Tonight, the indies.
This visually spartan puzzler started off life as a student project from a group at Newport University in South Wales. It certainly has echoes of Portal, but takes the concept of testing rooms into a different direction. Wearing a pair of special gloves, the player can activate colored blocks in each section. Each color has a different movement pattern, so the trick is to see what's available, and in which order they should be activated. For people who like to put their brains to the test, this one looks tasty.
Take a super-cute armadillo and combine its rolling mechanics with spherical worlds similar to the recent Super Mario Galaxy games, and that's a recipe for fun. The aesthetics were great, it shows a lot of polish, and it seemed like a perfect game for younger players as well as those who don't mind taking a break from blood and explosions. There was also a nifty two player mode that requires a high degree of cooperation. Good stuff.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that I just did not get this game. Every other critic I talked to seemed in love with it, but… I don't know, I just didn't see it. Granted, I didn't spend as much time with it as I would have liked to, so perhaps another session is warranted. Oh, what's it about? I couldn't tell you. From what I could gather (and that's not much) it's highly abstract navigation through surreal scenes that seem to change on a whim… one of those things that's more about the journey than it is the destination, perhaps? In a word, enigmatic.
Crafted by a team with no previous games experience (their skill comes from creating medical simulation software, believe it or not) this one is about sending blobs of colored slime shooting around the interior of small levels and activating bombs arrayed in different patterns. When the blob touches a bomb, it detonates. Detonate enough, and the combo scores start piling up. In order to reach bonds further apart, the blob can gain speed and then rupture itself on spikes or other objects in order to create a splash effect. It's a hell of a lot more fun than it sounds, and it requires much more skill than one would think. In a very polished state already, look for this one to hit XBLA soon.
Vanessa Saint-Pierre Delacroix & Her Nightmare
One of my favorite Indies at the show. A cute 2D platformer has its levels broken up and placed on different faces of a cube. The player can rotate the cube as well as rotate each individual face so that the character can navigate. Totally adorable and mindbending at the same time.
A development team of this game has taken historical writers (Lovecraft, Homer, Agatha Christie, etc.) and given them superpowers and special attacks in order to battle it out in a way that's somewhat reminiscent of Capcom's Super Puzzle Fighter. However, instead of matching gems, players create words and send them shooting back and forth. The art style was very appealing and the action ran surprisingly quickly. The developers also say they are shooting for cross-platform play, so I can see this one developing quite a cult following if the work goes according to plan.
I was hoping to wrap up my indie coverage tonight, but looking at what's left of my list, I'm thinking at least one more day will be required. Check back tomorrow for the second half of my indie coverage, and the photo gallery is still to come.