The (Near) Infinite Indie Information Inquiry Index

Assignment: an (assuredly assonance-heavy) assembly that assiduously assimilates all my Indie game assessments, to the assumptive assistance of my Giant Bomb associates.

Yes, I realize that sounds like a lot of ass, but I simply figure that after playing so many of these smaller independent games over the past few years - due to blog features and my own worrisome frugality - I might be able to help folks with purchasing decisions the same way I (sorta?) did with the previous PC game and JRPG lists, should a big Steam sale or bundle happen by. I reckon after you pass a hundred games, you're probably an expert. Or is the rule that you have spend 10,000 hours doing something? I bet I'm close enough to that by now too.

For the time being I'm avoiding freeware and browser stuff, or else this thing really will be infinitely big. Also, since I'm not allowed to order any list with over a hundred items on it, you're on your own trying to find a specific game. Chances are, it won't be on there yet: Gabe only knows I've still got plenty left to see (and recommendations are always welcome).

Eh, I'll throw in some five word summaries and a rudimentary rating system too. I'm full of surprises today:

  • 3 = Get it. S'great.
  • 2 = Fine if you're into the genre. Maybe worth a shot if you aren't.
  • 1 = Pfeh. (NB: Most linguistic studies agree that "pfeh" is not an encouraging noise.)

List items

  • "Match-3 Fedora Endless Runner Fedora." Addictive, but not particularly substantial. 2.

  • "It's-a me! Moon-io! (Puzzle Platformer)." Short but sweet, but not that sweet. 2.

  • "People liked Contra, right? (Shooter)." Probably a faithful homage to 8-bit run and guns. I didn't really care for it. 1.

  • "Look at objects, get sad." Interactive tribute to Japanese tsunami victims. Earnest but threadbare. 2.

  • "Suspenseful horror exploration. Lamprey dudes." Amnesia's probably the benchmark for Indie horror games. Might even out-terrify Fatal Frame and Silent Hill. 3.

  • "Deductive visual novel. Tsundere waifus?" A visual novel with some intelligent writing, somehow makes reading database entries fun. 3.

  • "Gravity-turning sketchbook platformer. 'Squoitch'." Neat idea, in practice was a bit too annoying and arbitrary. 1.

  • "Nostalgic topdown adventure Zelda thing?" Anodyne's curious for a great many reasons, but the core gameplay is solid and pleasingly familiar. 3.

  • "Disorienting first-person puzzle headscratcher." Antichamber can leave you confused and really sick of cubes, but there's very few games this intelligent out there. 3.

  • "Underwater SpaceWhipper, musical and beautiful." Deeply atmospheric, one of the earliest big Indie SpaceWhippers and still among the best. 3.

  • "Technical, mechanical run-and-gun." ARES might be rewarding for those who wish to dedicate themselves to its fun Metal Slug/Mega Man type shooter gameplay, but it's probably not compelling enough. 2.

  • "Only XBLA Diablo pre-Torchlight" Like the blurb says, this was the only option for people who like those loot-grindy RPGs. After Torchlight (and Diablo 3), it became utterly moot. 2.

  • "Klax, but powered by music!" I love the idea of Audiosurf, and in general games that build on the user's mp3 library, but I wasn't really into its frantic block-piling gameplay. 2.

  • "Shallow but lengthy strategy RPG." Avadon's one of many strategy RPGs from Spiderweb. It's substantial in size, but the core mechanics don't ever seem to evolve much. 2.

  • "Psychedelic shooter. The colors, children!" One of many of these kaleidoscopic shooters that appeared in the wake of Geometry Wars. Fun enough, but limited shelf life. 2.

  • "Entomological strategy role playing game." Band of Bugs is a very rudimentary SRPG. Thankfully, that niche has far better representation these days. 1.

  • "Utterly insane basketball parody thing." There aren't many RPGMaker games out there that are required playing, but this is one of them. (I know it's a free game, and thus beyond the scope of this list, but it's still worth noting.) 3.

  • "Edmund McMillen's early efforts, collected." Some neat history lessons here for Binding/Super Meat Boy fans, though the games themselves are hit and miss. 2.

