IndieCade, in Santa Monica College, is an interesting, small-scale game convention filled with several indie treasures you likely wouldn’t have heard about were you not attending. There are not just standard digital games, either, but tabletop, performative, AR and other, more vague and indefinable, interactive experiences. If you’re passionate about indie games and interested in the kind of hidden gems we’ve been covering lately here at GameLuster, read on for an overview of what we saw and consider attending the gathering next year yourself.
Though we did not see everything IndieCade had to offer, we covered as much ground as we could. Learning about the gaming experiences on hand from the creators themselves is always a privilege.
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The Tale of Ord
The first game we saw is a tabletop game called The Tale of Ord. It’s an immersive puzzle and adventure game made of hand-drawn and laser cut pieces, all crafted by the game’s dev, Rita Orlov. To play the game, you order a real-life package, with materials like maps, artifacts and letters. The game’s theme is Norse mythology, and the goal is to solve puzzles and decipher symbols to discover the location of two missing professors. The story goes deeper as you discover mysterious artifacts.
The game is a limited edition with 500 copies.
Another outside-the-box game we saw was Loss Words, a word puzzle game for mobile platforms. Using public domain books as sources, you can swap words, fill in the blanks in different sections to complete the sentences correctly, and experience other little mini games involving the words. In completing these games correctly, you can unlock new books and earn experience points, among other goodies. It’s a clean, simple and fun mobile game. It’s planned to release next spring.
A Memoir Blue
A Memoir Blue is a point-and-click puzzle game that involves both 3D and 2D segments, though all the gameplay I did was in 3D. In the game, you experience the memories being recalled by a champion diver. Appropriately, water is the major theme throughout.
One created for all those with a friend or loved one living far away is The Distance. In this co-op game, you have to cooperate with your partner in detail. For example, during certain segments one player can see objects, like moving platforms, that the other does not see. The two players must communicate verbally what they see on their screen so that they can work in tandem to progress.
The other player appears as a sprite on your screen. You have to communicate via voice and will likely constantly be talking to clear the obstacles in this one, thus why it can serve as a bonding experience for long distance relationships. It began as a USC thesis project meant for players in such relationships.
Ministry of Broadcast: The Wall Show
Ministry of Broadcast: The Wall Show is a cinematic platformer set in a country divided by “The Wall.” You, a prisoner, want to cross this wall, but to do so you need to compete in a reality TV show that the country’s regime has set up. The game has puzzles, platforming and stealth. In the background, a “Big Brother” type character watches all.
Mrs. Wobbles and the Tangerine House
If you want an interactive visual novel, there was at least one at IndieCade: Mrs. Wobbles and the Tangerine House. Meant for middle grade children (about seven to twelve years old), this story was created by the dev, Mark C. Marino, and his children.
The Tangerine House is a magical foster home and its owner, Mrs. Wobbles, may be a witch. The story from this series on hand at IndieCade was Spy E.Y.E. The major decision driving it, as you look for your loved ones, is: do you give up your special powers that you use to protect your family, and by that discover your family, or do you keep your powers to protect your family but always remain invisible to them? (I chose the latter.)
Pixel Ripped 1989
Pixel Ripped 1989 is a VR “game within a game.” Your character is a student who must keep her gaming device hidden from the teacher by lowering it under her desk whenever the teacher is present and alerted. Meanwhile, the game world sees you as its savior: as Dot, you must save Adventureland from the evil goblin lord. This goblin lord wants to bridge the gap between games and the real world in order to conquer reality. You see this blending during each boss fight. I played the first boss fight during the demo (which the devs were kind enough to get me to, as I kept failing at the main game).
During the main game, you’re playing a 2D sidescroller on a game device that the character is holding, but during boss fights this game world blends with the classroom environment your character is sitting in. So, suddenly, you are playing a fully 3D VR platforming game within the classroom. There are also objects in the world to interact with, like a spitball gun to cause distractions.
The game began development in 2015 for the Oculus Rift dev kit, and the platformer game within it is inspired heavily by Mega Man.
Tiny Trees was another tabletop game present. The main goal is to build miniature trees using cardboard pieces with different slots that allow you to branch them out into several directions. The game’s story has eight forest demigods that the players will draw a card for at the beginning of a match. Depending on the demigod you draw, you’ll want to build your tree differently based on the blessing they give. For example: some of the tree pieces have lifeforms (like bugs) while others do not. One demigod blessing, for instance, will only be granted if you connect three branch pieces together that contain no lifeforms – trickier than you may think. Blessings allow you to improve your tree or compromise the tree of the other player. At the end of a game, scores are calculated based on factors like how many lifeforms a player has.
Guildlings is a polished and clean-looking mobile game made up of choice-based dialogue, adventure-style puzzles and combat scenarios. In the game, you play as Coda, who has gained magical powers from a cursed smartphone. In the portion I played, you’re just trying to get out of your parents’ house, but beyond that you recruit friends, who also have magical powers, and save the world. It’s pretty in-depth for a mobile game, and impressively balances accessibility and complexity.
Little Bug released not long ago on September 25 on Windows, Mac, and Linux, and was at IndieCade as a nominee game. This is an atmospheric platformer with a unique gameplay element added to the mix. Think Limbo or Braid. Like those, it’s also dark thematically. You play as a young girl on her way home from school, and, in addition to almost getting hit by a car, you also discover the smelly body of a dead cat. There are clear domestic issues she faces with her mother, as well. As you walk through the real-world sections, a different world will mix with the reality where the platforming takes place. With the left thumbstick, you control your character, and with the right, an orb. In this sense, it’s like a “one-player” co-op game. The orb shoots out an energy beam of some kind that connects with your character and swings her across distances. You’ll need to position it such that you can swing her across pits (you cannot jump). There are also objects in the environment, like bouncy blobs, you’ll use to progress.
Anyball is a multiplayer party-game collection with different sports. It’s very simple and easy to jump into. Pick up a controller and press a button to spawn your little player-character in the game world. Once other players have joined (up to four) you choose which sport to jump into. We played a game of soccer that reminded me of the kickball tourneys in Banjo-Tooie. It was hectic, and each game we played ended in a tie.