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Nitronic Rush

Best Indie Game - Screenshot of Nitronic Rush

Nitronic rush has a pretty interesting story that I thought I’d share before I started the review. Some DigiPen students created a very early version of Nitronic Rush for a school project and decided to post their results online. Suddenly, they received massive support, backing, and encouragement. Powered by the internet, these students went on to turn this into an entire game.

Best Indie Game -Screenshot of Nitronic Rush

Nitronic Rush is a survival racing game made by and published by Team Nitronic. Survival racing may seem like an odd term, but that is because you don’t really race against other cars in this game, you merely try to survive all the obstacles and make it out quickly. The game is quite good, and then considering the game was made by amateurs, mere students the quality of the work is just astounding. There are very few flaws, the quality control is perfect and it feels like the Team Nitronic only put their best work into this game.

Best Indie Game - Screenshot of Nitronic Rush

The gameplay is fairly simple. There is a track, and you must race along with it. Obstacles are on the track and you must dodge them. Your car can also fly, flying is sometimes necessary, as some jumps can’t be maneuvered with just speed. Overall, it’s pretty simple. But some of the creativeness in this game is pretty intense. You must hop onto walls or sometimes fly through a bunch of obstacles, like the N64 Star Wars Millennium Falcon scene. Obstacles can be impossible to dodge, and trying to play without braking can get REALLY hard. There is also a very nice system of doing tricks in mid-air, where your car has jets on all sides of it, and you can use this to do a myriad of different tricks, all with different point values. Overall, the gameplay can be pretty challenging, it’s fast-paced and quite deep. My only concern is that after a seemingly short amount of time, everything gets too repetitive.

The graphics and sound in this game are what really make it great. With a world looking like it was straight out of TRON and heavy electronic music playing in the background, you really feel like a total badass flying around and going at a ridiculous speed. Flashy lights, bright colors and a general futuristic Las Vegas feel are always present. Any crashes or successful tricks are announced by voice-over, and the announcer must have hundreds of lines because very rarely do you hear the exact same comment twice in a row. Buckets of tears!

Best Indie Game - Screenshot of Nitronic Rush

Nitronic rush is really about the atmosphere and the feel of the game. It is too hard to describe the game and how it plays in a review, because there is just a certain air of badassery, and it just can’t really be described with words. With the good graphics, good sound, and great and badass gameplay, you might as well check out the game, as it’s completely and utterly free to download, and it is definitely worth the hard drive space!

Conclusion: Nitronic Rush plays well, sounds good, looks good, but kind of feels too short and repetitive.

Nitronic Rush

8/10

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Cortex Command

Best Indie Game- Screenshot of Cortex Command

Cortex Command is another indie game from the nice folks at Data Reams LLC. While the game is incomplete, it has been released in playable alpha versions several times. It is a 2D platforming simulation game where objectives are carried out by “bodies” controlled from a distance by a brain.

Humanity’s technology has evolved so far that brains can be separated from worthless flesh bodies and can be sustained for long periods of time, being able to remotely control “bodies” from a distance. The player controls a brain, and at the start of each scenario it can call down various types of spacecraft to deliver whatever you select from the buy interface. The interface for selecting what will be drop-shipped down is a buy menu with a shopping cart. Once you select what you want, you pay for it with gold, the game’s currency, and then the specific drop ship of your choice will deliver your load.

You can buy various bodies that have their benefits and different costs, and equip them with a variety of different weapons or tools. Tools such as miners and shovels can be used to dig the fully-destructible land and scavenge for the gold that you need to support your operations. You can also equip your men with weapons to create your ragtag team of fighters which will be especially important, as most scenarios will require you to either defend your precious brain hive or attack the enemy.

Best Indie Game - Screenshot of Cortex Command

The game has a very steep learning curve. Although there is a thin tutorial mission, (which is brutally difficult in its own way) you are left to figure out how to do things yourself. However, once you get the hang of things it is entertaining to set up your own base of operations and station your bodies, put workers to mining gold and drop-ship units in, controlling them individually from afar with your brain. (Protecting your brain is of the utmost priority if its protective glass case is destroyed you will lose.)

