Gamescom, Europe’s biggest gaming expo, kicked off this week in Cologne, and Microsoft pulled out all the stops with its non-stop barrage of AAA Xbox One blockbusters, more Halo than you could ever need, plus new glimpses at exclusives like Quantum Break, Crackdown 3 and Forza 6 – but there’s more to the show that just what’s on the big stage.
Away from the glitz and glamour, Oliver Eberlei and his five man team are trumpeting the little guy at Gamescom, by putting on their yearly Indie Arena Booth – and this year’s booth is bigger, badder and radder than ever, boasting over 42 developers from 15 countries showing off their latest creations. Relax though – if you couldn’t stop over in Cologne this year to check out the glut of the games, we’ve done the hard work for you and sniffed out 10 of our favourite indie titles you definitely need to keep an eye on.
Hotline Miami fans will be delighted to see The Masterplan coming to fruition. The top down shooter takes some cues from Hotline, but adds more in the way of tactical decisions. You are a prisoner in 70s America, who resorts to stealing back everything that was taken from him when he was imprisoned. But to do that, you’ll need to assemble your crew of ruthless criminals, and heist all the banks, casinos, shops and art galleries you can get your gloved mitts on. How? You choose. You can sneak in and out without alerting a soul, or go in guns blazing to, and stick it to Nixon with sheer firepower.
When Thunder Lotus head Will Dubé referred to Jotun as a mix of Journey and Shadow of the Colossus – now available via PS Now, by the way – that piqued our interest just a tad. Check the trailer above, and you’ll see a few aesthetic nods to the likes of Bastion and Transistor too, all of which makes Jotun a stunningly beautiful game. You play Thora, a Norse warrior who has suffered a dishonourable death and must battle colossal jotun in purgatory to prove herself to the gods and enter Valhalla. Norse mythology has been woefully underrepresented in recent times, and we’re crying out for something to do justice to Viking folklore. Jotun’s mix of rock-hard combat and addictive exploration might just be the game to deliver.
Would you be surprised if we told you that the three guys behind Future Unfolding were not coders so much as designers? Probably not, if you’ve watched the trailer above. Future Unfolding is a game about exploration, and we mean that very literally, in the sense that that’s all there is to do. That’s not a bad thing though. Each playthrough procedurally generates a whole new world, and it’s up to you to observe your surroundings carefully and interact with nature to understand the game’s secrets.
Deliver Us The Moon
We’re not going to lie – ever since Gravity and Felix Baumgartner made space cool again, we’ve been hoping for a moderately realistic space sim to appear, and on looks alone, KeokeN Interactive’s Deliver Us The Moon looks like the answer to our prayers. There isn’t much in the way of plot or game mechanic details on the ground at the moment, but there will almost certainly be an exploration and puzzle-solving aspect to this, and we’ll definitely be looking for more info to emerge from GamesCom.
Courtesy of Blindflug Studios, Cloud Chasers is another randomly generated adventure, but this time one of survival and hardship. You follow father and daughter Francisco and Amelia on their trek through the desert in search of the city in the clouds. Every day is a challenge, as you have to conserve water for your father-daughter team, as well as keeping them safe from random encounters in the world, and maintaining the glider which represents their only hope of salvation.
Easily one of the most ambitious titles we’ve seen from this year’s indie crop, DieselStormers looks like a riot, melding together four-player side-scrolling co-op adventuring, RPG-style looting, procedural-based levels and a ridiculous weapon system that sees you putting together your own guns like Lego. Throw in dieselpunk-style aesthetics, orcs and plenty of upgrades to your characters and you have what looks like a melting pot of fun.
In what looks like the most fun, child-friendly video game we’ve seen since Minecraft, SkyArena looks like a barrel of laughs, complete with cute, vibrant graphics and tantalising dog-fighting gameplay that’ll easily get you into arguments with your mates. Throw in four-player splitscreen gameplay, and you pretty much have an instant classic in the making that’s literally going to ruin friendships – in the best way, of course.
The clue’s in the name, but if you ask us, it actually undersells how insane Jetpack Squad is. Sure, you have a squad of troopers armed with jetpacks, but the game itself is a throwback to classic shmups of yesteryear with bullets everywhere, more bad guys than an RTS map and a slick art style that makes R-Type look like Pong. If you found legendary shmup Ikaruga a walk in the park, this indie shooter should test your mettle.
If Limbo was the indie darling that put black and white, monotone game aesthetic in vogue, Hue’s the game that’s going to put bright, vibrant contrasting colours right back on the map. UK studio Fiddlesticks has crafted a gorgeous exploration of colour, where shifting the hue of the world helps you make your way through it, solving puzzles and getting to the bottom of the game’s mystery. You’re put in the shoes of Hue, the son of a colour theory researcher in a grayscale world, and it’s up to you to find his mother’s research, and find out what happened to her after she disappeared into a coloured void. Utterly charming.
F-Zero, Nintendo’s forgotten futuristic racing franchise that put blistering speed first, doesn’t look like it’s getting any updates anytime soon. While Nintendo seemingly likes to enjoy torturing fans by leaving little tidbits of the dormant series in Mario Kart 8, that hasn’t stopped the indie scene from taking the baton on and making some fast paced titles that keep Captain Falcon’s spirit alive. We’ve seen RedOut before, one take on the futuristic racing formula, but Distance looks like it’s going to take things to a totally different level, and with a twist.
It’s not your typical racer: instead, Distance is a dubbed as a ‘survival racing’ title, bringing arcade-style gameplay together with exploration, all while you need to dodge, jump and drift your way out a city that’s trying to take you down. You don’t usually see a single player storyline attached to a racer, but Distance looks like it can pull it off – plus there are some insane multiplayer options too. If there’s one off-kilter racing title you need to keep your eye on, it’s gotta be Distance.