“Treat a work of art like a price; let it speak to you first.” – Arthur Schopenhauer
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 2nd, 3rd and 4th issues of Indiepocalypse and highlights a few top picks from each month.
Top Picks from Issue #2
Spinball is a fast-paced, retro-style amalgamation of Pong, air hockey and foosball designed for 1 – 4 players, either co-op or competitive. Though it is better with friends the AI makes for fun competition and have fun names such as Dingus, Farkle and Steve! The players control pucks with paddles, and much like on an air hockey table these slide across the table with some momentum and can be a little tricky to manoeuvre. That being said the controls feel smooth and responsive whether gliding, dashing or spinning paddles.
The game comes with 10 different arenas, with varying goal sizes and shapes, and players can customise their pucks, not only aesthetically but also with varying numbers of paddles. The game’s visuals are simplistic and easy on the eye but also vibrant and in keeping with the retro feel of the gameplay, this is matched equally well by the energetic soundtrack. Overall, Spinball is a fun and moderately challenging little multiplayer game that made a great addition to this issue of Indiepocalypse.
Wandering is a relaxing journey through a selection of beautifully strange and tranquil landscapes such as an autumnal forest, a mushroom field, a waterfall, and deserts filled with geometric shapes or origami. Players can traverse the various spaces as a cute winged creature, collecting orbs and progressing towards bright doorways with no death or time restrictions.
The music matches the somewhat meditative feel of the gameplay with a number of chilled tracks and delicate twinkling melodies. Similarly, the vibrant colour palettes used to create the different environments feel magical and ethereal rather than garish and fit the tone of the game perfectly. Taking just 10- 20 minutes to play, The Wandering is a short but positive and uplifting experience that would be ideal to unwind with.
Top Picks from Issue #3
Two of Swords
Two of Swords is an RPG and semi-autobiographical visual novel created by Willow who explains “I wanted to tell my story of being an autistic trans woman in a way that gave the player some of the (illusions of) choice that I felt“. The result is an abstract amalgamation of ‘choose-your-own-tarot-adventure’, personality quiz and an epic battle with chaos! It is a short game, with its three acts totalling only 10-15 minutes but it does have branching dialogue and more than one ending affording the title some replay-value.
The visuals aren’t especially noteworthy, consisting mostly of photographs, sometimes edited in a trippy fashion; but the background guitar music with its distorted long notes and lack of melody is much more unique and fits the game perfectly in that it is simultaneously relaxing and ominous.
Overall, Two of Swords feels like a deeply personal project which fosters a connection between the player and the creator making for a quite emotive and meaningful experience. It can be hard-hitting in places, highlighting the often difficult realities of having to deal with transphobia and ableism and as such comes with an appropriate trigger warning.
Short, simple, and super sweet. Embrace is a delightful little game and while it will only take around 5 minutes to complete, it is a vibrant and wholesome experience that packs a punch in the positivity department. The game has a simple aesthetic overall, featuring colourful pixel art and a selection of jolly (and slightly peculiar) characters wearing words such as ‘mistakes’, ‘thoughts’ and ‘learning’.
The controls consist of the four arrow keys which the player must use to move their long arms, one after the other, positioning them in designated spots so that they can embrace the various characters and the things they represent. Embrace is not subtle in its positive message but does not need or intend to be more sophisticated than the uplifting and fun little game that it is and it’s a charming inclusion in this month’s Indiepocalypse bundle.
Top Picks from Issue #4
BRKÖUT provides a fun new take on the 1976 Atari classic Breakout. Unlike in the original game, there is no real penalty for missing or dropping the ball, however, the paddle is also made out of bricks and must out-survive the target bricks by collecting the debris and minimising contact with the ball. The game can be a little challenging and has a range of arenas to break through, but the difficulty can be increased if desired.
The aesthetics are quite minimal, featuring simple pixel graphics and a simple greyscale colour palette as default, however, for those wanting to replicate a bad acid trip, colour can be enabled so that the whole game world changes to a different garish shade on each individual impact! The music is energetic but unobtrusive, complementing the overall tone of the game very well. Overall, BRKÖUT has a great combination of freshness and familiarity and would appeal to a wide range of players. It was also included in the itch bundle for Racial Justice and Equality for anybody that already owns that!
Box of Limes
Originally an entry to Ludum Dare 46, Box of Limes is a short puzzle game in which the player must guide the perpetually moving ‘Lime’ through a strange world with the help of a mysterious UFO that helpfully drops different shape blocks to bridge gaps and reach heights! There are a number of levels and each includes a couple of collectables for an added challenge.
The chiptune style audio matches the cute, brightly coloured pixel art well, these aspects work in tandem with the classic game inspiration to give Box of Limes a somewhat retro feel. The game is a clear mix of Lemmings and Tetris and while it doesn’t bring anything new to the table the combination makes for some fun and often frantic gameplay that is a great way to spend 20-30 minutes or so.
Indiepocalypse provides an eclectic selection of games each month for a range of platforms including physical and tabletop games, 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. The above selection is merely 6 of my personal preferences from a collection of over 30 titles distributed with issues #2, #3 and #4 so I’d definitely recommend taking a closer look at each bundle-zine and seeing what’s on offer!