Editorial

Indie Highlight Reel – May 7, 2017

EXO ONE

Welcome to OnlySP’s Indie Highlights Reel, where interesting games from across the indie scene are given the spotlight in this week’s roundup.

EMPORIUM

Today’s first entry is Emporium, described by solo developer Tom Kitchen as a “short, interactive vignette…exploring notions of escapism, loss, and a fragmented sense of self in the wake of a personal tragedy.”

Emporium is Tom’s first solo project aside from his work with Blind Sky Studios, the creators responsible for Mandagon, a pixel puzzle platformer in which players take controls of a little stone totem, lost in the Tibetan representation of limbo, and steeped in the mythology of life and death.

Emporium takes a step away from the surreal, instead offering an insight into dissociative identity disorder, suicide, depression, and bipolar disorder. While these themes concern the narrative and personal experiences of the player, and character, Emporium is described by Tom as “not necessarily about these things…and is more a confused, vaguely poetic response to these things.”

The title is keenly focused on building resonance through audio and visual cues, with sporadic moments of dialogue and a firm dedication to its minimalist themes, both in gameplay and aesthetic. Close to monochromatic, Emporium builds its atmosphere with a certain fuzziness, perhaps as William Gibson once described in his seminal work, Neuromancer, ‘the sky…was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.’

Emporium is a rare type of interactive media, a game that is perhaps not just a game and yet no less deserving of being played. There are certain aesthetic and design similarities with titles such as Limbo, Inside, and Little Nightmares. While Emporium strives to find its own meaning and message in the chaos of its narrative explanation, there is no doubt that its message is worth receiving.

KYNSEED

Up next is Kynseed, a quirky title brought about by a band of ex-Lionhead developers, the creators of Fable and its sequels. Neal Whitehead and Charlton Edwards branched out to form PixelCount Studios, based in Guildford, England, and Kynseed is the studio’s first attempt to inject magic, whimsy, and wonder into a new project.

Kynseed is a 2D sandbox RPG game in which the player’s goal is to successfully create a life. Grow a farm, be a hunter, provide for your family, and hopefully have children. Or not. Kynseed is a no-holds barred generational epic of adventure, and if desired, banality. Fish all day, sleep all night. Tend to chickens, and pigs, or grow carrots. Run through the forests battling against twisted creatures and discover hidden mysteries, or just ride around on a pig and have fun. Kynseed opens its leafy doors to all makes and minds.

Of note is that in Kynseed it is possible to just keep going. Children will inherit the traits and skills of their forebears, along with any loot or equipment left behind, which allows the player to continue on as the offspring of the previous character. Failure to produce heirs will result in a game-over scenario however.

Allegedly, every NPC and domesticated animal has a memory system which keeps up with player interactions; these characters will remember what the player did, or didn’t do as reputation and legacy build within the world.

The game’s Kickstarter page is monstrous, full of ambition and promise. Kynseed is touting an extensive and diverse content offering in a warm, light-hearted package. There is currently a playable prototype available on the game page, and it is worth checking out. Kynseed is an all-or-nothing bid on Kickstarter, ending June 2017 with an estimated delivery of December 2017; it would be unfortunate if gaming lost a fledgling whimsical wonder, potentially a spiritual successor to Fable in the wake of Lionhead’s demise, especially when it is being delivered on the back of a pig.

While there’s no official trailer for the game, the prototype version has been making the rounds on YouTube. Check out this very early gameplay video below.

EAGLE ISLAND

Sticking to the trend of one-man bands, Nick Gregory is developing Eagle Island, a 16-bit 2D platformer drawing inspiration from Metroidvania titles, except in this scenario falconry pays off in gaming for the first time ever; the player controls Quill, a little red-haired dude and explorer extraordinaire, the intrepid falconer in charge of directing his partner, Koji, an owl. While Quill’s movements and abilities are generally restricted to running, jumping, and ledge-grabbing, Koji is responsible for defeating enemies and solving puzzles.

Koji can be aimed in eight different directions using D-Pad inspired controls, and powered up with various boosts hidden around the levels and gained during the game’s progression. Successive attacks with Koji will build a combo meter and allow for greater rewards. If Koji misses an attack, or is captured, Quill becomes defenseless and must evade enemies until Koji returns.

Eagle Island exudes charm, and currently has a playable demo on its Kickstarter page. Again, this is an all-or-nothing bid; Eagle Island has reached Steam Greenlight, which is a positive turn of events, since the funding campaign ends on May 16 and as of writing has only reached half of its total goal.

Eagle Island reverses the ‘helpful NPC assistant’ by making Quill the passive enabler for Koji’s attacks, at once the star of the show, and in many ways, not at all. Koji immediately asserts itself as the venerable defender of Eagle Island’s less capable protagonist, which is a unique aspect worth investigating.

EXO ONE

Lastly on Highlight Reel, Exbleative, based in Adelaide, Australia, brings a true science-fiction offering to the table with EXO ONE,  a momentum-based exploration game taking place across a wide variety of exoplanets, with the player in control of an alien craft, the eponymous EXO ONE, capable of manipulating the laws of gravity.

EXO ONE is strikingly beautiful, invoking the breathtaking and dazzling panoramas of Kubrick and Nolan films, while drawing inspiration from titles such as Journey, the objective being there is no objective. Traverse at any pace the player sees fit, without combat, challenges, or time limits. EXO ONE aims to deliver the meditative, reflective state increasingly considered by developers in line with the mindfulness explosion experienced in the last few years.

EXO ONE’s narrative is delivered piece-meal through the player’s exploration of exoplanets, and via a far-future historian recounting the events that led to mankind’s first contact with extraterrestrial life. The designs for EXO ONE are delivered to humanity via a signal from deep space, and the craft is subsequently built. The test pilot for EXO ONE inadvertently triggers a wormhole to form, presumably with EXO ONE’s capabilities, and is sucked through into the unknown universe.

Currently on Steam Greenlight, EXO ONE is slated for a mid to late 2017 delivery, and still has 23 days remaining on its Kickstarter.

These are only four of the wildly unique and inventive titles currently under the hammer of indie developers all over the world. Any indie developer looking to showcase a new title or get some coverage of their passion project should get in touch with OnlySP to be considered for future Indie Highlight Reels.

Let us know in the comments which is your favorite of the four, and don’t forget to follow OnlySP on Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube to stay connected with all the latest from the world of single player games.

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