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    Upcoming Indie Games 2015-2016

    Both the Game Developer’s Conference and Penny Arcade Expo have become venues for indie developers to show off their latest projects. We scoured the show floors and came across a dozen games that captured our attention.

    Outer Wilds
    Developer : Team Outer Wilds  Platform : PC  Release : TBA
    This project from a group of USC students took home the Seumas McNally Grand Prize at the 2015 Independent Game Festival Awards. The intergalactic adventure places players in the shoes of a young alien astronaut preparing for its first space voyage. Once you take off from your home planet, you must explore the nearby planet to learn more about the origin of the solar system and the ancient ruin kept at the home-world observatory. In a nod to Majora’s Mask, after every 20 minutes of playtime the universe ends with a supernova explosion, leaving you to start from square one again with only the data you recorded in your spaceship to guide you. Without player leveling, proper mission structure, or resource gathering to worry about, you can devote all your time to unraveling this charming game’s mysteries. You can download an early build of the game for free from the Outer Wilds website, but with the $30,000 winnings now at the team’s disposal, you can bet they have some ambitious plans for honing this celestial experience.

    Developer : Pixel Titan Platform : PC Release : Spring 2016
    Pixel Titan pitches this retro FPS throwback as a forgotten relic that’s plucked right out of the ‘90s. The smooth, fast-paced gunplay is reminiscent of classics like id Software’s Doom and Quake series. The low-poly environments and enemies sell the bloody, nostalgic vibe even harder. While the gunplay feels awesome, the real clincher is that Strafe features roguelike elements, like procedurally generated 3D labyrinths, upgradeable gear, and permadeath. If you’re interested in a first-person shooter that ditches the hyper-realistic look, keep Strafe on your mind.

    Push Me Pull You
    Developer :
    House House  Platform : PC  Release : 2015
    The local-multiplayer scene has been on fire lately, and that streak continues with an odd two-on-two title by the Australian-based House House. In Push Me Pull You, each player controls one end of a bizarro snake-human thing. The two teams compete to push the competitors’ ball off an arena while defending their own. Players can expand and contract these absurd creatures on the fly, complete with
    unsettling sound effects and animations that keep players laughing uncomfortably. Like many promising indie-multiplayer games, the concept is brilliant in its infectious simplicity.

    Developer : Broken Window Studios Platform : PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC Release : April
    What do the little choices we make say about us as people? In Reflections, a first-person interactive adventure, every action you take has consequences and says something about you. The game begins on the day before you head off to college, so you must decide how to spend your very last day home. You can focus on relationships, go exploring, get things in order for college, or just play horseshoes. Time passes as you play, allowing only a certain number of tasks. Circumstances change based on these decisions, opening up new paths or events. Even more intriguing is the game assesses your personality type at the end based on how you spent your time. Your actions can lead you down the path of being an office executive, going out in the wilderness, or living with your family, to name a few.

    Developer : Lunarch Studios Platform : PC, Mac Release : TBA
    In the ever-expanding world of digital card games, the sci-fi-themed Prismata has a hook there are no decks to build, ever. Players have access to the same core cards to play each game, and face off in a sort of resource war to destroy the opponent. Do you create a more economical base to prepare for a strong endgame, or come out of the gate swinging? There’s another catch to keep things fresh from game to game in the form of a random assortment of cards placed in the pool each match. This means that each game varies greatly in terms of strategies used, because while both players have access to the same card pool, they may choose to pursue different ways to win. Because of the shared card pool, there’s absolutely no randomness involved, making each round a test of skill from start to finish.

    The Westport Independent
    Developer : Double Zero One Zero  Platform : PC, Mac, Linux  Release : TBA
    The Westport Independent has a similar aesthetic to Papers, Please. It also has just as thrilling of a hook: You’re the editor-in-chief of an independent newspaper about to shut its doors thanks to the government. Will you support the government, sensationalize headlines, or attempt to uncover corruption? Both government loyalists and rebel factions try to get you to print their competing agendas, making it your decision of what version of the truth you want to promote. Your writers help with transcriptions and articles, and also have their own views and biases on what’s best for the paper which can make managing them tricky. Your job matters, as what you pick to print affects the people of Westport, factoring in the events of the town and further influencing the articles you can write. It sounds like a simulation delight. 

