When an indie title is released on a Nintendo system it automatically becomes a “Nindie”. Get it? It’s clever. Despite the fact that most gamers were stuck at home during the greatest week in gaming, E3, Nintendo decided to extend a demo branch to all of us who couldn’t make the big show.
Thus we had nine indie game demos available to us in the eShop last week. I’m never one to turn down a free demo (or demo disc if it was the ‘90s), so I thought I would investigate each title and see how they initially stack up against other Nintendo indie hits such as Shovel Knight and Gunman Clive.
And since I’ve been out of school for a few weeks and haven’t had to grade anything, I figured I would give each demo a letter grade based on how well it plays and how much fun I had while trying it. I’ll be going in alphabetical order, in line with my classroom procedures. Let’s take a gander at these nine Nindies and see what’s what, shall we?
Name: Extreme Exorcism
Report: As a long time fan of Nintendo, I have grown accustomed to well executed local multiplayer on the Big N’s systems. You can add Extreme Exorcism to that list. Or at least you should if the game ends up anything like the demo. The sprite-based title is basically Towerfall if it had more ghosts and zanier weapons. You and three friends grab weapons to destroy paranormal enemies within different settings. Once the ghouls have been taken care of the next round starts, and each enemy in the next round will follow one of your previous paths, even picking up the same weapons. It’s very hectic in a enjoyable sort of way. Also, you can wield up to three weapons simultaneously, and there’s just something so satisfying about shooting a bazooka and a shotgun while throwing knives.
Developer: Mixed Bag
Report: Forma.8 is beautiful, that goes without saying. It takes a very minimalist approach to world of underground exploration and the end result (at least so far) is wonderful. Players pilot a small ship, exploring the depths of what I can only assume is an alien planet in search of something important. Besides basic movement the demo lets one use a short range shield, which also acts as a weapon, and the ability to lay mines. When you do lay a mine you can execute a shield blast that will propel it towards your target, so there is a bit of skill involved. I liked the mysterious atmosphere involved, but my main issue was overall game speed. Your ship moves pretty slow, especially for a game that’s all about exploring. Maybe there’s more to Forma.8 than what we see in this demo, but for now it’s only a decent offering.
Sonic the Hedgehog Freedom Planet
Report: Freedom Planet is the most blatant Genesis-era Sonic rip off since... ever. At first I was excited because old school 16-bit visuals are always a plus if done well. And they were. Freedom Planet does look pretty sharp. But as I played more and more I started to feel like I had done this all before. Your character runs fast and at times she will curl into a ball and go through tunnels and run through loops and bounce off bumpers and do I need to keep going? It’s Sonic. This game is Sonic. But that aside, it’s not like we’ve gotten a decent 2D sonic title in a long time. So while it seems to be a little too influenced by the blue hedgehog, I still enjoyed the platforming and extensive first world quite a bit. It’s almost like they’re ripping off Sonic, but doing it better than he ever could, and I’m ok with that.
Name: Lovely Planet
Developer: TinyBuild and QUICKTEQUILA
Report: Lovely Planet does look lovely, I’ll give it that. It has a very Katamari vibe, that spawns from not only it’s visuals, but also it’s soundtrack. It’s very bright, colorful, simple and fun looking. The odd thing is that it’s also a first person shooter. One for kids! I guess. You shoot cubes and things explode into hearts. Well, if you can manage to hit them, that is. There in lies the biggest issue with Lovely Planet - it’s controls. You need to be deadly accurate or darn close to an enemy to take them out, and you’re really going to want to do that considering you can only take one hit. Even if you’re at the end of the admittedly short levels. What started as, “Aww this is quirky and fun!” quickly evolved into, “Oh for #$%! sake! I shot that guy! now I have to do it over again!?” Maybe I’m just bad at FPS.
Name: Mutant Mudds Super Challenge
Developer: Renegade Kid
Report: The qualifier “Super Challenge” is an accurate assessment of what the newest Mutant Mudds has to offer. I’ll admit that I’ve never played any of the past titles for PC or 3DS, but I was excited as the prospect of a solid 2D platformer. The key to a well thought out platforming game is a mix of challenge and accessibility. A title like Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is a perfect example. Just enough hard in places to get you frustrated momentarily, but not enough to put you off of the game entirely. The Mutant Mudds demo was not long, but it seemed a bit too on the frustrating side for my liking. Enemy and obstacle placement felt a little too precise to enjoy in this first run through. Who knows, maybe if I played more of the game I’d learn to adjust.
Developer: Two Tribes
Report: Rive was the last demo I tried in the bunch. Something about the name was unattractive to me, so I put it off as long as I could. Boy was I wrong. Rive is blast and the only game on the list that I’ll be picking up for sure when it launches later this year. It’s a twin stick space shooter AND a platofmer all in one. Players control a jack of all trades robot who can fly, jump, shoot, and even hack into other machines. The controls are simple, tight and fast. Rive is definitely a game that wants to overwhelm you with waves and waves of enemies and obstacles, but avoiding and destroying them is so much fun that I played through the demo three times just to get my fill. Truly an exciting and enjoyable demo.
Developer: 13AM Games
Report: Runbow combines two aspects of my life that rarely come in contact - my love of running and my hatred of being colorblind. The title’s main mode pits you against up to seven other friends as you hop and bop your way from one side of the screen to the other. It’s a race, plain and simple. Players have the ability to avoid one another or pummel their opponents for position. The real gimmick to Runbow comes in the fact that as you run different colored hues flow in and out of the screen, making obstacles appear and disappear. You have to make split second decisions based on where you are and where you are going to get ahead of the other runners. It’s usually chaotic fun, even if you’re losing, and it’s the best nine player game I’ve ever played.
Name: Soul Axiom
Developer: Wales Interactive
Report: Have you ever wanted hands that could create and destroy? I mean, I guess your hands can already do that. But not like this! Soul Axiom is a first person sci-fi adventure where you have to go inside your own soul or someone else’s soul or maybe it’s dreams or memories? The games plot is confusing to say the least. I think you’re inside a giant computer program, because your right hand can take layers of texture away and your left hand can put them back. From what I experienced it’s a decent puzzle game, but it moves slow and the in game graphics are on par with the PS2. It’s a jaggy and poorly explained puzzle game that had me scratching my head from start to finish, but not because of the puzzles. It gets bonus points for spooky skeleton hand though.
Developer: Headup Games and Brainseed Factory
Report: Ever feel like a title is trying too hard to be another game? I don’t mean in a blatant rip-off Freedom Planet sort of way. I mean with atmosphere. Typoman (which should be renamed simply Typo) is trying a bit too hard to be Limbo. It has that foreboding environment where everything is sad and dark. Around any corner you could fall to your death or be smashed by some terrifying unseen assailant. Luckily Typoman does it pretty well, all things considered. The gimmick here, if you couldn’t see it from a mile away, is constructing words. Various letters show up throughout the game and it’s your job to rearrange them to help you move forward. Spell out START and the machine in front of you starts up. Spell out DRAIN and the chasm below you will empty. It’s actually pretty ingenious and I enjoyed the strange combinations of the Daily Jumble and platforming.
According to my calculations, Nindies@home gets a rough class average of 86%. That’s a solid B. Pretty good!
While the Nindies demos were sadly only available for a short time, it’s nice to see Nintendo giving gamers a taste of E3 and taste of what’s to come on the eShop. I’ll be updating this article and TAY with details on the individual game launch plans, so keep your eyes peeled for news on any game that caught your eye.
For more Nintendo silliness you can follow me on twitter @SuperBentendo.