An Ongoing Look at Indie Gaming, part two
By Aaron Robinson
16 July 2009 — Well, here I am again to bring you a bunch of independently developed games. Some are new and some are old, and, this time, I've added a few games that aren't for free — although I assure you they're worth every cent.
Whilst most games centered on zombies tend to be about survival, Bloody Zombies is purely about destruction. It's a quirky, physics-based 2D platformer where the zombies aren't there to hurt you so much as provide the materials you need to advance. Your character (who remains unnamed) is trying to rescue his beloved Rebecca from a building filled with zombies. His one tool / weapon is a lawnmower with a seemingly unlimited fuel supply.
Since the zombies can't actually hurt you (in fact, you can't even die), the challenge comes from exploring each area. Keys needed to unlock the next level are stored in different locations throughout each stage, often on platforms that you can't reach by jumping. Luckily, killing zombies with your lawnmower causes them to hemorrhage massive amounts of blood. So much blood, in fact, that you'll be able to swim and even surf your way onto otherwise unreachable platforms.
At about 20 minutes, Bloody Zombies won't keep you occupied for long, but I can almost guarantee you'll enjoy every second.
Download it for free at http://www.kloonigames.com/blog/games/bloody.
It's very hard to explain Eversion without spoiling what makes it so interesting. It's a cutesy platformer with a nifty gimmick that becomes more and more bizarre with each level. If you're squeamish I'd recommend staying clear, but if you're up to the challenge, be prepared for something different.
It's far from flawless. The character you control is a little too loose, it gets awfully hard after a while, and the somewhat interesting mechanic it introduces at the start all but disappears after a few levels. Even still, there's something very clever underneath the surface that's well worth investigating.
Download it for free at http://zarat.us/tra/offline-games/eversion.html
Minotaur China Shop
Have you ever wondered what life would be like for a hulking, uncoordinated Minotaur who runs his own expensive china shop? No? Well, here's a simulation of one anyway. You're job is to guide this awkward creature around his store, picking up whatever items his customers want, then giving it to the customer for a profit. You have one week to make as much money as you can. The challenge comes from the fact that the Minotaur will lose money if he knocks anything over, and knocking over too many items will make the Minotaur fly into a murderous rage.
But here's where the game gets interesting: as it turns out, the Minotaur has factored his rage into the way he runs the shop. When you're in rage mode, you're insured for anything you break. In those moments you can take the opposite route by destroying everything while still making money. Just be wary that guards will be called in to handle you when you enter rage mode. They'll fire arrows the instant they see you, and it will only take a few before the Minotaur becomes incapacitated.
The fact that the game gives you two very different ways of advancing can lead to some hilarious situations. You can even upgrade your Minotaur and shop at the end of each day using the money you've earned. At the very least it's a fun way to spend half an hour, and with your overall profit being placed on a pretty active scoreboard, there's more than enough incentive to come back.
You can play it for free at http://blurst.com/minotaur-china-shop/.
Bit.Trip Beat is basically a mixture of Guitar Hero and Pong. You move a paddle up and down the left side of the screen by tilting the Wii controller on its side (an idea that actually works really well). Your goal is to deflect different colored blocks that fly in from the right. Every block has its own patterns and properties that need to be considered in order to effectively deflect them. Some rebound repeatedly, some will move up and down the screen, others will stop mid-screen, then move after a several-second pause. The one thing that all the blocks abide to is that they follow with the music, and will add an additional beat when they deflect off your paddle.
There's so much this game does right. It has a fantastic retro visual style, it's built around a unique concept that it has a ton of fun with, and the chiptune music is incredibly catchy. Even the way it handles failure is interesting; miss too many blocks and the game loses all its flair: the background animations are wiped away, the paddles and blocks become black and white, and the only sounds you'll hear will be the blips and bloops of the blocks through the Wiimote speaker.
I guess that's why it's such a shame how infuriatingly hard it is. After a few minutes you'll be dealing with a ton of blocks coming in at different patterns. On top of all that is the colorful background which can obscure incoming blocks. Being a difficult game doesn't invalidate all the fantastic stuff it does, but it does limit its appeal. I'd recommend Bit.Trip Beat for people who are up for a serious challenge, but otherwise I'd suggest watching a few trailers before buying.
Bit.Trip Beat can be downloaded on the Wii from the WiiWare store.
World of Goo
It took me a long time to decide whether or not I wanted to make this an entry here or write a full review. It's a game that I could spend pages writing about; there's so much I like about it. It's not just the mechanics and level design, though; the music, the art style, the sense of humor, everything comes together in a fantastic package that hits almost all the right notes. Ultimately, the only reason why I'm posting this here is because I know I'll limit myself from gushing too much.
World of Goo is a physics-based puzzle game where you build structures out of living, moving creatures called goo. You'll start most levels with a solid object that your goo can be attached to, and from here you'll stretch the goo to form different structures. The goal of most levels is to reach a pipe that sucks up any unused goo, dodging various hazards along the way, and taking care not to pile too much weight onto any structure. If you have enough goo left over to meet the level's requirement, you'll move on. Any bonus goo that's gained is sent to an area called the World of Goo Corporation, where you can build to your heart's content.
To keep things fresh, new types of goo are introduced every few levels — each with their own unique properties. Some can be set on fire while others work like balloons or rope.
What really impresses me about World of Goo is how strong it is in other areas, especially the music. It's constantly switching from funky bass-heavy pieces to carnival sideshow organ music, midi-styled electronic music to more atmospheric piano pieces. It's honestly the best video game soundtrack I've heard since Cave Story. And let's not forget about the amazing artwork that fills each level, the fluid animation, or the erratic and humorous writing that's plastered throughout the game. It's all fantastic and adds so much to a game that's already fun in its own right.
Really, the only flaws I can think of are the difficulty (it can get frustrating at times), and the unpredictable nature of making things out of moving creatures. It's also worth noting that the Wii version uses the Wiimote, which isn't quite as accurate as a mouse. But even considering those flaws, at just $20 World of Goo is a fantastic value.
World of Goo can be downloaded at http://2dboy.com/games.php or on the Wii console through the WiiWare store.