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Gamescom 2014: Indie Roundup

The last of our roundups sifts through the indies

by James Thomas Aug 22, 2014 at 7:50 AM


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    Gamescom 2014: Indie Roundup
    And so to the last of my Gamescom roundups and today we look to Devolver and Paradox and their notable indie titles.

    Broforce


    I was delighted to hear that the origin of Broforce came from a pun. A pun that got out of control. And from those innocent words the most chaotic pixels I’ve witnessed for a long time have spawned chunky 80s action heroes laying waste to background and grunts alike with massively oversized guns.

    Anyone who has played the online Brototype (ignore the red squiggle, Mr Word Processor, that’s a real term) will know what I mean. It’s at its best in Bro-op with a pair of you barrelling through a level shooting anything that moves and racing to get to the chop-pah. There’s no subtlety, just running and gunning whilst trying not to shoot the world out from underneath your partner. On more than one occasion I got carried away with my weaponry before realising I’d actually destroyed so much of the level that I couldn’t reach my exit. It’s not the kind of game to care though; you just laugh and carry on firing.

    This is the return of proper couch co-op, built for two buddies to romp their way through. Levels are short with the host of available characters the true stars. From Rambro to the Bro in Black this is a joke that must have stop being funny a long time ago but somehow keeps on giving.

    Anticipation rating: watching with interest.


    Not a Hero


    The team behind OlliOlli return with Not a Hero, a 2¼D cover-based shooter. The title comes from the lead character, Steve, who is by no means a man anyone would turn to in a time of crisis. Somehow he’s found himself with a gun and sets out to clear up the town from a time travelling rabbit.

    Striving for some of the same goals that Counterspy does, it manages to pull off stop-and-pop gameplay in the flattest of styles. Levels are office blocks and scattered vending machines and doorways grant Steve cover from patrolling goons. A press of a button and he slinks into the shadows, his sprite darkening to indicate so, whilst another sees him leap out and spray bullets down the corridor. Where it excels though is in the over-the-top action movie style. Steve can slide into his attackers, knocking them off their feet and leaving them prone. It seems ridiculous that you could slide tackle your way to victory but I damn well tried.

    The whole thing is cranked up to 11 with bright colours, huge explosions, and lashing of claret but it plays up to it. All the not-a-heroes on offer are similarly downbeat and each offer different challenges from forgoing guns to bouncing, rubber bullets.

    It probably doesn’t reflect well on me that I liked it so much but I put it down so much to reminding me of Gunpoint. If a somewhat violent alternate to Gunpoint.

    Anticipation rating: watching with interest.


    Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number


    My, I’ve chosen some violent games.

    Next up is Hotline Miami 2 with the boys from Dennaton Games returning to the Magic City for more masked mayhem. Featuring the same old-school, top-down shooting as in the first we meet back up with the original protagonist, Jacket, and carry on much as we did before: killing everything that moves before it kills us.

    It’s still ridiculously tough. Walk in a room and chances are you’ll be shot before you know it. It’s as if it’s slighting your ability to play games and so you charge in again and again, first waiting patiently, then guns blazing, then in an utter rage as you die and die and die again. In some systems this would be unfair but Hotline Miami still just about stays the right side of the frustration line, the view giving you all the information you need and so leaving you with only yourself to blame as to your predicament.

    The biggest change is that the character you choose will now have his own custom traits. One is a dramatic roll across the room, useful for dodging the odd attack, but the prime choice was definitely the dual-wielding option. Walking down a corridor, arms spread and firing to either side was just too good to ignore.

    Anticipation rating: take my money!


    The Talos Principle


    An intriguing spin-off from the people behind Serious Sam, The Talos Principle actually came from Croteam prototyping new puzzle mechanics for their infamous shooter. In what has now been fleshed out and broadened to become a fully-fledged game in its own right it also displays beautiful backgrounds and is written by the man behind The Swapper and FTL.

    On face value it’s a puzzler. The focus of the few I tackled were all about getting beams to reflect around a temple and into a keyhole, navigating doors and energy fields as I went. It was tricky but the difficulty built up gradually, showing you the rules and then building upon them. There was a Portal-like feel to them as each was set in its own space with subtle symbols indicating the tools at your disposal. It had a similar sense of experimentation too with any fail state you might put yourself in easily reversible.

    To go along with this, The Talos Principle also plays heavily with philosophy. A strange mix for a team more readily known for giant guns but it’s not forced down your throat, either. Hackable terminals throughout the land engage with you and actually question why you’re doing what you’re doing. It’s not a trick however, the right answer won’t gain you XP, the in-game computer is there to reveal the broader story but also to get you thinking about more than locks and keys.

    Anticipation rating: watching with interest.


    Titan Souls


    Imagine if Link only had a single hit-point. Sound unfair? Well, how about if Gannon had just the same to even things up? This is the basis of Titan Souls where a hero with a single arrow must take on twenty boss battles where whoever lands the first blow will win.

    What I found fascinating about this were the design principles that it instilled the team with. Rather than fall back on bloated health bars to draw out at boss fight they had to channel all that into its behaviour. How it moved, how it attacked, all that became its health bar. The first enemy I faced hid within a giant ball of slime. Every time I hit it its protection halved but the slime had a life of its own and continued to come at me. The other was a cube-shaped fiend whose weak spot lay on one face, the challenge being to be in a position to shoot it as it clanked around like a possessed die. I danced around both for ages, looking for my opportunity and learning their routines.

    It’s wonderfully imaginative and I pulled away from playing anymore because I didn’t want to spoil it for myself for when it comes out early next year. Half the fun will be cracking each boss’ pattern and I didn’t want to uncover too many too soon.

    Anticipation rating: take my money!


    Magicka 2


    Take four wizards, eight elemental spell ingredients, mix thoroughly, and stand well back. Magicka is all about the chaos of combining apparently disparate elements together and seeing what occurs. Most likely you’ll produce a blast of lightening or a fireball but with the right recipe meteor showers, oil slicks, and even the summoning of death himself are all possibilities.

    Continuing in the same vein as the first, Magicka returns as four wizards set out to rid the land of… well… other wizards. In this sardonic sequel, controls have been streamlined for the PlayStation with all elements available easily on a pad, offensive ones immediately available whilst the more support focused are accessed through holding a trigger. It’s intuitive enough, and in the heat of battle it feels more like a beat-em-up as you desperately remember the crucial combo to heal your party.

    Elements play a big role too, with many logical effects playing out in-game. Wet an enemy and he’ll be more susceptible to an electric attack; if you get wet simply dry yourself out with a small fireball. The combinations go on and you can see with four players all running around there are some interesting possibilities.

    Indeed, multiplayer is again a big focus with the campaign fully playable in drop-in/drop-out co-op and a series of artefacts tucked away as unlockables that modify play to your liking. Similar to the skulls in Halo they let you tweak the game be it tougher monsters, player restrictions, or activating a sitcom audience complete with laughter track. OK, so not quite like Halo then.

    Anticipation rating: watching with interest.


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