The 5 Best Experimental Indies from EGX 2018
Our picks from the show’s alternative ‘Leftfield Collection’ games.
EGX might be known for showcasing some of the world’s biggest games, but that’s not all the show has to offer, as demonstrated by its commitment to be a platform where smaller indie and alternative games can display their work. This year saw a whopping 265+ games descend on the NEC Arena all vying for your attention. There is one section however where you can always guarantee you’ll be surprised by the level of innovation.
The Leftfield Collection has been a long-standing part of the show and never fails to disappoint with its eclectic mix of more experimental and alternative indie games. We had the pleasure of trying out some of the unique creations selected for the collection and, out of all the fantastic games on show, have collated here the five that left a lasting impression on us.
The first thing that attracted us to Kine was the roughly sketched art style and interesting manner in which the characters traversed the 3D landscape around them. Dig a little deeper though and there’s so much more to this musically inspired puzzle game. Kine puts you in control of one of three musical instruments at a time who are often required to combine their talents to get to where they want to be, which is fitting, as their ambition is to become a band.
In a similar fashion to Thomas Was Alone, you have to solve the game’s various puzzles based on each character’s style of movement with each bringing their own unique element to the trio’s abilities. The ingenuity of the puzzle elements is not to be underestimated either – the graphics might be tonally playful but this is a very smart and well-designed game that presents a thought-provoking challenge. Interestingly, each movement is punctuated with a musical sound which, when accompanied by the jazzy soundtrack, gives the game an almost improvisational quality that pervades throughout the levels you face.
It isn’t all about the puzzles though, as solo developer Gwen Frey told us – Kine is a love story of sorts, with each of the various characters having some kind of feelings towards each other. Their shared desire to perform coupled with the intertwined nature of the challenges they come up against gives Kine’s characters a touchingly poignant purpose to continue on their journey of discovery and, hopefully, inspire you to help them achieve their dream.
4. Tick Tock: A Tale for Two
As we’ve written about previously on the site, indie games are really keeping co-operative gaming alive and Tick Tock: A Tale for Two is another title determined to get us working together instead of aimlessly murdering each other in Battle Royales (although that can be fun!). In Tick Tock, players have to solve the game’s quirky puzzles by reading aloud what they see on their screen and deciphering it with the help of a partner. In doing so you hope to unravel the mystery of two clockmakers who wanted to transcend this world and control time. A lot of the challenges revolve around this narrative with the use of time manipulation featuring heavily in the game.
The game was inspired by escape rooms and this shines through in the genuine cooperation needed to beat the various sections. More than just information is required though – you might just be in danger of having a conversation. One thing we loved about Tick Tock was its accessibility. You’ll be able to play this across platforms, meaning you could be playing it on a computer and a friend could step in as player 2 on their phone. This should surely make finding a buddy to play with a hell of a lot easier, because, you know, who hasn’t got a phone?
You explore this enchanting, hand-drawn world much like a point and click adventure using the mouse or touch controls to manipulate the puzzles on screen. With a wide variety of challenges framed by an interesting narrative, players have to put their heads together to unwind the tale unfolding before you. Tick Tock: A Tale of Two is timed to release in 2019 on PC and mobile.
3. Between Stations
Between Stations shows indie creativity at its best. It’s a short experience told entirely through a hotel TV, of all things. And to truly immerse us, we played on an old CRT TV with custom-built buttons and dials.
The deliberately mundane vessel of old, late-night hotel television is elevated by parodical wit and the elements of novelty and surprise. Slowly turning the dial, we ‘tuned in’ to a variety of channels ranging from the hilarious to the bizarre. One minute we were choosing ingredients for a shrimp dish on a cooking show (shredded newspaper being one of them); the next we encountered mysterious messages over static. It was a wild ride.
Between Stations is a short experience but provides a taster for the upcoming Brownie Cove Express, a meatier adventure game set in the same universe.
2. HypnoSpace Outlaw
Looking at our modern slick and shiny devices with impeccable UX design, it’s easy to forget the earlier days of computers and the internet. Hypnospace Outlaw brings the player crashing back down to those simpler times with a relentlessly gaudy PC browser from the 90s.
We were impressed with not only the commitment to dreadful 90s internet design – compressed GIFs, basic HTML and clashing colours – but the depth of how we could interact with this antiquated cyberspace. As a ‘Hypnospace Enforcer,’ the player is tasked with delving into the web in search of transgressions: copyright infringement, cyber-bullying and the like. This noble task provides not only a reason to explore Hypnospace Outlaw’s nostalgic virtual world, but also rewards you with currency when you get it right.
It’s an experience which feels both distantly familiar and unknown. We’re looking forward to unravelling more of Hypnospace Outlaw’s weirdness when it releases early next year.
1. Small Talk
Small Talk blew away our expectations and was one of our most delightful surprises of EGX. Essentially a short party mingling simulator, the premise is simple. But this is no ordinary party. The end of the world is nigh, and you spend your final hours getting to know your fellow revellers. Because, what else are you going to do?
Small Talk is instantly captivating, a vivid explosion of coloured crayon on white. Each member of the party is imaginatively drawn in a creative, surrealistic style. There’s a casually dressed man with a plate of bacon and eggs for a head. Someone with a torso of bird heads all independently squawking. And an onion man with bags of goldfish for trousers. It’s bonkers. But what’s so jarring is how desperately human they all are in spite of this, laying themselves bare to you; flaws, fears, regrets and all.
Small Talk is coming soon to Windows, Mac and Linux.
So, there’s our favourite cool, weird and wonderful alternative indie games from EGX 2018. The ever interesting Leftfield Collection has yet again delivered a surprising amount of beautiful projects approaching making games in a different way. We’re already looking forward to what fascinating games will be on show next year. If you’d like to see more from the show then why not check out our Best Indie Games of EGX 2018 article? Or, if you’d like to find out what indie games are hot this month, check out our 7 Best Upcoming Indie Games of September 2018.