PAX Aus is done and dusted for another year and, once again, it was absolutely massive. I was there for three days and I still missed a bunch of stuff. So consider this my official petition to make PAX Aus run for a week, instead.
But as a result of how massive it is and how much coverage there will be, I thought to myself, how do I mix it up? I’ve talked about the 2017 indie showcase winners and each one was absolutely deserving from what I played, let me tell you. But what about the dozens of other indie titles on offer from developers all over the world? There was a lot and I’m sure I still missed a few, but let’s take a look at a few of the ones I thought were particularly special and that you should keep an eye out for.
Due for release late 2017
I want to start with this interesting little piece that caught my eye. Mostly because they actually had a fully functional and fully adorable scale model of the titular robot vacuum, Rumu, on display. That and the simple promise of ‘there’s a cat in the game’ was more than enough to draw me in for a closer look. The game has you in control of this adorable little vacuum, who awakes one day in a fully functional smart home with your only companions as Sabrina, the house AI, and the various other dysfunctional appliances. And, of course, the earlier mentioned cat. You’re tasked with keeping things clean, only to be slowly drawn away from your duties to discover something more, leading to all kinds of moral dilemmas and in depth point and click puzzles. And even a little bit of hacking. Rumu promises a heartfelt journey and is absolutely something to keep an eye on in the future. It’s available to wishlist now on Steam.
Regular Human Basketball
Due for release early 2018
Listen. I don’t know a lot about sports. But I’m pretty sure that this title absolutely lives up to its name, and I haven’t seen enough basketball matches to say otherwise. I was put in front of a booth, put into a team and given a NES controller and told to get the ball in the hoop. Simple, right? So me and my team members go to our big old basketball robot, get in, and– What, that’s not how basketball works? Well. It is in this game. The robot is filled with platforms and switches to navigate, which is why a functioning team is so essential. There are four movement buttons, buttons to control a giant magnet (which you use to grab and shoot the ball, obviously), thrusters, everything a good giant robot needs. So, you have two of these hulking behemoths vying for dominance, trying to grab the ball with their magnets and shoot it into their hoop. And, given that you control the players, you can also absolutely make your way into the opposing teams giant basketball robot and ruin their day. It’s fast, it’s frantic, and I’m going to send a strongly worded letter to whoever is in charge of basketball things to make this the new standard for play. There’s a basic version out for free on itch.io right now, but the full release (featuring online multiplayer, leader boards, all that good stuff) is due out on Steam next year.
Due for release early 2018
Every time I find a uniquely Australian game that shows off our true bush spirit, I’m absolutely thrilled. These are the kind of games that remind me of home and where I grew up, surrounded by native flora and fauna. So when I saw this title, I immediately had to go over and take a closer look. Paperbark tells the story of a wombat’s journey through the bush on a hot Australian summer, and the encounters with all kinds of native plants and animals he has therein. A selling point for me was how simple and accessible this game was designed to be, there’s very little text (other than adding said native flora and fauna to an interactive ingame library), a simple interface and a gorgeous world inspired by books like Possum Magic or Snugglepot and Cuddlepie. In the small example I played, I found myself chasing (or more accurately, waddling) after a blue tongue lizard scampering through the bush. I had to make my way through obstacles, but I could also take my time and really stop and appreciate the nature. And I was rewarded for it with pieces of information. It’s coming early 2018 to iOS and PC, though there are whispers of an Android release should things go well.
Lost and Hound
Daisy Ale Soundworks
I had to go a little bit out of my way to find Lost and Hound, as it was in the Diversity Lounge as opposed to the main indie section. But I’m glad I did because I found something incredibly unique in terms of gameplay and intended audience. This is the first game from the sound design studio, Daisy Ale Soundworks. It was a concept dreamed up after the developer encountered a nano-jam where vision impairment was the theme, only to discover the majority of the games only served to stigmatize vision impaired people instead of giving them a fun gameplay experience. And so, Lost and Hound was born. You take the role of the incredibly adorable Biscuit, a corgi turned rescue dog who uses sound to track down various targets. The game can be played by anyone with any level of vision and I tested this myself, having a playthrough keeping my eyes closed and discovering I could absolutely still play the game as it was intended and have a great time with it. While there’s no current expected release date, the Twitter constantly releases demo builds and updates to keep track of where this intriguing little title is headed. The game is currently slated for PC.
Due for release in 2018
While not from Melbourne myself, I’m still a Victorian who takes enough trips to Melbourne to be familiar enough with it that Necrobarista is a title that fills me with a sense of intrigue. This is another uniquely Australian title but instead of showing off the native bush habitat, it instead chooses to show off the native Melbourne cafe habitat where one could find iconic native Australian fauna like, for example, the hipster. This game is a visual novel presented in a gorgeous, anime inspired 3D art style where the player takes the role of a varied and diverse cast of characters with a story that centers around a downtown Melbourne cafe where the dead can walk the Earth for one last cup of coffee. With such a unique and interesting premise taking place in one of our own cities, how could I not want to follow it? Necrobarista will be released for Steam and the Nintendo Switch in early 2018.