We got our game on with a ton of indie games this year in the Indie Mega Booth at PAX Prime 2012. If you haven't read it yet, make your way on over to George and Sean's Indie Megabooth article. All of those games deserve the coverage they got.
But me, I do things a bit differently. Many readers and many more viewers know of my past Indie-3 videos in Bullet Heaven. But now, get ready for Indie-3: PAX Edition! Here are three indiegames in totally different genres that resonated with me in a big, big way.
Yatagarasu may not have an official North American title yet, and it may only be relegated to indie status, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have some seriously mean pedigree. Yatagarasu is a one-on-one vs. fighting game created by a trio of ex-SNK staff (including art director Styleos and game designer Ume-zono) who came together to form indie studio Circle Edge. It will be published by Nicalis of Cave Story fame.
Yatagarasu shakes things up from the fighting game norm by implementing a potentially hilarious hook: the optional “commentator system.” In addition to selecting a character, players also choose from a roster of commentators, each of whom will often trash talk during the match. While most (if not all) of the impact of this feature was more or less lost with this particular presentation (the version we played was entirely in Japanese), Yatagarasu did boast great visual and sound design, with good music to compliment the on-screen action and excellent character design.
A strong presentation is good, but it means nothing without gameplay to back it up. I'm happy to report that Yatagarasu has rock-solid controls that are easy for anyone who has played a fighting game in the last 20 years. I'm not the best fighting game player around, but the controls are so responsive, they allowed even me to overtake a human opponent rather well on my very first try.
While there is no hard date for Yatagarasu's North American debut, it should hopefully be coming to the 3DS eShop fairly soon!
For those of you out there looking for some indie shmup action, I have the game you should be crossing off the days for. Well, once it gets an official release date.
Luftrausers is an enhanced version of the free-to-play flash game, Luftrauser (presumably German for Red-Outer) which is a horizontal arena-based arcade-style shooter that challenges players to get as high a score as possible on a single life.
The controls in Luftrauser are very simple. You can turn left and right and use your engines to hurl yourself about the screen, whilst firing your weapons to take out ships and other planes. In addition, you can heal your ship when it gets hit by flying about without firing. This obviously gets harder as more opposition seeks to make you a cloud of scrap metal and body vapor, but it's the key to getting that high score. The action is fast-paced and very addictive, not to mention fairly difficult with a solid learning curve that begs players to try just once more.
While the original Luftrauser had only a single default ship, Luftrausers will have a number of body types, engines and weapons to mix and match, making for a very customizable score rush experience. In the PAX demo, however, your starting ship was totally randomized. Different weapon types were definitely creative, including charge cannons, bombs, and even a backward firing gun which, despite developer Vlambeer insisting was a “stupid shit idea,” was actually quite effective against tailgating foes.
Then there's the presentation -- holy god, is it fantastic. Minimalist in nature, there's still quite a bit of detail in the ships, despite being red silhouettes against a light beige background. When flying near or up from water, your jets will create rooster tails on its surface as you blast along at high speed. Other enemy aircraft will draw contrails in the air as they scream past. It all just looks so cool, and the soundtrack is just as amazing, combining military march with chiptune and dubstep. Great stuff.
This was probably the biggest surprise of the show for me. And man, was this ever an awesome demo. I was so impressed, I even bought a Luftrausers T-shirt, right there on the spot. Business and development coordinator Rami Ismail says Luftrausers will be complete and available for purchase in about four to six months. Look for my full review of Luftrausers on Bullet Heaven HD when it launches!
I fell deeply in love with the original Bit.Trip Runner at PAX East 2012 when I finally found a long-sought-after copy of Bit.Trip Saga on the 3DS. I adored the fluid gameplay, the snappy tunes, and how every action meshed with the music and rhythm of the stage. It made me wonder why I hadn't checked it out sooner on Steam or Wii Virtual Console.
I only found out about the original Runner's greatness when I was just about to leave Boston, literally at the airport waiting for my fight home... and it led to one of my biggest regrets: Not checking out Runner 2 at the PAX East 2012 Aksys booth.
Ever since then, I've been anxiously waiting for PAX Prime 2012 just to get hands-on with the sequel to one of the best games I've played to date, and the Runner 2 demo in the Indie Megabooth definitely delivered. Immediately, my foot was tapping to the beat as Commander Video ran, jumped, danced, slid, jumped some more, and vaulted through beautifully smooth and realized stage sets which perfectly captured everything that made the minimalist Runner "1" special, and fleshed the concept out with deliciously creative visuals and fantastic tunes. And while the inspired visuals and incredible leap in sound make Runner 2 a worthy successor to the original Bit.Trip installment, Runner 2 also ups the ante with over 100 stages with secret routs and items.
After thoroughly enjoying multiple stages (and holding up far too many people from experiencing this greatness for themselves), I caught up with Gaijin's Danny Johnson for a bit of Q&A. Be sure to check out PPR's excellent direct feed footage and Q&A coming very soon!
If somehow you missed Bit.Trip Runner on WiiWare, Wii Retail, Steam or 3DS, do yourself a favor and get it as soon as you can; it will give you just a tiny taste of what Runner 2 is like. Check back in 2013 for our review of Runner 2 when it finally releases. You can believe me when I say that Runner 2 just can't launch soon enough!