Posted on July 3, 2013, Phil Hornshaw Three Games from IndieCade: 6180 The Moon, C3, Crashtastic
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IndieCade at E3 is a tightly packed bank of consoles and PCs, with a few chairs and tables, some sets of headphones, and little room to breathe. It’s crammed with people, maybe more than the rest of E3.
But if space is at a premium, there’s one other element that IndieCade has in abundance: passion.
That passion makes visiting the “booth,” more a set of stations on which at least 20 or 30 games are being demo’d, a different experience than anything else on the E3 2013 show floor. At E3, the IndieCade showcase is a space in which indie developers have brought projects, over which they’ve labored often for years alone or with small teams in dark basements, into the light of day. IndieCade exists purely to show people the cool things people have made, and around each station of the booth hover anxious devs waiting to watch you try their titles and fail utterly at playing them, while they excitedly explain what it is you’re supposed to do. It’s great fun.
Bringing great games to where they can be seen is the whole point, said Festival Director Sam Roberts.
“Helping small developers find an audience helps them survive,” he said. “And that makes games better. We try to find something new, bringing together different kinds of content and help them continue to reach the public. There’s some valuable stuff to learn for the industry.”
IndieCade itself is a games festival that might be considered the game industry’s Sundance Film Festival, Roberts said, with the goal of bringing games that might otherwise be mired in obscurity out into the light. The full festival runs from Oct. 3 to Oct. 6 in Los Angeles this year, with the lineup selected by judges, but until then, developers whose games are picked get a chance to show them off at a number of conventions.
“I feel confident in saying, you’re going to like one of these things (in the showcase),” Roberts said. “Excellence is super-important to us, and what we’re really looking for is innovation. It might just be one little part of a game. Sometimes those innovations come from different games experimenting with ideas that are already out there.”
I dropped by IndieCade at E3 2013 for about an hour, and managed to try all of three titles out of the at least 15 PC stations on offer. But the three games I played — a 3-D third-person puzzler that might be considered similar to Portal, a tough-as-nails side-scrolling platformer, and a vehicle-building puzzler — were all intriguing and fun in different ways. They also suggested yet more upcoming indie offerings that are worthy of being on more players’ respective radar screens.
You Suck at Platformers; Signed, 6180 the moon
My favorite title of my short stay at IndieCade was 6180 The Moon, a minimalist PC platformer with super-simple graphics. Every level is just some combination of space, blocks and spikes, which players navigate by guiding a ball through them. In fact, that ball is the Moon, on a mission to discover why the Sun hasn’t risen and Earth is bathed in darkness.
Though the story unfolds like a sort of bedtime parable, the gameplay is anything but childish. Things are actually pretty familiar and simple: as the moon, you jump between platforms, avoiding spikes, in order to reach the far side of each level. But it’s the game space that’s somewhat mutable — as you drop off the bottom of the screen, for example, you reappear at the top, and vice versa.
The result is a platformer that f–ks with your brain, to put things lightly. The challenge of every level of 6180 the moon is to stitch together the bottom and top of each screen and discover how to use the connection between those spaces to circumvent obstacles. Often, this means reaching the full height of a jump by going from the top of the screen to the bottom, and using the apex of the arc to slide past spikes. Other times, you’ll need to kill your own momentum with careful planning in order to make the move forward.
The most interesting thing about 6180 the moon was how bad I seemed to be at it. I’m a competent platformer player at the least, since I started playing Super Mario Bros. before I started attending school, but 6180 the moon humbled me in the same way that games such as Super Meat Boy or League of Evil might. But despite constant failure, it’s never frustrating, especially because of the minimal art style and mellow soundtrack. Failure is a step toward success, and not an impediment to it, in 6180 the moon, and that’s high praise for a game to receive.