Game-the-movie-2.jpeg

So I'm sure many of you have heard of this documentary. It follows three developers through the development process of three popular indie games (Jonathan Blow, Braid; Team Meat, Super Meat Boy; and Phil Phish, Fez), and the film mainly focuses on Team Meat and Phil Phish and the creation of there games, while Jonathon Blow sort of provides insight from time to time on what he thinks makes indie games special. Through interviews with the developer, the documentary does a fantastic job of showing just how strenuous and exhausting it is to make a game, especially with just one or two people.

I recently bought the humble indie bundle 7, and this was included in it. Despite having seen this about 4 times on Netflix I was happy that they decided to include it in the bundle, and speaking of that bundle, SEGWAY


The Humble Indie Bundle 7

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So the Humble Indie Bundle 7 just ended, and I purchased it over vacation. Let me say that it was well worth 7$, and it was nice to see the money go to both charity and the developers behind these fantastic games. While there are a few I haven't played yet, I thought I could go into some detail about the ones I have started playing.


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The Binding of Isaac:

I've heard a lot about this game, and I was very excited at the oppurtunity of getting it, and it's DLC, Wrath of the Lamb. Immediatly I recognized the art style of Edmund McMullan, co-creator and designer of Super Meat Boy, an art style which I am a huge fan of. Also, I was struck by the sort dark comedy that the game brings about, and rather the ridiculousness and signature dark and adolesent humour mix that accompanies almost all of McMullan's games (one of the items in the game is Isaac's mom's pad). At the start of the game, we find out how Isaac became trapped in the basement courtesy of the opening cutscene. In this intro, we see God speaking to Isaac's super-religious mother, telling her that her son must be sacrificed. Obeying, Isaac's mother busts into his room clutching a butcher's knife, and Isaac struggles to find somewhere safe, eventually escaping into the basement, where the majority of the game plays out (although later locations such as the Chapel add variety and new rooms). The gameplay is inspired by the room-to-room exploration that was found in the original Legend of Zelda, albeit slightly more disturbed. It plays like a mix of a rogue-like RPG, a run-and-gun shooter, and a typical adventure game. The game only lasts 15-20 minutes, but multiple playthroughs further the story, as beating the game more than once unlocks more bosses and rooms to explore.


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The Basement Collection:

The Basement Collection is a collection of Edmund McMullan's earlier flash offerings, including Aether, the original Meat Boy flash prototype (precussor to Super Meat Boy, of course), Spewer, Time **** and more. When you first boot up the game, you will discover that 5 games are unlocked right off the bat. Upon completing these, the other four or so games are unlocked, along with a plethora of concept art, music, and even bonus footage from Indie Game: The Movie.


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Cave Story+:

Cave Story + is my kind of game. Full of nostalgic tunes and old-school platforming sensibilities with a mix of shooter elements, an homage to the sort of games the developer played as kids, such as Metroid. The game focuses on the amnesiac, silent main character who awakens in a cave at the start of the game. After a bit of exploration, you began to discover the plot of the Doctor, a power-hungry meglomaniac who intends to make the inhabitants of the cave fight for him in his quest for power and world dominance. Throughout the game. you collect different weapons, which you can toggle between with the press of a button. Some enemies drop yellow glowing triangles, which are experience points. EXP works in an interesting way in Cave Story, in that you lose EXP when you take damage, and you don't level up the character, you are leveling up the gun you currently have equiped. When a gun is leveled up, the radius of the shot is increased, and each weapon has it's own unique abilities and firing capabilities.

 

 

So that's all the I've had the chance to play so far, but I'm hoping to play the others soon, and when I do make sure to check back here if you want to read about them!

See you guys next time,

Killian

Hey everyone!

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Hey guys so I know I have been gone for a LONG time (quite a few months) but I will try my best to be on more regular;y and post some blogs and stuff.

