PAX South was basically indie-game central. And you know what? After the crushing neon madness of PAX Prime, it’s kinda nice to go to a convention where indie games are the center of attention.
I scoured the show floor in a quest for the most fun, the most creative, and the most bestest of all the indie games. I found them, and here they are.
Check-in Knock-Out by Lionade Games (and published by tinyBUILD) literally had me shrieking with laughter, and if you know me you know I’m not exaggerating. (Also that that’s a horrible noise.) But it’s a testament to Check-in Knock-Out that it was so funny. You play as one of four characters trying to check into an overbooked hotel. Because there’s only one spot, a brawl commences. Characters use everything as a weapon, including ripping blocks of pixelated dirt from the earth. Of course this causes the platform that you’re on to slowly shrink, and characters that fall off or get knocked off lose.
It’s a simple brawler but it uses the setting really well, and it felt infinitely replayable. We went through the demo twice to wrap our heads around the madness and then two more times just for the fun of it. Check-in Knock-Out will be coming to PCs and consoles in 2015, and it has four-person local co-op.
Adventures of Pip
Adventures of Pip from Tic Toc Games has one of the best concepts for a side-scrolling platformer that I’ve seen yet. In the world of Pip, the higher your resolution, the more powerful you are. That means Pip, who is just a single pixel, is pretty low. But when a wicked queen turns everyone into single blocks, Pip gets to save the day.
Certain creatures will turn you into a higher-resolution version of Pip, each of which has different abilities. Eight-bit Pip can punch, kick, and wall jump, while 16-bit Pip is strong enough to drag objects and carries a sword. The gameplay requires you to switch back and forth between these evolutions of Pip to bypass obstacles. You can de-evolve at a whim, but evolving into a higher-res Pip requires finding “bit beasts” who will bump you up to your next evolution when you beat them. In that way, evolution is “engrained in the level design,” says the developer. “It’s about how you’re going to use the platforming in the level to evolve yourself and figure out when to de-evolve yourself.”
Adventures of Pip will be available on Xbox One, Wii U, PlayStation 4, and Steam.
The Gordian Knot
The Gordian Knot is an upcoming mobile game from Kwid Media. I was really impressed with this game. It can be hard to do a platforming game on mobile platforms, but The Gordian Knot handles it well and looks great. The game integrates momentum and items into its platforming play. One of my favorite things about it was that there is no dying—instead of having to go back to a previous checkpoint or burning through lives, when you encounter a dangerous creature you will drop whatever item you’re carrying and need to retrieve it.
Designer Matt Kwid said he loved the style and nostalgia of retro platformers. “However,” he said, “it was wearing to play for 15 seconds and have to restart.” He saw an opportunity to create a retro-style pixelated platformer that challenges players but doesn’t punish them. The death mechanic is replaced with puzzles that you need to solve using items—the level I played involved lighting torches to activate floating platforms—and each level also has a star rating, encouraging players to go through multiple times and improve their score.
The Gordian Knot will be available for Windows 8, Android, and Kindle, with later releases online and for iOS. You can check out the soundtrack at thegordianknotgame.com.
Lightfall is probably the indie darling of PAX South, and its acclaim is well deserved. Created by Bishop Games, Lightfall is a beautiful game that aesthetically resembles Limbo, but with speedier gameplay and a lot less pain. Lightfall takes place in a fantasy world that is wreathed in darkness. The player is a boy who pops up out of thin air with no memory of who he is. The joy of the game comes from running, leaping, and wall-jumping past obstacles. What separates Lightfall from other platformers is the character’s ability to generate blocks out of thin air. If you think you’re about to miss a jump, for example, you can save yourself by creating a block and jumping off it.
Honestly, I was so impressed with the ease and fluidity of the platforming in this game! It looked challenging, but the ease with which players adjusted to the new mechanics was incredible. The ability to generate blocks anywhere also allowed players to improvise paths through the game. Some took it slow, carefully placing blocks and planning their next move, while others rushed through as fast as possible. I’m really excited to play this when it comes out and see if the story lives up to the incredible gameplay.
Lightfall will be available on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita, as well as PC and Mac (with a Steam Greenlight campaign starting in March). It will also potentially be available for Xbox One.
Brawlhalla is a brawler that aims to fill the cold, lonely hearts of people who want to play a game like Super Smash Bros., but don’t have Nintendo products. It’s pretty straightforward—a bunch of characters duke it out on a floating stage and a victor comes out on top. Brawlhalla is aiming for PC gamers, with an early access version of the game available on Steam right now. It has local and online play, and it’s honestly super fun. There’s something really compelling about an unapologetic, cartoonish beat-em-up game—and Brawlhalla is full of awesome weapons, aerial combat, and interesting character designs.
Definitely check it out if you need a new brawler in your life.
Super Slam Dunk Touchdown
Super Slam Dunk Touchdown immediately appealed to me as a person who is interested in sports but completely ignorant about their finer workings. In Super Slam Dunk Touchdown your team is composed of athletes from a ton of different sports—basketball, football, ice hockey, roller derby—you name it. Each character has a different ability; for example, the football player is strong but a little slow. Your goal is to get the ball into the hoop. Or through the goalposts. Or into the net. There are tons of ways to score, and there are lots of bizarre obstacles like banana peels and Zambonis.
I’m really pumped about this because I love the idea of sitting down to play a sports game, but I’m never going to be compelled by a traditional football or basketball sim. Super Slamdunk Touchdown takes the exciting parts of sports and puts them all together.
The game isn’t finished yet, but you can download a pre-alpha version and give the developer feedback for free and it will be released on PC and Mac when it’s finished.
That’s all for our PAX South experience! Let us know which game is your favorite in the comments, and don’t forget to subscribe to this channel for more sweet videos from Pixelkin.org.