Highlighting some criminally under exposed games from the past twelve months.
As much as the Christmas break was about catching up with friends and family, we probably spent just as much time playing games that we’d been ignoring over the past twelve months. Inevitably enough thanks to the fantastically generous ongoing Steam sale, we also added to that substantial offering and snapped up some indie gems for a relative pittance. The thing is rather than spending more time with the previous year’s most celebrated ‘indie’ releases like Hotline Miami, Natural Selection II, Torchlight II and the frustratingly perplexing Thirty Flights of Loving, we decided to spend time searching out more of the under-appreciated gems which for one reason or another completely slipped under most gamers’ radars during 2012.
The indie market is getting increasingly crowded and it’s getting harder and harder to sort the really good, worthwhile releases against those more experimental titles which you’ll be done with in twenty minutes of so (we’re looking at you Thirty Flights of Loving). This list will help you with that considerable conundrum as we highlight some of most entertaining games which you probably glosssed over from last year.
You might want to snap at least a few of these titles up via Steam before the Holiday Sale finishes on January 5th.
Thomas Was Alone – £2.99
One of our favourite games of last year, Thomas Was Alone proves that you don’t need detailed character models or environments to communicate an engaging and emotional story. The gameplay consists of simple platforming with an array of different coloured rectangles possessing a myriad of different abilities, but it’s the soundtrack from David Housden and narration from Danny Wallace which wraps the whole experience together. The plot features AI constructs attempting to escape an elaborate 100-level prison created by their human taskmasters, but events soon take a rather surprising turn. This game perfectly encapsulates the ‘indie’ spirit, visually it’s smartly understated but in scope and tone Thomas Was Alone is incredibly ambitious.
Titan Attacks! – £1.49
The sequel to the tower defence game Revenge of the Titans involves much more twitch-centric gameplay, with PuppyGames taking the well known Space Invaders formula and adding their own unique twist. Players can upgrade their ship between stages, with money earned by killing enemies, shooting down crippled vessels before they fall to the ground and sweeping up parachuting aliens as they eject from their ships. Space Invaders has been copied numerous times over the years, yet we became well and truly addicted to this release over the Christmas break. Sending volleys of rounds into the atmosphere as you skilfully miss the rain of bullets heading for your vessel undoubtedly tugs on the nostalgia heart strings, yet the need to out perform your prevouis high score or add a new cannon to your ship leads to the kind of ‘just one more game’ mentality which all classic arcade releases possess and Titan Attacks certainly belongs in that pedigree
This roto-scopped platformer may look like similar to Flashback, but in real terms the game is much more action orientated and really functions more like a traditional side-scrolling shooter. It wasn’t really the keycard puzzles or the basic platforming which won us over, instead it was the game’s universe. The titular bulky chicken hero is fighting against a fascist penguin regime who have somehow found themselves in charge of the entire planet, enslaving fowl everywhere. It’s about as bizarre as it sounds, but the imaginative set pieces like rocket propelled aerial combat and utilising bugs to seize control of guards, ensures players are always kept guessing when it comes to what happens next in the fifteen-chapter campaign. The soundtrack too fits the game perfectly as well, with cutscenes which utilise certain tracks from nu metal group, New World Order. Definitely worth a punt, especially at this price.
Stealth Bastard – £5.24
This platformer shares a lot in common with Super Meat Boy, only without the masochistic difficulty curve. Curve Studios debut game features an agile robot clone escaping from an elaborately designed test facility boasting giant rotating saw blades, auto-targeting turrets and lots of other nasty surprises, but thankfully the titular hero can handle all those with his nifty ability to fade into the shadows and grab onto ledges. It’s the tightness of the controls and the easy-to-understand nature of level traversal which makes Stealth Bastard so enjoyable and once you unlock your first special tech suit, we guarantee you won’t put this game down!
Hero Academy – £1.99
As much as it’s a little bit embarrassing to admit, Hero Academy is actually one of our most played games of 2012, and we only bought it in December! Yessirree there’s something extraordinarily addictive about this turn-based strategy experience which funnels all the complexity of chess into a more simplified competitive multiplayer format. Initially it was the draw of some new Team Fortress 2 hats that made us pick up Hero Academy, but we gave the experience from Robot Entertainment a try and ever since we’ve been constantly checking for more turns to be registered by anyone unfortunate enough to be playing against our team of super-powered mercenaries. This cross platform game also allows players to take on those playing on iPhone and vice-versa, so there’s always plenty of games to be had – even if they sometimes stretch over multiple days.
Zombie Driver HD – £1.74
Another old favourite of the GamerZines crew, the recently released HD edition of Zombie Driver greatly expands on the original’s campaign with new missions, areas, bosses and customisable rides which doubles the amount of content that was in the original release. The top-down perspective means that mowing down legions of zombies for score-ific multiplyers isn’t quite as fun as Carmageddon 2, but the addition of the new expanded plot means that Zombie Driver HD is definitely worth a look for the more blood thirsty amongst you, as long as the blood is green that is.
Miasmata – £8.99
Most games streamline exploration so that you can find your way in a giant open world fairly easily, Miasmata doesn’t do that and surprisingly it’s a much more engaging and enchanting experience because of it. The product of two brothers working diligently on their own engine for several years, Miasmata sucks you in right from the get go with brilliant visuals and an island setting which is as mysterious as it is inviting. Finding your way in this giant open world conjures up similar feelings of awe-inspiring exploration to Far Cry 3, but due to the world not pandering to your every whim that discovery of a new landmark or impressive fauna feels ten times more valuable than Ubisoft’s sequel because it really feels like you earned it. If you like exploring a beautifully constructed world, Miasmata is undoubtedly for you.
We hope you’ve found some hidden gems in this list and don’t forget the Steam sale runs until January 5th, so be sure to snap these up while they’re still cheap!
If you think we’ve missed any games of this list, be sure to let us know in the comments below…
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