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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 the 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 dropship 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-destructable land, and to scavenge for the gold that you need to support your operations. You can also equip your men with weapons to create your rag tag team of fighters that 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 it’s 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 it’s protective glass case is destroyed you will lose.)

The biggest drawback to the game are 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 it’s 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 eachother, 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.)

 

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

 

Cortex Command

7.5/10 

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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 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 an 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 it’s 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 civillians 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 civillians, 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.

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

 

Atom Zombie Smasher

7.5/10

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VVVVVV

Best Indie Game - Screenshot of VVVVVV
VVVVVV is an indie action platformer developed by Terry Cavanagh and was released on January 11, 2010. It’s core gameplay mechanic, gravity-flipping was inspired by one of his prevous games, Sine Wave Ninja.

In the game you are Captain Viridian, in a pixelized world. Your ship and crew have been separated in a horrible accident, and your goal is to rescue your crew and escape from the space station that you have been stranded on. There is a twist, though. Unlike common platforming games, you can not jump. Instead, you can flip gravity, causing you to fall in the opposite direction. But you can only flip gravity when you are on a solid surface. This mechanic is used extensively in the game and used to move around, and complete puzzles.

This game is a quick-action paced game. The game revolves around making quick maneuvers with your gravity-flipping ability, cleverly challenged by trampolines, an number of abstract objects (don’t touch them), and optional yet so satisfying “trinkets” that are extremely hard to acquire. This makes VVVVVV a best indie game if you want to have some great casual fun.

Best Indie Game - Screenshot of VVVVVV

Akin to Super Meat Boy, another 2D platformer, the game is very difficult. Some sections, are extremely hard to maneuver around in, and require perfect coordination of keyboard presses and timing. What VVVVVV does cleverly to prevent this from being detrimental to the game, is by adding quick-save points where you will respawn every time you die. This makes the game less unforgiving, preventing one from having to repeat territory.

The gameplay was madly addicting, except for a frustrating portion here and there. The 8bit music is catchy, the puzzles are entertaining and fast paced. For the most part it is a great experience. Savepoints were plentiful that offset this design choice. The graphics were 8bit, which fit the style of the game and provided a nice aesthetic, but the options were lacking and many little things were missing like the ability to lower the volume. The gameplay was top notch and challenging, if a bit repeating at times. The game wasn’t that long too, but ti was still good.

 

tl:dr: Great gameplay if not for some seemingly impossible areas, good aesthetics, good music and it lacked many differences settings.

 

VVVVVV

8/10