The biggest drawback to the game is the horrible controls and the clumsiness of the engine. The game runs awfully slowly and only if you have an extreme level of patience, you will probably give up after an hour. Walking your units around takes eons, and even the “speedy” jetpack is clumsy to control and is very weak, holding more than one weapon will likely weigh it down to oblivion. The number of effects and the sheer amount of physics going on at one time is impressive (Tactics such as using your dropship as kamikaze or using its rocket engines to burn your enemies alive are very viable), but the physics often glitches and your men and your enemies’ men will likely die from jumping on each other, or by being crushed by some dirt particles.

Best Indie Game - Screenshot of Cortex Command

The game is a great concept but the execution lacks what it needs to become the best indie game. It could have been much better, and playing it is trying to build a stack of cards, unbelievably slow and frustrating. (But of course, as there are card house enthusiasts there are many who enjoy this game.)

Conclusion: Cortex Command is a unique 2D platformer with a plethora of possible tactics, although difficult to perform at times.

Cortex Command

7.5/10 

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Demolition Inc.

Best Indie Game -  Demolition Inc. Screenchot

Demolition inc is quite the game. A brief synopsis, you are Mike, and you must wreck the earth. Sounds fun. Silliness will ensue.

This physics-based game is reminiscent of Blast Corps and Destroy All Humans. The storyline is simple, you are an alien who won a contract to level earth to create an intergalactic park. One thing German-based ZeroScale Game development has done right is how well the game is made. IT is done, complete, and doesn’t have many bugs. You can see that they put time into this game, and they did not just rush till they got a semi-finished product. And this is especially nice because this is an indie game and indie games don’t normally have this polish.

The graphics aren’t really cutting edge and miraculous, but realism in a game like this would not fit. The cartoony graphics really bring together the whole aesthetic and feel of the game.

Best Indie Game - Screenshot of Demolition Inc.

The gameplay is fairly simple, follow the roads and knock down any building that you see, and you must do this quickly because the army is on its way. To knock down the buildings you use some pretty silly methods, like using oil slicks, glue bombs, and exploding cows. This all seems very silly and it feels like ZeroScale went overboard here on the Silly Scale. You have a few super attacks to use in times of need, but basically, all your destruction will be caused using good ol’ hit and run, smash everything with vehicles. Use cars and other objects to destroy and level the buildings. When debris starts falling, suck it up for some extra money and clean up the block. Clean up a block and flora and fauna start sprouting on it. Clean up every block and you clear a level. The game isn’t particularly hard.

The music of the game is quite good and matches the feel of the game well, but it can get repetitive at some moments. The physics of the game fit the game, they aren’t particularly realistic but they are just silly enough. The mayhem can cause many chain reactions as tiny bits of shrapnel trigger exploding cows and destroy buildings all across the map and start a huge explosive climax of alien demolition. The chaos of the game is quite entertaining.

Conclusion: Demolition Inc. is a fun cartoonish game, it isn’t particularly amazing but is good all-around and definitely worth a buy. No area is really lacking.

Demolition Inc

8/10

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OIO

Best indie Game - OIO Screenshot

OIO is a puzzle platformer made by the French dev Uncanny Games. The game is kind of like machinarium, in the sense that a lot of the value of the game comes from the atmoshpere, art style, and magnificent aesthetics. The game feels simple and styled with no clashing of graphics. OIO has nothing that really is directly scary, but it is a combination of atmosphere and suggestion that makes the game quite dark. TYhis quality is something that we have really noticed is common in some of the best indie games.

The game doesn’t tell you much in the way of the story, and it doesn’t have much dialog. This focuses you on the game-play and keeps this game kind of casual.