So a lot has gone on since I was last on. Been playing a ton of games as usually, got bioshock, just cause 2 and oblivion goty for christmas so I have been playing those (haven't started a oblivion yet). Bioshock is a hell of a game. The minute I first entered rapture I was drawn into to this world. I think what really helped them with this was the music and all the period stuff around such as period posters, advertising plasmids and tonics, made me feel like it was 1959/1960. Also, the jump scares in that game are done excellently. At times the game brings up your expectations that there will be a jump scare around this corner, and you inch your way ever so slowly around the corner and there's nothing there. You think huh I thought they would have scared me here. Now the game has lowered your guard. As soon as you turn around BAM it scares the crap out of you. I am not too far into this game yet, but I am extremely excited to play more of it, as it is a fantastic game.

I've also been downloading a lot more on steam, especially now that the winter sale is going on. I have always been a HUGE fan of indie games, and so I've been downloading a bunch of those such as Thirty Flights of Loving, Darwinia, Bit. Trip. Runner, Limbo, Lone Survivor, etc. All so far have well exceeded my expectations.

But I feel like there is a decline in the gaming industry. Games are all to keen to take the "call of duty initiative" and fill the game with generic set pieces and hold your hand through the entire game. The originality and creativity that drew me to gaming years ago is slowly dissappearing. This is why I embrace indie games, and this is probably the case for many fans of the genre. With the growing number of call of duty games and their clones, along with games relying on big set pieces, indie games are a refreshing breath of air in terms of originality. Also these games don't hold your hand throughout the whole game pointing out where to go in an extremely linear fashion. Now I'm not saying that all games made by big publishers are bad. Not at all. In fact, I recently bought the original Splinter Cell off of steam, and it is fantastic. Unlike the more recent entries in that series, this game actually requires you to use stealth, and running into a room guns blazing will get you killed almost immediatley. This game also doesn't point you right to the objective. It requires actually exploring.

Exploration is key in games I think. If a game is too linear than people will get bored. If you let the player loose and just say "here go look around, discover stuff yourself" if makes for a much more interesting gaming experience. One game I think does an excellent job of this is Just Cause 2. Sure, it gives you missions, but it let's you do them whenever you the player feel like doing them. And they world they have created in that game is amazing. From small islands to deserts to jungles to snowcapped mountains, the locations are always fresh and interesting each time I visit them. One could waste away hours simply driving around in that game.

Now my bashing of most modern games is probably going to get me a lot of crap (it already does), such as people whining at me "uuuuuh you're such a hipster wtf why are you such a hipster oooh indie games hipster", those people would be wrong. For a few reasons. First of all, I am not a hipster because I play a certain type of games or rather I enjoy those games the most. I do not like them simply because they "aren't popular", no. I like them because I like them, and because they are interesting and fun to play, and to be honest better than half the bull from big publishers.

So hopefully the gaming industry will get it together, but even if the annualy call of duties and the big set pieces and linear game design continue, I'll have indie games and some old classics to keep me busy.

Also now that I will be posting more regularly I've decided to add some sections to my blog posts. First up, I'll be adding a reccomendations section! In this I'll reccommend a couple games I've been playing, and then I'll have a spotlight on one of those games, with a summary of the game, my thoughts and opinions of the game, and probably some other stuff.

Reccomendations:

-Bioshock

-Thirty Flights of Loving

-Bit. Trip. Runner.

-Super Brothers Sword and Sworcery EP

Until next time,

Killian

Skyrim kick

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hey guys Ive been getting back into skyrim lately. I got it the day it came out, but I have sort of felt overwhelmed by the sheer size of the game. But lately I have been feeling like I really want to get back into it. Its such a great game, and I really need to play it some more. A friend and I are learning dragon toungue XD

So yeah getting back into skyrim, and PAX East is coming up soon! Right by where I live. I am not going this year (Im going to anime boston) but I reeeeally want to go to PAX next year. Sounds awesome.

In other news, I found a great dubstep artist who does a lot of remixes of game music, such as a re-orchectrated version of the skyrim theme as well as 'pokestep' (lavender town theme is a good one). Definently go check out Stephen Walking if you havent already.

What games are you guys looking forward to? What games are you playing? Let me know!

-Killian