Insomnia | James' Top Indie Picks | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Insomnia | James’ Top Indie Picks

James Law tells us of his top indie picks from Insomnia 2018

Insomnia 62 was my first time at a big games convention. I had no idea what to expect. From esports to new releases to a LOT of merch, I certainly had my hands full, and I wish I could’ve stuck around a bit longer after the curtains drew and stayed until the event came to an end.

The place I spend most of my time was the Indie Zone. Landmarked by giant tentacles emerging from the ground, and hosting buzzing crowds of excited, passionate individuals, this is where the wonderful side of gaming comes out. Creators following their dreams, getting ideas in their heads, realising how outrageously hard game-making is, and working through the plethora of problems they encounter with hard work and camaraderie. All of that work to get a space at events like this and show off what you’ve made. It’s hard to choose, but here are my three indie picks featured at Insomnia 62.

Super Rude Bear Resurrection 

I’m not a 2D platformers guy. My co-ordination just seems like it isn’t set up for it. I misread situations and mistime jumps, and it often leaves me frustrated. I can see the appeal of the likes of Super Meat Boy, but I’m too unskilled to fully enjoy them myself. Not so for Super Rude Bear Resurrection. Developed by Alex Rose, you play as the titular bear, and must navigate a series of gruelling, savage stages littered with spikes, enemies, and various other hazards. On the surface, it looks like a simple, well-crafted, tough adventure, that punishes incompetence and rewards skill in equal measure.

An ingenious mechanic elevates Rude Bear from this to a game that somehow appeals to casual and hardcore audiences alike. When you die in-game, the corpse of your fallen ursine protagonist remains at the spot of the incident. For example, the many times I mistimed a jump and ended up splattering my bear-guts all over some spikes, my dead body gave me safe passage on those particular spikes, allowing the player to never make the same mistake repeatedly; something that often happens in tough platformers.

Often in platformers, one specific thing will block me from being able to access and enjoy the rest of the level, leaving me frustrated and ultimately giving up. This subtle feature means that every time you respawn, you’re accomplishing something. Maybe you get past the obstacles in your way, maybe you don’t, but you’re always getting better at the game, rather than throwing yourself at the same thing over and over to no avail. This meant that for me, every moment of Super Rude Bear Resurrection was a satisfying one.

That’s not to say that hardcore platformer lovers will be babysat through the experienced in this way. If you’re actually good at games, unlike myself, you can demolish all of your corpses whenever you want with the help of your mouthy fairy companion. Alex Rose demonstrated some absolutely nutty play. He seemed to enjoy showing off his ability to easily and smoothly breeze through his levels, asking the Redbrick team to name a level before smashing it without dying once. So, don’t worry about this game failing to challenge you – it’s as unforgiving as you want it to be.

Also, it’s already out on Steam, Xbox One and PS4.

Honey, I Joined a Cult

Join us. Redbrick Gaming has started a cult. Assimilate. Become a Roshni.

Sole Survivor Games are making it possible to make and customise your own 1970s-style cult. Lovingly named for Redbrick Gaming’s Supreme Leader and editorial stalwart Roshni Patel, we all want to be more like Roshni. What better way to do this than build ourselves some hypnosis chambers, churches, a marketing department and indoctrinate everyone into our way of life?

This game plays a lot like Prison Architect, but rather than an instrument of incarceration, you run an institution of freedom and glory (this is sarcasm, I am actually against the practices simulated in this game). It’s fun as hell to put your own inside jokes into the game, and watch your very own deviant religious entity grow, both in faith and in funds.

It’s still early on in development, so I’m really excited to see what more the developers will add. Given that our cult was Redbrick-focused, I obviously made the floors blue, to make new members immediately begin questioning their sanity (I also do not condone gaslighting, it is incredibly toxic in every way and has no place outside of a light-hearted jab at 1970s cultist activity). There’s so much customisation available already though, and we can only expect more cool stuff to come from Sole Survivor’s first development outing.

The Third Spectrum

This game drove me to the edge of tears. It isn’t an emotional journey. Nor does it touch on pressing personal issues that I face. No, The Third Spectrum masterfully dangled triumph in front of my face before yanking it away brutally.

I started playing with no help from the developers, Rattlesnake Studios, who seemed content to watch me get to grips with what on earth is going on alone. In fairness, the concept was one I wasn’t familiar with, but one I could easily understand. Left click to move the platforms, right click to change ‘dimensions’, revealing and removing parts of the world instantaneously. Move around and jump to find the collectables, and complete the levels. It’s a 3D puzzle platformer that rewards planning ahead along with careful actions. Its minimalist aesthetic is pleasing and relaxing; it really compliments the mechanics of the game. Each dimension changes the colour of the world, meaning you know exactly what you’re doing without having to look at any sort of HUD, and the platforms are distinct shapes, so you know what impact each click will have.

Insomnia

The demo levels that I played were testing, but not in a way that frustrated me with the game. Rather, they frustrated me with my own ability, which in turn made me want to get better. I took several tries to finally pull through the challenges the game presented me with, becoming increasingly animated as time went on, as my fellow editors can testify. All this made my final completion of the levels all the more satisfying, though, and I was constantly improving with each try, getting ever closer to success. The challenges were all doable - I just needed to focus. Once I had got the hang of the control scheme, I was able to breathe a sigh of relief, and Laura and Eliot of Rattlesnake seemed satisfied with my reaction.

I think this challenge appealed to me because the difficulty was intellectual as well as mechanical, with a level of both competencies being required to progress. It’s right up my street, and I look forward to more from this Huddersfield-based studio. Their first title is looking like a winner.

Overall, Insomnia was brilliant. The indie zone had so many great individuals who were happy to talk about their amazing work and exciting plans for the future. I’m excited to go to more events like this and keep writing about the awesome new ideas coming up through the ranks of independent creators. Such an inspiring, fun group of people. For more indies, check out Roshni and Emma's top picks from Insomnia 62.

smooth, like ice, cold to the touch and it isn't very nice (@jamesmaclaw)



Published

13th April 2018 at 9:00 am



Images from

The Pro Gamer, Alex Rose Games, Game Maker Community, James Lawson/iEventMedia and



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