Tucked inside a hotel ballroom two blocks away from PAX, the Seattle Indies Expo nevertheless attracted an impressive crowd. This annual celebration indies and the Pacific Northwest boasted an incredible diversity of games. From visual novels to VR, the Seattle Indies community once again shows how much creativity lies within its many talented members.
Out of the lineup of twenty-five games, the following five stood out to me the most.
Hoo boy was this game made for people like me. Gravastar is the first title out of Studio Atma but you certainly wouldn’t be able to tell. The game’s demo, albeit rough around the edges, still manages to scream “production quality”. The music, art, and combat system could give the best of Japan a run for their money.
As a JRPG inspired by 2D fighting games, Gravastar aims to make scrubs like me feel awesome. Its unique active battle system captures the feeling of combo mastery with none of the learning curve. The crisp 2D animation pops and shines off the screen and will undoubtedly look even better as development continues.
Full disclosure, I do work on this game as a side-gig but that doesn’t make it any less great. Headliner: NoviNews is a standalone sequel to Headliner, a short media-bias adventure where you control the news. NoviNews tackles that same idea, but with the polish of a developer who’s already gotten their feet wet.
You are the Headliner and you control what news articles get published or rejected. Your choices cascade into a series of consequences that affect both the nation and your personal life. In the vein of games like Papers, Please, Orwell, and Beholder, prepare yourself to make the hard choices.
Tactics games have a reputation for being obtuse and number crunchy. Wintermoor Tactics Club remedies that by treating their game as more of a puzzle to solve. Wintermoor boils the tactics genre down to its essentials so that you can focus on the gameplay, rather than min-maxing.
While the game follows a group of kids in the 80s, it thankfully avoids the trap of aping on Stranger Things. Wintermoor’s hones in on a delightfully cheeky tone that meshes wonderfully with the soft, colorful art style.
Oh, and the music also bangs. Heartily.
Thought you’d gotten tired of soul-crushing platformers? Think again! Fowl Damage puts you in the role of an egg. Your basic goal requires you to reach the end of a level without breaking and spilling all over the place. Simple, right? Yeah, no.
Fowl Damage adopts the frustratingly entertaining mantra of “die-and-retry”. Your brittle eggsterior will break under pressure so you need to plan your movements accordingly. Much like Celeste, the controls are fairly simple. The level design, however, will easily take you for a ride (and then some).
As someone who worked in theatre for quite a while, I was immediately drawn to Puppet Pandemonium. Anything that can combine both performance and video games gets a solid thumbs-up in my book. The premise is simple: two players take on the role of puppet hosts as they lead an audience of five through Warioware-like minigames.
The sheer novel nature of it was enough for me to overlook some of the more iffy design aspects. The minigames themselves are fairly simplistic, but do a good job of integrating the hosts and audience participation. With a bit more polish, Puppet Pandemonium could take the world by felt-covered storm.
Twenty Titles No Less Deserving
While I have my own personal preferences, the entire lineup at SIX exemplifies the dedication and vision one can only find in game development. Below is the full list of the other twenty games featured at SIX that show just how diverse the talent in Seattle truly is.
[links to each game can be found through their names]
- Delightment – “Delightment is an abstract puzzle game about lighting up tiles. Each world introduces a new mechanic with subtleties that allow for surprisingly small puzzles with a lot of depth.”
- Thousands Threads – “Thousand Threads is an open world game where characters remember and react to the things you do — where your actions matter. Characters have unique personality traits, memories, and goals, so they act and react differently. Give, take, save, kill, inform, hide, be loyal, betray. Do what you want, and deal with the consequences.”
- PK Food Fighters – “Food trucks Vs. Vending Machines in this fast paced tug of war style defense game. Cook up your favorite food fighters and take out those evil snacks.”
- Torn Asunder – “Torn Asunder is a first person melee combat game about fighting demons, tearing off their limbs and using them as weapons.”
- Undead Darlings ~no cure for love~ – “UD ~ncfl~ is a character-driven visual novel dungeon-crawling hybrid with a Japanese RPG aesthetic. It features cute (and sometimes weird) HD 2D character graphics and several unique 3D dungeon environments. Build friendships via conversation choices and grow stronger from turn-based battles and looting dungeons in this romantic horror comedy!”
