Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Top 10 From 2011: Free Indie Games

It's that time of year when everyone reflects on the year's greatest achievements and ranks them in order of their success. Since I hardly ever play new releases, I can't compile a list of the top ten releases from 2011. Instead, I'll be highlighting some of my best articles from 2011. Shameless self-promotion with an opportunity to get some of my favorite pieces on the front page again. Huzzah.

I played a lot of free indie games in the past year. Most of them were pretty good, but some of them were a lot more memorable than others. Some of them had that extra spark of creativity to make them truly unique and original. Some of them were just a lot more fun than the rest. Not all of these games were released in 2011, but here are my top ten favorite free indie games that I covered in 2011. Click the full article for the list.

For further reading, check out my top 10 free indie games list from 2012.

This is a short flash game that strives to incorporate narrative devices without any kind of overt story. You play an ordinary comet flying through space, interacting with another comet and developing a sense of friendship with it. It's a beautiful thing to experience, because there's no dialogue and these comets don't have any anthropomorphic aspects to them, and the gameplay elements (combined with the nice visuals and the music) really do make you feel some kind of emotional connection. Read more of my words here; play it here.

This one's a stupidly fun typing game. Words appear on screen and you type them. You earn points for typing them in faster, without making mistakes, and by getting streaks and combos and such. The game is surprisingly tense, what with the sirens and strobe lights on screen and the thumping techno-style music that plays over top, complete with boss battles and leaderboards. Read more of my words here; get it here.

Your goal in SCT2 is to start a religious cult from scratch by recruiting acolytes (abducting them from the town and farms), collecting resources (money and kool-aid), and building your self-containing society (complete with sentry bots and giant towering monoliths), in order to summon the mothership before the feds shut you down. It blends RTS, Tycoon, and strategy genres pretty well and proves to be an engaging experience with a uniquely quirky style about it. Read more of my words here; get it here.

Void is a first-person puzzle game that has you exploring a crumbling, dilapidated building. The twist is that you can cast time-altering bubbles that restore the environment back to the way it was in the past, allowing you to clear out a section of a collapsed roof, revert a mighty tree back to a sapling, and navigate around gates and bookshelves. It ranks up there with Portal in terms of puzzle creativity, and is a lot of fun to navigate. Read more of my words here; get it here.

Spelunky is a rogue-like with randomly-generated levels. You play as a spelunker exploring for treasure, collecting loot and rescuing damsels while venturing further down into the earth. There's a huge amount of variety in this game with the way levels are generated, the enemies you encounter, the kinds of special events you encounter, and so forth. There are four different sets of stages, each with their own unique level designs, including traps, loot, and enemy types. Beating the game is extremely challenging, but it's also very addicting as you keep wanting to come back for just one more shot. Read more of my words here; get it here.

This one is almost more of an interactive novel than a game, just because it involves so much reading, but it's an interesting experience. The game is about artificial intelligence, with logs documenting the progression of an AI from a simple computer to a self-aware being. It characterizes the AI in fairly original ways, taking its inspiration from Isaac Asimov's novels while being original and avoiding the common cliches. It's fun to unravel the mystery of what happened in this point and click adventure game, and the overall ambiance has stuck with me over time. Read more of my words here; play it here.

Not for the squeamish, Beautiful Escape is about seducing people on the streets and taking them back to your basement to torture them. It's dark, moody, creepy, and downright disturbing at times, even despite its crude RPG Maker graphics. At the heart of this game is a love story and some social commentary on artistic development, which makes the experience surprisingly meta. Hard to recommend just because of the subject matter, but the experience was extremely memorable for me. Read more of my words here; get it here.

Wither is a short adventure game that's predominantly about death. Your main goal is to explore a small town collecting flowers to place on your recently-deceased brother's grave. As an adventure game, it's pretty fun as you talk to NPCs, get clues and hints, and track down the twelve flowers, but its story is the real selling point as you try to piece together different angles to figure out the backstory of what happened to your brother and is now happening with you. Read more of my words here; get it here.

Your only goal in Hide is to survive. You play an anonymous character exploring a dark, snowy wood, searching for five locations while avoiding the certain death that stalks you in the night. There's a fair amount of mystery and intrigue with this game as you wonder what's pursuing you and what's going on. This game drips with atmosphere, and is one of the most immersing survival horror games I've ever played, easily worth recommending. Read more of my words here; get it here.

In Ruins, you play a small dog chasing rabbits in a dream, talking with them and (as a player) learning about this dog's past and her relationship with her owner. Dialogue branches in pretty interesting ways, depending on how you respond to the rabbits, meaning that it will take several playthroughs to get something close to the full picture. Everything about this game is charming, from the contrasting visual silhouettes, to the emphasis on the Chopin soundtrack, and the way you interact with the rabbits. It's a delight to play, plain and simple. Read more of my words here; get it here.

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