One of the best things about PAX Australia was the dominant position indie developers held on the showroom floor. Great well-known Australian-made games like MacGuffin’s Curse, Antichamber, and Fruit Ninja made an appearance. But the real meat of the show was the score of smaller indie developers that filled every nook. Discovering the creativity that these talented individuals are capable of honing into a playable experience was a delightful expedition. The uniqueness and innovation that was on display refreshed the senses. And that showed in how busy the indie section constantly was.
My personal favourite indie game was TownCraft. Made by Rohan and Leigh Harris, TownCraft is a top-down isometric game, focusing on collecting resources and building a city. Tapping on things in the environment allows you to gather items from nature, which you can use to build bigger and better things. A rock and a stick will make an axe, for example, which can be used to create logs. Logs will make a crafting table, which can make planks, which can make benches. And so the story goes until you’re constructing your own little metropolis. It’s a bit like Don’t Starve crossed with Sim City via Populous. At the moment it’s only out on iPad, but the team from Flat Earth are working on bringing it to other platforms.
Next on my list would be Black Annex. Lance McDonald’s work on this isometric game has been a labour of love. Players take control of agents that must infiltrate buildings and fulfil objectives. Quests are accepted and agents are deployed from a central hub, which costs money. The hope is that you can traverse target levels by sneaking and distracting enemies with your spies, or shooting them with your soldiers, to reach and fulfil your objective and make money. If your agents die, you must decide whether to reinvest in the mission or cut your losses. It’s tough as nails and very entertaining. We’ll have a lengthy interview with Lance McDonald up on the site soon.
My third game of note would be tower-defence-with-a-twist Burden. The build shown by Pixel Pickle was heavily alpha – around a quarter done, by some accounts – but it had all the makings of a special game. The tower you must defend is an old god, somewhat like a colossi from Shadow of the Colossus. As the titanic creature makes its way towards its goal, you must plant turrets, energy regenerators, and spinning defence things on designated nodes to defend its weakpoints from the various crawling and flying enemies. At the moment the features are very basic, but the strong mysterious aesthetic and interesting take on the tower defence mechanics made it a unique and enjoyable experience.
Fractured Soul by Endgame is already out on the Nintendo eShop for the 3DS, but it’s coming very soon to PC. It’s an interesting platforming game that complicates matters somewhat by requiring players to shift between two screens. The movement of a red and blue robot are mirrored on the top and bottom screens, with the inactive robot becoming intangible. This leads to some clever platforming moments where rapidly switching between the two robots is necessary to overcome. I spoke to Fractured Soul developer Grant Davies, and we’ll have the full interview up on the site soon.
For the more action oriented gamer, Assault Android Cactus hit the spot. A twin-stick shooter, Assault Android Cactus by Witch Beam fills the hectic slot of this indie roundup. Playing as a range of killer robots, you must shoot all the bad dudes. Movement is slightly more sluggish than most twin-stick shooters, but the bullets fly just as fast. Each of the different characters have their own custom weapon loadouts, with primary and secondary weapons useful for different roles. The action rarely lulls and it can get quite hectic in places managing your resources.
There were plenty of other games on offer, some of which I played, many of which I never got the opportunity to. The lines to play the games were very constant, which was fantastic to see. Special mention goes to Particulars, which many seemed to love, Crabitron, which was apparently quite the entertaining thing, and Dungeon Dashers, which I was looking forward to playing but alack, it was not to be. Also playable was the adorable Freedom Fall, which I reviewed not too long ago. Be sure to catch my interview with Freedom Fall developer Lisa Rye in the coming days.
PAX Australia quite clearly showed its priorities by focusing on the indie dev community. By allowing some truly wonderful games to mix it with the big name publishers, the organisers are showing their community focus. And the indie developers were more than capable of holding their own.