While gaming in general takes place on a national or worldwide scale, there’s a lot of local talent just about anywhere one looks. It may not get all the press but people take classes and create games everywhere, big cities and small. Many places hold local game conventions and my local one is the Boston Festival of Indie Games. It’s a small little thing that is in no way going to compete with PAX, E3 or any of the other major shows, but on the plus side it means you can actually hold a conversation without screaming at the top of your lungs. It’s held every year in September and is a great way to spend a lovely Saturday in an overheated college gym, the athletic equipment replaced with rows of decorated tables holding a huge variety of titles. Some are big-name indie and others college projects, and this annual three-part feature lists everything I got to see no matter its stature. There’s a lot to go over so let’s get to it.
This game debuted at last years Boston FIG, and thanks to a successful Kickstarter at the start of this year, should be out relatively soon. Evergate is an action-puzzle platformer featuring a spirit looking for its scattered memories and a lost… someone. The spirit has what’s referred to as a soulflame it can shoot out to activate crystals throughout the levels, but only when the end of the beam touches an appropriate surface. Shooting the soulflame through a crystal into empty space is no help, but if it lands on anything with a white glow the crystal’s effect activates for better or worse. “Better” is when the beam goes through an orange destruction crystal, with the backlash sending the spirit flying in the appropriate direction, while “worse” is when it triggers a swap crystal to exchange places with a platform and ends up hopping into the void. Failure is only a mild penalty because each level is relatively quick if you know what to do and restarts are nearly instant. Evergate has its Boston FIG demo available on Steam and comes highly recommended.
Some games have titles that are little more than a random string of words conveying no meaning whatsoever, such as Code Vein or Risk of Rain, but this is pure truth in advertising. Bizarre Barber has you playing as a VR barber trimming a stream of bizarre creatures as they come down the line towards you. The controllers act as a pair of scissors, with the angle and distance between your hands governing the position of the blades. Hold your hands apart to open the blades then bring them together to shear some hair, with both speed and accuracy necessary to keep the trimming combo alive. The freaky heads with their neon hair come in at different angles, meaning you’ll need to be careful of the scissor orientation to get a clean cut and not leave a strand un-shorn, and at the end of each level is a full-body hairy boss to trim into shape. Every now and then there’s a power-up that lets you wield each blade independently, like Beat Saber with hair, and oddly enough I found the power-down that shrinks the scissors more a help than hindrance for precision work. Bizarre Barber is a weird little beastie that’s 100% comfortable with its own strange self.
Most RPGs are about telling a story but Wildermyth is more interested in creating a new one with each game. A group of random peasants rise up during an attack and start fighting back with unexpected skill. They group together, create a base, and set out to explore distant points on the map, but the story is fluid depending on the player’s actions. Characters will pick up scars, lose limbs and forge relationships, and are free to create their own overarching plot. The encounters play out in grid-based strategy style (Shining Force is probably too dated a reference, but maybe Final Fantasy Tactics?) on battlefields that look like papercraft, adding another layer of charm to what’s already a very likeable RPG. For a slightly more in-depth look check out a preview here, or head on over to itch.io to pick up the beta.
Unique and very clever arcade shooter, in which a triangle-ship fires a single indestructible shot that eradicates everything it touches, whether it be enemy or incoming firepower, leaving the player ship unarmed while it’s away. The shot acts like a boomerang, except it hovers at the end of the arc for a bit before either returning from being gone too long or manually recalled by the player. The ship can move while the triangle-shot is out, which is time best used to maneuver around enemies so they’re destroyed on its return. With a little bit of practice you can even keep the shot out for much longer than should be technically possible by flying off one edge of the screen and back on the other side. Every enemy killed on a single shot is worth a little more than the previous, and when the screen gets filled as the waves get more intense that can lead to some fantastic scoring potential. But most likely death. tri-Attack(); comes out on Steam in a few days and I can’t wait to play it again.
Super Crome: Bullet Purgatory
This one is actually already released in an Early Access form but always worth another look. Super Crome is a semi-randomized vertical arcade shooter that’s simple enough to be easily accessible while difficult enough to feel satisfying. The little ship has a rapidly firing main gun, three types of powerful but limited-use secondary weapons, and a dash move that grants momentary invulnerability. While there generally aren’t too many enemies on screen at once they’re not shy about laying down the firepower, and when destroyed they may drop a little square that recharges the secondary weapon gauges and slowly fills in the experience bar. It takes a bit to upgrade from a quick but weak pop-gun into a multi-shot wide-bullet weapon of enemy annihilation, but by the time you earn it the enemies are attacking in patterns that require overwhelming force to survive. Since releasing in Early Access Super Crome has added several quality of life improvements, new features and even a couple of bosses. It’s both very cheap and very good, so give it a look on Steam.
Damaged in Transit
Robots are not synonymous with AI. Robots are machines that perform complicated tasks and the two in Damaged in Transit do two things well — they move forward and carry things. If there’s an arrow on the floor they’ll go that way, and if that arrow leads to spikes or water then it would have been a good idea not to tell them to do that. Damaged in Transit is an action-puzzler about multitasking, where two robots blindly follow the path of the level while you try very hard to make sure that the instructions for one don’t lead to the destruction of the other. You don’t control the robots but rather the level itself, changing the arrows on the floor with the direction stick while raising and lowering spikes and blockers with a button. The problem is that, when you change the direction, it changes for all arrows on the level simultaneously and that sometimes results in a robot getting directed off the edge of a pier. The trick then is to guide one robot to relative safety, or if that’s not possible, be quick with the commands while switching your attention back and forth between the two. Part of the challenge is figuring out which tactic is necessary while the other is pulling it off successfully, both of which frequently require a little experimentation. Damaged in Transit is currently scheduled to come out on Steam and Switch by the end of the year.
And that’s part two of the three-part wrap-up. As a bonus the puzzle game Alike was there as well, which you can play in full right here, but it’s the same as last year’s version so I didn’t give it a new entry. Even with all this there were still dozens of games I didn’t get do anything with, because even a small gaming expo has more than one person can play in a day. There’s still one more set to go over, though, so keep an eye out for the final part of the annual Botson FIG trilogy wrap-up.