Here, still in no particular order, are the final five finalists for the Develop Conference Indie Showcase competition. There’s also a SPECIAL BONUS GAME which I got to try out, but wasn’t in the showcase itself.

Swapquest – RebusmindSwapQuest

Another mobile game, Swapquest offers an RPG experience which is rather different from any other. Like traditional rpgs you choose a gender, class, kingdom under attack/legendary sword, etc… The interesting part appears once you start a level: you fight enemies automatically just by walking up to them. As far as I could work out the actual fighting of the enemies isn’t the challenge, it’s the getting to them that is. You achieve this by swapping out different the different path tiles which make up the map, essentially building a route through the level for your hero to follow. Each level has a couple of optional objectives to encourage you not to just take the most direct route and your hero can level up by fighting and defeating the enemies you do walk into. The pixel art is nice, simple and interesting – much like the core concept. I liked it quite a lot, it’ll be one of those game which are perfect for a commute or a cheeky toilet break.

Among the Sleep – Krillbite Studiosamong the sleep

This is a concept I’m quite enamoured with, it’s always annoyed me when horror games didn’t let you bury an axe into the monster’s head because “SHUT UP YOU’RE PLAYING A HORROR GAME”. Among the Sleep provides you with a valid, and interesting, reason for that by making you play a toddler. It’s the unique perspective and movement systems that really made this game interesting for me. You move faster but can see and reach less while crawling; standing up allows you to climb but it’s all a bit wobbly because you’re still a toddler, and they’re called that because they toddle… otherwise they’d be called sprinters, which is a frankly terrifying idea. However I digress, the tone is right on the money, it’s oppressive and manages to turn your own house into an intimidating nightmare. The demo I saw was rather short, but what I saw was excellent.

Action Henk – Rage Squidaction henk

To use a really stupid analogy Action Henk is what happens when the best bits of Tribes: Ascend meets Toy Story. It allows you to slide around a toy race track as some ridiculous action figure, on your butt… I think your butt has wheels on it (I couldn’t tell but I hope it has wheels on it otherwise, owwww). It all revolves around precision and flow, knowing when to run, when to jump and when to butt-slide. It’s all super fun, the aesthetic is delightful and the whole thing really evokes a childlike sense of joy. There’s also a sort of multiplayer where you can race the ghosts of your friends, as well as some predetermined medal tiers and the current world record for the level. Speaking to the developers it sounds like they’d utterly love to make local multiplayer a thing, but they’re still puzzling over how to implement it. Still, the game seems like a (possibly scuffed) butt-tonne of fun and certainly worth checking out.

A Good Snowman is Hard to Build – DraknekAGoodSnowman_Screenshot_1

This was another great one. It’s a game about a monster in a quiet (english-esque?) park who likes making snowmen and giving them names. It’s utterly lovely: quiet, thoughtful and calming in exactly the right way. The basic premise is rolling balls around a grid to create a pile of three balls in a snowman shape, you pick up snow if you roll over it (making the ball bigger) and balls will only roll over others if they’re currently smaller. There’s not really much else to say: there are currently thirty-odd levels, which they’re hoping to expand on, and other than that it’s all just really lovely. When I was speaking to one of the developers, Benjamin Davis, he said they were trying to create “a nice place to be”, and to me they’ve certainly succeeded. It’s the gaming equivalent to a Sunday cup of tea – I’m British donchya know.

Ether One – White Paper Gamesether one

Unfortunately this one is a little difficult as the demo was having to be run on a crappy laptop (classic expo technical problems), so I wasn’t able to see that much of the game. From what I did see though Ether One promises something thoughtful – or at the very least interesting – about the mind and dementia. The reason being you effectively play as a mental dentist, cleaning away the plaque of the troubled mind to restore health. The whole thing seemed nicely presented, and the voice acting was pretty damn good, with some reasonable dialogue. I like the first-person perspective while playing what appeared to be a classic adventure game and the premise was intriguing enough that I’d really rather like to play the whole thing. Indie Haven Editor Jose San Mateo reviewed Ether One, check that out right here.

Honourable Mention: Radial-G – Tammeka Gamesradial-g

Why an honourable mention? Well, mainly because this game was really fun and my first chance to try out an Oculus Rift – although you can play it on a normal monitor too. It’s a radial racer, meaning you race an anti grav vehicle around a tube and you don’t exactly steer (you’re stuck to the track so bends aren’t an issue) but choose where exactly you are on the tube. Winning or losing hinges on being able to hit the green boost markers and avoid the red obstacles – a classic mechanic made fresh by the unique application of a radial track. I can imagine this being a hugely chaotic romp with more players. You can find more info on their kickstarter page. Sam Watts, a member of the development team for Radial-G, also came on the Indie Haven podcast. Check out that episode here.