google ad

Friday, October 18, 2019

IndieCade 2019: The Games I Played

By Eric Harris

We love IndieCade! For those who are new to Things To Do In LA, or unfamiliar with IndieCade, IndieCade is one of the most important events in the independent game developer (indie) world. While the festival is most well-known for its international juried game awards, IndieCade has a comprehensive array of entertainment, networking, keynote speakers, conference sessions, and other professional and education-oriented workshops, clinics, and activities. It was held Oct 10-12, 2019 at the Santa Monica College Center for Media and Design. It costed $40 - $750 for festival admission and $20 for the Night Games only portion.

This year’s crop of games did not disappoint!  We experienced augmented reality, virtual reality, new media, museum display pieces, social media games, retro-themed games, haptic (sensory) games, alternative interfaces, board games… and even a human fortune teller wearing a bird mask.  There is a lot going on here, and the exciting part about exploring IndieCade is trying out news games and interviewing game developers.

Here are some of the games that caught our attention this year. As usual, the games we found most interesting were different that the official IndieCade award-winning games (check those games out here. Our top-three picks this year were HELLCOUCH, Mad Mixologist, and Creature in the Well.

“…it’s your moral responsibility to perform the sacred butt ritual to release the demon from its cozy couch prison, or keep it cushioned inside the Hellcouch for the rest of eternity! ”
We have a winner here! HellCouch is multi-player games that use a couch as a controller and integral part of the game. Players utilize said couch to “perform the sacred butt ritual” to combat a demon possessed couch for hilarious results. Fog machine! A deep-voiced demon! Colored lights! Sacred Butt Ritual! This was easily one the most fun and popular of the Night Games.

Tremendously fun game! Mad Mixologist is a two-player augmented reality and perspective switching game. The object of the game is to collaboratively create mixed (non-alcoholic) drinks from the other player’s perspective. This is crazy! Imagine creating a complicated beverage. Now imagine creating that from someone else’s perspective.  Want to add some garnish to your drink to make it look extra snazzy? Sounds like an easy task until you notice your real world hands aren’t matching what’s happening on the display. Reach, reach, reach… that mint is so close! Damn, the other player’s field of view changed and you can’t see your target.  Now you have to tell the other person to look left. Your other left! Too far, now look up a little bit. Down. You get the idea. We would like to see this type of perspective switching the AR or VR horror genre games.

The developer describes this game as “pinball with swords.” That’s a solid description of the gameplay; however, a cooler description would pinball with a badass robot wielding a metal pipe. There are other weapons in the game, but it’s hard to beat the metal pipe for style points.

Players use vibration feedback patterns to locate hidden (blind) spots on their phone or tablet display surface. This is a simple idea that is surprisingly addictive. Multi-sensory feedback provides for a richer and more immersive gaming experience, and we’d love to see more haptic feedback mechanisms incorporated into future game designs
This game had the worst promotional goodies at IndieCade. Carrots? Really? No review for you.

A competitive tree growing board game! This idea is weird enough to make us want to request a copy for an in-depth review. Building 3 dimensional trees is neat. Great for kids too!  

Smile For Me is the first nod-n-shake adventure game! The game protagonist communicates with characters in the game via head nodding.  Watching random gamers nod their heads in sync with the characters is almost as fun as playing the game itself.

ABC was one of the relatively few horror-genre games this year.  In A.B.C. the point of the game is to use a video game controller “covered in moist chewed gum of previous players,” and then add your moist freshly chewed gum to the disgusting gum covered game controller.  You could smell this game from 6 feet away.

We generally avoid overtly political games because these types of games tend to age poorly. However, we’ll make an exception here because WarTweets has some fascinating game mechanics. The game integrates President Donald Trump’s twitter feed into game play. Regardless of one’s political views, the use of live social media within a game is cutting edge stuff.
Do you long to relive the 90’s era cathode ray tube (CRT) computer monitor screensaver experience? If you’ve got the nostalgia bug, VR Screensavers, can help you re-live the screensaver experience. In virtual reality! Why???

Fun and interesting games, helpful staff, what’s not to like about IndieCade? Location, location, location!  IndieCade’s current venue at Santa Monica College’s Center for Media and Design appears to be a somewhat poor choice for a location. While the Center for Media and Design is a cool place, it is simply not a convenient venue for a convention. Food options in the immediate area are limited, and parking nearby is difficult and/or expensive. IndieCade organizers discouraged drivers, with the nearest public parking structure charging $31.65 per day or $2.65 per twelve minute interval. Location in Southern California matters, and unpleasant driving and parking conditions deters people from attending events.  Expecting casual attendees to travel to IndieCade via car share, public transportation, or bike share makes for a less accessible and pleasant experience.

Things to Do in LA has been covering IndieCade since 2010, and IndieCade remains one of our favorite video game events. It’s a refreshing change from our summer/fall Halloween-dominant reporting schedule. Next year we hope IndieCade will return to a more user-friendly venue, and we look forward to enjoying a glimpse into the future of indie gaming at its best. We can’t wait for IndieCade 2020!