Sep 17, 2013

Boston Festival of Indie Games- Game Reviews

I'll be the first to admit, I'm a geek.  I'm the third generation in my family to work with computers (do the math, that's actually rather impressive), I was raised on Star Trek and Doctor Who, and currently own at least 10 working game systems (including the computer and ipad).  My first video game that I remember was Logo, and the first time I stayed up until midnight on New Years was thanks to Buck Rogers, on Atari. And as I spent way too much time with video games over the weekend, I thought that I'd share.

Boston Festival of Indie Games

The second indie games festival was this weekend at MIT. Last year it was scattered in a couple of different classrooms, and people were packed into those rooms like sardines.  The odor was... impressive.  There were some games for the computer, but there were also a lot for phones and tablets.  I found two that were really unique, and later picked them up for my ipod touch.  Girls Like Robots, and Agent Higgs.

This year they had much more space, so it was a lot easier to get a look at the games on display. To a certain extent it was much less a con, and more a live action kickstarter event. Many games were in various levels of completion, but usually at a point where they could be tried out. I am not a stickler for top of the line graphics, especially for a game on a phone; however, if you want me to pay attention to your demo, at least have something that would be appealing to look at while I'm playing it. And if graphics is what your kickstarter is going to fund, at least have a static image of what you want the game to look like in the end. While I played a lot of games in the 80's, and still have a great love for some of them, it is a really hard sell to convince me to play something that looks like Space Invaders now. After the festival, there were three games that I was intrigued enough to actually download.


 If you ever played lemmings, this is a similar idea. You have 5 little cartoon guys to get from point A to point B. Unfortunately, they are not too bright. They will just walk off of cliffs, into water, probably straight into the jaws of a hungry Tyrannosaurus rex if you let them (note: I have not yet seen any dinosaurs in the game). So your job is to use tools to guide them from A to B, using tools like fire (to make them jump), fountains (to survive a fall), etc. On top of that, there are stars to collect to get a perfect level.

The game manages to balance cute without making you feel too badly if one of your little guys dies. I adored Pikmin as a game, but could never finish it. The Pikmin were just too cute, and I felt horrible when they got eaten, or worse, left behind. Wobbles are plenty cute, and their sound effects are well done, but I wouldn't worry about creating emotional attachments to them. The $1-$2 price range on this seems about right. It isn't a game that will change your life, but it can definitely fill up a few entertaining bus rides. It is available on Android and iOS.

Color Zen

The concept behind Color Zen isn't groundbreaking either. It is a color based puzzle game in a similar vein as Globs, one of my favorites. By matching colors, you change the color of the background. The goal of the game is to finish up with a solid block of color. It starts out really easy, and some of the levels do get rather challenging later on. It is a good thing that the basic game is free, because I have some issues with it. The game seems to have come out of the 90's. There are a lot of glaring neon colors, and the soundtrack seems to have been created on an old synthesizer.  Conveniently, one of those things can be corrected, by playing the game on mute. Unfortunately, I don't think that buying the extra levels would get rid of ads. As much as this was a neat concept, I would have to recommend giving it a pass. It is available on iOS and android.

Pombie Zong

Pongie Zong is a single player pong game with a rotating saw blade as the ball, and you use those saw blades to kill zombies. It's a pretty standard brick breaking type game, where you can unlock bonuses such as having more than one saw blade at a time, and there are toughier zombies that require multiple hits to kill. If you have a few minutes to kill and are looking for a quick twitch game, this is a solid contender.

I do have two issues with it though. First, the name was virtually impossible for me to remember. I remembered that it was a play on zombie pong, but I couldn't remember what. Yes, this may just be me, but I never consider myself that special. If you're a small name company, and people can't remember the name of your game, you will run into problems.

Secondly, zombies? Really? Zombies are currently a bit overdone. This game could have easily been gophers (even mutant evil gophers if you wanted to appease animal rights groups), and still would have the same appeal. If you have a game where you are protecting your lawn from zombies, sorry, it's kind of a thing. Honestly, I could see this as a mini game in Plants vs. Zombies. Of course, as this game is only available on android, it could always fill your need for zombie death while waiting for popcap to release plants vs. zombies 2 on anything other than iOS.

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