Indie favorites from Evo 2013
Evo 2013 may be home to the best that fighting games have to offer. But, it's also home to a number of rising indie titles. Here are some of the more notable indie games on-hand at the event.
Chris Hecker had SpyParty on display across three stations, each designated for a particular skill level. One was designated for newcomers, while the other two were for others with more experience. Hecker emphasized that SpyParty is at its best when everyone's on a level playing field.
For the uninitiated, SpyParty has two online players matching wits, one as a Spy and the other as a Sniper. The idea is for the Spy to bring out his inner James Bond and blend in at a high-end cocktail party. The Spy must complete various tasks, like transfer microfilm, contact a Double Agent, and plant a bug on an ambassador. The Sniper must attempt to deduce which of of the partygoers is the spy and pick them off. If the Sniper picks the wrong target, the Spy automatically wins, so the game becomes an anxious game of cat-and-mouse.
Both sides feel tense for different reasons. As the Spy, I tried to act as close to the sophisticated NPC AI as possible by keeping my movements constant and blending in with crowds, striking up conversations and interrupting when necessary. I was successfully able to blend in and won my first game. As the Sniper, I had to use my highlight/lowlight ability to narrow down suspects and keep my eye on incriminating tells, much like a high stakes poker game. I had a suspicion of who the Spy was and when I saw the Double Agent cue (in which the words "Banana Bread" flash on the screen), I looked at my target and took my shot--only to find out I blasted the wrong guy.
SpyParty feels a bit slanted towards the Spy, but Hecker is actively working to balance the two sides as much as possible. He's also looking into adding several new game modes, most recently experimenting with Seduce Target (in which the Spy must seduce a certain party guest), Inspect Statues (the Spy must pick up a certain number of statues), and Steal the Plans from the Briefcase. The latter mode is not functional at this time and, like the rest of the game, all of these modes are subject to change.
SpyParty is still in alpha and is a long way from release, but even in its current state, it's a fun one-on-one experience and one of the most unique games I've come across in some time.
I got my first taste of Matt Thorson's TowerFall at E3 and when I saw it at Evo, I just had to go a second round with it. TowerFall is the four-player local four-player versus 2D platformer that grants players three arrows to try and eliminate each other with a single hit. While I played Last Man Standing at that event, exclusively, this time I checked out one of the game's other main modes--Headhunters.
Headhunters grants a point for each kill, changing the formula significantly. Even if you don't necessarily win the round, you can still walk away with a point or two. The game still ends when the first player reaches ten points, though this can be changed in the options.
I learned much from my first TowerFall experience, so I was able to aim my arrows much better this time around. I quickly found myself taking down opponents, even sweeping some rounds, up until I reached nine points. This is where the game mode started to work against me. Seeing that it was game point, the other three players immediately turned their sights to me and eliminated me at the start of each round. After getting eliminated early in subsequent rounds, it didn't take long for someone else to jump back out in front and win the game.
Reluctant partnerships are more likely in Headhunters mode, but regardless of whether you play this mode or Last Man Standing, TowerFall remains an enjoyable chaotic local multiplayer game. TowerFall is available now on Ouya.
Super Comboman is making its second Evo appearance, but it's my first time going hands-on with Interabang Entertainment's side-scrolling beat-'em-up, which follows a jolly islander named Struggles. Struggles is all about his favorite hero, the titular Super Comboman, and winds up emulating his hero at inopportune moments by beating up poor unsuspecting workers with huge combos.
The first thing I noticed about Super Comboman, aside from the sticker-like apperance of the characters and environments, is that it strives to make wicked combos mean something. Enemies will often come out of the woodwork and the idea is not only to take them out by using multi-hit combos, but also to strategically send their bodies flying into out-of-the-way switches and fully-destructible crates and walls. This puzzle element helps Super Comboman stand out, giving it a unique touch not found in many other beat-'em-up games.
Super Comboman's lone playable stage was the construction site, in which multiple construction workers tried to bring Struggles under control. Combos were simple to perform, thanks to an intuitive control scheme, that allowed for many standard fighting game mechanics, like juggles, multi-hit combos, and throws. It's simple fun, amplified by responsive physics and destructible environments.
Super Comboman is currently accepting pre-orders for PC, Mac, and Linux and will soon be sending out the alpha version to early adopters.
Super Space _____
The last game I tried out was a bit of a contrast to Evo's competitive nature. Super Space _____ is a four-player cooperative game, putting players on a Geometry Wars-style plane and having everyone control a single turret on a block-shaped ship to fend off waves of asteroids.
To say this game becomes chaotic is an understatement, particularly since I was playing with strangers. Each shot sends the ship flying in a different direction, with everyone trying to increase their own individual scores and grab their own bonuses. Of course, this every-man-for-himself attitude can often sink entire teams and send them inadvertantly crashing into asteroids. The balance between cooperation and competition is essential and it doesn't always go smoothly, as evident through my multiple playthroughs.
Not much has changed about Super Space _____ since I last tried it at 2012's IndieCade event, but it remains a solid hybrid of competitive and cooperative couch play for PC.