  • "Basketball adventure game. Quite unpredictable." BasketBelle is essentially a game where you play basketball against monstrous opponents (no, it's not Space Jam. You want Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden, above). Goes some interesting places. 2.

  • "Isometric, atmospheric, eccentric action RPG." Bastion's got a great sense of style and some amazing presentation chops. The shooty/stabby action RPG gameplay part is fine too, but not the highlight. 3.

  • "Music-derived pyrotechnic-heavy shmup." Like Audiosurf, I like any game that takes the step to include the user's music library in the fun, but the fun had better be there in the first place. Beat Hazard's a bit too random and bewildering to play effectively. 2.

  • "Ramshackle comedic point-and-click." It's a bit rough in spots, and very short, but it's an amusing point and click from the School of LucasArts. Worth playing as it sets up its superior sequel, Time Gentlemen, Please! 2.

  • "Adventure. Not 'Wolf Among Us'." Big Brain Wolf's one of these Layton/Puzzle Agent types where the inventory puzzles have been mostly replaced with Mensa type set-ups. It's all right for what it is. 2.

  • "Deranged randomized Zelda-ish dungeon crawl." Binding of Isaac is one of the best procedurally generated games on the market, due to its tight controls, macabre presentation and an always potentially devastating element of chance. 3.

  • "Pong, but with more drops." Bit.Trip Beat is the first game of that particular series, and is a fun, simple game to acclimatize oneself to that electro-heavy franchise. It's not easy, though. 2.

  • "Addictive on-rails musical platformer." Bit Trip Runner's one of those games that rewards patience, because once you're in its groove and trouncing difficult jumping sequences to the beat, there's nothing quite like it. 3.

  • "Increasingly frustrating tetramino puzzle-platformer." Blocks That Matter starts strong, but further levels ramp up the amount of precision platforming/block-making and doesn't checkpoint whatsoever. Wears out its welcome way too fast. 2.

  • "Mechanically-augmented platformer. Bit buggy." I didn't think much of it at the time, but perhaps it demands a bit more patience. One of those games like Doc Clock (or Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts) where there's puzzles to be solved with logical vehicle-building skills. 2.

  • "Chronologically-confused watercolor melancholy platformer." Braid's quite something. Never afraid to pull its punches with its diabolical set-ups. Puzzle-platformers are kind of done these days, but Braid's still the granddaddy. 3.

  • "BreakOut / Arkanoid, but with complications." BreakQuest isn't too exciting, but great if you miss the days when "bat and ball" was a populous genre. 2.

  • "Amusing undead RPG." Zeboyd's first JRPG homage/parody. It's a bit rough, but an early example of their smart approach to a modernized 16-bit console RPG. Good, but later games are better. 2.

  • "Stunning, adorable two-parter adventure." Broken Age made waves as the first big Kickstarter success, and the first part is already living up to most of that hype. Bit simple, but very pleasant. 3.

  • "Beautiful, sad co-operative puzzle adventure." Brothers' story tugs at the heartstrings early and often, but at its core is a flawed but interesting simultaneous co-operative game. 2.

  • "Alien-stomping run and gun." Capsized kind of looks like it might be a cool SpaceWhipper, but it's really more of an old-school open-area run-and-gun of the Turrican archetype. Not particularly compelling. 1.

  • "Eccentric (understatement) puzzle construction game." Cargo!'s got something of a reputation due to its special brand of unpredictable insanity, but its Nuts and Bolts ship-building core gameplay is surprisingly solid and straightforward. 2.

  • "SpaceWhipper run and gun. Cute." Cave Story's famous for its catchy tunes, its cutesy pixellated art style and its many little secrets. It's a bit too linear and arbitrary for me though. 2.

  • "Crushingly hard RPG." Don't let Chantelise's cute anime looks fool you; it's quite challenging early on, and doesn't really let up once you've got the hang of its combat and magic systems. One of those "see how far you get, learn from your death and get a little further next time" affairs. 2.

