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TSG Asks: What was your favorite game at IndieCade 2017?

The TSG staff reflects on the best from the International Independent Games Festival

From VR escape rooms to rhythm games and visual novels to puzzlers, IndieCade 2017 celebrated its tenth year with varied and well-polished experiences. The show floor was a bustling hive of activity that somehow managed to mostly avoid the extended wait times from the previous year. Arriving bright and early, we were able to get our hands on so many games that picking our favorite was a Herculean task. These were the games that didn’t just grab our attention but made us yearn for their impending release. These were our favorite games from IndieCade 2017.

IndieCade 2017 had a really strong showing of games, but for my money, the one that caught my attention was Where the Water Tastes Like Wine. On its surface, the game seems pretty mundane and simple (you play as a homeless man in the Great Depression going across the country as you listen to and tell stories) but in execution, the game is utterly engaging. Having the ability to roam around America and experience well-written, inventive stories is pretty fun on its own, but the game actually goes a step further and allows you to share the stories. With each telling, your story gets more and more wild until you are effectively telling legends and folk tales, showcasing just what makes a great story and how our imaginations can add new layers of entertainment upon the harsh reality of life. Yes, this is not a game for everyone as it lacks action and any real consequences for your actions, but to anyone who is interested in being enveloped by stories and transported to a unique time period, this game is more than worth your time.

I truly enjoyed all of the games I tried at IndieCade 2017. But there was one game that really stood out for me, an Android game called “A Normal Lost Phone”. It is a game where the player learns about an unknown person, Sam by looking through his lost phone. In the demo version, I had to go through his text messages between his friends and families, pictures and applications to find out the Wifi password. And that process allowed me to learn so much about the main character, his relationships and intimacy with others and even the struggles he had. This was due to the great storytelling and narrative. I absolutely loved playing the demo and can’t wait to try the full version when it comes out in late October.This one was tough; there were a lot of games that initially caught my attention while I was looking up the featured games before heading to IndieCade. However, upon completing the trip, my favorite title at IndieCade goes to Overpass, a game that I did not think much of prior to the trip. It is a simple rhythm game where the player is tasked to clear each level by keeping up with the beat along with moving the controller in the indicated direction. While this idea remains to be a staple of that genre, what made this game stand out is not only the viewpoint of how the player sees the notes, but also the composed music. The first stage was my personal favorite; the music flowed perfectly with the player’s motions. In a certain part of the stage, environmental noises were introduced in the form of pillars crashing on top of each other, syncopating with the rhythm of the song. That combined with how fast paced the game can get makes for an exhilarating experience.Not sure I had a particular favorite, but since it was my first time doing VR, the VR game that stood out the most to me was Un-Destined. What made this game better than the others was the fact that it involved real-world interaction with a partner as part of the escape room setup. The fact that I could pick something up in VR, drop it into a chute, and have an exact replica pop out for my partner to pick up and use to solve the next step heightened my immersion, and made the simple premise exciting and engaging.There were many VR games presented at IndieCade this year, but the one that had caught my attention was Cat Sorter VR simply for how cute and gimmicky it was. The cats in-game, like in real life, come in all colors, shapes, and sizes… and some of them will have mismatching parts like, for example, an elephant ear or a chicken’s foot or a devil’s tail or a heart candy for a butthole. (My personal favorite was the unicorn cat. The game describes it perfectly: “magical, but still incorrect!”) Your goal is to replace the mismatching parts with the proper one as these cats come down an assembly line. The game accommodates each player, so you’re able to adjust your own height and the work speed. However, gameplay in real time is quite challenging, and you might find yourself in a bind when trying to sort out these cats.I played a lot of really interesting and fun games at Indiecade this year. It was really amazing to see all the experimental game making that developers are doing that put games outside of the standard box of mainstream video games. The favorite game that I played was Luna a VR game by Funomena. Luna was my first time experiencing VR and it was really cool to be able to interact with the world around me. Luna also is composed by Austin Wintory, one of my favorite video game composers, so I enjoyed his soundtrack as plopped down trees and picked at stars.

Like a dog choosing a fire hydrant to pee on, I wandered the IndieCade 2017 floor for some time looking for the perfect game to play. My time searching was worth it as the first game I played at IndieCade ended up being my favorite. Rhythm Doctor was the rhythm game I didn’t know I wanted. Using only the trigger on a Nintendo Switch JoyCon, Rhythm Doctor rivaled the challenge of a Guitar Hero song on expert. With beautiful pixel art graphics and a catchy original soundtrack, Rhythm Doctor is a game I can’t wait to play again when it comes out next year.

If there was one game from IndieCade 2017 that I will be sure to purchase it’s Innerspace. This exploratory game features some jaw-dropping visuals and a creative mythology that makes you want to dig deeper into the mysterious world. Though it can be tough at first, flying around the beautiful environments quickly becomes as smooth as the fluid visuals. There’s something immensely satisfying about dropping out of a soaring flight directly into an underwater dive. The fact that it’s coming out for Switch has also made me very excited. I also have to give a huge shoutout to Mitchell’s selection: Where the Water Tastes like Wine. Visual Novels can feel repetitive, but Johnnemann Nordhagen’s surreal vision of Depression-Era America was a stunning and fresh take on the genre. I’m looking forward to both of these games, but Innerspace is the one I’ve been itching to play most since the festival.

Evan graduated from Chapman University in 2017 with a BFA in creative writing and a minor in leadership studies. A love of storytelling propels his interest in video games, though he is equally comfortable on the battlefields of multiplayer games as in the middle of an RPG grind. When not gaming he can be found producing music, writing stories, or pondering the big questions in life.

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