Despite being an utterly awesome event that lets us European gamers get our paws on the games that people in other parts of the world got to sample months earlier, Eurogamer isn’t generally the place to discover wonderful new games that we haven’t heard of before.
One area of the Expo that’s always a mine full of mysterious treasures is the Indie Games Arcade, and this year was no exception. As well as being packed with fairly arbritrary offerings such as tower defence games and a slightly better-looking version of Temple Run , there were also a few gems in there that feed the argument that the indie gaming scene is a great place for developers to unleash their innovation and artistic creativity.
Here are the three games indie games that impressed me most at the Eurogamer Expo.
This game may not technically have been in the Indie Games Arcade, but it’s still an Indie game, brought to us from Introversion Software (of Darwinia and Uplink fame). With its fairly minimal visual style, Prison Architect may look your typically simple indie game, but beneath the surface lies one of the most intricate and complex building/management sims out there.
As developer Chris Delay proudly pointed out in the developer session, there are layers upon layers of intricacy to the game. Aside from the arranging water pipes and electricity, players control every single aspect of the prison; from its architecture, to deciding whether you want gates around your prison to be automated or only open-able by guards.
Although still in its alpha build, the game already demonstrates impressive AI, based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. You won’t necessarily even see these, but certain prisoners have a desire for freedom more than others. As such, they might start digging tunnels out of the prison. None of this will be made obvious though, and you will have to keep an eye out for things like burst water pipes (should the escaping prisoners stumble upon them) or mounds of dirt in the courtyard to prevent escapes. Bad prison management can lead to riots, murders and decreased prison valuation. Beneath a fun aesthetic and socially-aware storylines, this looks like it could be one of the deeper building sims made in recent times. Check out our interview with Chris Delay for more info.
This is one of those games that I didn’t really get when I first played, but I’ll be damned if I wasn’t utterly absorbed by it. Kind of like David Lynch’s more abstract films, I was confused by the world I was presented with, but was compelled to find out more.
Kairo is a first-person puzzle game in which you find yourself wandering around a completely abandoned, surreal city. The parts of the city are divided by strange portals, each of which leads you to a different room with a unique puzzle to solve.
The game has a haunting ambient soundtrack and a grainy Silent Hill-style aesthetic that adds to its surreal mood. The puzzles are though, the levels are varied (some reminding me of Minecraft, others of Dali paintings), and the overall design of the game leaves you feeling like you’re in hypnosis as you play it. I was utterly useless at Kairo, stumbling around the puzzles like I was in some nightmare where I’d regressed to being a child, but it left me feeling like I have to return to it and prove that I’m not a moron.
There are few games that create such a strong sense of urgency and time not being on your side as Don’t Starve. The game has a pleasing Tim Burton look to it, as you control Wilson, a scientist who manages to find himself trapped in a hostile wilderness land.
As well as a health bar, Wilson also has a hunger bar, which is slowly but steadily depleting as you run around the wilderness. It’s up to you to make fires, hunt animals, and kill the beasts of the forest before they kill you. The game has a day-night cycle, and if you find yourself without the means to make a fire for the night, then you’re as good as dead.
Eventually, the game develops to the point where you can build structures such as farms and research facilities to aid. It’s a constant struggle to survive though, and as such you’re kept constantly on your toes. Even Bear Grylls’ survival skills would be pushed to the limit in this crazy world.