Why Indie Games?

This article might start off a little bit… differently, but please! Bare with me here!

Do you remember the last time you felt awe playing a game? Campaigns that make you feel alive and refreshed are far and few these days. Half the time I play games I can predict exactly what’s going to happen. For the life of me, I can’t remember the last time I played a Call of Duty game that stimulated my narrative needs. Back in 2015, my gaming life consisted of multiplayer first-person shooters on an endless loop. From COD to Battlefield to Halo, over and over and over again. My whole gaming diet was lacking that sustenance. The slice of cake rich with plot twists, character designs, and emotional attachments. And then I found what I was looking for (which I’m going to assume you know from the title): Indie games.

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Games that weren’t there to pander to massive demographics and had more to show than cleaner graphics compared to the previous year’s edition. Indie games envelop you. The titles, although sometimes unheard of, are unique and crafted by small teams, many times starting from nothing. I’ve just been going on and on about how indie games give a whole new life to gaming, but let me give you a more personal example.

For those who’ve played OneShot by Little Cat Feet, you know exactly where this is going. For those who haven’t enjoyed the game themselves, I implore you to go check out our review, here, and possibly pick up a copy, then continue reading. There will be spoilers ahead!

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OneShot gave me something I haven’t felt from a game in a very long time. It gave me a connection. From the moment I entered the dimly lit, pixelated world, I knew something was going to be different about this game. The soundtrack from the moment I entered this game made my chest swell with excitement. If that wasn’t good enough, something refreshing happened that I was definitely not expecting. We were NOT the main character. In OneShot, the beautiful minds behind the game decided to have you play “God”. You were the influencer. While you did walk around and control Niko, all your interactions with him were between you and Niko. Two completely different entities.

We went the whole game watching and bonding with Niko. We explored the world with Niko. We met every individual we could spot with Niko. Helped countless people with Niko. And in the end, what does the game do? It presents you with a choice of two wrong answers. You can sacrifice Niko to save the world or you could sacrifice the world to save Niko. Reading this without playing the game might not do you much good, being that you didn’t grow that connection that felt eternal with Niko. Me myself, I didn’t know what to do. I won’t lie, it brought tears to my eyes. This poor innocent boy who’s done no wrong is faced with an ethical dilemma and turns to you, his God, for help. I couldn’t take it. I shut off the game then and there.

Too many thoughts clouded my mind, I returned the next day, ready to make a decision. The only choice that would be right was saving the world at Niko’s expense. But, when I finally hit clarity, the game threw a curve-ball that hit me in the gut as hard as a truck. I opened the game and saw this:

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Indie games are your favorite stories mixed with your best friends. So, why indie games? Because they’re the closest thing to true, real games.

SORE – The Meaning Behind a Meaningless Game

I wonder if I got the job?     Did the interviewer like my resume?

I wonder if he enjoyed my personality?    Did he think I was boring?

I’m boring    What’s wrong with me?

Why am I so boring?    I need to change

 I hate myself

Without haste, people drift towards escalating problems easily to suit societies standards, similar to the example provided above. People always tend to search for the “bigger picture”, but when you look too much into the future, the smaller, simpler things can be overlooked. These insecurities can snowball until questions turn to issues, issues turn to actions, and actions can be fatal. Simple things can sometimes make the human mind very anxious and doubtful. Each case of anxiety is different, as the human mind is our most fascinating, yet fragile feature. Unless you suffer from the illness, you can never fully understand the heartache, but SORE gives you a taste in the life of uncertainty by providing just one task… simply leave a room.

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Before I continue, I must say that this review is based on my interpretation of SORE, the mystery behind the game is still unknown.

You begin this dark tale as a ghost stuck in a small room. The sounds of rain splashing against the roof fill your ears, accompanied by an occasional crack of thunder. Shadows engulf this chamber, with only a gleam of moonlight peaking its way through the one window in the room. Within the shadows sways a man, hung from the ceiling. It seemed as if suicide was his only option. The ideal scene set for SORE left me both apprehensive and curious in the best ways possible. Feeling uneasy but ready for more.

