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Independent Games Festival

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GameBoy Jam 2 just ended, and 6-hour entry Just Silence from Lucas Molina is short, but thought-provoking.

The game is styled like a silent film. It's not a thing I've seen in a real GameBoy game, but when you consider the monochrome nature of the system's graphics, it seems like such a shame that it hasn't been tried before. You play the judge, whose job is to sentence defendants. The mechanics for doing so are so simple and the game so short that rather than explain further, I urge you to just try the game. Even with the defendants walking a bit too slowly, the game still only takes a few minutes to complete.

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Join Quince the Cat on a treasure-hunting adventure in Plant Cat: First Blossom, an entry into GameBoy Jam 2. This five level puzzle platformer was created by a five person team over the course of ten days, and features some truly stellar happy chiptunes.

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It was about time, if you ask me... Brilliantly nasty imperialism simulator Neocolonialism has been released for Windows, Mac and Linux, complete with its upside-down map and deep understanding of Earth's going-ons. Just pay your $10 and enjoy alternating between manipulating and wrecking the whole world.

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ftl-small.jpgDevelopers who set out to create a game without a design document or template still must have a clear focus to test their ideas against. This was the advice of Matthew Davis and Justin Ma, co-founders of Subset Games and creators of FTL: Faster Than Light, the Kickstarter-funded space strategy game released to widespread critical and commercial success in 2012.

The pair began work on the game with only a target atmosphere - no genre, pacing or scope planned, thinking the development would be a three-month side-project for them.

"We started with a very vague idea for a concept and used that as a guiding light for the entire project," said Davis. "By having one singular focus we were able to abandon everything else that didn't fit in line with that vision."

The pair admitted that many features were dropped from the game that they had initially hoped to include. "We wanted multiplayer features that didn't fit the template," said Ma. "We kept ditching things to keep moving towards the goal."

Davis said that this focus can be various things to various different developers. "Technically that focus can be anything: a certain type of visual aesthetic a piece of audio; a story," he said. "By having one focus and letting that direct your entire experience you can approach your builds from a distance and find out what to keep in order to make that game into the experience you want it to be."

"Very often you get bogged down in a certain system and it just doesn't work out," said Ma. "We just had this one idea and it steered out path, allowing us to follow the fun and find what was interesting."

Finding this focus was especially useful for the team when their Kickstarter exceeded its goal twenty times over, generating $200,000 instead of the requested $10,000 from 10,000 backers. "You can't just throw money at a game and it gets better," said Davis. "It's a difficult balancing act - how to take advantage of clump of new resources, but also stick to release date and keep everyone happy. The focus helped us know where to expend energy and expand the game."

[Simon Parkin wrote this article originally for sister site Gamasutra]

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triad.pngSleepovers are really just elaborate, animated Tetris puzzles, suggests Anna Anthropy's and Leon Arnott's free game TRIAD for Windows and Mac. Players must learn the sleeping habits of three humans and one cat to make sure they all fit comfortably on the bed without bumping into each other. Once the terti-humans are in place, players can click off the lamp and watch how they toss and turn. I found that when I took too long to make some moves, I wore out Liz Ryerson's music that otherwise fit the late-night mood.

Here's to hoping TRIAD becomes a live-action, physical game in future indie events, maybe with more tertri-humans. Each player also must communicate and then role-play their sleeping habits until they arrive at a solution. Or something.

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24 Caret Games' reverse rhythm-shooter Retro/Grade is coming to Steam on March 20th, offering up exclusive support for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Wii guitar controllers.

The port otherwise boasts all of the features that made the original PS3 release such a standout, including a broad selection of challenge levels and difficulty settings that range from "doable" to "ridiculously challenging." Seriously, don't underestimate the hardest difficulty setting. It will humble you.

It's worth noting that the PS3 version of Retro/Grade is currently on sale for $3.49, or $2.44 if you're a PlayStation Plus member. It's definitely worth the cash -- I really enjoyed the time I spent with the game, and it easily ranked among my favorite PlayStation Network releases of last year.

