Indie Gems: 3 Games To Give You The Creepy Crawlies
Indie Gems is an ongoing feature in which we highlight small groups of similar indie games, often united by a single theme, that are worth your time and attention. Think of this as your weekly Indie Game Playlist.
There are some games which just get under our skin. Whether it’s through loneliness, danger, tension, or flat-out insanity, developers know how to press players’ buttons. Horror can take many different forms, from the exploratory puzzle-based horror of Amnesia to the constant fighting to survive of Dead Space, and each kind of horror affects people in a different way.
Indie Gems this week is about non-traditional horror, and how each of us finds fear in different things. From the dark ambiance of Memory of a Broken Dimension, to the techno-horror and glitches of Teleglitch, to the tense survival horror of No More Room In Hell, each of these games has something that makes it unsettling. Something that nudges it towards that lovely feeling of fear.
Memory Of A Broken Dimension
Developer: Data Tragedy
There’s a type of horror – let’s call it “ambient horror” – where there is no actual threat to the player. Rather, tension is built through sound and environment, usually by forcing a sense of loneliness onto the player. It’s akin to being alone in a large, abandoned house: You know there’s nothing in the house, but the creaks and groans still make your heart race and your stomach knot. Games like Dear Esther, Gone Home, or the early portions of Amnesia: The Dark Descent are great examples of this sort of atmosphere. There is no clear danger, but you are unnerved anyway.
Memory of a Broken Dimension aspires to be like this, and it manages to do it so well that it may as well be a new standard for oppressive, lonely atmospheres.
Memory of a Broken Dimension is a glitch-styled game that originally debuted at the Tokyo Game Show “Sense of Wonder Night.” It’s a journey through a corrupted, incoherent system, where you have naught to accompany you but your thoughts and the shattered remnants of code and data around you. There is no explicit goal, but the general idea is to find a path through all these glitches by “fixing” the code into platforms, which you do by looking at said platform from the correct angle and click the left mouse button.
The horror comes from the atmosphere. The glitch aesthetic pervades every aspect of Memory of a Broken Dimension, from the “music” (static noises and glitched-out dark ambiance) to the visuals. Chunks float just out of vision, sending you into paranoid fits. Above the world lies a massive rift that constantly pulses, leading you to stare at it like it will suck you in. Scenes gradually break down, dissolving into black and grey stains as you lose your direction. There is no direct threat to you, but sometimes loneliness can be the most terrifying feeling in the world, and Memory of a Broken Dimension captures that essence incredibly well.
You can play the alpha at the developer’s website. In order to get into the game, you have to go through a quick fake command prompt. In case you want to get into the game as quickly as possible, run the following commands in order: remote, voidscan, dive.
It’s a good thing that the likes of Teleglitch is getting a re-release through niche publisher Paradox Interactive. While it is a love song to the likes of Quake and Doom, Teleglitch isn’t just a clone; it’s an excellent survival-focused top-down shooter, with an emphasis on scavenging and repurposing.
You play a researcher in an abandoned facility populated with mutants, zombies, robots, and various nasty critters. Everybody is an enemy, and your perceptions seem to be gradually dissolving; fast movements, such as bullets or explosions, cause your vision to flicker. Thankfully, you can also salvage goods and use them to make new gear and weapons for the long road ahead. It’s a dangerous one, especially since reality seems to be collapsing inch by inch.
The tension of moving around a desolate environment and scavenging for survival is one many gamers resonate with, if the critical reception to The Last of Us is any indication. Likewise, the combination system is (relatively) logical, and the real-time line of sight (in the style of Monaco or Nox) help to keep your nerves on edge. Combat is fast and brutal, and while you can take a beating, each fight you get hurt in reduces your chances of surviving the next. Teleglitch isn’t quite as scary as it might be, but it does keep you on the edge of your seat with its difficulty, and that’s good enough.
As Teleglitch doesn’t have a soundtrack of its own (instead opting for sound effects only), listening to the Quake 1 soundtrack while playing Teleglitch adds a lot to the atmosphere. The somber industrial tones of Nine Inch Nails’ work helps bring out the “decaying military complex” feel that Teleglitch aims for. However, for the purist experience, go with no soundtrack at all. Sometimes complete silence is just as effective as music.
No More Room In Hell
Developer: No More Room In Hell Team
It’s hard not to get tired of zombie media. It’s an oversaturated genre, after all. However, some games – like No More Room In Hell – are worth sitting down and playing despite their zombie-driven atmosphere. Originally a Half-Life 2 mod that started production in the lead-up to HL2′s release, No More Room In Hell has been designated for a Steam release thanks to Greenlight. While it’s no Left 4 Dead or DayZ, it does have its own charm.
No More Room In Hell is the typical zombie invasion scenario: something is raising the dead, the people the undead kill get up and join their ranks, fight your way to safety. The difference is that No More Room In Hell is a much more cautious, realistic endeavor, fraught with difficulty. It’s a very team-oriented game, and attempting to go on a single-player murder spree won’t result in a happy ending. Even with a proper team, plans often go terribly awry and your friends will get eaten alive by the ever-approaching undead.
Much like its cousin Zombie Panic: Source, No More Room In Hell uses a weight-based inventory system. Each player can only carry so much, and different items weigh more than others (including ammo), forcing players to distribute the weight between themselves like pack mules. Want to be the long-range striker with a rifle and plenty of ammo, at the cost of being weak in a close-range fight and useless for carrying objective gear? That’s your choice, and your teammates can help shore up the areas you can’t cover. Just make sure someone leaves some room for the objective items, as each map in NMRIH requires the completion of a few objectives such as fueling up a generator. Also be sure someone brings along medkits and the like, as being bitten has the chance of infecting you and leading to a slow (and painful) death.
No More Room In Hell is also quite the nice-looking game. Good gun models, smooth first-person animations, and crisp textures make it a very pleasant game to watch. The best small detail is how each gun has intricate reload and clip-check animations that are realistic and show off the excellent model work. The gore is also another great area, with zombie heads popping in a most satisfying way when you put a slug into them.
It’s hard to say much more about No More Room In Hell. It’s an objective-based zombie game where you shoot the undead in the face. It is exactly what you think, but it’s also quite well-made, and is definitely worth gathering a group of your best friends to play. Check out the mod while you wait for the Steam Greenlight version.
Know of an indie game worthy of our attention? Let us know in the comments!