  • "Tetris style musical grid puzzler." Chime's a bit too short, but it's usually sold for an exceptionally low price. Create squares as quickly as they're cleared by screen sweeps that appear in tune with the music. Hard to describe, easy to comprehend. It's Indie Lumines, if you'd prefer. 2.

  • "Macabre horror point and clicks." The Chzo Mythos, a series of four or five games based on the same setting, is an increasingly off-kilter series about a gentleman thief and horrific monsters both earthly and unearthly. (Also free, but also worthwhile.) 3.

  • "Cute, rudimentary trick-and-treater." Costume Quest is a bit too lightweight to be much fun for long, but then it's not particularly long either. Enjoy it for the breezy experience that it is. 2.

  • "Dice-rolling Matsuno strategy throwback." A Level-5 game probably stretches the definition of "Indie" (they own a sports stadium, so they're very much in the big leagues) but Crimson Shroud, from strategy RPG master Yasumi Matsuno, is a solid but brief little RPG that homages the table-top world of miniatures and dice as well as Matsuno's earlier Vagrant Story in graphics and tone. 3.

  • "Lovecraftian JRPG." Zeboyd's second game is either more or less amusing than their first, Breath of Death VII, but the many advancements to their modern interpretation of a 16-bit JRPG make it a bit more playable. 3.

  • "Zombie-zappin' procedurally generated shooter." Dead Pixels puts you at the mercy of a horde of undead as well as a random number generator. Stores and derelict buildings might have what you need, might not. Graphical style shamelessly rips off Mega Man. 2.

  • "Deeply strategic global thermonuclear war." DEFCON is someone's answer to how the titular "game" of WarGames might actually play. Nuke nations while avoiding your own mutually-assured doom. 80s paranoia made into a fun (if evil) strategy game. 2.

  • "Dwarven ingenuity meets competitive insidiousness." Delve Deeper is a competitive multiplayer game that builds on those mining resource games, where the goal is to accumulate more wealth than your opponents from the bountiful earth. It's when you break into each other's territory that it starts getting malevolent. 3.

  • "Guild-focused Diablo hack-slasher." Adding AI guilds to compete against in an isometric action RPG sounds like a good idea, except they're often beating you to quests you need to complete before you have the experience and gold required to compete with them. Highly frustrating. 1.

  • "Spelunker-derived platformer also-ran." Like Spelunky, it's a procedurally generated platformer filled with traps and treasure. Unlike Spelunky, it's kind of awful to play and not nearly as well thought out. 1.

  • "Adventure game and elaborate joke." DLC Quest frames its progression mechanics as purchasable add-ons, preventing you from jumping or even moving a certain direction until you can afford to buy those abilities. It's brief, but satirically sharp. 2.

  • "Puzzle platformer. Invention construction madness." Doc Clock's another like Bob Came in Pieces and Cargo!, in that the puzzles task you with building things that meet the requirements. Doc Clock's a tad too broken and interminable for its own good though. 1.

  • "Procedurally generated survival game. Grim." Don't Starve has randomly generated environments and is being constantly updated, so no two playthroughs are ever the same. Requires some dedication and study before you really start to appreciate its depths. 2.

  • "Frantic obstacle course advergame shenanigans." Crash Course was originally free (if it's still around), but given that its only purpose was to sell you Doritos it has no business being as fun as it is. Well, relatively speaking anyway. It's better than those glitchy WipeOut (TV show, not futuristic racer) games at least. 2.

  • "Theathythm without the music, charm." Eh, I didn't much care for Dungeon Hearts. It's one of those puzzle games that moves so fast that you get frustrated with it easily. If you don't suck at tile-shifting puzzle games, it might be a bit more palatable. 1.

  • "Classic Roguelike action with style." Dungeons of Dredmor ticks off all the classic roguelike boxes, but adds a lot of humor and interesting crafting mechanics to the template. This is a game that you can sink way deep down into if so inclined. 3.

  • "Deep SpaceWhipper with swirling furries." Dust's a lot of fun, with a combat engine that's less combo-intensive and more breezily enjoyable. You can air juggle like the best of them, but the game's not demanding that you master its fancy moves to enjoy its wonderful art, music and story. 3.

