The Indie Update: Smaller Games I’m Currently Playing

As we move beyond the slower the dog days of summer and the promised AAA titles for the coming fall season inch ever closer, I’ve found myself deep in indie territory. While the summer seems to slow things down a bit, I’ve managed to take the added time to not only to catch up on things that may have slipped passed me, but to put some time into some of the smaller indie style games out there that unfortunately get overshadowed at times.

So here are some of the indie games that I’ve been plugging away at recently along with some of my impressions. Let me know what you think of each if you’ve played them and if there’s something else out there that I should be taking a look at.

SteamWorld: Heist
To be honest, I completely forgot that I picked this one up during the Steam Summer Sale, but I’m really glad that I remembered. Heist takes place in the same universe as SteamWorld: Dig, where steam powered sentient robots are living life in a post-apocalyptic steampunk world. You play Captain Piper Faraday, smuggler and occasional space pirate, who essentially boards, loots and shoots her way through enemy space ships. As her reputation increases, players can recruit new crew members to help take down rival factions in space.

Gameplay wise, it’s kind of like a 2D XCOM in that it’s turn based where your can move your characters a certain distance and perform a second action such as firing your weapon, or you can make then cover a longer distance at the expense of that second action. The levels are randomly generated each time you play them, so you could definitely replay the same level over and over and it would look different each time.

Thankfully, this is a valid option as the game has light RPG elements, letting players customize their robots with new weapons, gear, and hats, gain experience to level up unlocking new abilities, and collecting loot.

While I’m not super far into the game, I’m having a ton of fun with it so far, and if you’re someone who likes gameplay that revolves around turn based shooting and light RPG elements, SteamWorld Heist is certainly worth a look.

SteamWorld Heist logo

I’ve already mentioned this game in a previous post, but in my opinion it bears repeating. Inside is simple, you’re a kid trying to run away from…well…things really. The story is very, very loose so far, which makes sense considering that this game comes from Playdead, the same group that gave us Limbo. Like Limbo, players need to help this kid overcome obstacles and puzzles, typically which result in death should you fail. I find the gameplay satisfying, though I will admit, sometimes the solutions to some of the puzzle can be a little obtuse at first. Figuring them out and moving on is part of the fun, and I’ve never once felt like tossing my controller in a fit of frustration or anger.

With that said, the game is super weird, and I don’t mean that in a negative way. There so much odd stuff that happens (including a form of minion control to solve puzzles) that I find myself wanting to know more about this world, why the kid is doing what he’s doing, and how this all ties together. The game constantly surprises, throwing the character into new and weirdly different situations at a constant clip. I’m hoping it’ll start explaining things as I near the end, but if Limbo is any indication, I’m sure much of it will be left to player interpretation.

Song of the Deep
At its heart, Song of the Deep is a 2D Metroidvania title, where players can backtrack to unlock new areas once a specific items has been acquired. The story centers around a 12 year old girl named Merryn who builds a makeshift submarine to try and find her father who did not return home after a fishing trip.

A narrator chimes in every so often to dictate what is happening within the gameplay or how Merryn is feeling, and I like how what I’m doing is being narrated, especially by a soothing female voice with a strong Irish accent. The game is visually striking, taking place underwater in distinctive and incredibly interesting zones like a lost city and a ship graveyard to name a few.

Still, I have a hard time figuring out if I actually REALLY like the game. Don’t get me wrong, the music is fantastic, the visuals are breathtaking, and the story is elegantly told. It’s the gameplay that can throw a monkey wrench into the mix every now and then, and sadly, as the biggest aspect to the experience, it also sticks out like a sore thumb when it does miss.

As the game ramps up towards the middle and later half, many puzzles demand that the player interact with explosives, either by using the claw to guide them over to where they need to be or to use the environment to push it in place. Unfortunately, the physics system proves to be incredibly touchy or requires a precision that the game just isn’t capable of.

It’s not a consistent problem, but it’s one that happens more often than not and can be pretty frustrating. I really want to like this game, but I’m just not sure that I do. There’s magic here for sure, but some big elements really bog the experience down.

song of the deep Merrow Ruins

Dangerous Golf
I’ve been a longtime fan of Criterion and their work on the Burnout series of games. For those who don’t know, Burnout is (was?) a racing franchise that prioritized fun over simulation or serious racing. The game encouraged you to drive recklessly, crashing into other cars, and getting rewarded for it. With Criterion having moved onto Need for Speed and now….helping other EA studios, it looks like the franchise is going to sleep for at least a long time.

Many of the core people at the studio left and formed their own indie studio called Three Fields Entertainment and their first title, Dangerous Golf, will make any Burnout player feel right at home. The object is to basically play mini-golf inside real world locations, causing as much damage, chaos, and destruction as possible. Quite simply, they managed to take the Crash Mode from Burnout 3, and convert it into a golf game.

The UI, menus, sound effects, and basically everything will feel incredibly familiar to longtime fans, and thankfully, the gameplay is just as crisp. Seeing a wonderfully put together room turned into a disasterous pit of destruction and then getting everything tallied up into an overall dollar amount of damage at the end is incredibly satisfying.

Dangerous Golf is also very respectful of your time, being an easy pick up and play title, while also being an incredibly fun party game to boot. Burnout fans, party game enthusiasts, and people who love to cause some chaos should give this game a long look.

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6 Responses to The Indie Update: Smaller Games I’m Currently Playing

  1. It’s cool to hear about some indie games out there. I feel a little out of the loop there lately. Inside is definitely on my list, you keep piquing my interest with it! I’m really curious what it’s going to be like. But I want to finish ABZU first, I know it’s short so I’ll probably wrap it up tomorrow. That’s the only “small” game I’m playing, though it seems to be getting a lot of attention!

  2. Hatm0nster says:

    How does Song of the Deep compare to other metroidvania-style games you’ve played?

    • It has some great things going for it like the aesthetic and music, it’s just that the execution sometimes leaves a little to be desired. The puzzles aren’t hard, it’s just the game makes them harder to execute than they should be. I don’t know, I like it, but for me the experience has just gotten more frustrating the deeper I go.

      • Hatm0nster says:

        So it’s not on the level of a Shadow Complex or Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet then?

        • IMO Shadow Complex is head and shoulders above it. I haven’t played enough of ITSP to comment on that. It’s not to say Song is a bad game, it’s certainly not, it’s just that some of the gameplay elements get in the way and can make it a frustrating experience at times.

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