Fun and Games: A Brief Look at Three Indie Games

It seems like it’s been some time since I did an in depth review of a game I’ve been playing. The only problem is that I don’t feel I’ve played any game thoroughly enough to do a proper review (Translation: I’m still trying to get used to the new work schedule and just haven’t had the energy to do a proper playthrough).

So instead, I’ve decided to take a quick look at a few games that have held my attention lately. I may revisit them for a proper review later, but I hope that for now, this will have piqued a few interested minds.

Amazing Princess Sarah

“Sure, I’m burning the flesh off my hands holding her, but don’t I look awesome.”
Source Indie DB

You would think that a game where the focus is on an impossibly well-endowed female protagonist would set off my knee-jerk feminist alarms. But I had to play this when I heard that the main gameplay mechanic involved using the bodies of your defeated enemies as slapstick weapons.

Surprisingly, for a game predominantly occupied by ridiculously proportioned ladies, Amazing Princess Sarah is quite forward thinking. It subverts the classic Knight/Princess/Knave story by making the “damsel in distress” a man (your father the king, no less) and making both the hero and villain female, showing how women are just as equally capable of great good and terrible evil as men. It’s a rare example of true gender equality.

Gender politics aside, I love the mechanic of using fallen enemies and environmental objects as thrown weapons – each with different effects that encourage you to plan how you use them lest you be forced to rely on your painfully weak sword.

Sadly, the game feels unfinished. The character sprites are roughly animated, movement controls feel stiff, the music cuts out at odd moments, and the difficulty curve climbs at an almost unfair pace.

Still, it might be worth playing just to say that you role-played as a medieval European cousin of Wonder Woman who can toss a fire elemental away like a dirty Kleenex.

Robocraft

Wait, are you sure that’s a ‘robot’ and not a mobile docking station.
Source: Robocraftgame.com

If you ever wondered what the Gummi Ship sequences in Kingdom Hearts would be like with multi-player, this might be the game for you.

Robocraft is one part territory control themed shooter and one part creativity toy. Fighting against other players online will earn you various types of currency to build better robots and research new parts for them. There are plenty of choices for robots that roll like tanks or fly like drones.

One interesting mechanic was the choice to have localized damage on the robots. You can chip away at chunks of an enemy’s armored chassis, knock out its turrets, or disable its propulsion to make it an easy target. This was an unexpected breath of strategy in what could have been a standard shooter.

The only trouble is trying to build a robot that works exactly like you want it to. You’ll likely spend hours tinkering with designs and going back and forth between building and testing until you have a tank that doesn’t roll over when you turn or an aircraft that doesn’t filp around uncontrollably.

I still think this game has loads of potential and I look forward to playing it some more in the future.

Mark of the Ninja

It may not be the focus, but it wouldn’t be a ninja simulator without the occasional assassination.
Source: ingame.de

The problem with ninjas in video games is that they rarely act like the masters of stealth that history made them famous for being. Thank goodness then for the nameless hero in Mark of the Ninja.

This game is based entirely around stealth, subterfuge, and infiltration. In fact, the game rewards you for not going on a Stallone/Schwarzenegger murder spree by giving huge point bonuses for not killing enemies (this is a rare game where the points actually matter) and punishes you for leaving bodies behind to give away your presence.

The animated cut-scenes are beautifully done. One of my corespondents called it’s smoothness and grittiness reminiscent of Genndy Tartakovsky’s Samurai Jack.

Unfortunately – as is the case with many stealth-centric games – if you get spotted, you may as well just reset from the last checkpoint because you wont survive. And even if you do survive, you’ll wish you hadn’t since you just ruined your score.

This is probably my favorite of the listed games here and possibly one of the best stealth games ever made.

The New Face Of Entertainment: Independent Online Shows And Why You Should Support Them

Source: grabworthy.com

You may be trading in that remote for a mouse and keyboard after this.
Source: grabworthy.com

You’d be surprised how often my friends will be talking to me about some great show on television that’s apparently compulsory to watch and then I feel stupid for not following it. Then I have to explain how I just don’t have time for regular television.

Instead, I prefer to follow independent shows that circulate on the internet. There’s a fantastic trove of quality entertainment to be found if you dig just a little.

What Makes Independent Online Broadcasting Better?

The internet is doing what television, radio, and film did when they were first introduced. It’s changing the way that we consume information and how we entertain ourselves and others. Polls show that internet usage has exceeded that of T.V. and that it’s starting to gain on T.V. as a preferred news source .