    Through The Woods
    Developer : Antagonist Platform : PC Release : 2016
    Through the Woods is a horror game with a truly horrifying premise: Your child has been stolen by an enigmatic creature called Old Erik, and you have to enter a forest at night to rescue him. Armed only with a flashlight, the child’s mother has to confront her fears and the menacing darkness. Sound takes a starring role, selling the idea that she’s nervous and that there’s more going on in the woods than what she can see. Developer Antagonist says it won’t rely on jump scares, but are instead trying to make the entire experience uncomfortable for the player. The tale is framed with audio of the mother being questioned by police. It’s an intriguing setup did she rescue her child, or was she found by police at the site of a gruesome crime scene?

    Developer : Studio MDHR Platform : Xbox One, PC Release : 2015
    This tribute to the classic cartoons of yesteryear is a colorful feast for the eyes. We’ve spent plenty of time drooling over the visuals, but we finally got to play it. Thankfully, Cuphead plays as well as it looks. The core gameplay is a collection of super-difficult boss battles, where reading cues (like a pirate whistling to summon a giant squid) is paramount to survival. The fast-paced, run-and-gun action feels as tight and responsive as the classic console games it’s inspired by. Get ready to be simultaneously charmed and challenged.

    Moon Hunters
    Developer : Kitfox Games Platform : PlayStation 4, Vita, PC  Release : February
    In Moon Hunters, you are cooperatively exploring an ancient Mesopotamian world with up to three other players. Kitfox’s game is an action/RPG, complete with swords and magic. Each character has a regular attack and a more powerful one that’s on a cooldown. The entire world is procedurally generated, so every time you play will be different, allowing you to create several legends. The most exciting part is that you’re building a culture’s mythology with your choices. A storyteller starts the game telling your legend, and you determine how that plays out. Your choices earn you certain personality traits. For instance, if someone asks you for food, you can either gain the compassionate or selfish trait. Your story could end up being one of rags to riches to gaining and losing pride.

    Earthlock: Festival Of Magic
    Developer : Snow Castle Games  Platform : PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Wii U, PC, Mac, Linux  Release : October
    This turn-based RPG comes from developers who previously worked at studios such as Ubisoft, Rockstar North, and LucasArts. In Earthlock, the world has stopped spinning. This left half of it is dark and the other half light. You recruit up to eight playable characters, each with their own unique skillset, like damage-dealers or healers, and engage in fun battles. You’re always aware of your turn order, and can use abilities like haste to alter it. Every character has two different stances that lend them different abilities; one can be more defensive, while another can give you perks like stealing. Switching between stances costs you a turn, but gives you more options in the heat of battle; forcing you to assess the best move in the long run.

    Mayan Death Robots
    Developer : Sileni Studios  Platform : PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC  Release : August (PC and one console), TBD (other console)
    If you can’t gain the favor of a god, be a god. In this Scorched Earth-like artillery game, players vie for domination by choosing heavily armed Mayan robots to destroy their opponent’s core. This is handled via simultaneous turns during which players can choose one of two primary weapons, jumping, or (if available) rebuilding terrain with tetrominos to shield their core.

    Every eighth turn, a wheel spins and awards both players a single-use power. These include heavy explosives and the amusingly frustrating block rocket that encloses opponents in terrain (and likely causes them to inflict splash damage on themselves). You can destroy an opposing robot, but that doesn’t end the game. It just knocks them out for the next turn. Depleting the core’s health (or blowing up the terrain underneath and dropping it into the abyss) leads to victory. We suspect that after playing it you’ll be more than willing to accept a rematch.

    Jenny LeClue
    Developer : Mograf  Platform : PC, Mac, Linux  Release : Winter
    Jenny LeClue is an intelligent young detective trying to prove her mother’s innocence in a murder. The adventure game is story-focused and choice plays a big factor, changing the outcomes between chapters. A narrator, Finklestein, tells Jenny’s story, but your choices can change what he says and even how his story plays out. Jenny LeClue harkens back to old-school point-and-click adventures, allowing you to click all over the backdrop. The game rewards you for doing so, whether it’s with humor or new observations. The handmade graphics already stand out along with the strong writing, positive female lead, and exploration of issues like loss and identity. We can’t wait to choose our own adventure and see how Jenny LeClue turns out.

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