Developing a game without the full support of a bigger publisher can be tricky but also allows a certain degree of experimentation and innovation that is rarely seen in an already established series. It can also result in games based on concepts that would have never seen the light of day, if not thanks to the efforts of smaller developers.
These two characteristics are what all contestants for the Indie – Game of The Year 2015 award have in common. Her Story, Rocket League, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, Grow Home, and Undertale all feature innovative ideas or a new take on the story, interactions or gaming experience they have to offer.
Her Story takes us back to an era in which puzzle games and point-and-click adventures required extensive note-taking to be finished. The game sits you in front of an old computer from the 90s and has you listen to the testimony of a woman (played by Viva Seifert) in an attempt to reconstruct her story.
Her Story has shown how interactive story-telling can be turned into a compelling game that ends up challenging your detective skills and keeps you glued to your chair until you reach the end.
“If professional racing and football are two of the most popular sports in the world, putting them together could only result in amazing things!” must have been the line of thought behind the creation of Rocket League.
This game by Psyonix, which throws you and a handful of teammates in a hectic football match played with the use of RC cars, found its popularity in simplicity and in the solid gameplay it has to offer. Rocket League is a competitive multiplayer game that doesn’t require extensive training to be mastered and enjoyed and that offers a great degree of customization and endless fun. Based upon a simple concept, trying to score by tossing a huge ball in a net of equal size, developed well enough to allow for virtually infinite tactics to be used in every match, Rocket League keeps expanding thanks to dedicated patches and is definitely one of the favorites for the Indie – Game of The Year 2015 award.
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is the second and last installment in the Hotline Miami series and both the sequel and prequel to the original top-down shooter by Dennaton Games.
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number features all we’ve come to expect from the series and sheds light on the happenings that precede and follow the original title. In addition to that, the game introduces new mechanics and allows you to swap characters through the use of masks, leaving more space for an experience that feels personal and unique for each one of us. The soundtrack still plays a huge part in Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number and comes back with more tracks that greatly enhance the gaming experience. The game also touches hot topics through its depiction of ultra-violence and rape, marking a shift in the gaming industry toward a more open narrative that might include unconventional events.
Although technically not an indie game, as it was first developed by Ubisoft Reflections for internal use and later published by the French company itself, Grow Home made it to the Indie – Game of The Year 2015 list for being the result of a change of policy from Ubisoft toward smaller, more indie-oriented subsidiaries.
Grow Home is an open world adventure featuring a rather simple yet sweet and enthralling story. Its strength lies in the multiple ways you can explore the game world while you advance through the campaign. The game revolves around commanding a robot from outer space as he tries to grow specific plants and connect them to power crystals in an attempt to save its own planet. Riding the vines, using flowers as parachutes and bouncing on mushrooms allow you to fully experience the colorful and dynamic world Grow Home is set in. Its colorful graphics and simplicity also render this game one of the best for younger people approaching the world of interactive entertainment for the first time.
If developing an indie game translates to total freedom and to the ability to shape the title to reflect the developer’s original plans, at time resulting in products that transcend the world of gaming to achieve the status of modern art, then Toby Fox and the rest of the guys behind Undertale couldn’t have done a better job.
At first sight an average retro-styled game featuring RPG, bullet-hell, puzzles and exploration mechanics, it takes less than half an hour to understand the depth of this title and to develop such a strong attachment to its characters, locations, and story to genuinely struggle when the adventure is over and it’s time to put it down. Undertale is a title that manages to offer an alternative way to deal with the iconic enemies of any RPG. Random encounters, bosses and ultimately the whole game can be resolved without having to swing a weapon once, by resorting to the power of words and kindness. It is also a game where the characters will react to your actions and in some cases almost beg you to stop playing, achieving the exact opposite in the process. The beautiful soundtrack, clearly tailored to suit each stage of the game, the multiple endings and the narration, which gently and seamlessly moves into the world of metagaming by breaking the 4th wall and exploiting your innate knowledge of the multiple genres this games fits into, all perfectly blend together to create an evocative and rather unique experience. Undertale is a game that has the power to melt even the coldest of hearts and that will almost certainly have you force a few tears back at some point during your playthrough. It upholds the idea that a game does not need complex graphics or a huge budget to be a success and shows that innovation and the will to create something that is expressive and meaningful is still what pushes developers to create new titles.
The aforementioned characteristics make Undertale the most surprising and enjoyable indie title released in 2015 and it is for these reasons that the game wins the Indie – Game of The Year 2015 award.