Great Games from New Places
Google gave some indie gamemakers some time in the spotlight this past weekend. The software giant held an Indie Games Festival in San Francisco on Sept. 24 that featured 30 of the best games produced by small, independent shops in the U.S. and Canada. Some of the games on display at the San Francisco show are currently available — several on multiple platforms — while others are still in development with open or closed betas.We got the chance to walk around the Indie Games Fesitval and take in all the titles, highlighted by previews of several high-profile augmented reality (AR) games for Google’s Tango platform, which will let you see objects and information overlaid ontop of and within the real world. (The first Project Tango device — Lenovo's Phab2 Pro — is set to ship later this year.) And even though the event was put on Google, makers of the Android OS, many of the games on display work on multiple platforms, including Apple's iOS. Here are a dozen games that caught our eye in San Francisco, as Google plans to bring similar indie game contests to Europe in the future.
1979 Revolution: Black Friday ($4.99)
Ink Stories’ 1979 Revolution: Black Friday (iOS) tackles one of the most controversial and sensitive political stories of our time in the gripping genre of a historical thriller. It’s a game, but it almost doesn’t feel like one, as you absorb the suspense, danger, anger and fear surrounding a photographer's return to Iran during that country's revolution. Players get a solid background of the real historical events surrounding the game, while gameplay involves photography and other timed responses to drive the plot.Game director Navid Khonsari, who was a child in Iran during the revolution, developed the game to give players a genuine sense of the moral ambiguity of the situation on the ground. The game has been out on the Mac desktop and iOS for a few months, but is soon expected on Android, though not in Iran where it's banned.
A Matter of Murder ($2.99)
Do you crave an engrossing murder mystery in the grand tradition of Agatha Christie? Look no further than A Matter of Murder (Android, iOS), a crime procedural in the form of a point-and-click puzzle game featuring exquisite hand-drawn characters ensconced in a Victorian setting. Developers Worthing and Moncrieff offer an immersive, responsive score that helps place you inside the mystery experience. Players interact with flamboyant suspects and are able to inspect their surroundings for clues. Details of each murder are different each time you play the game with progressively challenging logic puzzles. An in-game notebook automatically keeps track of the clues you collect while random plot-altering elements can change the story’s outcome.
Ah, violence, greed, corruption — all those nasty attributes are present for ultimate exploitation in Antihero, a strategy game set in the 19th century. This unwholesome environment is where you run a thieves’ guild and compete against miscreants just like yourself. You scout the city with your master thief, train despicable little street urchins to enter buildings and steal anything they can, blackmail and bribe rich folks and even assassinate people. All of these evil tactics are placed against an ironically pleasing backdrop combining cartoon and Victorian art. You can play this fast-paced turn-based strategy game alone or as an asynchronous multiplayer on desktops, tablets and phones. The app is still in beta with a release date planned for early 2017.
AR Zombies (Free)
Targeted at teens and taking into account real-word surroundings, the visually haunting AR Zombies arcade game (Android) from AIZubara Labs is built for and powered by Google Tango. Your mission: To stay alive and have a healthier life. Gameplay includes carrying your phone or tablet around the room, dodging pets, furniture, and siblings, as you walk around dungeons and avoid traps, toxic gases or getting devoured by zombies. So much for the sedentary lifestyle: With AR Zombies, you need to get up out of your chair.
What’s a game festival without a mobile multi-player shooter where teams compete in jetpack combat? Super Bit Machine’s Armajet, a 2D arena shooter that is currently in closed beta, is an easy-to-learn cross-platform real-time competitive game that you can play simultaneously across iOS and Android. Add friends, create clans, and challenge friends via leaderboards. It promises some fast-paced fun.
bit bit blocks (Free)
This fast and furious but thoroughly charming puzzle game by developer Greg Batha lets two players (or one playing both sides) take over the board. By combining small blocks of the same color into bigger blocks, players move a goal line back and forth to conquer their opponent’s territory. Built as a multiplayer game for a single device (be it phone or tablet), bit bit blocks (Android, iOS) delivers a fistful of friendly features, such as blocks with sweet facial expressions, night colors to reduce screen brightness, the ability to choose optimal colors for color-blind gamers, a choice of rules for different kinds of play, different color sets to unlock and a way to keep score for competitive players.
