Adelaide’s annual anime and video game convention, better known as AVCon, took place over last weekend.
One of the highlights each year is the Indie Games Room (IGR), where developers from all over the country travel to showcase their work. Here’s some of the standouts from this year’s offering. Let us know if you found any hidden gems at AVCon this year!
Developer: Juicy Cupcake
Platform: Steam/Xbox One
Release Date: Q1 2018
Brief Battles allows players to replicate the great Aussie tradition of running around like a headless chook, in little more than their underwear. The 2D brawler captures much of the manic mayhem seen in games like the Smash Bros. series, and adds in a sprinkling of Super Meat Boy platforming. The self-proclaimed butt-em-up sees up to four players running around in their tighty-whities, collecting underwear power-ups and butt-slamming each other into oblivion. Not unlike a standard night on Hindley Street.
The goofy 3D character models and vibrant stages make for a nice visual variety, with stages offering more than cosmetic differences to the action – the ice-themed level will be the bane of many, with its slippery surfaces yielding many a mistimed jump. Running up walls and performing precisely-timed double-jumps to knock out an unsuspecting opponent felt wonderfully responsive. In addition to the multiplayer, there will be a single-player mode which will focus on completing challenges, offering an extra bit of shelf life to what promises to be a killer party title.
Molemen Must Die
Release Date: Out now
An endless-roguelike where the aim is to deliver an explosive to the centre of the earth. Why? The President got pied in the face by one of the underground-dwelling Molemen, and the natural response is to bomb the earth’s core, presumably destroying the entire planet in the process. It’s not all that absurd a premise, considering the current global political climate. Latching onto the “one more try” loop, Molemen Must Die features 2D shooting action, with players trying to keep the Molemen off the payload for as long as possible, aiming for high scores along the way.
After each run, a modifier will apply to the next game, changing the gameplay in both superficial and tangible ways. For example, modifiers include powered-up weapons, or huge Molemen, or potentially a difficulty modifier which will make the next run insanely hard. Up to three modifiers can stack at one time, with the oldest one dropping off to allow room for whatever the next modifier may be. Simple, yet challenging, Molemen Must Die is perfect for short bursts of play and high-score fiends.
Fun fact: the developer estimates that a player would have to play a single run for the equivalent of six years without dying in order for the game to crash, the only possible way to reach the “end” of the game. That would be one hell of a Twitch stream.
The Adventure Pals
Developer: Massive Monster
Platform: PC, with plans for console release
Release Date: January 2018
A gorgeous 2D platformer with easily the most charming art design of this year’s IGR offering. Reminiscent of the whimsical nature of popular TV series Adventure Time, The Adventure Pals stars a young boy and his lanky giraffe best friend. I loved my time with the game and its beautiful world, delightfully silly writing, and sharp platforming. The public build available to AVCon attendees featured a smattering of hack-and-slash combat, but when I asked about the platforming-to-combat ratio, the developers showed me the latest build which had not yet been fully debugged (hence why it was not the public build), where the combat was almost done away with entirely in favour of the platforming mechanics. This is a great decision from the developers, playing to the strong platforming mechanics of wall-jumping and navigating various enemies.
In between levels, there are NPCs to talk to and small villages to explore which were utterly adorable. The Adventure Pals would make for a fantastic platformer aimed at younger players. Depending on how challenging the later levels are, the game may also be an enjoyable romp for the older players too – especially considering the subtle adult humour and the ability to play co-op with a friend.
Release Date: 2018
Beautiful inter-planetary exploration sums up Exo One – and my-oh-my is it quite the incredible experience. Controlling a malleable spherical drone with the ability to glide and manipulate gravity to build up momentum, Exo One weaves a mysterious narrative of exploring desolate interstellar landscapes. It looks incredible; the stunning vistas stylised by a film-grain filter, and the complex, ethereal soundscape makes for an experience quite like no other game I’ve laid hands on.
Controlling the drone feels fantastic – I am incapable of articulating it any better than Rock Paper Shotgun’s “brilliant, desolate 3D Tiny Wings” description. Building up speed down slopes to launch the drone high into the air generates a thrilling sense of speed. Exo One must be experienced hands-on – no amount of video trailers, let’s plays, or streaming can adequately replicate the sense of wonder and sheer scale offered by this genuine work of art.