  • "Psychedelic candy raver masocore platformer." ESJ's short but it won't seem that way with the amount of tough platforming it sends your way. It's not the most concise masocore platformer out there, but it's goofy challenging fun. 2.

  • "Incremental, experimental caprinae puzzle platformer." Escape Goat's an odd puzzle game because it doesn't require that you think too much. Rather, it wants you to test the stage, clicking buttons and trying routes, to figure out the solution. It rewards experimentation more than strategy, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. 3.

  • "Artsy minimalist real-time strategy." I'm not the biggest fan of RTS games, so take this with a grain of salt. If anything, Eufloria kind of deconstructs and softens the sort of 4X experience that usually involves a thousand cannons shooting at a thousand xenomorphs. For all its brutal conquering of neighboring planetoids, it's a peaceful game. For a genre I'm not particularly into, alas. 2.

  • "Reality-bending, haberdashery puzzle platformer." Fez is quite incredible, from its facile platforming elements to its deeply meta puzzle core. The thrill of discovery has lessened a bit now, but go into it fresh and you'll be filling notebooks with frenzied scribbles in no time. 3.

  • "Thoughtul, dialogue-free adventure game." Built for phones, Finding Teddy is basic in its mechanics and appearance, but it's a delightful little adventure that eventually displays a bit of depth with some musical cryptography. Mobile phone migrants are generally a bit too thin in comparison with most Indie downloadables, but this one cuts the mustard. 2.

  • "Addictive plane route-juggling mayhem." Flight Control HD is a simple game to learn, but a difficult game to master. It was one of the big successes of the mobile phone era too, before Angry Birds utterly eclipsed it. It's more fun if you imagine a tiny John McClane shooting fascists on the ground in order to free up the runways. 3.

  • "Gentle, breezy, art exploration adventure." Kind of hard to put into five words what Flower's all about, but it's not a game that demands too much from its player. Enjoy it or don't, it doesn't seem too insistent either way. 2.

  • "Sluggish anime RPG." I was gifted this game, so I ought to give it more of a chance, but it just takes so long to get anywhere and even once you're into the gameplay part it's equally turgid and unresponsive. Not the game Recettear or Chantelise was. 2.

  • "Simultaneous tactical cyber-espionage shooter." Frozen Synapse is an example of a strategy game in which predicting your opponent's next move is as vital as planning your own. Each five second "turn" plays out simultaneously for both teams, so you'll see very quickly which side is outmaneuvering the other. 2.

  • "Procedurally-generated strategic space adventures." FTL is half a visual novel and half a spaceship combat simulator. It's all based on chance too, so there's no telling how well your run will go even when you're on your last legs. Well, until you get vaporized by the OP end boss at least. 2.

  • "Space sim. Procedurally-generated weapons?" I believe this space exploration game was created to test a weapon creation algorithm that added and modified particle effects depending on some stochastic variable-driven system. Whatever that means. It's sort of like "Elite meets fractals". 2.

  • "Cyberpunk dual-protagonist adventure game." I really ought to get back to Gemini Rue. I left it half-finished so long ago I might as well restart. Besides some shoehorned in gunfights (of which there are thankfully few), it's a cool Indie point and click from a studio that's made several more since then. 3.

  • "Procedurally generated first-person shooter." Gentrieve 2 is an odd attempt at creating a first-person SpaceWhipper - each level is a maze of rooms, with a target that you need to locate. It's a bit too unpolished to be much fun, though. 1.

  • "Glowy, colorful rave arena shooter." XBLA's first veritable hit, Geometry Wars is a variant of Smash TV or RoboTron that replaces the mutants/robots with basic shapes. It does some crazy visualizer type shit to make everything seem super chaotic, so it's kind of intense. 2.

  • "Measured, narrative-driven exploration adventure." Gone Home's a bit light on what people would consider a traditional interactive experience, but there's something compelling about exploring a world this detailed and familiar. There's a well-narrated, cute love story at the core of it too. 3.

  • "Space Diablo: Diablo, in space!" Well, there's not much more to it than that. I've played several of these sci-fi Diablo looty RPG variants - Space Siege, that Wii Alien Syndrome - and this is easily the worst. 1.

