“I guarantee you’ll be having fun within one minute,” says Tim Garbos as he hands me an iPad to play Progress. He isn’t wrong. In fact, it only takes 30 seconds.
The Mix – Media Indie Exchange, held at IGN’s San Francisco HQ this week, saw a variety of indie developers come together to demonstrate their new titles. Progress was certainly one of the simplest games on display, but also one of the five that impressed me most. Here’s my pick of The MIX.
In Progress the player responds to a series of simple but cryptic clues in order to complete each of the game’s 100 puzzles. Each conundrum is solved using an aspect of the device’s interface, be it the touch screen, the accelerometer, or a combination of both. One solution requires the winding back of an imaginary clock, another sees you hold the iPad to the sky in search of a bird.
It’s an elegant and reductive game full of ‘aha’ moments. Charming, baffling and surprisingly social.
Soft Body is the brainchild of Brussels-based game designer Zeke Virant. On the surface it’s a twin-stick shooter, with each stick assigned its own flare to control, but the game also has puzzle and environmental challenges to negotiate. The game plays like the neon-infused child of Qix and Flow, balancing a steadily increasing challenge and the thrill of movement in equal measure.
Managing each flare’s path and trajectory is a graceful joy and Soft Body’s pleasures comes from the juxtaposition of that fluidity against the clean lines of the environment. It’s a promising game that looks to be just as much about the moment-to-moment experience as its long-term challenge.
Kickstarter backed title Star Mazzer was not playable at the The MIX. Nonetheless it won many admirers with its punchy trailer and gameplay concept.
The game is best described as a point-and-click adventure featuring an off-beat sense of humour and day-glow visuals. The branching, narrative-driven mechanic holds much promise and the design stands out in a crowded field of retro-influenced titles. If Imagos Softworks achieve their ambitions this will be a game of style and substance.
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
A simple asymetric multi-player concept, brilliantly executed. One player wears a VR headset and can see the intricacies of randomly generated time-bomb. Meanwhile, the other players use an instruction manual to explain, step-by-step, how to disarm the device.
The result evokes the chaotic complexity of Space Team by using VR in an admirably participatory fashion. While many VR games are content to offer worlds to retreat to it’s refreshing to find a title taking the experience beyond the headset.
The Hotline Miami of racing games seems an apt description for Drift Stage. It’s a game that wears its influences on its sleeve, from Daytona to the graphical aesthetics of the 8-bit era. Most importantly, racing and drifting feels just right. The game is perhaps a little slight but it provides enough sensory thrills to compensate. Put simply Drift Stage makes you feel cool. And who doesn’t enjoy that?
Elsewhere there were positive showings for Axiom Verge, Mike Bithell’s Volume, and the contemplative home ’em up, Reflections from Broken Window games.
You can find out more about the games on show at The Mix: Media Indie Exchange.