It’s time for the last five games in our short series! (and some honorable mentions) If you miss any titles, please don’t hesitate to extend the list into the comments below. And again, for those of you who find an unfamiliar title, we recommend you reschedule your evening! (go to part 1)
Vincent Morisset has been involved with interactive art for over a decade, and is perhaps best known for his collaborations with Arcade Fire. His unique approach to the medium is as impressive as it is interesting.
BLA BLA depicts various aspects of communication, thus requiring the interaction of the audience in order to come to life. Describing it as “a film for computer”, Vincent experiments with both gameplay and visuals in ways that differs from everything I’ve ever seen before.
Regarding the visuals, vincent explains that “I’m inspired by projects that feel free aesthetically. I wanted BLA BLA to feel hand-made, imperfect, fragile, so we forget about the technology.” Some of the techniques used were xerography, drawing on paper, ActionScript generated animations and puppet stop-motion.
Combined with great character design and a suitable soundscape and you have nothing less than a gem and mandatory addition to every game designers curriculum.
One might expect a game developed by one person, released for free on the Internet, to be a diamond in the rough, at the very best. That was not the case with Cave Story. Five years in the making, Daisuke Amaya, aka Pixel, put all his love for old school adventure platformers into this outstanding game.
With gameplay reminiscent of both Metroid and Castlevania, plenty of secret areas and a surprisingly involving story for a game of this type, it didn’t take long for this game to achieve cult status on the Internet. First in Japan, then fan-translated and let loose on the rest of the world.
With a remake for Wii, and an upcoming 3D remake for the 3DS, Cave Story is getting the recognition it deserves. Best of all (for you), the awesome experience, complete with the colorful graphics and a great soundtrack is still free to download for PC & MAC. Go get it!
Cost: Free / ~9 €
Platform: PC, MAC, Linux, Wii & DS
Developer: Daisuke Amaya (aka Pixel)
Amnesia is a disturbing first person adventure, critically acclaimed as one of the, if not the, most scariest games ever created. In Amnesia, preparing mentally to enter the next room is the hardest part.
So what exactly makes the game so scary? Developer Frictional Games’ sophisticated approach to horror (worthy comparisons to H.P. Lovecrafts work) uses psychological threats rather than physical ones, drawing the focus from action over to atmosphere. In practice this means; no death penalties; no usable weapons; no stats; and no competitive gameplay. These gameplay mechanics certainly has their place, but, as Amnesia demonstrates, pulling you out of the experience to gain technical mastery engagement can happen at the expense of emotional engagement.
Instead, Frictional Games uses subtle game mechanics that supports the atmosphere, like dynamic interaction with environments (pulling and pushing of doors the amount you feel like, letting you peek through cracks and around corners), a sanity level that degrades in the dark (something you definitely do not want to happen) and unpredictable enemy appearances.
What the game and its horrifically thorough soundscape does so brilliantly is role-playing along with you. In Amnesia, your imagination literally becomes the challenge.
Platform: PC, MAC & Linux
Developer: Frictional Games
Belgian developer “Tale of Tales” (among previous releases “The Path“) describes The Graveyard as “more like an explorable painting than an actual game”. It is rather similar to BLA BLA and Gravitation in that it’s a rather short and experimental game, that leaves space for thought rather than focusing on the spontaneous satisfaction.
You “play” an old lady walking slowly through a graveyard, sitting down on a bench, after which you might walk back out again. This can sound like rather limited interactive possibilities, but as with Amnesia the setting still encourage a unique connection to the theme. What is important is not the gameplay, but the game’s ability to provoke emotions.
Now go play the game, and call an old relative once you are done!
Cost: Free / 5$
Platform: PC, MAC & IPhone (only $2)
Developer: Tale of Tales
Braid is a mind bending 2d plattformer that lets you manipulate the flow of time to solve beautifully designed puzzles.
The high amount of logical analysis demanded matches the sense of achievement felt when succeeding. Every puzzle is cleverly designed, with increasing difficulty throughout the game.
Unlike a lot of other games, the core mechanic also substantiates the story. This unique approach to storytelling combined with the really intelligent level design, beautiful hand-painted art and relaxing music, quite simply ends in a hugely satisfying game to solve. Please do not disservice yourself and watch a walkthrough.
Platform: XBLA, PSN, PC & MAC
Developer: Jonathan Blow
If you still crave more awesome indie titles, here is a longer list of titles, with something for most platforms and tastes.
Sleep is Death, The Dream Machine, Frogatto, Osmos, Octodad, Dear Esther, Bastion, Every day the same dream, Flower, Super Meat Boy, Sword & Sorcery, Dinner Date, Minecraft, Fotanica, TRAUMA & Frozen Synapse.