This makes sense. As we become busier, people are becoming less flexible in terms of their schedules. Television forces it’s viewers around its schedule and people just can’t find time for it anymore. DVR’s and “on-demand” services attempt to correct this, but few people are willing to pay the price tag for what amounts to a glorified bandage.

As for the independent sector of broadcasting, the kind that you regularly find on sites like YouTube, these producers and their viewers benefit from the lack of strict oversight that comes from a studio environment. Whether due to content, running time, or marketability, many of these shows would never see the light of day if a major station were given the choice to air them.

Independent online shows don’t impose a strict schedule on viewers and instead eschew demographics and ratings statistics in favor of offering a variety of content and presentation styles to choose from. In short, if the producer has a good idea, he or she won’t have to fight with channel executives to get it aired; the audience just naturally gravitates to it.

So we know why this new generation of entertainers is superior, but which ones should we follow?

VlogBrothers

What started on January of 2007 as the “Brotherhood 2.0 Project” to see if brothers Hank and John Green could replace all text based communication with video blogs on a shared YouTube channel for one year is now regarded as one the greatest (and geekiest) expressions of brotherly love recorded.

The Greens each post a new four minute episode regularly to share updates on their lives, interesting discoveries, or just things they thought were amusing. Whether it’s John doing a “critical analysis” of sports games being interrupted by animals or Hank temporarily turning off his cheery demeanor to go on 17 rants in a row, these brothers are dedicated to giving each other and their viewers their daily dose of nerd.

Hank And John have also branched out into other projects as a result of VlogBrothers success. For example, John is a successful young adult fiction writer and a regular host on Mental Floss magazines YouTube channel while Hank is a talented musician and hosts SciShow; all projects that you should look into.

Game Grumps

One of the massive changes to entertainment brought on by the internet is the “Let’s Play” culture where video game lovers chronicle their own experience of a game as they play it. Arguably, there is no one who entertains as much doing this as these guys.

Originally consisting of the duo of Arin “Egoraptor” Hanson and “JonTron” Jon Jafari (who left the show and was replaced by Danny “Sexbang” Avidan from the band NinjaSexParty, but Jon still works on his own show), The Game Grumps play through a combination of iconic and obscure games with commentary ranging from scathing to hilarious. All of this is made even more amusing when their invisible editor Barry Kramer throws in a few graphics to make his own two cents heard (or rather, seen.)

In addition to spinning off into a new series called Steam Train, this show has done more for the fan community than any other thanks to the fan-made Game Grumps Animated sequences that depict the hosts as the characters they are playing as making snide comments from actual episodes of the show and messing with the other characters.

Man At Arms

Tony Swatton is probably one of the hardest working men in Hollywood. He has brought his 30+ years of expertise in the lost art of blacksmith armoring to over 200 feature films and television series. The only problem: those weapons were all harmless aluminum props. These, however, are the real deal.

Man At Arms has Swatton recreating the most iconic weapons of film, television, and video games as real and fully functional blades. The formula draws from shows like American Chopper, but cuts out the unnecessary and annoying drama in favor of focusing on the steps to making these fine pieces of art while still maintaining a heavy metal edge (no pun intended).

Making weapons ranging from simple builds like Jamie Lannister’s sword from Game of Thrones to the absolutely “redonkalous” Buster Sword from Final Fantasy 7, Tony Swatton proves his skill and shows the beauty in this under-appreciated and often overlooked craft.

Game Exchange

The problem with geeks is that we tend to focus on a very limited field of expertise. Fortunately, we have shows like Game Exchange to broaden our horizons.

After spending two and a half years living in Japan, the host known lovingly as “Gaijin Goombah” decided to use his love of video games as a means of teaching others about significant cultural influences in the medium. While he primarily focuses on Japanese culture, his goal is to eventually cover all of the cultures of the world.

The novelty of the show comes from the presentation. In the show, Gaijin Goombah plays an actual Goomba who adopts the way of the samurai (“Gaijin” translates from Japanese meaning “Foreigner”) to stop a clan of ninja from spreading cultural ignorance and hatred.

Goombah works very closely with other producers as a member of The Game Theorists, a group of video game aficionados who analyze gaming culture. They include “MatPat” Mathew Patrick who hosts the group’s namesake series that forms theories about the strangeness of games and Ronnie Edwards who runs Digressing and Sidequesting – a show that deals with a more general analysis of games. So it would be worthwhile to check them out as well.

There is SO much more…

I could go on forever about other great shows and producers that deserve support, but this is already the longest article I’ve ever written, so let’s end this by saying that the web is where good ideas can run free and unhindered by stuff-shirt television executives that can’t understand good taste without statistics and charts. If you have an indie show you want others to see, please share it with us in the comments and let us all be entertained and informed.