By Jared Newman | Sunday, October 10, 2010 at 10:06 am
Over the weekend, little pockets of downtown Culver City., Calif., became the venue of Indiecade, a festival for independent video games. I wouldn’t quite call it gaming’s Sundance — the impact of this festival still feels tiny in the greater scheme of the games industry — but it’s still a cool way to celebrate the side of gaming isn’t dominated by endless sequels and multi-million-dollar budgets.
Read on for a few upcoming indie games that you might not know about, but should.
A Slow Year (pictured above)
Ian Bogost is a super star in video game academia (he appeared on The Colbert Report to peddle one of his books, Persuasive Games), and now he’s created an art game that’s playable on the Atari 2600. A Slow Year is a collection of four mini-games, one for each season and for each kb of storage on the cartridge. They are simple, peaceful activities, like finishing your cup of coffee in sync with the winter sunrise, and catching leaves as they fall in an autumn storm. Fun? Probably not, but the games are meant to provide opportunity for reflection. A book of computer-generated poems, packaged for $20 with the game on CD, might help.
The book and game should be available in bookstores next month. A very limited edition, including a hardcover book and the game on an actual Atari 2600 cartridge, will be considerably more expensive and available through Bogost’s website.
Essentially, Retro/Grade is Guitar Hero in reverse, with spaceships and a sci-fi soundtrack. The game starts with credits rolling, and then rewinds until your ship is speeding backwards along a track, with one lane for each button on the fretboard. Instead of playing notes on the guitar controller, you’re actually catching bullets that your ship fired in the past. This is simple enough, until the bullets your enemies previously fired start sneaking up from behind, and suddenly you’re dodging from one side and shooting from the other.
Retro/Grade will launch as a downloadable game for the Playstation Network next year, possibly with other platforms to follow. Standard Playstation 3 controllers will be supported as well, though I doubt it’ll be as fun that way.
A minute is all it takes to understand the game’s title, “Brutally Unfair Tactics Totally OK Now.” With four buttons in front of the screen, the game commands players to take a few steps back, and then do something silly (act like a zombie, lay on the floor, turn sideways, and so on). Suddenly, you’re commanded to either hold, tap or stay away from your button. Chaos ensues as all four players try to sabotage one another. It’s over before you can even digest what’s happened, and you want to play again.
B.U.T.T.O.N. will be released next month as an Xbox Live Indie Game. Sadly, you’ll have to use Xbox 360 controllers instead of the custom buttons on display at Indiecade, but you can also use a single controller with each player fighting to press one button — even crazier.