Indie Jeff's Guide to IndieCade 2011

IndieCade 2011 is officially open to the public today and Sunday. If you live in or near Culver City, Los Angeles, the open-air festival is a great opportunity to not only play some fun and innovative games with friendly, like-minded folks; it's also an opportunity to get a glimpse behind the curtain and talk to the independent developers who created them. There are events and conferences to attend as well, if you wish, but getting your hands on the games themselves won't cost you a cent.

If you haven't been before, when you first get to IndieCade, it won't likely be what you're expecting--but in a good way. One of the festival's primary venues is in the Culver City Firehouse, another is in an art gallery within walking distance.

There's also an open park area for the "Big Games," which are physical games like Gnarwhal Studios' Humans vs. Zombies, a sort of persistent real world version of rogue-like tag, played on a large number of college campuses.

If you opt for a conference pass, my two personal standout recommendations are BIT.TRIP series creators Alex Neuse and Mike Roush's talk called "Storytelling Through Minimalism" on Saturday at noon, and Project Next, an all-star panel of indies like Terry Cavanagh (VVVVVV) and Phil Fish (Fez) showing off quick previews of new video games for the first time. Cavanagh's new asymmetric co-op puzzle game, At a Distance, will be playable tomorrow, as will Fish's Fez, which took away the Best in Show and Story/World Design awards at last night's ceremony.

So far, I've been really impressed by The Bridge's pencil-shaded art style. Like Antichamber, by developer Demruth, Ty Taylor and Mario Castaneda's game integrates Escher-like sensibilities into its world and puzzles, Antichamber is a first-person game, versus The Bridge's 2D platforming sensibilities.

There's one game I'd like to highlight in particular, not only because it's crazy funkadelic superfun permeates the gameplay, art, and music, but also because it's one you can play for yourselves for $4.95. That game is Tom Sennett's Deepak Fights Robots (Best Game Design). Each level has Deepak try to collect a series of orbs while collecting power-ups and avoiding deadly robots. Once all the orbs are quickly collected, Deepak becomes a superhero and knocks the robots into oblivion. Perhaps it's because it's simultaneously so classic and bizarre, or perhaps it's because they had it plugged into an old NES Advantage controller, but I had too much fun with it.

We'll have more in-depth coverage on the IndieCade 2011 finalists and quotes from the developers next week.

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