The games industry here in NZ is taking off and there’s now all manner of small indie teams putting out fun wee titles for your pleasure. Liam Maugren was recently in a room with a whole bunch of them and here’s what he reckons your next purchase should be.
Last weekend, Auckland played host to New Zealand Indie Arts Festival Chromacon. There was so much great Kiwi talent in the illustration, comics and animation scene that I felt both creatively inspired and hopelessly inferior to everyone around me. Luckily, there was also an indie videogame section to keep me distracted from my own existential crisis.
I got to play five games at the Chromacade, varying from fatties fighting in zero G to augmented reality fitness.
A hearty alternative to button-mashing, this thumbstick-swirling couch multiplayer game channels the childish joy of grabbing a giant bat and swinging it around with wreckless abandon. Once you pick up your weapon of choice (sword, axe, club), you can choose to stab, swing, or hammer throw your way through your opponents’ flesh. Swordy proudly embraces the derp physics from games like Surgeon Simulator and Gang Beasts, giving every game a loose and chaotic feel. It wouldn’t take long to convince three mates to give this game a swing and has every chance of being this nation’s most iconic – and most ironic – way of deciding who’ll be sober driver for the night.
This Media Design School team did some simple math: Super Mario Galaxy + Super Smash Bros = a very excited Liam. That’s Titandrum in a nutshell, and it has buckets of promise – but still has a way to go to fill a bath tub.
You play a mannequin-looking fellow with an odd head and a beer gut, fighting other players around planets. You can gut slam, jump kick or seismic toss opponents off the planet and even arm bear traps to set them up like a tee-ball. You’re even able to jump to other orbiting planets to get away.
In its current iteration, the combat still feels a bit jagged. Players often stand still when hit, only flying to the screen’s edge when they’re really low on health. This means battles start with players standing in the same spot hitting buttons and hoping they’re not the ones to get dazed. Refinements will do this game wonders however, and is one to keep a keen eye on.
Untitled Giant Fruit and Running Game
ARX, which stands for Augmented Reality Exercise, wants to revolutionise fitness. Holding their prototype controller and wearing the AR glasses, a Minecraft-like island with gigantic floating fruit appeared around me. The goal was to shoot as many fruit as I could. I just needed to look at one of these GMO monstrosities and jump to fire a block bullet.
Now if you were to put my fitness level on a scale of ‘Gerry Brownlee’ to ‘Sonny Bill Williams’, I’m roughly a ‘Dai Henwood’. A bit of jumping wasn’t going to put me in cardiac arrest, so it’s hard to know how effective ARX will be from just this game.
It was also in VERY early stages. The jump-to-shoot mechanic felt a bit cumbersome since I was likely to shake my aim away before an actual bullet fired. The image projected from the glasses also felt less like AR and more like VR at 50% transparency. So there’s still a lot of work to be done, but if ARX finds the right mechanics to make ARXercise fun, they could be making mega money in a few years.
I also tried a run-on-the-spot game which made me look as stupid as it sounds. Them cardio gains, though …
This is the most refined game I played at Chromacon, one that does side-scrolling multiplayer shooters like TowerFall and Crash Commando proud.
It’s a typical deathmatch setup, but the guns are sort-of magnets that can pick up and fire rocks and barrels lying around the map. Objects fired at you can also be deflected by an object your holding, making for some intense stand-offs. Do you take the first shot and risk leaving yourself exposed or do you wait for them to make a move and pounce? It’s deceptively simple but clever in its execution.
I would also like everyone to know that I was an absolute beast at this game. I crushed my enemies, and even though half of them were under the age of ten, they will grow up knowing the face of their superior.
Another deceptively-simple-but-bloody-clever multiplayer idea, DOGO puts the player in control of numerous platforming characters of the same colour. Your goal is to convert other players’ followers by jumping on their heads. The most people converted within the time limit wins, or if one player does a complete hostile takeover.
This mechanic of stomping your beliefs onto others like some Super Mario Scientologist leads to some incredibly enjoyable chaos. Even if you’re down to one person against an army of unconverted, a game can instantly swing back into your favour with a few good jumps. To keep the gameplay varied, the levels have their own unique twists to them. The one I played started off simple enough before everything flipped upside down and players could Pac-Man their way from the bottom of the screen to the top.
This is easily the best faith-based game I’ve ever played.
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