Every E3 comes and goes making huge waves with some of gamers' most anticipated titles, but if there's one scene in gaming flourishing brighter than ever before, it's independent game development. This year several of us from Gamnesia had the opportunity to play a wide variety of indie games on the show floor, and four of us decided to come together to highlight our personal favorite games from E3 2016. Head inside to read all about them!
Theo Schultz: Below
Below is a challenging, no hand-holding top-down exploration game with minimal to no direction. Not unlike the original Legend of Zelda, you start off into a world with no explanation of who you are or what you're supposed to do, just that have a trusty sword in hand and there's a cliff-side and a cave to scale or dive into as you choose. Regardless of the route you choose, the call of the unknown beckons, with items, creatures, and secrets to be discovered around every turn.
Outside of the reward of delving further and further into the depths of Below, the game has a simple yet fun crafting system to put to use all the collectibles you find along the way. As with many games, there are only a finite number of item slots, so finding combinations of common items can yield much more useful items such as torches and bandages. And you'll find that you will need them, as there are many ways to die in Below. Not only does one need to watch their overall health, but you can just as easily die of starvation, dehydration, or bleeding to death unless you can figure out a solution.
The challenge combined the allure of the unknown and the beautiful and simple art style make Below a very memorable title from both E3 2015 and 2016. Below launches on PC and Xbox One as a limited-time console exclusive later this summer, 2016.
Colin McIsaac: Chambara
Chambara is a high-contrast action game which pits up to four players against one another for short bouts of stealthy, close-range combat. Inspired by the eponymous category of black-and-white samurai films, Chambara primarily features harsh black-and-white tones. It's a design choice that makes players completely disappear when viewed from some angles, yet leaves them totally conspicuous from others.
In Chambara you control samurai birds, who can then don various kinds of silly hats and swords to create a goofy and unique look. The fun customization is then capped off by the choice between stars, feathers, cartoon whales (the logo of developer "team ok"), and more, which your character explodes into upon each death and remain as colorful battlefield decorations until the end of the match.
I spent about thirty minutes playing several matches of Chambara against a number of opponents on the show floor, and though I found the combat slightly confusing at first, it only took a few games for everything to click—and then it was hard to pull myself away. It's rare to see a game whose art design plays such an influential role in the dynamics of its gameplay, but Chambara is a fun and fascinating fusion of sophisticated aesthetics and sheer bird-on-bird violence that will give you and your friends hours of multiplayer fun.
Chambara launches on July 26th for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
Jackson Murphy: Linelight
Forget the two-dimensional platformer you know. Forget about jumps, environments, characters, and short cuts. Hell, forget about platforms. Linelight strips the genre of those expected features, placing players in the role of a bright white line and setting them on a fixed pathway with limited mobility. And, just like that, it becomes a puzzle game.
Created by a one-man team, Linelight represents a break-out moment for developer Brett Taylor, both formally and professionally. It features many of the hallmarks of a first solo project: an unassuming style, an estimated amount of content under ten hours, and a somewhat saccharine soundtrack. But even though Taylor sets limits for himself with the game's minimalistic presentation, he sticks to the confines of his formula and mines surprising complexity from it.
The game introduces new mechanics, such as red enemy lines and multiple keys, with a gentle guiding hand. Most of the puzzles can be solved within seconds if the player knows what they are doing, but the game is anything but easy. While playing the demo, I became stumped multiple times and had to fiddle around for a few minutes before I cracked a smile as everything clicked into place. From moment to moment, Linelight is a fountain of Eureka moments. The psychological rush of sudden understanding is the quintessential component of the puzzle genre. Brett Taylor has seemingly constructed a game that is entirely focused on that rush. What it lacks in intricacy, it more than makes up for in elemental perfection.
Marcin Gulik: Inversus
One indie title that caught my attention was a little minimalist action-strategy shooter called Inversus. You play as a domino-like block and your movements are constrained to the opposite colors of a black and white grid. Your tiny block shoots lasers that can flips your opponent's tiles in order to trap and obliterate them from the face of the map.
I played Inversus near the end of the second day of E3 with fellow Gamnesia writer Jackson Murphy, and we both agreed that it was fun and addicting. We mainly played the 2 v 2 mode against some fellow exhausted E3-goers, and the game immediately sucks you in to its simplistic yet addictive gameplay. Matches are fast-paced and could end in the blink of an eye, and we ended up playing a total of 15 rounds before we called it quits. Inversus has a bunch of maps that you can choose from after the match ends, and each grid delivers a unique challenge to avoid getting evaporated by your opponent. Inversus is scheduled to be released on Steam and PS4 this year, and I'll definitely be downloading it on day one.