It will not take long to find out what your first objective is. Locate and use three keys to unlock the solid door restricting you from the neighboring room. SORE provides little to no information on why reaching the other room is of importance, making me feel no ambition in reaching my goal. SORE begins to get interesting once you peek your head through the window on the door. Interacting with the window allows you to see what the other room looks like. Is it gold? Is it a path to freedom? Is it an even more complex room? No… its a room just as simple, and just as eerie as the one you navigate through the whole game. The only difference is this room has a living man inside. He has the option of saying a variety of different phrases. Some are just random corny jokes, while others are clues to help you find the three keys. What lies in the middle of those two categories is rather disturbing nonsense. If you talk to this man long enough, he will begin to mention that we never talk back to him. It was then I realized something that made this game seem much more eerie… the man does not know we are dead. He cannot see us as a ghost, but instead a hanging corpse. Only his view of the rope is blocked by the walls of the room, so he can only see a motionless and silent man. To his awareness, we are very much alive and well.

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SPOILERS

The first two keys were uncovered rather quickly, but that third key kept me stumped. I spent about 45 minutes searching for the final key until I got hungry and retreated to my kitchen to make a sandwich. Upon my return, I saw the gleam of heavenly light shine out of the wall… the door was open. I entered to room with caution, expecting another set of challenges. The screen grew dark, and then an old-school computer crash screen appeared

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As anyone would be, I was left in confusion. I ran to my trusty friend, the internet, and read how to actually beat the game. The only answers I found left me in anger. There are two ways to beat SORE. You either stand still for six minutes or go up to the door and press “X”. Really? That’s it? Yup! From what the community has found so far, there is, in fact, no working key to unlock the door

I felt cheated…bitter…enraged! I just spent 45 minutes trying to find a key that didn’t exist. On top of that, the door leads to your game “crashing”, leaving you with numerous unanswered questions. I was ready to uninstall the game and abandon the review as a whole, but then I got to thinking. Yes, the game could just be bull**** to waste everyone’s time, or it could be much more profound. Upon looking deeper behind SORE’s unfulfilling story, I have come up with my interpretation of the ending.

Remember when I mentioned how “People always tend to search for the “bigger picture”, but when you look too much into the future, the smaller, more simpler things can be overlooked.”. That is exactly what this game intends for you to do, search for the bigger picture. Once I entered the world of SORE, I immediately started creating a checklist of what to do.

I have to search here, under that, and above there

No one would ever think that all you had to do was press one button, or stand still for six minutes. That would just be way too simple.

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SORE made me irritable. Not only at the game, but at myself as well. As each minute ticked by I was starting to blame myself for not being capable of finding this missing key. I finally gave up, thinking that this game got the best of me.

The pain and anguish could have all been avoided if I took my time and stuck simply. Overthinking can lead to much more pain than a problem has to be. While SORE may have been unfulfilling and quick, this dark mystery teaches a valuable lesson. The lesson is deep and is only understood if you take the time to attempt the impossible… finding that last key.

Enomview Score: 5 out of 10

Check out the game: http://store.steampowered.com/app/690060/SORE/

Figment – A Playful Approach to the Mind’s Trauma

Bedtime Digital Games is back with a new game called Figment. The action-adventure game released in late September of this year has the player controlling Dusty, a guardian of the mind who is needed once again. Chasing down the traumas inflicting the mind, Dusty and his trusty bird friend Piper, travel great distances to seek out and destroy the suffering. Their journey takes them around the brain to areas such as the appropriately named Cerebrum city and Freedom Isles. Join Dusty and Piper in a grand and beautiful world solving complex puzzles and defeating the anguish inflicting the mind once and for all.