  • "South of the border Mariachivania." I took umbrage with its end-game, but Guacamelee is a fun, colorful SpaceWhipper with plenty of character and some convenient mechanical additions. I wish more SpaceWhippers color-coded their progression gates. 3.

  • "Sketchy traditional two-dimensional shooter." Gunman Clive's got an interesting visual design, but it's still just another Indie game emulating the 8-bit era. It's not bad, but there's no harm in trying to evolve that hoary model. 2.

  • "Tactical espionage action. Oh, wait..." Gunpoint's clever and tense in equal measure, as the best-laid plans regarding breaking and entering often unravel before your eyes as certain heretofore unseen factors make themselves apparent. Find the correct path, complete the mission, leave no witnesses. 3.

  • "Chaotic physics-based vehicle combat." Hammerfight's combat is all about momentum and centrifugal force - you need to spin your attached weapon around to clobber the other guy before he does the same to you. In practice, it's a hectic mess. 1.

  • "Cars versus turrets sorta advergame." Harm's Way is an interesting title for two reasons: the idea that you'd want to play as turrets to shoot down people trying to race always seemed like "throw sticks down to trip up rollerbladers in the park" sort of obnoxious behavior, which is amusing, and that there's barely any advertisements in the game despite it being a free product intended to sell Doritos. 2.

  • "The Indie lagomorph 'Metroid 2'." Hell Yeah!'s a SpaceWhipper that doesn't so much barrier you off due to whatever upgrades you may or may not have, but by how much you've thoroughly explored the current area and removed all the collectible demon mini-bosses. There's a lot of imagination and humor (the latter of which is kinda scattershot), but a few irritating problems with the gameplay. 2.

  • "Hyperviolent 80s strategic murder simulator." Hotline Miami superficially resembles a mindlessly violent action game, but it's only upon playing it that you appreciate the level of tactical forethought that's required to come out the other end of its drug-fueled fugues mostly intact. 3.

  • "First-person cyberspace time trials." InMomentum kind of takes the free-running aspect of Mirror's Edge to its logical extreme, but at the same time removes so many of that game's tricky mechanics and striking presentation that it's kind of dull. Remember how interesting those cuboid cyberspace Desmond missions in AC: Revelations were? Yeah. 1.

  • "Spooky Unidentified Flying Object SpaceWhipper." ITSP is a shoot-em-'up with a fun sense of exploration and a Henry Selick style grim kooky presentation. That Lantern Run is not for greenhorns. 3.

  • "More psychedelic shootering. But aquatic." Named for a specific type of jellyfish (and possibly riffing on the name Ikaruga), Irukandji is your run of the mill particle-effects-heavy Indie shoot-'em-up. As far as I can tell, there's a single level and you can approach it with various different ships with different weapon loadouts. Pretty limited. 1.

  • "Affectionate, puzzle-heavy Zelda homage." Ittle Dew's squigglevision and goofy humor are charming, and it's a game for Zelda fans who wished their preferred series had more in the way of tricky puzzles, but I didn't much care for some of its way-too-strict timing puzzles. 3.

  • "Historically accurate colonial Martian shmup." Jamestown reimagines the early colonial troubles of Jamestown, Virginia as a colony on Mars contested by the Spanish and, uh, aliens. Its goofy setting is backed up with some fun shmup gameplay that's challenging but not overly so. 2.

  • "Monkey Island: Matt Rorie Edition." A clear homage to Ron Gilbert's swashbuckling classic, Jolly Rover's a pirate-y point and click with a few interesting approaches to its puzzle and a family friendly plot. It's cute, if nothing substantial. 2.

  • "Wordless and stunning adventure platformer." Journey feels like an evolution of thatgamecompany's Flower, adding more overt "video game"y mechanics while retaining Flower's ethereal sense of beauty and calm. Deeply affecting, if you're into feeling that sort of thing. 3.

