Indie Royale is a collection of indie games offered for a low price. That low price goes up the more people purchase it but goes down for others if you donate more than the minimum. If that sounds like a copy of the Humble Bundle’s successful business model, that’s because it is. Sales of this sort typically offer indie games that already have a proven fanbase so the creators don’t have to feel bad about not making much money. The current Indie Royale (“June Bug Bundle”) is at $5.05 USD and has sold 15,709 copies as of this writing. It offers four games which I will review individually.
PixelJunk Eden is Solar Jetman’s idiot hipster cousin who thinks a new slop of paint makes him a unique and peculiar dynamo. “Quirky” minimalist art design and dull, droning techno equals automatic artgame and therefore perfect reviews on gullible sites like Destructoid. What else would you expect from an imitation of the soulless and hugely overrated Flow? Unnecessary mouse controls for basic left-right movement when a keyboard would work better (No wait, a recent “major new feature” in March gave players this basic functionality; maybe they’ll add “real-time weapon change” next), a pointless timer that discourages exploration of the allegedly beautiful worlds, and enough forced backtracking to make Link pull his hair out. These all add up to form the poorest game in this bundle by far. Not a horrible game but also not worth your time. This Indie Royale gets much better, though.
Escape Goat (An obvious pun on the Biblical term “scapegoat”) is a puzzle game inspired by the likes of The Adventures of Lolo and Solomon’s Key. You play a goat escaping from a magic prison full of traps and monsters. Armed with no weapons to protect you, you have to instead navigate through the mazes while using each level’s properties to kill or bypass the enemies and pitfalls.
In Escape Goat, you have a mouse friend who can go through small spaces and trigger switches, but can’t pick up keys or other items, and if struck by an enemy, returns fruitlessly to your side. Similar to Blizzard’s forgotten 1992 classic The Lost Vikings, you have to use both characters in tandem to complete the levels.
The graphics are quite poor, like something from the Atari 7800. This isn’t a real gripe against Escape Goat, however, as visuals are of minimal importance; content over form every time. I enjoyed playing the game on its own merits. When reviewing puzzle games, you’re supposed to use words like “devilish” and “fiendish” to indicate the cleverness of the level designs. Instead I will call these puzzles enticing. They offer a decent challenge for the average player but not enough to keep them stumped for hours at a time. A little bit of logical thinking will get you through the blocks and switches and wraiths without much trouble. One side effect of puzzle games is that the player feels smarter after completing a challenge. From these middling challenges, you’ll be feeling smart very often but somewhat unfulfilled. There are extra post-game levels of equal craftiness, but their difficulty level is little higher.
Noitu Love 2: Devolution
This one eschews generic indie platformer cliches for a setup that (Unlike PixelJunk Eden) actually utilizes the keyboard and mouse in a synchronized fashion. You play a ninja with moves similar to Zero from Mega Man X4 and hack through hordes of robots and monsters. That’s the great kind of premise that all side-scrolling action games ought to have. There’s also a plot of some sort that I skipped on my way to the actual playing of the game, and I wasn’t disappointed.
Noitu Love 2: Devolution is pure hack-n-slash at a very fast pace with a wide variety of moves to blow up your enemies. Move with WASD. Click on an enemy or certain other spots with your mouse to rush immediately towards it. Use special moves like dashing, spin slashing, and stomping with either the right mouse button and a movement or a double-tapping of one of the movement keys. The controls are fantastic and leave nothing at all to be desired.
Enemies are an assortment of generic robots and strange monsters and crazy guys in armored vehicles with a quasi-Japanese feel. I kinda dig the game’s bright and colorful visual aesthetic, but I was moving too fast to appreciate the detail in the backgrounds and on the enemies. One of KONJAK’s other games, the incomplete The Iconoclasts, has the slower pace necessary to take in every detail. In Noitu Love 2, there’s a definite inspiration from SNK’s Metal Slug series, but blinding speed and hack-n-slash gameplay are quite different. You have a big health meter thus and are forgiven for many mistakes. There are additional difficulty levels if you want a greater challenge, though. Noitu Love 2 is a load of fun for any player that has two hands.
When I first loaded this up I thought it was going to be another boring, contentless art game like The Company of Myself, I Saw Her Standing There, Symon, Lone Survivor, or the especially awful Passage. You know, a game that tries to have a Very Important Message rather than simply being a good game. The minimalist color scheme and generic piano twinkling had me prepared for the worst. Then I was pleasantly surprised to find a thoughtful puzzle game that focused on thinking through arbitrary physics challenges rather than trying to shoe-horn in a stupid message about the ephemeral nature of childhood. No worthless plot, just puzzles.
Each level in Auditorium contains a black space with a beam of light that you must direct in different directions to land in various predetermined spots. Much like 1999’s ChuChu Rocket, you have a few arrows that you must place strategically to move the scattered spears of light into the receptacles of the correct color. The light beams act like real ones; they get weaker the more they move from their original location, and their color can be changed with prisms that dot the black backgrounds.
The levels are simplistic but not overly so; this is quite a clever game and I commend the level designer. Funneling light to the proper squares is much more difficult than it appears. This is a harder puzzle game than Escape Goat and therefore a more fulfilling one.
There’s still five days left to get the current Indie Royale bundle. Support whoever you want; that’s democracy in action. Three good games for cheap. You should support indie developers who struggle to create worthwhile games simply because they love the art. Cast away the pretentious fools like Jenova Chen and Jonathan Blow and you’ll find many independent game creators who have made excellent examples of video gaming.