There has been a trend developing recently in the indie game world. A lot of people have been giving certain developers flak for what they view as ‘being uncreative’, and making games with a similar style to countless other recent games. For starters, recently there have been a lot of ‘silhouette’ games, in terms of graphical presentation, and many players view this art direction as a sign of a lazy developer, particularly given how popular the style is becoming in some recent indie titles. This ‘oversimplification’ applies not just to the visual presentation of some of these games, but also to the user interface, game play, and various other elements of the game. However, some of these games are completely, utterly unique in many ways, and are often viewed as a cross between game and art. Let’s take a look at a couple from European developers Boss Baddie.
Lunnye Devitsy is BossBaddie’s first published game. This game is presented in the ‘silhouette’ style I mentioned earlier. What I mean by this is that the player character, as well as most of the elements in the foreground are simply black shapes against the background of the game world. A noticeable deviation from the way this is usually done, however, is that the background of the game world is fully coloured, so the silhouetted character stands out as an ‘outsider’ in the game world.
This particular title is all about exploration. There is a large world for the player to explore, and 6 different ways to complete the game. There is no dialogue, and no real instruction. This non-linear nature of the game does wonders for immersing the player into the game; players are encouraged to explore, create a mental map, and get ‘lost’ in the world. The lack of dialogue also leaves the game to be interpreted by the player, largely on their own; the story of the game has to be told by the on-screen action.
Wake is another game from these developers, and when compared, these two make a wonderful example of how two games can share many similarities, but be so spectacularly different in terms of player experience. To give you an idea of what I mean, Wake is also a side-scrolling platformer. It also involves exploration. It is also non-linear, and lacks dialogue/instruction. However, where Lunnye Devitsy is a very relaxing and surreal experience, playing through Wake is incredibly tense and nerve-wracking.
This is a game about escaping from a sinking ship, by making your way to one of three exits at the top. The atmosphere in wake is extremely intense, with flickering lights and power outages making it difficult to see, flaming sections of the ship blocking progress, locked doors that require keys, etc. But the most powerful factor in the game’s tension is the constant threat of water rising from the bottom of the ship – if you’re progressing too slowly, your character will drown. It’s one of the best presented games I’ve ever played, and remains one of my personal favourites.
I guess the point I’m trying to make here is that even though many independent game developers are using similar elements in a lot of their recent games, that they are ‘making the same game over and over again’ couldn’t be further from the truth.