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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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Achron

Best Indie Game - Screenshot of Achron
What sets apart Indie games from normal titles is their innovation. Huge companies can’t afford to sink resources into creating a game that might flop, but indie developers can. This is what Hazardous did with Achron.

In Achron, you control commander of Capt. Holloway and his forces.  You must guide Holloway through 35 single player missions typical of any other RTS title. Seems standard, but what separates Achron from the rest is one amazing feature. Time Travel. At the bottom of the screen is a timeline that lets you control what time it is, which is very useful for fighting enemies, as it can act as one huge and giant Ctrl + Z. Woops, all my soldiers just died, lemme re try that bit! My god, my base just exploded, better go back in time and save it! If you make a mistake, just one click can bring you back and lets you fix it, kind of the opposite of Frozen Synapse.
Best Indie Game - Screenshot of Achron
This game has kind of a steep learning curve at the start, but once you figure it out this game is great fun. Three unique races keep the game fun challenging and refreshing, and you get to use all three at some time or other in the campaign. The Graphics are fine, not exactly exceptional but mediocre.  The soundtrack is quite amazing, and really adds to the gameplay. There is a complete multiplayer package with 16 maps and a map editor and many other features. There are problems with this game too though. Units are almost impossible to tell apart without zooming in all the way. Path finding can at times be absolutely gobsmackingly hearstoppingly facemeltingly atrocious. Experienced RTS players will feel this game has much to work on, as some of its fundamental RTS aspects need some working. The game is easy in the sense that you are guided almost every step of the way. Noobs will like this, but anyone with even a Modicum of RTS experience will feel frustrated and limited. Ironically there is no instruction manual. Opening cut scenes cannot be skipped and have to be watched every time you want to play a level. But most of this is all nit-picking. This game does have a unique gameplay aspect in the form of time travel, and past the few small bugs, glitches and weird quirks this game is quite good. Although is it worth 30 dollars? I don’t think so, but ti may very well be depending on how you like your games.

 

tl:dr Good game with a nice aspect, but there are glitches bugs and quirks that kind of ruin the game, but it has a very good gameplay mechanic. Mediocre graphics, great soundtrack

 

Achron

6/10

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Dwarf Fortress – Fortress Mode

Best Indie Game - Dwarf Fortress Screenshot

If you’re looking at the disturbing and confusing image, worry not. It is a screenshot of the fortress mode of Dwarf Fortress, which is one of the best indie games I have played in a very long time. A cross between The Sims, Civilization and Sim City, Bay 12 games provides us with an amazing sandbox indie game, but only if you are okay with repeatedly smashing your head into a brick wall, because failure and frustration will occur. There is also a mode called Adventure mode, but it is a different game and we haven’t had a chance to play it.

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Toribash

Best Indie Game - Screenshot of Toribash

Toribash is a physics based, turn by turn, meticulous and extremely customizable fighting game by indie developer Hampus Söderström. With the ability to individually control joints and muscles, Toribash allows a huge array of possible moves, some that can be amazingly spectacular. It really is a shame that the game has such a steep learning curve, since running and jumping is almost impossible for most new players, reminiscent of QWOP in 3D.

Toribash was first started in March of 2006, and so far it has won a metric ton of indie game awards. But beware, the graphics are nothing more than shiny polygons, and the game play is absolutely nothing like any other fighter game out there. It is a slow turn-based fighting game, where players setup their muscle movements during the setup phase and then the game simulates the fight, often in intervals of only a second or two.

The controls are as follows: During the setup phase, click on the various joints and muscles to change whether they are either: relaxed, holding, contracted or extended. Certain body parts such as shoulders and chests can also be raised or lowered, or twisted right or left. Fast clicking and thinking is essential, because to successfully play you have to move dozens of muscles in one short turn, consisting of no more than 15 seconds at times. Meanwhile, you are shown a projected preview of how this turn will play out. When the setup phase ends, the actions that you selected are carried out and then the game pauses again for you to decide what to do to.

Best Indie Game - Toribash Screenshot

To win, you either get the opponent to touch the ground with anything but his feet or hands, or you knock him dead. Many losses are by people accidentally falling and losing matches for themselves, due to the difficulty of the game.

You’d be surprised how hard this game is. A human with his hand at his sides standing up, has to do this to punch properly: Contract his pectorals, contract his biceps, contract his brachioradiali, contract his deltoids; then he has to contract his triceps, turn his hip, and contract his anconeus. For 1 simple punch. Granted this is simplified in this game, but not by much. More complex moves, like a 360 spinning hook kick practically take every muscle in your body, and controlling them effectively is no easy task.

This game is not a pick up and play. The learning curve is steep, but the rewards are high. It is best to play with a friend, and fight each other, giving each other tips and tricks. In the beginning, it may seem extremely hard, but accomplishing certain moves can be very amazing to see happen, and watching a successful move hurt your enemy while supplying you with satisfying effects, sound and points can be very fun.

Best Indie Game - Toribash Screenshot

There is a huge Toribash online community. Mods, Clans, Dance Troupes, Tutorials, Tutors and Tournaments, its all there. There is also a huge Youtube community, showcasing videos kicks perfected to the inch, capable of taking off the enemy’s head in one strike. Some people get so good at this game, there is an example of one of two players kicking his own head off, then passing the “ball” to the other. This goes on for a couple of passes until the headless figure dies.

Overall, Toribash is a a very deep and good fighting game once you are accustomed and used to the controls, but that may take a while. The graphics aren’t much to speak of, and sounds are nearly non-existant, but the game is free and the gameplay can get very fun.

 

tl;dr: Toribash is a great fighting game, although the learning curve is steep, and it seems that the amount of players is starting to decline.


 

Toribash

6/10