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Starting up the game, I immediately plugged in my controller to see what Figment would best be played with. I was in for a pleasant surprise as the controller felt just as good in my hands as the mouse and keyboard, if not better. The vibrations, easy controls, and nostalgia of playing my Xbox sealed the deal for me as I continued the game with the controller. Figment includes more than just a story to follow and enemies to tackle. It includes many sections that aren’t mandatory to continue the story. These usually include memories or as the game calls them, “Remembranes”. One of these Remembranes includes a young boy named Todd who says “Go away, you jerk. I never want to play with you again!”. Remembrances are an insight into why the mind is experiencing all the trauma we see and fight.  You can also knock on the doors of local residents of the mind, and listen as they express their concerns or say a witty comment. Details like this make or break a game and Figment is definitely a stellar example of how including features like these really add to a game’s enjoyment.

The first 10 minutes of the game was basically an introduction to the mechanics and one of the main villains, Nightmare. Dusty obviously isn’t new to the whole saving the mind thing, as Piper drops many hints that they have known each other for a long time. Piper asks Dusty for help once again but he’s reluctant saying that the mind has moved on. Only when Dusty is personally affected by the Nightmare, a skinny purple entity with four arms who steals Dusty’s martini and scrapbook, that he decides to go after it. We retrieve his sword, solve an abundance of simple puzzles, and meet the mayor, who oddly talks only in rhymes, and sends us on a mission to destroy the three sources of trauma.

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From there Dusty and Piper travel into the right hemisphere of the brain, which is a huge change of scenery. We go from a dull, dark and rainy region of the brain, to a bright, vibrant and lively area which is no doubt in reference to a more creative part of the mind. Musical instruments are abundant as guitars, trombones and flutes are placed all over the land, some of which serve as plant life. Within the first five minutes of arriving, we are introduced to the second villain, Plague man. Plague man seems to take advantage of our fear of sickness as he spews toxic gas and summons rodents that sneeze and do damage. As a side note, I’m a fan of how Dusty dies in this game. If you take too much damage from the gas or the rodents, Dusty poofs away in a cloud of smoke only to quickly reappear at the last checkpoint. The death animation isn’t overly done and you are quickly returned to play the game once more.

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As you progress through the game, the puzzles become more and more complex. Figment isn’t a type of game that you can breeze through. It requires thinking, patience and the occasional YouTube walk through and for some people, this is their cup of tea.

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I’m sure we can all think of a period in our life where our heads were filled with darkness and despair. We all go through it, everything in our life isn’t going to go as perfectly as we’d like to. Sometimes we are troubled with anxiety, depression, and fear and this is what the game bases its story off of. The antagonists in the game are our real-life fears visualized as quirky and humorous villains that perform the occasional musical performances. They run like cowards as you bravely continue your journey to rid the minds of the difficulties. Figment takes a playful approach to the very grim realities many people face on a day to day basis. It’s a game for all age groups and each group will enjoy and analyze the game differently. In the end, Figment is about facing your fears and how life is just one big game that shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

I enjoyed many aspects of the game and had little to complain about. The dazzling and elegant world the game had to offer was one of its finest qualities. It was filled with detail with more than just a story to follow. Knocking on the doors of the inhabitants, I found myself curious about what everyone had to say. Perhaps if the residents walked out of their house, and showed their faces instead of just lighting up a window, it would’ve added to the game’s great design. Although the combat was light, it was solid enough. Figment isn’t entirely about combat but when you slay your enemies you get the feeling of satisfaction that makes you want to do it all over again.The combat can feel a bit frustrating at times as the enemies routinely disappear and reappear as they cycle through their abilities. This is mostly solved as some of the enemies share a health pool, so once one of them dies, so do the rest. The puzzles can sometimes seem overwhelming as the setting zooms out and you can see all the different parts that you have to deal with. However, completing one, especially a long complex puzzle gives you a sense of gratification that keeps the game moving. Finally, the musical performances add a great touch to the game. The catchy tunes are placed perfectly with the situations and I found myself humming to them sometimes. Overall the game has good combat, thought-provoking puzzles, fetching music and a diverse and stylish environment that connects to the ever-growing anxiety, depression, and sickness around the world.  

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Enomview Score: 8 out of 10

Check out the game: http://store.steampowered.com/app/493540/Figment/