By Andrew Skelton (Outfoxed), Writer
Tiny Build has come a long way in a short time, thanks in part to the magnificent titles they’ve published. They had another large booth at PAX South this year, with the ever popular Speedrunners, but showcased several brand new games as well. I sat down and got hands on with five in particular: Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor, Final Station, Road to Ballhalla, Lovely Planet Arcade, and ClusterTruck. The crew shows no signs of slowing, either, which is a wonderful sign of indie games to come.
Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor
Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor is an interesting take on a traditional RPG. The 3D open world is inhabited by all manner of creatures in wonderfully detailed 2D sprites. This creates an interesting effect, as you can imagine, where the flat plane of the characters gives a fun contrast. By day, your character is assigned to pick up trash during a festival, and incinerates it. Of course, you can also keep any interesting things you find, and store them in your apartment. The demo version of the game is a bit limited, but the team explained the general story. You’re a space janitor that ends up with a skull following you around because of a curse that ends up being placed on you. Eventually, the skull starts yelling at you for some reason, and it’s up to you to figure out not only why it’s screaming, but how to appease it and get it to stop. All in all, Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor is a very interesting title for anyone looking for a very atmospheric game.
The Final Station
The Final Station takes that atmosphere and darkens it quite a bit. You play as an engineer that drives a train through a desolate, wrecked world. At each stop, your goal is to recharge your train’s batteries to move on to the next one. Along the way, you’ll also need to find food and medical supplies to keep the various survivors you find at each station alive. Of course, exploring is not without any perils, and strange, shadowy humanoids will test your aim at every turn. The whole story seems to unfold through the various clues you find scattered throughout the game world. The side-scrolling action is quite challenging, and the game really does focus on the survival aspect with limited ammo, food, and medicine. Plus, you get to drive a train, which is the dream of many a person.
Road to Ballhalla
If you ever played the classic game Marble Madness, you have a small idea of what Road to Ballhallla offers. What you don’t see, however, is the sheer difficulty, the rocking soundtrack, and the need for patience. The concept is simple: lead a ball to the goal, and collect small orbs along the way. The execution is complicated. Traps lay in wait for you along the way, such as floor traps, lasers, and pitfalls. You can only sustain so much damage before the ball is destroyed, and you’ll have to restart the level if that happens. Easy to play, tough to master, Road to Ballhalla will keep you wanting more with the simplicity of play and an amazing score.
Lovely Planet Arcade
If you’ve played Lovely Planet before, you know what to expect from Lovely Planet Arcade. That alone is exciting. If you haven’t played Lovely Planet before, it’s a super tough first person shooter that gives a super colorful world, and enemies you’d not expect were trying to kill you. Lovely Planet Arcade, however, ramps up the difficulty another notch from the original by the removal of a mechanic most gamers take for granted these days: the ability to look up or down. This simple change adds a whole new depth of strategy, because enemies can still see you and shoot you, despite your inability to do anything about it. Figuring out how to defeat all the opponents on the stage is the ultimate goal, and while the game will start out simply enough, don’t expect a cakewalk for very long.
Finally, we come to ClusterTruck. The name being amusing aside, I can describe the game in four words: stupidly simple; stupidly challenging. You’re jumping from truck to truck along a highway, and hitting the road or falling off the edge means failure. Of course, there are two catches to contend with. You have to deal with the fact that these truckers do not know how to drive. They will crash into everything and anything, push each other off the road, and generally be worse drivers than people in Grand Theft Auto. Oh, and there are traps like swinging hammers, lasers, and more. Why? Because the game hates you and wants to see you fail. It’s one of those games that keeps you playing with that, “Just a little further,” mindset, which is quite compelling, when you get down to it.
Another PAX South and Tiny Build shows no signs of slowing. Their catalog keeps growing, expanding, and improving, and the company itself continues to acquire fun, quirky, and overall intelligent indie games for publishing. Their momentum is anything but tiny.