Daizoren’s Top 10 Indie Games of 2011
It has been quite a year for gaming in general, but one of the greatest increases in popularity has been the indie scene. In this single year I’ve seen more interest rising in indie gaming than any previous year. Maybe it’s the fact that better titles are being released, maybe it’s the bigger deal and marketing that these games are getting, whatever the reason, indie games have made their way into the mainstream. From the Humble Indie Bundle to Xbox Live’s Indie Game section, there’s no denying the impact that these games are starting to make on the industry. As we wrap up another year here at VVGTV and in the indie game industry as a whole, I’d like to share my personal favorite indie games from 2011. This list is purely subjective to myself as I have not played every indie game. But these are the ones that I had the most fun playing from this past year.
10. Infinity Danger
While it’s simple in it’s design, it’s increasing difficulty is what attracted me to this title from the very start. I’ve always loved the top down flight games like Strikers and Geometry Wars and this game was like a boss fight right after a boss fight. Similar to the Shadow of the Colossus idea where you do nothing but fight giant, powerful bosses rather than small skirmishes, this game leaves you feeling like you can get further, beat more bosses and earn a higher score. The only problem I had with this title is the time limit. I would have loved a more lives based system that rewards you for getting higher scores with more lives rather than rewarding you with extra time. Maybe in a sequel.
9. Dead Pixels
Capitalizing on some of the biggest crazes that are going on right now, Dead Pixels is not only a game about zombies, but it’s also a classic style, 8-bit game (That looks surprisingly similar to a certain mega person we all know and love). Done like an old grindhouse film, Dead Pixels has elements of RPG, action, shooter and adventure strewn all about it’s level design. You fight zombies, you go to stores on your journey, check houses for supplies and have fun doing all of it. At times I found I was running out of ammo, but a quick back track to a store or quick navigation through houses revealed that I could have a load out that would take down anything in my path.
8. Crimson Alliance
Whether you agree that the Xbox Arcade titles are indeed Indie or not, some of them are made by smaller studios and don’t get the attention they deserve. Crimson Alliance is an homage to games like Gauntlet from the arcade days and plays like a semi-casual action game. You can choose from 3 different characters with their own particular specialties (I preferred the mage, as I always do) and you level up each individual as you go about your journey. The game got some flack for appearing to be free and only having you pay in order to get better equipment and abilities, but this wasn’t the case. It was just like every other game, except if you only wanted to play as one particular character (which the demo allowed you to test drive each one) then you could pay to play as one character rather than having to buy the whole thing with every character. This allowed players to pay what they wanted and, even though poorly marketed, was a good idea. The game itself was a blast and, while sometimes repetitive, the difficulty curve made for an exciting time and a great game for friends.
Skydrift was another arcade title that didn’t seem to get a lot of attention this year, despite having a great idea and executing it extremely well. Like a mario kart game, you’d get power ups which would allow you to take out your opponents, but this is a flight game. The premise may not be anything entirely innovative, but there’s no denying that this game is a great time and loads of fun for anybody who enjoys over the top arcade titles with the ability to blow up other racers. One innovation was the ability to upgrade your power ups by waiting to get a second pick up of the same power. This would allow for a much more devastating attack and it encouraged strategy. If you’re looking for something somewhat familiar with a refreshing twist on Mario Kart or Blur, this is an amazing title to try out.
No indie list is complete without the juggernaut that is Minecraft. Perhaps one of the quintessential games that has brought indie gaming into the mainstream and into the spotlight is this title. While it’s premise was simple and it’s idea turned towards creation, this game has spawned an entirely new community of innovators, creators and thinkers. From creating an entire computer system within the game to making musical pieces, this game has taken over so many people’s lives and left it’s mark as being one of the biggest games in recent years. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that this game is an indie title. The biggest and most mind blowing fact about this game is that it has millions of users and players and most of them started playing it before the official, 1.0 alpha version of the game was released this year. That shows just how amazing this game is.
5. Sonic Fan Remix
Sonic fans rejoice! Someone has made an amazing 2.5D Sonic game! And it’s not Sega! Who would have thought that two people working on limited time could release a game demo that ended up being better than Sonic 4: Episode 1’s entire campaign and Sonic Generations? Originally running on the Unity engine, it’s since been updated to work on the Egg engine and is still in development. The demo consists of 3 levels all within green hill and I can’t even explain the level of detail and amazement I saw when it first started up. From the momentum of Sonic’s spin to the reaction of each and every enemy in the game, this title, while only a demo, is an absolute necessity to any Sonic fan looking for that old, Genesis feel. The two people who designed this know more about Sonic and how to make a good Sonic game than the entirety of Sega. If any person from Sega happens to read this, do us all a favor; hire the two people who did Sonic Fan Remix and give them anything to make the newest Sonic game! Because they will do it right!