Best Indie Game - Screenshot of OIO

There are a few problems with the game, like when you try to move in a direction your character starts moving slowly and then accelerates. This is normally fine, but in this game, the running animation for the character stays the same, even though you are running very slowly, which makes the main character look like Roadrunner from the Looney Tunes.

Best Indie Game - Screen shot of OIO

The basic main mechanic of this game that differentiates it from the average platformer is the ability to grow or destroy wooden platforms by simply throwing seeds at nodes located in parts of the levels. Only three of these platforms can exist at a time, when there are 4 on the field the oldest one is destroyed. This mechanic can get very deep, as sometimes you have to do timing jumps with branches and you have to grow branches off of branches.

OIO is really a puzzle platformer that requires thought and is much deeper than a standard run and jumps indie Mario clone. If you were to compare this to most other puzzle platformers out there, this would come out best. Levels are more than timing your jumps or moving for just enough time, but about thinking and intellectual challenges.

Conclusion: OIO is a great puzzle platformer with great art style and good gameplay.

OIO

8/10

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Atom Zombie Smasher

Best Indie Game - Screenshot of Atom Zombie Smasher

Atom Zombie Smasher is a top indie game created by the company Blendo Games,  released on March 14, 2011. Just when you thought you were getting tired of zombie games, you get to play it again, in an RTS format.

The world has been overrun by zombies, again. Big surprise. Instead of the frequent scenario of happily mowing down zombies in a first-person view, it is a real-time strategy game where you are evacuating a city bit by bit through elaborate rescue operations. Helicopter rescue zones can be marked on the city, that will attract civilians nearby and evacuate them in chunks of up to 30 people out of the zombie infestation.

To help evacuate the civilians, various squads are deployed each round to help slow the zombies that will approach, attempting to thwart the escape. Roadblocks can be used to block the movement of zombies (and humans) from roads that may lead to your rescue zone. Anti-infected landmines, dynamite, and artillery are all used to eliminate approaching zombies and to help escort the humans to the escape chopper. Placing sniper and assault rifle squads at tactical choke points means the difference between a successful mission or a failed mishap.

Best Indie Game - Screenshot of Atom Zombie Smasher

This game is hard. Extremely difficult. Every time you successfully save the specified minimum number of civilians from a sector, clearing it, three or four more even deadlier areas on the world map become infested. Each sector can have an “infected” rating between 1-4, ranking how heavily infested the area is. Level 1 is minor, and if well-executed it is possible to destroy all the zombies. If this is done, all civilians are automatically saved and you gain control of the sector. Levels 2-3 are more difficult and where additional zombies will spawn at a time, and level 4 has no remaining human life to save and the only option is to cleanse the entire area of zombie scum with sufficient firepower or the sector will continually spread zombies to nearby areas.

Winning the game involves beating the computer (infected) to the specified threshold of points first. Points are awarded at the end of each mission, given based on the number of sectors on the world map you have captured. As the computer is able to infect multiple sectors at a time while you can only attempt to clear one at a time, it seems unfair.

Best Indie Game - Screenshot of Atom Zombie Smasher

The game has a novelty to it and is fun for an hour or two. But the scenarios are always pretty much the same although with subtle differences as the random map generator does its work defining streets and alleys. This lets the game become boring pretty quickly. Your choice of weapons/units that you can deploy may be different, but the goal is the same for every level: evacuate as many civilians as you can from the sector while batting zombies off along the way.

The graphics are nice yet seem a little lazily done. Vibrant, colorful effects are nice yet the civilians, zombies, and even your own soldiers are represented by bright yellow, pink and green squares, flashing and slowly sinking across the screen as they go, hence the name Atom Zombie Smasher. Aside from some simple, appropriate sound effects, the music dispersed throughout the game could have used some work to captivate the audience more.

Conclusion: Atom Zombie Smasher boasts a fun unique zombie game where speed and efficiency with what you have are crucial, although sound and graphics could use work.

Atom Zombie Smasher

7.5/10