Lightspeed Frontier – Crowdwork Studios (PC)
Running out of the Indie Megabooth you will find Lightspeed Frontier, a spacefaring sim that allows you to build your spaceship from modular parts, even going so far as to grab the debris of enemy ships and stick them right on to your vessel. This single concept sets up the game for a surprising amount of complexity and fun. When I started my play session the game felt remarkably intuitive, and in a matter of minutes I was traversing a solar system, fighting space pirates and boosting salvaged engines onto my star ship: Attach a few extra engines to go faster, or another laser cannon to build a solid wall of energy to slice through enemy crafts. It may seem a little basic when written down, but once you have it in your hands you’ll find your imagination running wild with your options.
When speaking with the developers, I was a little hesitant to mention that my first impression of the game was “Rebel Galaxy meets Minecraft”, but was pleased when they agreed that it was an apt assessment. It’s a combination I wouldn’t have ever imagined, let alone imagined working well, but in practice I really got a kick out of my play time. The version I played today still had some work to be done, but a lot of the core mechanics of the game were immediately intuitive and engaging. I would have liked to have more time to spend with the ship-building, which feels like a substantial aspect of the title, but I had a great time with space fights, and I’ll be excited to see more of this title.
Riverbond – Cococumber (TBA)
Riverbond is a cheery multiplayer adventure that put you and some friends in control of some blocky heroes who hack and slash their way through colorful voxel dungeons, collecting loot and destroying isometric scenery. Candidly, the demonstration we played didn’t have a lot of depth to it at the moment. We fought of small number of enemies and a boss, and there was very little differentiation between the start and the finish of the title.
It sounds as though this is almost more of a tech demo, given the limited amount of things we actually got to try, but there are some aspects that were promising. I believe Jared made the comment that it’s one of the few voxel games that doesn’t look ugly as hell, and in fact the game looks pretty nice and cheerful. I think it has the making of a successful couch co-op title, but it will need to be fleshed out further before I’m ready to judge.
1979 Revolution – iNK Studios (PC, Mobile)
The topic of 1979 Revolution is one that hits close to home for me, with my mother’s family fleeing from Tehran in response to the titular 1979 revolution which overthrew the Shah of Iran and installed Ayatollah Khomeini. The game puts you in the role of Reza Shirazi, an Iranian photographer who returns to Tehran where he is arrested and interrogated for suspected anti-government ties. It juxtaposes Reza’s brutal questioning with his interaction with the revolution, providing choice-based story sections influenced by Telltale’s stortytelling system.
I really like some of what I saw in 1979, especially using Reza’s camera to snap shots of the revolution and the matching them up with real photographs from that time, presenting some of the history and background around a moment in history which most people in the West, myself included, don’t know much about. That said, they’ve pretty much lifted Telltale’s mechanics wholesale, going so far as to notify me when character will remember my actions. Since Telltale can’t be bothered to tell an original story I’m glad someone is looking to use the mechanics to tell something better than a comic book adaptation, but this is pretty blatant. I’m still interested in the title, and I think there’s something that I hope others will be intrigued by and play, so here’s hoping there’s enough there to make the game stand out on its own.
Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality – Owlchemy Labs (PC)
When I first tried out the HTC Vive at last year’s PAX it spoiled me on all future VR experiences. Unfortunately, the price, hardware and space requirements of the system mean that’s pretty far out of my reach for the foreseeable future, meaning I have to get my VR fix at shows. While it’s not clear to me how someone made the jump from VR game to Rick and Morty simulator, it was the type of thing that I was plenty eager to play. The brief demo we played puts you in the role of a Morty clone Rick has created, allowing you to spend sometime in Rick’s garage/lab and interacting with the world.
It’s difficult to separate a game like this from the experience of playing in VR, but the demo offered a nice mix of humor and game mechanics. I bumbled around the lab, doing laundry, breaking bottles and overdosing on pills. It was great. I also enjoyed a very interesting talk with some of Owlchemy Labs’ people on some of considerations of designing virtual reality worlds and populating them with other players; they’ve spent a lot thinking about addressing problems I never would have even thought of, such as what those characters should be doing when they’re not interacting with you. The new-ness of good VR tech makes for fascinating discussions, and I was impressed by the level of thoughtfulness they were undertaking the project with. The game itself was very brief, but quite entertaining and a welcome change of pace from the other VR titles.
Toejam and Earl: Back in the Groove – Humanature Studios (PC, PS4, Xbox One)
I didn’t think we would ever see another Toejam and Earl game, and in fact I’m not sure I had even really thought about the game since the close of the 16-bit era. So I was pretty sincerely surprised when I heard the buzz on the show floor about a new iteration of the the Funkotron duo’s exploits. This new version feels more lively than the original, with a lot sprites on the screen (both hostile and helpful) and a wealth of animation to add to the experience.
The game feels like a fairly faithful adaptation of the original, which I would suspect will make fans happy, but as someone who wasn’t a big T&E player, I’m not sure if there was a lot to get me excited for the game. The core gameplay largely involves running away from enemies and shaking trees to get presents, and while I enjoyed finding random and offbeat events (Of which there is a lot, my particular favorite being a dance-off where Jared was declared “Lame”), the heart of the gameplay felt undeveloped, the mechanics insufficiently fleshed out to carry an entire game. Its a colorful, fun and clearly lovingly built remake, so I hope they find the balance between fidelity and innovation, but for my liking it has some work to do.