The Indie Scene

As quirky as some indie games may seem compared to the more traditional retail games we're used to, I’ve definitely noticed some trends over the past year. Platformers and puzzlers, for example, are common sights. The adventure-game genre seems to have never died. Some projects have the kernel of a great idea, around which a rough game exists. Other games can be indecipherable, experimental, or just in a different language.

This time, with T up to bat, I’ve come across some of each…as well as a major case of déjà vu.


Teppoman 2 (PC, free)

I like it when playing a game is a challenge in and of itself. Well, not all the time, but it can make for an interesting change of pace. For example, to play Teppoman 2, my first T game, click on the above link, stare at some text you won’t understand, and then click on the second link. That will download the game for you.

Being in Japanese, Teppoman 2 will be indiscernible to many of us, punctuated with a lot of trial and error. It actually reminds me a lot of Nikujin, which I played back in the N edition. They are both brutal action games that require a FAQ to simply figure out the commands.


I did eventually figure it out, had some fun with the momentum and tricky jumps that highlight Teppoman 2, and then came to the realization that it isn’t enjoyable enough to hold my interest through to the end. Just like Nikujin.

Teppoman 2

Tag: The Power of Paint (PC, free)

Tag: The Power of Paint is the lucky recipient of a welcome resurgence. I don’t know its download numbers, but I know in terms of mindshare it has certainly received a boost from E3. A group of students at DigiPen created this game, and — storybook tale cut short — they are now bringing their talents to Valve to help on E3 darling Portal 2.

Much like Portal, Tag is a first-person puzzler. To progress, you utilize one of three supercharged paints in your squirt gun: jump, fast, and sticky. Using a combo of these sprays (when available), you can paint a path of abilities. Coat a ramp in “speed” red, and you’ll shoot up and off it as your feet make first contact. A green patch on a hanging billboard, meanwhile, will have you bounding right back off, ideal for some kitty-corner jumping.

It’s a catchy game. I enjoyed figuring out ways up skyscrapers and along rooftops. One nagging thought I couldn’t shake, though, is that this game works by taking away what would normally be button commands. I’m sure we’ve all come across a game or two in which you have direct control over when your character can run and jump, yes?

This had me imagining a Mirror’s Edge in which instead of actively instructing Faith when to dash, leap, and run along a wall, you preplan her movements in bursts. It’s almost like a strategy parkour game.

Don’t let this deceive, though. Tag has plenty of twitchy action, and I enjoyed surveying a level and mapping out just how I wanted to tackle it. Indeed, Portal 2 should benefit from its Tag-inspired ability gels.

Tag: The Power of Paint

Tobe’s Vertical Adventure (XBL Indie, $3)

I enjoyed Tobe’s Vertical Adventure, maybe in part because it harkens back to the excellent Spelunky. The simple premise has you searching through a series of cavelike locations for treasure. You make your way to the bottom of each level utilizing ropes and pinpoint jumping.

What kills me are the controls. The jumping never feels great. If you’re running, the jump speed remains the same as if you were leaping from a standstill position. Awkward. The wall jumps can also be tricky. Now, I compensated for some of these control problems over time, and like I said, I had fun. But for me, it never shook that clunky feeling.

That in mind, and clichéd stage types (ice, fire, etc.) aside, I enjoyed the treasure hunt. Some old-school platforming staples helped: needing to escape each level once you find the big treasure, jumping among flashing-in-and-out blocks (though they never actually “disappear”), using bubbles as trampolines. Despite its stumbles, Tobe did enough right to keep me going.

Tobe's Vertical Adventure

Today I Die (Browser, free)

This last-minute addition to the lineup comes courtesy of James DeRosa’s Artsy-Fartsy Games article. Today I Die is short, interesting, and — yes — artsy-fartsy. Whether that's a banner of pride or shame is up to you.

Regardless, and keeping with this week’s theme, I coldn't shake the feeling that the game looked and felt familiar. Turns out the it was created by Daniel Benmergui, who just so happens to be the man behind I Wish I Were the Moon, a game I covered back in the I’s.

Today I Die certainly has its own feel. The basic setup lets you swap out a few choice words from a poem and then see what new interactions the game allows you among the onscreen characters and objects. Eventually, pieces of the narrative begin to fall into place. While this progress is straightforward, gamers’ interpretations will undoubtedly be all over the place.

For example, does the young lady escape death, or is she passing into the afterlife? Just what or who do the “enemies” represent? Should the words of the poem be taken literally, as their reactions are? The whole ordeal actually starts to feel a little like the Lost finale by the end. Of course, opinions were a little mixed on that one, too.

Today I Die

Another letter down. Boy, those first 20 flew by, didn’t they? Looking ahead, I can’t help but be a little worried about the U's, V's, and X's staring back at me. But tricky letters or not, I have a feeling the indies won’t let me down.

Previous entries:

A, B, C, D, E,
F, G, H, I, J,
K, L, M, N, O,
P, Q, R, S

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