Tuesday, December 24, 2013

2013 in Review: #9-5

In this series of articles, I'll be listing and discussing my top 20 indie games of the year. While many indie GOTY lists I've seen tend to focus on the most popular and well known indies released in 2013, I hope mine represents a well-rounded look at the year's best.


9. Spelunky
PC (Site) | Watch the trailer
Defining Moment: Spelunky loves to punish you, but for me at least, the first time the Reaper appeared because I was being too cautious and then my careful exploration become a frantic race for the exit was when I knew I'd love the game.

I was late to the Spelunky party, but I was not disappointed. Its cute veneer hides a challenging game of quick reactions, strategy, and overwhelming odds. The platforming is tight, survival is tough, and it's the little details that make the game so memorable, from the human sacrifices and the shopkeepers to the infamous reaper.

8. Papers Please
PC, Mac (Site) | Watch the trailer
Defining Moment: For such a mechanical simple game, Papers Please hold tons of depth, but it really hit home when I returned home with my meager wagers and found my family sick and starving, and I could only help one of them,

Strip away all its other elements and Papers, Please would still be a fun game of logic and matching. But amidst the story and premise, that simple game of logic and studying documents becomes a thoughtful experience with surprising emotional resonance. From your tiny booth, you hold incredible power; with your stamp of approval, you can allow the tired huddled masses into your country or turn them away. At its core, that's the extent of the gameplay: look for discrepancies and signs of errors and forgeries, interrogate the suspicious citizens, and make your decision. But Papers, Please is so much more than that. From your little window slot and desk, you become the linchpin in fates both big and small, from the entire country to the individuals before you to your very family.

7. The Swapper
PC (Site) | Watch the trailer
Defining Moment: Jumping from a high ledge, swapping into clones as I fell, landing safely, and then my other bodies slamming into the ground around me.

If there's one adjective that instantly catches my attention to a game, it's "atmospheric". And that's probably the best word to describe The Swapper. Roaming the eerie corridors and expansive spaces, the dimly light rooms, entering zero gravity, the lighting, the unnerving unsettling implications of your device, the Swapper is an game that just oozes atmosphere and tension, even though it's not even a horror game. And that's not even touching upon the fantastic puzzles and the wonderfully complex uses of the cloning/swapping mechanics.

6. Broforce
PC, Mac (Site) | Watch the trailer
Defining Moment: When one bullet set off a minute long chain reaction of explosions, flying gore, dying enemies, collapsing bridges (but really there are too many great moments to count)

Of all the indie games I've purchased since I got into PC gaming over the summer, Broforce is the one I've played most. The game set out to be an ode to 80's and 90's action movies, the Expendables in video game form, and it succeeds on every possible level. The tight controls, the over-the-top destruction, the fact that you're playing as some of the coolest action heroes in movies, and the fast-paced challenging gameplay make Broforce an addictive and fun experience.

5. Badland
IOS Universal (Site) | Watch the trailer
Defining Moment: That picture captures the whole essence of Badland. Watching your duplicates get shredded by saw-blades while you make it through safely thanks to their sacrifice

This game took the simplest control scheme possible and molded a varied challenging experience that combines physics puzzles, obstacle evasion, and inventive power ups. The atmospheric art style is icing on the cake. Furthermore, in a time where IAP-heavy and freemium games are so commonplace, Badland's fantastic post release support makes this game the model all premium game should follow.

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