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GDC 2012 Indie Game Highlights

Posted on Tuesday, March 13 @ 10:04:39 PST by Josh_Laddin

by Josh_Laddin
It’s a testament to how profitable and attractive Indie games have become to see how popular the Independent Games Festival booth was as GDC this year. Consistently drawing crowds equaling or even surpassing the heavy hitters like Nintendo and Sony, the IGF booth was swarming with people eager to try their hands at the entrants to the IGF Main Competition, with even more people standing back just to watch.
I weaved through the hordes as best I could to sample as much as possible, to bring you highlights of the Main Competition. Some of these games are already available, and some have yet to be released, but all of them are worth checking out. Keep an eye out on GR for full previews of some of the forthcoming releases on the list as well!


Fez has been in development for what is professionally referred to as “a long ass time”. It instinctively draws the eye to it and is easily one of the most fascinating puzzle-platformers I’ve seen in a long time. The gameplay is very akin to that fantastic M.C. Escher-esque puzzle segment in God of War III where switching your perspective allows you to move in previously inaccessible directions.

Fez is essentially a 2D platformer with the added trick of being able to rotate the world around your character 90 degrees at a time, creating new platforms that were previously just window dressing in the background. It’s one of those games that is just as fun to watch as it is to play, and it excited me the most out of everything at the competition. In fact, it won IGF 2012's Seamas McNally Grand Prize! Though Fez has been frequently pushed back, it’s expected to release early this year.

English Country Tune

Here’s another puzzler that’s sure to twist your brain into a gray matter pretzel. Controlling a flat square on the edge of various 3D structures built from cubes, you must flip the square along the surface to push glowing balls into glowing receptacles. Sounds simple, until you realize you have to navigate all sorts of pits and obstructions that get in your way.

The demo level also had a mechanic involving light bridges that hold the ball while you push the bridges instead, a concept that thoroughly stumped many a player. I have no doubt that the full game has much more of that in store. English Country Tune is out now at

Frozen Synapse

This one’s been out for the better part of a year, but considering that it won the Audience Choice award in this year’s IGF, Frozen Synapse deserves a mention. Not quite turn-based and not quite real-time but instead a little bit of both, Frozen Synapse throws you into the role of a mercenary in a dystopian future fighting against an oppressive government. Nothing new there, but the method of combat is what will grab you.

In a birds-eye view of a cyberpunk wireframe battlefield, you’ll command your troops every turn to move and aim around, firing automatically at any enemies they encounter. The catch? The AI plans and executes their movements at the same time you do, so you have to predict their actions and take it into account before you submit your battle plan for the turn. Frozen Synapse is available independently or on Steam.

Realm of the Mad God

And now for something completely different… Realm of the Mad God is a Flash game that was released last year and was just made available on Steam in February. It’s a fast-paced action-RPG that plays like a shmup. The blocky graphics are highly reminiscent of 3D Dot Game Heroes, while the gameplay sees players in a massively multiplayer environment running around the world blasting everything in sight from a birds-eye view.

In Diablo II hardcore fashion, death is permanent, which fits in nicely with the web browser game format. Keep your character alive as long as possible, then receive a score from your character's collective adventures that doubles as currency for future characters.

Related Games:   Frozen Synapse
Tags:   gdc, indie

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