The International Indie Game Movement Continues To Grow

Several weeks ago, I visited with the talented indie teams that trekked to this year’s Tokyo Game Show, and I discovered several fascinating titles. I’ve continued to chat with the teams I met there, and learned more about three of my favorites that refl ect the expanding indie scene across the world.

Singapore-based PD Design Studio captured the attention of many with its first game, Dusty Revenge, which starred an anthropomorphic kung fu rabbit named Dusty. My time playing Dusty Raging Fist suggests that the team is about to find a broader audience. The side-scrolling action/brawler exhibits a beautiful visual style defined by bright colors and stylish character designs, but the tightly wound combat and controls are what make Dusty a hare worth watching.

Dusty Raging Fist is set prior to the events of the previous game. The new storyline is about kidnapped children, and your vigilante hero’s goal to bring down the culprits is mostly an excuse for punching and kicking hordes of minions and oversized bosses.

A Far East fox named Kitsune and a muscular deer named Darg are Dusty’s strange but stalwart buddies. Distinct elemental skills and combo-focused engagements encourage players to learn each of the three heroes’ potential, and you can explore that potential while playing solo or with up to two friends in online or local cooperative play. In addition, the game includes a novel support system, whereby you can call in two other ancillary characters (an artillery and sniper) who take out targets from the foreground; the view pans back to show your allies zeroing in their sight lines from a distant vantage point. The sleek Dusty Raging Fist is targeting a launch in mid-2016 on PS4, PC, Mac, and pending approval, Xbox One and Wii U.

Lost In Harmony comes to us from Digixart Entertainment in the south of France. Founded by Yoan Fanise, the former content director on Ubisoft’s Valiant Hearts, this studio’s charming debut is a mobile-based narrative music game about a young man named Kaito. While trying to grow up and overcome his fears, Kaito’s maybe-real/maybe-imaginary girlfriend Aya is pushing him to confront those terrors. You control the teen as he races his skateboard through unusual levels, each meant to represent his phobias, like water, crowds, or heights.

Gameplay is an intriguing hybrid of dodging and weaving through a path while simultaneously completing taps and swipes on the screen in time with the musical selections. The tunes range from familiar classical melodies to original music authored by several composers, including Wyclef Jean. The game creators cite Hayao Miyazaki films as a chief visual inspiration, which is apparent after even a cursory look at the game in action. Lost In Harmony has an addictive gameplay loop, but its less apparent selling point is the way the music, story, and art combine to be an oddly moving experience. Digixart is aiming for PC, iOS, and Android releases in January.

YIIK: A Post-Modern RPG (pronounced Y2K) is not an easy game to wrap your head around. Ostensibly a JRPG inspired by PS1-era graphics and presentation, the game transcends those fundamentals to tell a strange and abstract tale. Your main character is an unemployed liberal arts grad hipster record collector, who after returning from college in the late ‘90s becomes obsessed with online conspiracy theories. In particular, he fixates on the story of a girl kidnapped by a rogue elevator, and begins chasing down clues.

The game sees you wandering a world that is at times mundane, and then suddenly surreal and haunting. Up to nine characters join your party, and each can acquire a dozen skills. In battle, these skills play out as WarioWare-esque microgames; by successfully completing the five-second tasks, your ability triggers, lending an interesting variety and need for quick response to the otherwise familiar RPG combat flow. My brief time exploring the world confirmed that YIIK is a game unlike anything else headed to market, and I’m eager to play more. U.S.-based developer Ackk Studios is hoping to launch between December and February on PS4, Wii U, Vita, PC, Mac, and Linux.

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