Matthew Sawrey

a portfolio of videogame writings

Freeware Indie Treats

It’s often hard to be surprised by videogames these days. Where the magazine preview used to be our only pre-release information source, the age of the internet has paved the way for 24-hour media saturation, and flooded our curiosity with developmental leaks.

That’s why I love stumbling across a great little indie title. Nothing brings back that NES-era sense of discovery like having no prior knowledge of a game’s existence, and it turning out to be a treat.

Here’s a few of the latest gems I’ve found:

Fog and Thunder

With the success of Spelunky’s XBLA re-makerougelikes are poised to become the next big genre within the independent world, despite being around since the mid-70’s.

Tequibo’s Fog and Thunder takes the dungeon crawling structure of The Binding of Isaac and mixes in a distant, unsettling tone with punishing permadeath and level randomisation.

It’s presented with all the corporate cleanliness of an apple consumer product, which belies an otherwise sinister feel: The very tiles of
the dungeons you roam gently quake beneath your feet, spiked floating eyes incessantly pursue you and the title screen’s pixel lightening bolts draw a sinister etch-a-sketch image, that foreshadows events to come.

SCP – 087

Fear of the dark, fear of the dark 
I have a constant fear that something’s always near 
Fear of the dark, fear of the dark 
I have a phobia that someone’s always there 

Iron Maiden weren’t screaming about this unity based indie title back in 1993, but they couldn’t have summed up the experience of SCP-087 more eloquently.

Tapping into one of our most primal fears, SCP-087 dares you to wander into the shadows of a cold-concrete stairwell and discover
what lies beneath. But as your shadowy descent grows ever darker, it soon becomes a nerve-shreddingly tense experience, its sound design suggesting the presence of malevolence around every flight.

SCP-087 stands alongside Slender in its simple, gore-less design, as well as an alarmingly successful ability to make grown men squeal.

Seedling

It’s always astounded me that more developers didn’t copy the 2D Zelda template back in the day. Maybe it  because nobody could quite replicate the magic, or maybe it was simply to difficult.

In any case, Connor Ullman appears to have been thinking exactly the same thing, as his new 16-bit top-down adventurer condenses the design of a (true) 2D Zelda into a 5-hour browser title.

It’s all there: The friendly village locals, the sprawling over-world, the item-limited dungeon-based progression, and sword-slice beckoning clumps of grass.

Only one ingredient seems to be missing from past Zelda installments – A certain link. Your protagonist looks more like Gomez from Fez than the young hero of Hyrule.

And as Phil Fish’s nostalgia laden Fez was a love-letter to numerous Nintendo titles of yore, Seedling feels like a purer recollection, aimed squarely at those pixellated hearts up in the top left hand corner of Zelda fans’ screens around the world.

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This entry was posted on August 8, 2012 by in Blog and tagged , , , , , , .
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