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E3 2015: The best of the indies

E3 2015 proved to be a showcase for a number of AAA mainstream games. However, it was also home to a large number of indie games from across several booths on the show floor. Some came from the major publishers, others were featured in the IndieCade booth, and still others were featured elsewhere on the show floor.

Here are some of the more notable indie games that Shacknews encountered while wandering the show floor.

Cuphead

Cuphead has undoubtedly been one of the darlings of the ID@Xbox indie outreach effort, taking the run-and-gun gameplay of a game like Gunstar Heroes or Metal Slug and placing it in a vintage 1930s era cartoon backdrop. It's one of the most original ideas I've seen from a game in years and it proved to be quite a pleasant surprise.

Cuphead (and a second player playing as Mugman) basically picks a level from an overworld map and, more often than not, it'll kick off a boss battle against a massive enemy. Pattern memorization is a must, as each boss will come with its own attack patterns, such as a giant dragon that spews eye lasers over cloud platforms and a giant cuckoo bird that shoots eggs that break off into shrapnel.

There are a few downsides to Cuphead. One is that the boss battles can get old quickly, as there's very little to mix up that action. There was one vertical scrolling level that felt more traditional, but that was about it. The other thing is that there isn't a progress bar to help indicate how close you are to beating the boss. You can last for several minutes and feel like you're making progress, but there's nothing to indicate how much you've made.

Other than that, this was one of my biggest surprises of the show. Cuphead is set to hit Xbox One and PC in 2016.


King's Quest: A Knight to Remember

The folks at The Odd Gentlemen have undertaken the tough task of bringing King's Quest alive for a new generation. Not only has the studio managed to do so, but this also feels like the closest a gaming experience has come to emulating the classic movie, The Princess Bride.

The similarities can be seen in the main storytelling device. An old king (played by actor Christopher Lloyd) is telling his granddaughter a bedtime story about his rise to knighthood. And just like the movie, there are both moments of great nobility and a lot of outlandishly wacky scenes. King's Quest also isn't afraid to poke fun at some of the more ever-present adventure game tropes of the past. One example sees the player wielding around a hatchet with the caveat that it's "not to be used on everything." Of course, common adventure game wisdom is to try and use it on everything, but doing so will only get the narrator to point out that this isn't that sort of adventure game.

I'm not overly familiar with the King's Quest series, but A Knight to Remember should certainly be lauded for its clever writing and its light-hearted plot. The first episode is set to kick off in July.


Tribal and Error

While some games are content to travel into the future, this one is going into the distant past. Tribal and Error from Grotman Games features a novel premise that sees a crude tape machine robot go back in time to the land of cavemen. He's there to help them survive the coming Ice Age, but there's a bit of a language barrier.

To help them see another day, the robot must observe the caveman's actions, while recording the symbols in their speech bubbles. Players must then fill in the part of the speech that corresponds to those symbols to help them put together sentences that will lead the cavemen towards success.

It's an interesting exercise in pattern recognition and one that PC players should look out for. Tribal and Error is coming soon.


Tetheron

Tetheron is an interesting multiplayer game from developer Giversapce that bases its rules on tethering physics. The idea is to keep the ball in play by swinging it around and keeping it above the ground. Sessions will mostly play out with vertical scrollign levels, with the last person standing being declared the victor.

This is built for 2-6 players, which can get quite chaotic, since it can be hard to keep up with whose ball belongs to who. However, getting the hang of the game is quite simple, with simple two-button controls. The key is not to get caught on any of the walls and to build enough momentum to keep moving upwards. Slowing down will often mean plummeting to a loss.

Tetheron is coming soon to PC.


GNOG

Developer KO-OP Mode is bringing something a little different to the table with GNOG, different enough to get Double Fine's attention. The idea is to play around with giant, grotesque-looking faces, rotating the screen to interact with toy-like pieces. Pushing and pulling objects will either create music, cause a chain reaction, or even open a whole new area.

GNOG is interesting enough to behold with its unique puzzles and its interesting visual aesthetic, but Double Fine and KO-OP Mode are looking to be more than the average puzzle game. In addition to coming to PC, PS4, and mobile devices, GNOG is also slated to hit PlayStation 4's Morpheus, making it one of the first indies to take advantage of Sony's virtual reality headset. This will make GNOG one of the more intriguing indie games to watch for in the future. It's set to release next year.

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