“Games are the most elevated form of investigation.” – Albert Einstein
Indiepocalypse is a monthly bundle-zine by PIZZAPRANKS; on the first Friday of every month 10 games and a PDF zine complete with comics, mini-zines, puzzles and more 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‘).
Top Picks from Indiepocalypse Issue #8
Ceefax in the Time of the Plague
Ceefax in the Time of Plague was initially created for Godot Wild Jam 18 and adheres to the theme of ‘plague’ as well as the wildcards ’80’s baby’, ‘take a chance on me’ and ‘I wish it would rain’. This mostly text-based narrative experience is an accurate and nostalgic ode to a pre-internet age of terrestrial television. Its high contrast, low res art style, perfectly mimics the original Ceefax with a mix of tracks that provide a nice range of background music for a game that can be played in less than 10 minutes!
Ceefax was introduced in 1979 and enabled people to browse the news, check the weather, play games and book holidays and more, all via the television signal. The service sadly met its end in 2012 with the digital switchover but it remains a fondly remembered and oddly iconic part of British television! This game adopts the format and content of Ceefax to create a non-linear narrative game that also challenges the player.
Players must scan the Ceefax content including news articles, farming updates, and music charts to get as much information about the killer plague currently afflicting most of the world’s food. The overall goal is to work out which foods are safe to order for the children’s dinner this evening but this will require a keen eye for detail. Failing means a complete restart as the information presented will change with each playthrough. This provides some replayability and ensures that players take in the whole story.
Ceefax in the Time of Plague is a deceptively simple little game, with clever narrative design, engaging puzzle and plenty of retro reminiscing for those old enough! This is a very enjoyable free game that requires little time investment making it a top pick in this issue of Indiepocalypse.
The Machine’s Garden
“The Machine’s Garden is a puzzle game by Michael Shmitt and Jon Miller, in which you attempt to bring a long-dormant military supercomputer back into life on the mysterious planet Terra and learn more about the surrounding environment.” – David Ingrusee
David’s full review of this game can be found here!
Top Picks from Indiepocalypse Issue #9
Perfect Vermin has the player scouring office environments looking for a set number of normal objects that seem out of place (reminiscent of the mimics in Prey) and bashing them with a mallet. Unlike regular toilets and office furniture which break apart as expected, the ‘vermin’ will crack into fleshy segments amidst a splatter of blood! On the surface, Perfect Vermin is a silly, fun game about smashing stuff but it uses its short playtime to effectively convey a much more serious underlying message.
The action happens in simple 3d environments that are not especially noteworthy but do the job, however, the short, narrative-focused interludes feature some wonderfully gruesome pixel art. These sections feature a newsreader, reporting on the gameplay; as things progress the presenter’s ashtray soon becomes increasingly full of cigarette butts, he becomes increasingly covered in boils and ailments and the number of no smoking signs littered about the 3D environment also increases.
In line with this less than subtle message, the gameplay sections also increase with difficulty, mainly due to the introduction of timers, culminating in an impossible task that leaves the player wanting more time, a tangible metaphor for the theme of the game. While the delivery of the game’s more serious themes lacked some delicacy, it uses the 20-30 minutes of playtime well, utilising the mechanics to connect the player to the story.
Do I Pass and Saving you from Yourself
Both of these games by Taylor McCue are too short to talk much about without spoiling. They are similar in theme and both come with content warnings regarding misgendering and transphobia.
Do I Pass is a short visual novel about a transgender woman and her worries about passing, a narrative with multiple endings that are explored through the idea of magically becoming a telepathic ghost to hear others’ thoughts. While a little simplistic in its exploration of the theme it is clearly a very personal and heartfelt project that is ultimately quite emotive.
Saving You from Yourself buts the player in the role of therapist to a transgender woman looking to start hormone therapy, essentially making them gatekeeper – an experience that feels inherently uncomfortable and the multiple approaches and subsequent endings really emphasise the poignancy of the game’s narrative and the impact that one person can have.
Top Picks from Indiepocalypse Issue #10
Remember Mary is a cute, kinda dark and very surreal narrative adventure that follows a young girl called Mary as she explores an array of strange scenes and meets a series of animal friends (my favourite was the axolotl!) who she can choose to either help or hurt. She must talk to each of them and find out what they need and then complete environmental puzzles or challenges to enable or disable various outcomes. The game is short at around 20 – 30 minutes but three separate endings and over 600 lines of dialogue mean it certainly has some replay value.
The art style, whilst simplistic and with an air of MS Paint, feels stylised, deliberate and quite adorable, perfectly matching the brilliantly bizarre story and characters. Oppositionally, the aesthetic also provides a contrast to the darker elements of the gameplay and narrative giving it increased prominence. The music and sounds also have a hint of silliness and fit well with the visuals.
A highlight in issue 10 of Indiepocalypse, Remember Me is a fun little game with a good mix of gameplay and narrative with a lot to offer a range of players – an easy title to recommend!
Traitor Nightly is an interesting experience that mixes a relatively complex narrative with a strategic board game. The player must compete against the grandmaster of ‘Traitor’, the most popular game in the fictional Pharostine Empire. The developers describe the setting as a mix of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires with 1920’s America!
The conversation between the player and the opponent throughout the game of Traitor reveals the narrative elements gradually whilst also potentially influencing the player’s tactics or choice of move. The opponent’s dialogue is responsive to the player’s choices and their level of success within the board game. The conversation was interesting and quite intriguing overall, but it was tiny on the screen, and the longer sections of text felt laborious to read.
Despite the developer’s insistence that the game being played isn’t the main focus of the overall experience, and is intended to be secondary to the storytelling, there is no denying that it a very satisfying and engaging strategy game and could easily be a stand-alone game. The combination of genres works well for the most part though and makes the experience more unique and a stand out addition to Indiepocalypse issue 10.
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, puzzle-makers and curators that contribute to its production.
The above selection is a list of just 7 of my personal favourites from over 30 games distributed with issues #8, #9 and #10 so I’d definitely recommend taking a closer look at each bundle-zine and deciding which ones you like best!
If you like indie focused game collections maybe you’d also be interested in:
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