One of the less-secret secrets of gaming is that there’s probably someone nearby working on a project of some sort right now. Maybe it’s the next town over, or the next county, or maybe it’s even you. We hear all the time about the big shows and the hundreds of games they host, but there’s still more than enough going on that a smaller local event should be able to fill up its tables with an interesting variety of projects. Admitted, Boston has a bit of an advantage in that it’s a major college town that also has the heritage of Looking Glass and Harmonix to draw from, but we live in an age where game-making tools are functionally free and so long as you’ve got the hardware plus the aptitude to wrangle code into shape you can create whatever you dream of within reason. The Boston Festival of Indie Games is an annual event where local and semi-local developers can show off what they’ve been up to in an environment that doesn’t have the insane pressure of an E3 or PAX and I absolutely love going there each year and playing as much as possible over the course of the afternoon. This is part two of a three-part series documenting everything I got to see, from professional-indie to college project. Part One can be found here and Part Three will be along presently, but the middle bit is found right below.
Hexile- First-person platform-puzzler where the entire landscape is made of hexagonal columns and you can raise them at will. The Boston FIG demo was completely different from the old one that debuted at PAX East, and much like the previous version it’s going to be made available to everyone relatively soon. This new version had more story and a better look at the environments and puzzles that will be the heart of the game. The puzzle on display had the player rotating groups of hexes to line up specific ones side-by-side, using whichever hex they were looking at as the center and, when the two target hexes line up, opening up the path to the next section. The platforming was basically the same as before, including mid-air dashes, wall jumps, and using the velocity of a rising hex to gain extra jump height. The new demo isn’t available quite yet, though, because the player feedback is being taken into account before it’s tossed out into the world. I’m looking forward to this one not just because first-person puzzle/platforming is almost always a good time but also the wonderfully pleasing way the endless landscape of hexes creates hills and caves out of a single repeating shape.
Infini- Art-game where an endlessly-falling naked guy needs to make it to the exit ring in order to move on to the next area. Hitting a wall ends the game, but nothing that exists out side of the boundary of the screen matters so you can control the zoom to ignore walls that would otherwise kill you. When naked-guy goes off the edge of the screen he wraps around, whether bottom to top or left to right and back again, and the individual levels are small enough that the death from the single hit just means you need to redo the last couple seconds. As you get into the game death is expected, with each level taking a bit of trial and error to get right. It’s also worth noting that Infini is exactly what you’d get if you turned some of Canada’s stranger indie animated shorts into a game.
Loose Nozzles- A father and son team worked together to make this one, with father on level design and son on art and sound effects. The son, however, was six when the project started, making the audio-visual presentation adorable beyond all possible comprehension. Loose Nozzles is a mobile game where you tap left and right on the screen to control the two thrusters on the bottom of a rocket, navigating a hazardous landscape to rescue the stranded astronauts and bring them back to your mothership. Chaos is guaranteed as the ship starts taking damage and bits come off, each crash into a wall or mountain narrated with an enthusiastic kid-created sound effect. The levels I got to play were early ones and, in theory at least, fairly easy. I learned pretty quickly that I may actively suck at this one but the crayon art and verbal noises made it so charming I kept playing anyway.
A Duel Hand Disaster: Trackher- Most gamest that give the player two things to control at once try to keep things relatively simple by having both halves work in the same genre. Trackher thinks you’re far more capable than this so has a vertical shooter on the left screen and an arena survive-em-up on the right. The events on one side directly impact the action on the other, with the resources you collect on the right turning into power-ups on the left, while the enemies you let escape on the left make survival difficult on the right. It sounds like an exercise in pure gaming masochism but the action starts slow enough that there’s plenty of time to shift focus from one side to the other. Send the scout on the right to a resource and leave it sitting while the collection-indicating circle fills in, pay attention to the left to take out an enemy or two, keep half an eye on the right to be careful of any stray bullets, try not to spam the fire button over on the left screen because it weakens the link between the two ships, and then realize you’ve moved well past multi-tasking and are on the way towards orchestration. Trackher is currently available on PC in Early Access form
as well as (Corretion) and coming soon to PS4.
Feral Frontier- Action-platformer featuring the agile fox Reynard, who comes with a good number of moves to take on sprawling levels filled with robo-enemies and collectibles. Of particular note is the fantastic pixel art, with everything nicely animated and the entire demo looking like how I remember 16-bit gaming as opposed to how it actually was. Reynard has the standard jump, double jump, and slash moves and also a wall jump, a grab to hold on to floating handholds or carry around genre-standard turtle shells, and a few other abilities to round out his move-set. Skills are doled out one at a time, with a helpful mole giving advice on how everything works, with plenty of bonus areas tucked away off the main path to figure out how best to use each new ability. The demo was very early and looked great, but with under six months of development time so far there’s a lot more to do and it seems likely Reynard’s evolution from energetic fox to platforming hero is going to take more than a single level.
Rhythm Road- Create a character in three frames of animation and walk down the road in search of a purpose. The world started out flat and uninteresting but there’s no reason to hang out in an endless state of mere existence, so away your character goes to see what else is out there. As it turns out there’s eight levels of scenery with a wonderfully video-game-y soundtrack to tap along to, which is plenty of reason to keep moving. As your character travels along you need to hit up/down/left/right and space in time to the symbols under the road, with each missed note decreasing the character’s willpower to keep going while each success fills it back up a little. Every track comes in both Normal and Expert, and while it’s a bit awkward to pound out a sequence like up-right-up on the keyboard when there’s no gaps between the notes, the excellent soundtrack and a forgiving checkpoint system make it easy to press onward. Rhythm Road is pay-what-you-want at itch.io and well worth heading over for a quick download and play-through.
And that’s everything for part two of the full Boston FIG rundown. If there were more hours in an afternoon this could go on endlessly, but seeing as time was limited and I could only play so much, part three will wrap this whole thing up in a few days.