Features & News

End of Year 2014: Best Indie Game

December 24, 2014, Author: The TIMJ Team

Welcome to the eighth of eleven daily ‘End of Year’ pieces from TIMJ, where in each, we discuss our favourite things of 2014 from carefully selected categories.

Next up is ‘Best Indie Game’. Which new Indie games impressed the most this year?

Dan Moore (Staff Writer) – OlliOlli

OlliOlli on the Vita. One of my best gaming memories ever was playing Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3 with my best friend, but a glitch caused Mr Hawk to get stuck in the ceiling after we turned on moon physics. We could still do tricks and my friend managed to land a combo that netted him well over 3 million points, and so my love of skating games was cemented.

Unfortunately, the Tony Hawk games fell out of favour and the last couple have really sucked, but I kept hearing good things about this side-scrolling skateboarding game on the vita, so I picked it up and boy was it fantastic! OlliOlli has that same kind of addictive nature that the early Pro Skater games had, with fantastic progression and the easy to learn, tough to master trick system that makes the best of these games worthwhile.

You might think it being side-scrolling limits what you can do, but that is so wrong; you still have so many options and trying to pull off the tricks required to get the best scores gives you plenty of opportunities to be creative. Yeah, the levels can look kinda similar, but getting through in one go, hitting all the challenges is so satisfying it is untrue.

Runners Up: Shovel Knight, The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth

Andy Buick (Features Editor) – Velocity 2X

Velocity 2X is a banner title for showing what a small team can achieve. It has everything; great looks, audio, controls, gameplay and, even more importantly, it has the just-one-more-go factor. Once I’d picked it up, I didn’t play anything else until I’d finished it. An utterly brilliant title, and one of many reasons indie games should never be dismissed.

Runners Up: Dust: An Elysian Tail, Towerfall Ascension

Andy Corrigan (Editor In Chief) – Luftrausers

If you’d have said to me a few years ago that my favourite games in the air combat and skating genres were going to be 2D, pixel drawn games, I’d have thought you to be crazy. Yet, here we are in 2014, with OlliOlli as my go-to skater, and Luftrausers offering my favourite dogfighting experience.

Luftrausers takes the accolades here, though, with its pulsating, rhythmic shooting action that’s not only had me mesmerised for hours on end, but equally has become my first choice when I have just a few minutes to kill here and there. That rising, electro soundtrack too is a sublime accompaniment. Brilliant stuff from Vlambeer.

Runners Up: OlliOlli, Surgeon Simulator: A&E Anniversary Edition

Jonn Blanchard (Staff Writer) – Shovel Knight

A lot of indie games seem to be built to capture the look of the games from my youth, but very few capture the feel, but one that has achieved that more than any other is Shovel Knight.

At first glance you’d take it for a Mario clone but, after playing for a while, you quickly realise that each screen is, in fact, its own distinctive puzzle. As you progress, these puzzles quickly ramp up in difficulty, making for a true challenge in some of the later levels.

The art style is very retro, but it has some pretty imaginative touches and a massive variety of bad guys, each with their own unique art. There are some great comic touches in the animation, especially on boss characters and it mixes well with the light-hearted dialogue and storyline.

There are some minor RPG elements, such as armour upgrades but, for the most part, this is a simple puzzle platformer and if you enjoy a challenge it’s well worth picking up.

Runners Up: Five Nights at Freddy’s, Road Not Taken

James Sheppard (Reviews Editor) – OlliOlli

One of the strengths of many indie devs is how their budgets don’t allow for overblown games packed with too much bloat. This is evident with OlliOlli, a 2D skateboarding sim that features minute-long levels and simple, yet well-tuned controls. No fluff, no gimmicks, just tight and responsive mechanics, high scores and challenges to beat, and a powerful ‘one more go’ hook. That’s why it gets my vote for indie game of 2014, and considering that it’s going to be on practically every current gaming platform by early 2015, there’s no excuse not to pick this one up.

The mentality of slick controls and focused, fast-paced gameplay also are championed by my runners up: the local multiplayer gem Towerfall Ascension, and the brain-melting Velocity 2X.

Runners Up: Velocity 2X, Towerfall Ascension

Jasper Pickering (Staff Writer) – Transistor

Transistor was an incredible joy to play for the best and worst reasons; it had a fantastic blend of real-time and strategic combat that meant quick, reflexive button presses along with well timed strikes.

I have talked about the aesthetic brilliance and the soundtrack with great praise before and it would be a cruel, sick joke not to bring it up here as well. The two compliment each other perfectly, bringing a deep atmosphere to the setting with minimal use of voice-over, meaning less obnoxious exposition.

The whole experience is just a wonderful example of strong storytelling and acts as a spiritual successor to the equally brilliant Bastion, which deals with similar themes of world-breaking and the need for rebuilding of said-world.

Runners Up: Never Alone, The Wolf Among Us

Matt Best (Staff Writer) – The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth

The list of worthy indie titles continues to grow, and choosing a stand out is difficult. At the top of the list, for me, is The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, a heartwarming tale of a young boy who runs to the basement to escape from his homicidal God-fearing mother.

The twin-stick dungeon crawler pits you against a number of various and well-imagined foes as you crawl from dungeon to dungeon, using primarily your tears as weapons.

This is a very accessible game that you can pick up and play, even if you’re not so sure as to why. The basements are randomly generated, with a variety of power ups available to aid you in your quest.

It’s gross, fun, and addictive: three things that appeal to me in a game. So it gets my vote.

Runners Up: Counterspy, Five Nights at Freddy’s

Matt Parker (News Editor) – Jazzpunk

As I couldn’t pinpoint a single character in Jazzpunk, it’s handy that I can now give Jazzpunk its dues with this nomination.

Jazzpunk is an example of just what happens when indie-games don’t have large budgets to recoup. Jazzpunk shows that you can appeal to a small section of people and you can appeal to them greatly.

A comedy game set in 1950’s Japan (I think) where the Cold War (I think) is being waged, you play as a secret agent (I think) who does a whole bunch of… things? A real tough one to explain and it’ll no doubt have many people complaining that it’s ‘not a game’, but for those of you who ‘get it’, you’re in for a treat.

A combination of ‘Naked Gun‘, ‘Blade Runner‘ and ‘30 Flights of Loving‘, Jazzpunk is unlike anything else.

Runners Up: The Banner Saga, Rebuild