Coffee Pot Terrarium ($2.99)
A combination of trippy electronic music and devine visuals accompanies the tactical RPG gameplay for this tile-based puzzler by Brothers Flint. While the atmosphere seems soothing and peaceful, danger is actually lurking. Players will resort to creating paths to avoid danger, finding critical spots in enemy positions and evaluating risks. Players raise, lower and remove tiles to drop enemies into water. Each of the more than 20 levels introduces new challenges, enemies, and situations to overcome. In addition to Android, Coffee Pot Terrarium (Android, iOS) is also available on macOS, Linux and Steam for a cross-platform experience.
In a twist on traditional war themes, this Android game from Gaudium has you lead a squad of anime tank girls into battle against the forces of corruption. Each girl represents the spirit of a real World War II-era tank, designed to augment your forces. Gameplay involves card collection and real-time battle to combat the invading force of Corruption. As commanding officer, you give orders, find the source of the invasion, expand your army, manage your tanks, and conquer new territory. With Armor Blitz, currently in open beta, you get challenging enemies and unique encounters. What else do you want?
Hologrid: Monster Battle ($35)
HoloGrid: Monster Battle was co-developed by HappyGiant and Tippett Studio as a hybrid board, collectible card and digital game. As a turn-based tactical strategy game set on an AR playing board, you defeat an opponent's Champion with team- and spell-based combat. Players take experiences online by scanning their boards and cards with their mobile devices, allowing their creatures to face off in a variety of creatively brutal, computer-generated ways. Phil Tippett, the Academy Award-winning creator of Star Wars holochess, has helped design HoloGrid, inspired by pieces used in the original movie. Developed for iOS and Android, it even comes in a box with playing cards and board and is available for pre-order now.
Crayola Color Blaster
Crayola Color Blaster — an upcoming Project Tango AR title from Legacy Games — is an AR game for kids 6 years old and up. Players travel into a colorless world, but blast it to smithereens with color. Because it’s AR, kids get to run around their own house with a Tango mobile device while avoiding zombies and splattering them with paintballs.
The storyline involves a mad professor who removes all color from the world and sends in waves of colorless 3D zombies after you. Players must act fast to blast color at them before they chomp you and take your color away. Hidden objects in treasure chests around the room help you take on pro-level zobmies. After 10 zombie waves the game ends with a big fight boss fight with the professor.
Orbit — Playing with Gravity (Free)
Orbit (Android, iOS), a gravity simulator puzzle by Highkey Games, is an intriguing take on exploring gravity’s effects. In a smooth, minimalist graphic environment accompanied by a classical piano score, the app, available on both Android and iOS, has 45 free levels that let you launch planets, and set them into orbit around different sets of black holes. Adding to the challenge are repulsive black holes and planets with their own gravity that attract each other. The planets also leave colored traces that you can use to create art. A premium version of the game features a sandbox where you can create your own levels, control time, disable collisions, and even paint with gravity.
Numbo Jumbo (Free)
I confess: In the hot, noisy, crowded environment of an expo hall, it was hard to warm up to Numbo Jumbo (Android, iOS), a number game for kids and one of the three top winners at the Indie Games Festival along with Orbit and bit bit blocks. However, when I got around to playing it later in my considerably less stressful home, I was better able to appreciate the app’s many fine qualities. This number game, which sports beautiful jeweled colors and four ways to play, wound up keeping me interested and challenged to spot, chose, build and obliterate number combinations for various preset outcomes. This app is great for kids who are just learning how numbers relate to each other, as well as adults who want to just kick back and challenge their visual and mental acuity.