by Andrew Skelton (Outfoxed)
European indie game developers are a severely underrated, rapidly up-and-coming section of the games industry. They have a lot to offer, a lot to prove, and quite frankly, are responding to interests in the community immediately. I got a chance to sit and play three different indie titles from three different developers, each offering something appealing in many different ways. Whether you’re into exciting couch co-op, a story driven narrative based on historical fiction, or pining for nostalgic games from your childhood remastered, sit tight, because I’ve got something for all of you.
First up is Gelly Break. This is German developer ByteRocker’s first foray into an actual console release. Gelly Break is a couch co-op platformer with limited and straight-forward puzzle action. As they put it, they want a game where the focus is on the fun, not on frustration. You control two gellys who traverse varied levels, collecting items, jump across platforms, and defeat scores of enemies. The twist? Alone you’re unable to do much of anything but jump. Together you form a mighty gel tank!
Some platforms can only be jumped on by the matching color gel, which gives way to a switch mechanic that can be performed when both players hold the respective button. Yes, this is the very definition of couch co-op where you actually talk to your gaming partner! This mechanic can be performed mid-air, on the ground, and up against glass blocks (useful if you need to break something). In addition, there are various tricks and secrets you can use to access harder versions of each level, giving you and a friend a different experience each time. Oh, and bosses. Let’s not forget the bosses, which will require plenty of teamwork to clear.
Next we have Fimbul, by Danish developer ZAXIS. Co-funded by a grant promoting cultural experiences through gaming, Fimbul tells the story of a man called Ulf, as the fimbulvetr begins the road to Ragnarok. Immediately you’re set forth in combat, and that’s one place I think Fimbul will shine. Combat is fluid, and it makes sense. Enemies won’t just attack you one at a time. Expect to be flanked, expect enemies to try and attack from multiple directions at once, and expect to need to adopt a more defensive nature if you want to survive. You can find various pieces of equipment to bolster your offense and defense capabilities, but it’s your skill that will help the most.
I was also treated to the next part of the game, which is a flashback sequence where the goal is not to be caught by the jotun. This also introduced a new mechanic, torches, which are used in order to fend off the trolls who are also chasing you (a troll has to eat too, after all). This whole section was part speedrun, part stealth, where you learned a bit more of Ulf’s past and his role in the world. Plus, who doesn’t like a story about Vikings, right?
Finally, we have Pilot Sports, by German dev Z-Software. If you remember the SNES game Pilotwings as fondly as I do, you’re in for a treat. Pilot Sports is very reminiscent of its inspiration, giving you control over a variety of mechanisms of flight such as prop planes, hang gliders, and even a jet pack. I played through the basic plane level, and was immediately transported back to my childhood, trying to perfect each level and get the best time possible. As was explained to me, the game starts easy enough for each of the minigames to get players used to the controls and objectives, but as you progress through the stages, the challenge will also ramp up, testing you to improve your skills every time. While I didn’t get as much time here as I might have liked, I can already tell it will do very well for anyone with the itch to fly.
All three games are being published by Wild River Games, and all three games offer something for most people to enjoy.