[via Joystiq]

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Described as a 'single player, three-act sequence in a poetic game environment', Leaving is apparently intended to explore the concept of 'digital theatre' and will have you play as Willem, a young man who has to say good-bye to his loved ones at the airport. Heavily inspired by the works of Antonio Machada, Leaving is scheduled for eventual arrival on the iPad.

Official website here.

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I'm not really sure how I feel about this latest attempt at developing a simulation of life as a homeless individual. According to the description on the Kickstarter project page, the team behind iBeg is hoping to raise awareness about homelessness in Vancouver B.C and the rest of the world. The mobile title, which is scheduled for potential release next Spring on the iOS and Android, will have players building shelters, maintaining tenacious living standards, busking, working to get off the street and more.

If you're interested in directing a few dollars in the project's direction, here's the official Kickstarter page.

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We haven't posted one of these in a while, have we? catering to birds is a 'not game' centered about a man so obsessed with birds, he attempts to become one. I'm not really sure where all this is going here but the overall package is attractive enough to waste, at the very least, a few minutes on.

Edit: If you're wondering why there's so very little to do in catering to birds right now, it's because it's still very much an unfinished. According to one of the devs, the full version of catering to birds will be released later this November as part of a 'pay-what-you-want' joint release entitled 'cutthroat EP.'

You can download the current build here.

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[Guest reviewer Colin Brown profiles each game in the Gone Fishin' Bundle, now available at IndieGames' co-created site: Indie Royale.]

The next game in our whirlwind tour of the latest Indie Royale is 3Sprockets' Cubemen. At first glance this probably looks like some kind of tower defence, and, well, that's exactly what it is. But like any good indie game, it tweaks the established genre just enough to present a unique experience with just a handful of alterations to the formula.

Firstly, and most obviously, your towers are actually little cubemen, ready to come to your defence. The game offers up a handful of different classes armed with pistols, flamethrowers, rocket launchers and the like, which can be ordered to station any valid spot on the board. Of course, your orders for each cubeman can be easily changed on the fly, so you can swap out weak cubemen for heavier artillery, order the lot of them to charge a particularly well fortified vantage point or just to strafe alongside a particularly powerful enemy. The net effect is that the game feels like a grid based RTS, which is a neat way of going back to the roots of tower defence games in a new way.

Flaunting your defence minded tactics will serve you well in the traditional tower defence battles that make up Defence mode, but there are a couple other interesting modes to play. Skirmish is essentially a two player tower defence with some striking DOTA similarities. In this mode, you each must guard your own exits while providing support for the creeps that spawn in every wave. It's an inventive way to make a two player competitive mode, and supports both AI and online human opponents. The other mode is Mayhem, which throws six cube armies onto the field with your choice of a partners match or a free for all battle royale. This mode is online only, though AI will fill any empty spots. It's definitely the highlight for me, thanks to the chaotic strategy and ruthless fights for territory.

The one issue that cropped up from time to time is some poor AI problems, particularly the way that cubemen often stand and take hits from an enemy they could easily counter, but refuse to jump into action unless you manually target for them. This isn't a game breaker, but expect to deal with more micromanagement than the average tower defence.

Also included in this Indie Royale is the PC debut of another 3Sprockets title. This one is an iOS title called VectorGeddon, and is essentially a variant on Missile Command with rather fetching graphics and a few modern tweaks. In VectorGeddon, you must click on asteroids to fire seeking missiles and keep Earth safe and well populated. Blowing up asteroids earns resources, which can be used to buy additional missile launchers and various upgrades. Like the original, letting an asteroid hit your bases will render them unusable, so efficient missile use is key to keep the planet safe. It's not very difficult, especially with some later overpowered upgrades, but it is a good looking and fun way to spend an hour or so.

[ Cubemen, VectorGeddon, All Zombies Must Die!, SOL: Exodus, and three other games are available in the Gone Fishin' Bundle at IndieGames' co-created site: Indie Royale.]

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