“The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize.” – Robert Hughes
Indiepocalypse is a monthly bundle-zine by PIZZAPRANKS; on the first Friday of every month 10 games and a PDF zine are made available on itch and Patreon for just $15.00. (You can find much more information about the project in our earlier piece ‘Indiepocalypse: Monthly Indie Game bundle and Zine‘).
This review looks at the 5th, 6th and 7th issues of Indiepocalypse and highlights a few top picks from each month.
Top Picks from Indiepocalypse #5
Space to Investigate
Space to investigate is a short mystery noir with capitalist dystopian vibes. After finding a dead body the player must explore a small environment, speaking to the local residents and filling their file with more information with which to further question the tight-knit and slightly shady community.
The art-style is quite simple and consists of low-res, black and white pixel art; there are limited textures on the uncomplicated models and details are indicated with different shades of grey. Space to Investigate does well to create such a fitting aesthetic and thematically appropriate visual style with the limitations that presumably necessitated such a minimalistic approach. The game’s audio, despite its relative simplicity also adds to the experience by helping to build suspense and create an air of tension.
Playable in less than ten minutes, Space to Investigate is a short experience that is designed as an introduction to an ongoing project. It’s slight surrealism sparks curiosity in the player whilst the story and investigation create intrigue and pique interest for the next instalment Space to Interrogate making it a great precursor to an ongoing series but also a welcome addition to this issue of Indiepocalypse.
Change of Heart
A Change of Heart began life as an entry to the April 2020 Magical Girl Game Jam using the themes ‘I Won’t Rely on Anyone Anymore, This Just Can’t Be Right, & Can You Face Your True Feelings?‘. It includes all the twee, over-the-top positivity, cute and vibrant artwork, and energetic music that one might expect from a magical girl adventure along with familiar themes of friendship, trust and self-discovery.
The game follows June, schoolgirl by day and nightmare fighting magical girl by night and the narrative focuses on her internal, emotional struggle after thinking her friends have forgotten her birthday. The player must fight through a few short stages before reaching to consecutive and increasingly challenging boss fights, the last of which is a little internal battle that takes place in June’s heart.
A Change of Heart presents a few challenging moments but death is not too punishing as the short stages can be retried; additionally, death by falling is almost entirely unpunished as the player is returned to the same location. The game can be completed in around 20 minutes but despite its short length it spans genres and features a diverse attack system, a range of enemies, a complete story and cleverly integrated narrative design – a standout game in the 5th edition of Indiepocalypse.
Top Picks from Indiepocalypse #6
A Conscious Decision
A Conscious Decision is a short, interactive novella focusing on Jane and the inner workings of her mind. The player takes on the role of a small part of her subconscious, exploring her past and present via her hippocampus and amygdala, recklessly recalling memories and administering serotonin or dopamine in a bid to help her state of mind and change her future. It should be noted that the game explores some dark themes and does come with a trigger warning.
The traditionally drawn illustrations and watercolour effects are a stand out feature of the game giving it a truly unique visual style that looks great but also fits the personal themes and tone of the game really well. The music is gentle but ominous and matches the dulcet but sinister tones of the voice acting perfectly. The overall aesthetic of A Conscious Decision, in terms of both the artwork and the audio complement the other game aspects in a way that truly brings the experience to life.
A single playthrough can be completed in just a few minutes, however, the six different endings and various choice paths mean that replaying is a must! In conclusion, A Conscious Decision is an enjoyable and thought-provoking game that tactfully and effectively tackles sensitive subjects and is a great addition to Indiepocalypse.
Invercity is a cute, and heavily perspective-driven, puzzle-platformer that lets the player do handstands! It consists of three worlds, each with 18 stages and provides a sizable chunk of solid gameplay for a relatively short game. The mechanics are introduced gradually, players can jump, move objects, handstand (or hang depending on how you look at it!) and even reverse the world in order to overcome obstacles and manoeuvre past the various twee barriers!
The protagonist’s character design is delightful and matches the colourful pixel art of the environments and the chiptune-esque soundtrack. No single element of the overall aesthetic is particularly noteworthy but they are implemented very well and blend seamlessly with each other and the themes and mechanics of the game. There is a subtle and lighthearted story to accompany the gameplay, and while this is very sweet and also adds to the overall charm, the unique mechanics are what makes this title stand out amongst other Indiepocalypse titles.
Logic is required to solve the puzzles and traverse the areas and the platforming elements are very causal with no precision requirements or time limits. Invercity also lacks any sort of combat making it a challenging but stress-free experience that is highly enjoyable.
Top Picks from Indiepocalypse #7
Mourn is a highly personal interactive and iterative poem about the end of a real romantic relationship that the developer had, created as part of their own grieving process and also entered into the Out Of Mana #1 jam. It is simplistic in design with black writing on a white screen, there are words in green to interact with, changing the words or evolving the poem in some way. It is not designed to be clicked through but rather explored.
The interactive poem is very short and with minimal player impact and maybe doesn’t even constitute a game in the more traditional sense, but it is an emotive and moving experience, effective in its intentions. Mourn encourages the player to consider the importance of their own loved ones and the state of their relationships in a gently thought-provoking but very meaningful way.
Knowing that the poem is based on real-life events and conveys genuine emotions adds to the poignancy of the words and the experience as a whole. A unique and refreshing addition to the Indiepocalypse zine!
A Midclubber Night’s Dream
A Midclubber Night’s Dream is an entertaining rhythm game set in an underground nightclub filled with curious creatures from a strange dreamland and was originally created for Minijam #57. The player must engage in a series of dance-offs with increasingly skilled opponents starting with a cute little bunny rabbit and followed by a jolly worm, a bovine bartender, an angry-looking rock, a sparkling clean record and finally, throw some shapes in a rhythm-based boss fight against the DJ!
The game features cute and atmospheric pixel art alongside its fun characters, plentiful puns and energetic, upbeat music, all working in tandem to create a well-rounded and complete experience that is highly enjoyable. The only downside is the very sharp difficulty spike after beating the rock, the game gets much more challenging at this point and requires some saintly patience or godlike reaction times!
Overall, A Midclubber Night’s Dream is a fun but challenging game, well made, especially in it’s short development time and a personal favourite from Indiepocalypse #7!
Indiepocalypse provides a diverse range of games each month for a variety of platforms, and while this means that it’s unlikely a buyer will like everything, it provides a well-rounded overview of indie and solo game development and there is almost always, something for everyone. Additionally, as a lot of the games included are available free or on a ‘name your own price’ basis, purchasing the bundle-zine is a great way to support the developers as well as the writers, comic and cover artists, and curators that contribute to its production.
The above selection is a list of just 6 of my personal favourites from over 30 games distributed with issues #5, #6 and #7 so I’d definitely recommend taking a closer look at each bundle-zine and deciding which ones you like best!