It feels like no matter what show we go to, it's always the indie games that end up surprising and impressing us the most. There are just so many unique and ambitious ideas floating around in that community, it's hard to not come away completely endeared each time. The best part is that there's no shortage of talent out there, so it seems like a constant wealth of new names making their mark.
That's the case with everything on display at BitSummit -- a convention that was put together with the sole intention of giving indie developers the opportunity to show their games to a Japanese audience. We spent a couple days playing everything we could get our hands on, and, in no particular order, these were the ten games that we loved the most:
Azure Striker: Gunvolt
Inti Creates calls this a high speed, high action 2D side-scrolling action adventure game. I call it my next obsession. I couldn't stop playing. I felt bad hogging the only 3DS kit at BitSummit that the game was on, but didn't feel as bad after hearing that the guy before me had played it five times already.
Inti Creates has given us a wonderful game to hold us over until Mighty No. 9 comes out. But Azure Striker: Gunvolt is so good that it's really its own main event. This isn't some appetizer.
Nova-111, blends turn-based and real-time action to make for a surprisingly thought-provoking affair. For example, spikes on the ceiling will drop in real-time after the ship flies under them, or some enemies will explode a few seconds after they’re first attacked. A smart player can engage an enemy and lure it to these spike traps, or perfectly time their movements to use an explosion to kill all nearby aliens. Nova-111 frequently throws different enemy types and environmental traps into the mix, always keeping the player on their toes, forcing them to play both quick and smart.
At first glance, Rayark's Deemo looks like just another rhythm music game with its cascading bars and beat line, but closer inspection reveals that it features characters and a real plot. A thin, shadowy, tuxedo wearing piano player finds a girl falling from the sky one day. Through the performance of songs, the game's story is slowly revealed as the player gets to know this girl.
Instead of dance or popular hits, Deemo's music is piano-based. Tapping falling note markers feels like playing a piano tune's notes; swiping lets you gliss through a series of notes. Deemo features 30 piano pieces from composers worldwide, including an original work from Final Fantasy series composer Nobuo Uematsu.
Nom Nom Galaxy
It's no secret that we like Nom Nom Galaxy, formerly named PixelJunk Inc. It showed well again at BitSummit, but largely as the game we already knew it as. Q-Games told us that it's done a fair share of tweaking, including adding a competitive mode, but it felt a lot like the game that we've played at other conventions. Still, it didn't stop us from sitting down to take another truncated crack at building a soup empire and loving every second of it.
Of all the games that we’ve seen at BitSummit, few are more uncomplicated than Monken. Ultimately, Monken boils down to “knock buildings over quickly.” Don’t let its easy-going premise fool you, though. It’s a lot tougher than it looks. Even if you get a really solid swing in, the impact will often completely kill any momentum you had, leaving you to try to recapture that coveted speed. The entire experience toggles between invoking feelings of zen-like mastery and infuriating incompetence.
One Way Heroics
Randomly generated landscapes and turn-based battles are right in line with other roguelikes, but the encroaching darkness from the left keeps you moving right as the world crumbles behind you in what its creators call an "Apocalyptic Scrolling RPG."
One Way Heroics keeps the heat on, forcing you to work your way over obstacles and increase your power as you hunt down the Demon Lord. The fun is in that you're never able to stay in one place too long.
One Way Heroics Plus is already in development, adding new lands, classes, NPCs, and interface improvements.
Million Onion Hotel
What makes Million Onion Hotel so fun is that you’ll soon find yourself frantically tapping at all of the on-screen obstacles to keep up. It’s like Whack-a-Mole on crack. Crack-a-Mole, if you will. Fancy finger work was required to keep all of the pop-ups down after clearing the first stage. There were times I had to use three fingers on my left hand to keep tapping some of the tougher onions while quickly bouncing around with my right index finger to punch out all of the smaller ones that popped up around them.
Fallendom looks like a classic 16-bit 2D top down action RPG -- like a Super Nintendo title, except with higher resolution graphics. Its heroine swings a big sword in large arcs through randomly generated maps, working her way through waves of strange enemies to find the key that will let her continue her dungeon crawl.
Fallendom's look is vibrant, colorful, and cute, but the fighting and item hunting are quite serious. Zelda fans will find a lot to like here.
Pavilion’s thing is that it’s presented from a “fourth-person” point of view. What they mean by this is that you control a gold, streaky cursor that can interact with the environment and clear the path for the game’s protagonist, which makes for an interesting and refreshing mechanic. It's looking like another potentially fine title among Sony’s ever-growing stable of indie games.
The Modern Zombie Taxi Driver
The Modern Zombie Taxi Driver might interest you, because at its roots, it’s Crazy Taxi with Oculus Rift support. Pick up zombies and take them where they want to be dropped off. Get extra cash for showing some hustle and destroying things along the way. We know that formula quite well. It’s the first-person viewpoint that makes The Modern Zombie Taxi Driver so fun, and this looks set to be a fine example of what virtual reality systems can do.