- NekoBako – “NekoBako (“Cat Box”) is a puzzle game about rearranging objects so they can all be returned home simultaneously, and nothing says “home” more than a simple cardboard box to the cat cubes! Gently roll them into their homes by swiping the screen and help fulfill their perfectly shaped destiny: “If it fits, I SITS!!””
- Seed – “SEED combines elements of tower defense and environment puzzle games to deliver an entirely new kind of path-based gameplay. Instead of attacking creeps, your “towers” are magical beings who buff and support gentle creatures known as Tali as they travel maze-like paths to complete sacred rituals of restoration in an effort to save their dying world.”
- Refactor – “Refactor is a collection of short games, each written to accompany the tracks of an electronic music album of the same name; these games are both interactive music videos and experiments in interaction and game design.”
- Nectar Vector – “Nectar Vector is a non-violent competitive game about pollinating flowers. Infused with late-60s psychedelic rock, this fast-paced local multiplayer game of risk and reward has players maneuvering and activating flower powers in a race to collect pollen. It may be non-violent, but it’s anything but easy-going! Whoever wins, just remember to love each other.”
- Buoyancy – “A city-building strategy game set in a world that has been completely covered in water. Build a great city from rubbish. Utilize your industry to explore the open seas and exploit resources. Defend your city from natural disasters and prepare for attacks from pirates.”
- Spirit of Midnight – “SOM is a lightweight point and click adventure game. You play as a cat who gains the unexpected ability to leave his owner’s house after seeing an odd creature, embarking on a mystery-solving journey over the course of a single night. He meets a range of intelligent forest animals who all seem to need his help, some of whom join him in his quest for answers.”
- Collidalot – “Collidalot is a local multiplayer game where players pilot post-apocalyptic hover cars & crash them into each other in destruction derby fashion. The world is a wasteland where pilots battle for glory above desolated landscapes. Energy rails have been suspended above the unforgiving planet surface where pilots fly & grind on the rails at breakneck speeds.”
- Keyboard Kommander – “Type words to fire your guns to mow down hordes of zombies! Inspired by games like typing of the dead, this game has sense of humor in an apocalyptic setting as you defend your base and your fellow Komrades from the hordes of the undead.”
- NiK-0 – “NiK-0 is a mobile game focused on clever puzzles and environment interaction. Player’s take control of NiK-0, a utility robot tasked with restoring power to the city after a disaster. Charge & Link electric grids to restore power to the city. Transform the environment to guide NiK-0 on his journey. Discover the story of the city and its inhabitants.”
- PlanTechtor – “PlanTechtor is an intense mixture of VR shooting action and deep, strategic weapon planning. Each level features a unique set of enemies and powerful weapon combos. Before the fight starts, build your weapon loadout carefully, and make your plan. Once committed, you must defend your castle from an onslaught of alien robot invaders!”
- Raven Conspiracy – “Raven Conspiracy is an endless platformer with a gameplay twist. Change between the powers of fire and electricity to survive. Hand drawn cutscenes tell the story of Raven trying to escape from the Order and save his wife. Fight the soldiers of The Order and giant bosses. An old school classic gaming that embraces the modern mobile platform.”
- Burn Ban – “Burn Ban is a visual novel with social media simulation mechanics. You assume the role of Twig, a mentally ill queer girl who is sent to Camp Sisquoc, a summer retreat for misguided students. While at camp, her dead friend’s social media mysteriously starts posting again, and she is set with determining the mystery behind the posts.”
- The Mirror – “The Mirror is a metaphorical RPG about self-image, reflections, and reality. During the game, players adventure through multiple lives shaped by the stat-generation of a magic Mirror – but can the surface reflection of a Mirror really reveal the internal measure of an adventurer’s talents and destiny?”
- Admiralo Island Witches Club – “Admiralo Island Witches Club is a women-positive narrative-driven game focusing on the player’s relationship with the five other girls in the club. How the player chooses to spend their time after school allows them to explore the island, interact with the supernatural beings that live on the island, and build up friendships with the other island residents.”
- Steeplechase – “Steeplechase is a 2 – 8 local multiplayer game where you need to stay in the match longest to win. In the match, the level auto-generates itself, so no two levels are ever the same. Be forewarned though: this is not a runner. You need to keep a cool head while traversing pits, level speed ups, other players, and gravity switching. Good luck!”