Indie games are rather a tough bunch to nail down, ranging from everything to the astonishingly beautiful “Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery” (iOS devices) to the immersive and action-packed “Interstellar Marines” (Upcoming; Mac, PC), they’ve proven themselves, especially in recent years, to be complex and extremely varied.
Take as an example “Limbo” (PC, Mac, XLBA, PSN) the dark and claustrophobic puzzle platformer from Swiss developer “Playdead”, as it’s a game that I personally had an awful lot of fun with. I found it to be visually enthralling, provocative, cleverly designed and extremely deep, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t consider that game to be a work of art, and a triumph in visual storytelling.
Compare that to “Super Meat Boy” (PC, XBLA), the thumb-blistering action platformer from the aptly named “Team Meat”, which, despite the intense buzz surrounding the game, I’ve always found to pretty underwhelming in anything other than short bursts. Don’t get me wrong, I love what Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes tried (and largely succeeded) to do with this title; they created something that perfectly mirrored the RSI-inducing platformers of old, and then took it to the next level in terms of difficulty, but for me an ideal platformer should be about the process of figuring out how to get from A to B, and having the actual dexterity to do it is somewhat subjacent.
One of the reasons I find myself falling more and more in love with indie games in general is my own work in the indie scene, with a developer I set up called Cube Noir (shameless self-plug), through which I’ve discovered just how friendly and open a community there is for small developers, and my heart was especially warmed by the huge amount of positive feedback we’ve received, both from fans and fellow small developers, even in the short amount of time we’ve been around, as well as the job emails I’ve received from many talented artists and programmers.
It has also given me a direct insight into the creative process, which has been especially useful for my journalistic work, in particular when it comes to comparing games that started on entirely different grounds. Take for example the upcoming multi-player space-age shooter (with dinosaurs!) “Orion: Prelude” (PC, XBLA, PSN), and compare it to the depressingly overrated “Call of Duty” franchise. How on earth, when a large team of highly-funded and extremely wealthy developers can only manage to recreate the same generic FPS experience over and over with slightly better graphics, can a small team of brand new developers with limited funding manage to create something quite so original and refreshing? It just doesn’t make sense to me, but it makes it a great deal clearer in my mind who is REALLY more passionate about creating great games, and it sure as hell ain’t the COD guys.