4. Dungeon Defenders
Coming out strangely around the same time as Orcs Must Die!, Dungeon Defenders is a Tower Defense/action game putting you in the hands of young apprentices fighting a horde of enemies that try to get past your defenses, past you and to your crystal. Why are they trying to get the crystal? Because it has the greatest enemy ever conceived trapped inside. This game took me by surprise this year as I originally thought it wasn’t anything special. This was because I was playing solo (As I like to always do starting out) but I found that this game works best when you work co-operatively. Trading high end equipment and fighting alongside friends not only increases your chances of progressing through the story, but it allows for some great fun with your best buds. As you progress, there are a few boss battles that, again, threw me off and completely took me surprise. This really made the game that much more enjoyable because it changed the pacing of the game greatly, leaving me feeling like I wasn’t always doing the same thing over and over again. A great Tower Defense game, an even better action title.
3. T.E.C. 3001
When I first saw the trailer for this title, I had to pick my jaw up off of the floor. If you’re a Sonic fan (yes, back to Sonic. I grew up on that stuff.) and you’ve really seen the fall of him as of late (Sonic and the Black Knight, Sonic and the Secret Rings… Really?) then you know how much you’ve wanted to see a successful 3D speed game in that sense. T.E.C. 3001 is that game. It starts you out slow and shows you the ropes on how to play the game, but the difficulty goes up rather dramatically and if you can’t keep up, you’re left in the dust. It’s a great challenge and a test of patience as you will be speeding across Tron inspired levels like nothing you’ve ever seen before. While many complain that you crash often, you can’t see where you’re going and can’t react fast enough, this title is nothing more than a challenge. If you’re like me, you like a good challenge and being able to play through some of those last levels without making a mistake has left me with some of the greatest feelings of accomplishments in gaming I’ve had this year.
2. Streets of Rage Remake
While not a new game and while based on an old game, Streets of Rage Remake was a brilliant remastering of each and every Streets of Rage game from the Genesis packed into one game. It was updated with a new palette of painted-style graphics but you could change them to old sprites if you so wished and every character from each game was playable. This was a game that I played during my childhood and it was one of the best games to play when I had friends over. Running through the city, beating up thugs and crooks while looking for the crime boss behind it all led to some amazing times and some of the best fights on the early systems. Being able to relive all of these as one coherent story and with the new look gave me some of the best nostalgia and some of the smoothest gaming I’ve had playing these old 2D games in recent years. It’s hard to find as Sega took down the original download, but if you can manage to find it (it’s bound to be somewhere on the internet) you will be happier than I can explain.
1. Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet
I’m sure this is a surprise to many people as this game didn’t sell very well and didn’t make a very big impact, but this game was THE game I anticipated this year. I had heard about the project 3 years before it was released and I was so psyched from the very first trailer. Seeing the smooth and beautiful animation and the dark, surreal style attracted me like nothing else could. I’ve always had an attraction to dark, yet beautiful creations and this game blew me away. When I first saw it, it looked like an actual animation that you could control, and not like any game ever before it. After seeing it, I started looking up more on Michel Gagne (The artist behind the unique style of the game) and I was floored by how amazing some of his stuff has been. His smoothness and attention to framerate and detail left me breathless. When I got my hands on the game I was in awe at every scene I played. From the opening scenario to the final boss, I was in love with the game. I have always loved Metroid and this game had a very similar feel to it, except you fly a space ship. The upgrades were not incredible, but they gave you some pretty cool control over the terrain and some innovative ways to solve puzzles and build strategies. The integration of 2D and 3D in this title is also something that hasn’t been as of late and the only thing I can think of that seemed to have a similar integration was some of the mode 7 games on the old SNES, but obviously this is done to a caliber so much higher and greater. If there is one single game that I could recommend from this year, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet is my pick. For it’s gameplay, it’s visual beauty and it’s killer adventure, this game is a winner.
So that’s my list for 2011. These are the games that caught my attention and drew me in with their own unique specialties and abilities. I’m sure my picks are rather odd and out of place from many others, but as I stated before, this is what stood out to me over the course of this past year. If there are some on here you never heard of, I wouldn’t be surprised. But regardless of your tastes, I recommend every single one of these titles if you’re looking for some of the indie’s greatest representations. I most certainly look forward to next year and what we will see from the indie community.