Indiecade at E3 2016 - corporate cardgames, sick survival and drone warfare
Each year, IndieCade brings some of the best and the brightest projects in independent game development to E3. Art games, couch co-op games, VR experiences, and even a couple of physical card games found themselves on display this year at E3, and while each have their own charms, these four stole the show for us:
Inversus is an abstract, frenetic, monochromatic shooter that hits all the same notes that Towerfall did on its way to success. Coming this year to both PC and PS4, Inversus was born out of a game jam in which game boards were supposed to be created out of player actions.
That core concept is what truly sets this action-shooter apart from the crowd, as it isn’t simply about destroying your opponents, but also about retaining freedom of movement, constraining your opponent, and not dying - all in the blink of an eye. To get a feel for what the game moves and looks like, check out this trailer:
Killbox is something that I am fairly certain I’ll carry within me for the rest of my life. I’m not easily moved by video games, and I certainly would never have believed that a 5 minute game would make me internalize the atrocity of modern warfare, but here I am. Killbox is a game about drone warfare that first straps you into the office chair of a drone pilot. The world is beautiful, with a vibrant color palette and abstracted shapes representing a small village on screen, framed by the white hash marks of a predator drone feed. To the right, a scrolling command prompt teaches you how to manipulate the camera on the drone, then relates that a target exists within the village. Without much thought given - this is just a game after all, right? - you press M for Missile and a few seconds later the target - and anything near it - are destroyed.
The gut punch comes when the drone feed fades out and is replaced by a pedestrian view of the village. You control a small blob and are encouraged to explore the village, where you find other small blobs, as well as larger blobs. You may even recognize the field near which two parent-blobs stand, which is about when it sinks in that you’ve gone back in time. You’re on the ground shortly before the drone strike occurs. Before you know it, the missile hits, and you’re left to contemplate the real toll of remote warfare.
Killbox is not intended to be a product, but rather something more akin to an art installation. Malath Abbas, the Scottish designer of Killbox, intends to take the game to art shows and galleries, which is probably the right place for so profound an experience.
There are lot of post-apocalyptic games to choose from these days, but few with the appeal of Overland, a polygonal, turn-based strategy game in which the lives of a handful of survivors are threatened by sound-sensitive creatures, hunger, thirst, and how good you are at stockpiling gasoline.
Apart from its beautiful art direction, though, Overland stands apart in the turn-based strategy market thanks to its extremely minimalistic take on, well, everything - from combat to looting to inventory, everything about Overland is crisp, clean, and easy to understand. The deadly world and its obstacles intensify as your scrappy survivors make their way across America. Overland is available now via itch.io, and will see a full launch on both PC and Mac later this year.
Pass the Buck
Pass the Buck is a satirical card game about corporate responsibility in America. Or, as creator Carol Mertz described it at the IndieCade booth this year, it’s a bluffing game about doing as little work as possible. Successfully Kickstarted in 2015, Pass the Buck is actually available now in the US via Amazon. The game itself is simple to get into and scales well from 3 to 5 players, each of whom are secretly assigned a department to work in as a Level 1 Analyst at the game’s beginning. Throughout the game, players must discard Work Tasks in order to level up to Level 5 (CEO) by successfully calling the bluffs of the other players.
While the four games above were the most impressive at this year’s E3 IndieCade booth, they were by no means the only interesting, thought-provoking, or fun games on display. Here are some other standouts from this year’s entries:
_transfer, by Hyacinth, stood out as a text adventure with many, many layers.
Just Shapes & Beats, by Berzerk Studio, is a neon rhythm game in which players seek to survive each level long enough to beat the boss, whose moves are synchronized to a phenomenal soundtrack.
Irrational Exuberance, by Buffalo Vision, is a filmic VR experience with 2001: A Space Odyssey and Solaris as inspirations, selected for Sundance 2016.
Sisters, by Otherworld Interactive, is a VR horror game that looked to be genuinely frightening to all who tried it.
Each year, IndieCade proves that they offer one of the most important booths at E3. By bringing a unique collection of games from a broad spectrum of media, from physical to VR, IndieCade is all about the passion of experimenters and innovators, whose work allows the industry as a whole to progress.
For a full list of games that appeared at this year’s IndieCade, visit the E3 Selection page.