Release Date: July 2018
This hexagonal turn-based puzzler cleverly explores the relationship between mankind and nature in a way that makes more sense the more you play. The player controls an impish creature named Pan, who represents humanity. Pan must build trust with a non-playable spirit, who represents nature, to the end of each puzzle. The trick with Monandock is that each character takes turns in moving to one adjacent tile, where each tile represents an element. Pan may move to any tile, but the spirit will move to whichever elemental tile it desires, based on the wheel shown in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen. It will cycle through this wheel until it finds a tile it can navigate to.
Pan can build up trust points by navigating to the same elemental tile as the spirit. These points can be spent on influencing the spirit to move to an elemental tile of Pan’s choosing, which is necessary in order to navigate both characters to the goal simultaneously. The playable build featured a range of different puzzles with varying levels of difficulty – all of which felt immensely satisfying to complete. At release, Monadnock will feature some form of a narrative mode in addition to the ability to free-play puzzles. Often challenging, but always satisfyingly logical, Monadnock is an Aussie puzzler worth looking out for.
Think of the Children
Developer: Jammed Up Studios
Platform: PC, Xbox One
Release Date: Q3 2017
Combining the gameplay of Overcooked and the visual style of Crossy Road, Think of the Children is a multiplayer parenting-simulator where the aim is to complete mundane parenting tasks while preventing your kids from putting themselves in harm’s way and winding up dead. Wonderfully morbid.
The scenarios on show included a camping trip, grocery shopping, and the perilous beach visit. The ridiculousness of the concept made for guaranteed hilarity; the camping trip saw the player-controlled parents rushing around trying to pitch a tent, while one of the NPC kids was swimming like a rock at the bottom of the nearby lake – cue the parents dashing over frantically to yank him out of the water. Yet another solid-looking party game coming out soon.
Developer: Games of Edan
Release Date: Soon 2017
Giving an entirely new meaning to run-and-gun, ICEBOX: Speedgunner is a first-person shooter designed for speed, speed, and more speed. Heavily inspired by the Tron universe, and at times feeling like Superhot, the Adelaide-based creation is an absolute speedrunner’s dream. I played an early build of the game last year, which imbued a great representation of speed and precision required for its platforming sections, but ICEBOX has cranked the action up yet another notch with its near-release build.
Filled to the brim with various abilities designed to empower the player while blazing through the levels, ICEBOX is one of those games that looks relatively unassuming on the surface, but the actual feeling of playing is incredible. Over the last year, I have taken a liking to games that offer opportunities to achieve a Zen-like state of flow, such as Furi and the recent Nex Machina. These games are delicately precise and force the player to always keep moving. ICEBOX is shaping up to be that next game, with an invitation to challenge its brilliant level design, followed by a binding contract of obsession to beat one’s best times.
Developer: Toybox Game Studios
Platform: PC/exploring console
Release Date: “When it’s finished”
Primordials: Fireborn was one of my favourites at AVCon this year. Captivated by its extraordinarily lush environments, I was further impressed by the quality of its platforming elements. All of this was even more incredible considering what was shown was in pre-alpha. Pre-alpha, for goodness sake, and it looked incredible.
Controlling the phoenix-like protagonist, Ash, I spent most of my time exploring the beautiful environment, running in and out of shadows purely to admire the phenomenal work the artists have done in designing the lighting and textures. If you hadn’t already noticed, I believe Fireborn is shaping up to be a wonderful-looking game. Billed as a third-person action-platformer, navigating the shown level left me salivating for more. Jumping from ledge to ledge felt natural and never was I frustrated with the movement mechanics. Every mistimed jump felt entirely my own fault, which was brilliant. There was limited combat on display, which is currently in very early stages, but this well and truly took a back-seat to the seamless movement and stunning world this Melbourne-based team has created.
Considering Toybox Game Studios has worked on Fireborn for one day a week for the last year, and was only publicly announced last month, we won’t be seeing a release for a while. Be sure to keep an eye out for these guys come PAX Aus later this year.