  • "Stress-free community building simulator." Kingdom for Keflings is a 4X RTS game with most of those Xes missing, or at the very least the exterminate part. Build structures when asked, find resources and delegate their accumulation to your little friends, make everything and then turn the game off. Fun while it lasts, in a challenge free sort of way. 2.

  • "Truly immense platformer-heavy SpaceWhipper." Knytt Underground is a huge game and is alternately quirky and deeply atmospheric. There's no combat or enemies, but rather instances where you need to figure out a puzzle-platformer scenario using physics and your own wits. It's impressive in a few ways. 3.

  • "Dreamworks-esque jousting adventure game." It's sort of an endless runner, as the goal is to head forward at top speed and avoid obstacles on the path. I think they used to be called "tube runners", but you probably recognize the type. It's got a dorky sense of humor too. 2.

  • "Broken isometric RPG." Legends of Dawn talks the talk, but utterly fails to walk the walk. And by "walk the walk", I mean "plays with any degree of coding competence". A Kickstarter project that apparently promised more than it could deliver, but you can't blame it for trying. 1.

  • "Dimly macabre monochrome puzzle-platformer." Limbo's got a lot of atmosphere and some interesting puzzles to keep things interesting. It's also unremittingly dark, if that's something you might have a problem with. That little kid goes through some shit, let's just say. 3.

  • "Two-dimensional Portal, with animes." I didn't play enough of LogiGun to get a decent idea of where it's headed, but the first few sections certainly don't go easy on you. It expects you to catch up with it, because it has places to be. Puzzley places. 2.

  • "Pre-8-bit masocore platformer." Love+ is a platformer that lets you set your own checkpoints, which is only asking for trouble. Its stark visual design makes it easy to interpret dangers on the fly, and it's specifically built for score-chasers. Not bad, for as minimalist as it is. 2.

  • "Environmental Layton-esque puzzle adventure." Lume's got some interesting visual design and a sparse number of brainy puzzles, but that sparse number is considerably sparser than you might expect. It's fine, just really really short. 2.

  • "Enchanting wordless robotic adventure story." Machinarium goes all over the place and tells a story though inference and ideograms, rather than straight up spelling it all out. The art style's detailed and charming, and the game moves along at a fair clip without getting too caught up on too many obtuse puzzles. 3.

  • "Combative demolition derby with hovercars." Feels like one of those "Monday Night Combat" arena shooters with a sports-like focus, but in this case you're all hovercars which are hard to steer around corners. 1.

  • "Mostly broken Game Boy roguelike." MiniFlake's still in Alpha, so perhaps it'd be too hasty to render a verdict right now, but what I played of it didn't seem entirely functional just yet. The roguelike part's mostly fine, but trying to navigate one with a two button control scheme is kind of a nightmare. 1.

  • "Pie-eating clone-manipulation platformer." One of the first games I can think of that does the "use multiple clones of yourself to solve puzzles" gimmick. It's all presented like a Edward Gorey tale about villainy, punishment and pie theft. 3.

  • "Medieval simulator with amazing combat." Mount and Blade prides itself on its realistic combat engine and political upheaval simulations, and while it doesn't look like much graphically speaking there's been a lot of work put into its many odd systems. The army-based skirmishes in particular are a lot of fun once you get used to the horse and lance combo. (This blurb also takes into account the original Mount and Blade.) 3.

  • "Old-school masocore collectathon platformer." Mutant Mudds starts simple enough but ramps up the difficulty to quite unbearable levels if you're the type that's compelled to collect all the shiny objects. The severe checkpointing issues will either cause you to quit early or determinedly press on like an obstinate fool. 2.

  • "Old Nintendo games, but remixed!" Probably not an Indie game, given it was published by Nintendo, but since it was developed by IndiesZero and is a little odd I'll give it a pass. It takes 16 NES games and frames various challenges around them, occasionally breaking the reality of the games featured. A curious experiment and a neat Cliffs Note guide to the featured games, but it doesn't go quite far enough. 2.

  • "Vertiginous floaty aircraft puzzle-platformer." Nimbus gives you a little blimp thing and tasks you with maintaining enough height to make it through an obstacle course of traps and other dangers. Success is contingent on maintaining height and speed. 2.