Saturday, July 3, 2010

The indie co-op appeal

 Maximum color!Indie gaming has always surprised me. It’s people or maybe even just a single dude, who take their own free time and resources to craft an experience from seemingly nothing. They don’t get paid to make it, there’s no business backing these guys, it’s all from their own minds and that’s damn impressive.

One of the reasons why I look forward to trying out other indie titles is due to their focus. Instead of trying to buy me in with unprecedented visuals and an unparalleled storyline, they usually just want you to have a good time. Of course there are some indie titles that have a great story and maybe even better aesthetic appeal, but I’m going to focus on two particular titles that are short and to the point.

 You best keep that princess safe from all these goblin things.

Protect Me Knight is pretty much an 8-bit tower defense with no towers. The object is to protect the princess by beating back hordes of monsters that will stop at nothing to take swipes at her. You can choose one of four different classes that are all upgradeable through about 10 different stages. It’s highly addictive and best of all you can play with four people locally.

Upon glancing at it you’d have no idea what the game is about and clearly, it’s not very important. The translation is awful from the start but even stranger is the charm of it. What game’s opening screen depicts a princess that states, “Kill %$*&ing Goblins!” or a description of fire-breathing demons as “pongy?” None. What I appreciate even more about Protect Me Knight is its simplistic but very accessible nature. Anyone can jump into the game whether they be a chiseled veteran gamer or a complete rookie to the medium.

 This is where you can upgrade all your moves.I enjoy how local co-op seems to be a focus of indie/arcade titles. It brings me back to the “pass the controller” days of entertainment. Surely it’s convenient to play games with your friends over the internet, but there’s nothing like having your buddies all present when your game gets intense. Red Faction: Guerrilla had its Wrecking Crew mode, Burnout had its Crash mode, and I hope future games don’t forget this formula.

Speaking of local co-op, Beat Hazard is another one that does it very well. If you’re unfamiliar with twin-stick shooters like Geometry Wars, know that things get hectic quickly. Beat Hazard follows the Geometry Wars route by throwing numerous enemies at you in various modes but takes the intensity far, far beyond the threshold most would be used to.

As its name implies, Beat Hazard revolves around music; specifically, your music. Each level you play is the length and intensity of whatever song you choose. If you pick a song that’s a little more upbeat and fast paced, asteroids, ships, and a whole manner of other things will fly at you more frequently than if you chose some sappy and slow love song.  Choosing more lengthy songs also sees massive space boss ships come into play to provide more of a challenge. And as an added bonus, your ship’s firepower is also affected by the highs and lows of the song. While fighting a boss, your song could go to a low point which renders your guns the equivalent of pea-shooters. Prepare to test your reflexes.

 That's a big ship and it fires big  lasers.

Like Audiosurf before it, Beat Hazard’s ability to play any of your favorite musical pieces is excellent. It’s definitely hard to see what’s going on at times, but that’s part of the fun. The confusing mass of sparkles, wave distortion, and lasers maybe be distracting but it’s pure addictive pleasure you can jump into and out of instantly. The ability to bring a friend along for the ride just augments the fun.
Both these games may not be for everyone but they do show off the relevance of arcade style gaming, local co-op play, and instant gratification. No, you won’t be playing nonstop for 18 hours but it sure is a nice way to spend some short sessions with or without your friends.

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  1. "...Burnout had its Crash mode..."
    I really enjoyed Burnout 3 on my Xbox. I thought the Crash mode and the racing in the game were very solid.

    In general though, I think Indie gaming is interesting, and it's something I may eventually try my hand at(due to my major).
    I have never written and designed a game from the ground up, but I did work with the Far Cry editor, from the original Far Cry on PC; and I really, really, enjoyed creating levels and getting the AI to do scripted events.

    I still haven't been able to play my level I created against anybody though, as I can't figure out how to share it properly, :(.

  2. Working with anybody on a major release would be pretty exciting to me. I think it's great that you're passionate about the stages you've created as well. But do me a favor and check out some of these indie games! You're really missing out on some gems!

    I'm still in the middle of a move right now, but once I get the chance I think I'll make a list of a bunch of indie games people should check out.