On show is a group of student and independent game developer work. The quality this year is as varied as the concepts they cover.
A couple of games are – as expected this year – hoping to cash in on the casual market place. Wordcore for example, lifts the magic word brain teaser straight from newspapers, gives it a light narrative and then presents players with increasingly larger letter amounts, and therefore more complex word permutations to wrangle.
Likewise Mole is aimed towards the predominately iPhone casual gaming market. Asking players to delve underground looking for gems, coal and the ever important oxygen to enable even deeper exploration. The game is the epitome of simplicity, and is obviously trying to capture the same market share that local game developer Firemint achieved this year with Flight Control.
Last Life is an intriguing mix of tower defence and real time strategy as players strive to plan the survival of their host plant in a hostile environment. Controlling the root system, seeking out water supplies and avoiding parasitic bugs whilst attracting friendly insects is the aim.
Tower defence games are certainly prevalent this year. Axis Mundi is a radial tower defence challenge using a central ziggurat fountain and water as a resource to building a variety of upgradable defence structures as fantastical undead foes stalk through the desert towards the player’s oasis base.
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Other games of note are Pilliager which has a basic premise of a rampaging Nordic warrior hell bent on burning and battle. The game play is a little light, but the unique visual style, that of a oil-painting, is as striking as the Viking combatant himself.
Blakely van de Buckle's Brass Cabaret is an atmospheric platform game that tasks players over nine levels with activating the props of a theatre. Part Tim Burton movie, part 2D Mario world the Brass Cabaret makes an impression immediately with a structure that is both free-form and unrestrictive, yet contains puzzles involving the manoeuvring of an onscreen marionette to get his ‘strings’ to connect a series of power driving cogs.
Another thought provoking game is Hazard: The Journey of Life. Taking its basic inspiration from Valve’s Portal, and then moving into an artistic/philosophical five to six hour mind fudge. Hazard is definitely a thought provoking experience. Whether it is actually a game is another question.
Generally these independent projects have shown a broadening of thinking in the video game industry, one that needs to be encouraged to provoke innovation in a market that depends on wow-factor for success.
All these games are in line for the Game Developers Association of Australia awards announced at a gala dinner in Melbourne tonight.