Boston is not the city that comes to my mind when I think of gaming. California maybe, but Boston? Actually this city has a thriving community, working on everything from AAA titles to Indie games. The Boston Festival of Indie Games is on it’s 5.0 version this year, getting us a showcase of everything that’s happening in that area.
Here are some of the games a lucky group of people – myself not included – had the opportunity to see:
It’s a vertical shooter with two major variations from the original standard – you’re falling instead of flying up the screen, and you don’t have a gun. What you have is a deadly exhaust and a dash move that acts as super-kill for everything in its path. Enemies drop glowing pink powerups that charge a slow motion ultra-move. Tailwind has a vibe of retro arcade gaming combined with powerful visuals and colors.
A surrealist first-person narrative where you’re walking through the memory of a relationship, from the start to whatever end it may meet. There’s no voice, no data logs, and the story is told by exploring the environment. It’s a beautiful and strangely compelling experience.
Perception is a first-person exploration game where the protagonist is blind and uses a form of echolocation to make her way around. The entire game is rendered in deep navy and black, with the world coming into focus using white outlines around its details. It makes for an ethereal view that coalesces out of nothing when the sound bounces off the objects in the room, and while there’s no doubt it’s not a particularly realistic depiction of blindness the echolocation provides a unique look that makes Perception stand out while also hiding information in a way that brings more tension to what already looks like a good ghost story.
Floor kids is a mobile only dance game where you’ve got a crew of two and are out to recruit the best urban dancers you can find. Each encounter is divided up into three selectable stages- Busking, Freestyle, and Battle. Busking is an Ouendan-style performance where the cues show up on screen in time to the music, and freestyle is the same scenario but without any cues, letting you string your own moves together. Battle puts you up against your hopefully-new recruit, as you test moves against each other so your crew gains a new member if you win. The entire game is presented in a super-cute and sketchy art style that works perfectly with the animation and the original music.
Swing Star VR
Swing Star features a kid in a batting helmet with a glove that shoots out to grab onto the scenery, and he needs to swing to the bell at level’s end. Boxes hover in the air, ready to be be swung from while yodeling out your best Tarzan impression, but other mid-air objects are available as well. Jellies provide a brief break as the kid is trapped within, cannons shoot him high into the air. A lot of obstacles and the only resource you have to get trhought them is the glove/helmet.
This game looks beautiful! You play from the first person view and wield the power of a mini black hole, pulling in and shooting out energy from the pulsing stars found across the landscape. An active star powers a dimensional gateway, which will either take you to the dark or light version of the world you’re in or transport you to the next area depending on type. After a bit of wandering about a secondary mechanic kicks in where you can play with the energy beams connecting stars and doors, removing it from an active door and tethering it to another.
Desolus is in very early development, still coming into its gameplay identity, but the art has remained beautiful. Swirling energy, trees both leafy and leafless, sunsets and auroras, and triangular portals leading seamlessly into alternate dimensions add an alien/mystical atmosphere to the different worlds. The dark and light dimensions shouldn’t be mistaken for “good” or “bad” but rather alternate takes on the same idea, differing in tone but linked and nearly identical in content. It’s the differences that make walking back and forth between the worlds necessary, as the ghost of a star or portal in one requires activating it in the other, and keeping track of what’s happening in both dimensions is a major part of the puzzle solving.
According to Desolus website the gameplay is best described as a cross between Metroid Prime and Portal with a heavy focus on exploration, evolving gameplay mechanics and abstract puzzle solving. As you progress through the game you will acquire new abilities that come with unique mechanics which you will then be able to use to access previously blocked off areas, Metroid style.
Super Rock Blasters
A combination of Space War without the black hole and Asteroids, except you can bounce off the asteroids. Two to four players go head-to-head in an asteroid-crowded field shooting neon vector-art laser death at each other and the winner is first to a pre-set number of kills. On the one hand it’s a super-simple setup, and on the other it was great fun to zip around the arena trying to line up a good shot while dodging firepower from multiple directions as asteroids pulled double-duty being both a helpful shield and inconvenient obstacle to attack.