IndieCade East 2014: Five Impressive Games From ‘Show And Tell’ Day Two [VIDEO]

IndieCade East 2014
(Photo: indieCade) IndieCade

The vibe at IndieCade East 2014, running from Feb. 14-16 at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, NY, is guardedly optimistic. Understandably so, as the exhibitors at the "Show And Tell" gaming showcase run the gamut from fresh-faced young college students with pragmatic expectations to industry pros who abandoned the safety net of AAA paychecks to pour heart, soul and savings account into a passion project. Everyone is hoping for the best, but the possibility of failure weighs harder on some than others. IndieCade can be World 1-1 on the pixelated path to fame, fortune and the occasional princess.

"IndieCade East offers a lot," explains IndieCade Founder and CEO Stephanie Barish. "It's an opportunity to meet gamemakers and potentially see the next big game."

Barish's words ring true when you browse MoMI's top floor exhibition, "Indie Essentials: 25 Must-Play Video Games." Thirteen of the games on display are former IndieCade award-winners, including hits such as Gone Home, Braid and Towerfall. It's not hyperbole to suggest that one of the more than 40 games being featured in this year's "Show and Tell" could become a classic.

Before that happens, though, this year's "Show And Tell" games will get played by the mostly-bearded and occasionally-unwashed indie enthusiasts roaming the ramps of MoMI. Although we can never pinpoint all the intangibles that makes a game hit-worthy (Flappy Bird, anyone?) we can still get excited about the titles that typify the spirit of indie gaming: creativity.

The following five titles are the ones that caught my interest and held my attention during day one of IndieCade East's "Show And Tell" exhibition. That's the only criteria. These games aren't judged by graphics or length or hype, these are just seven games that made me smile and made me want to keep playing. And isn't that really all that makes a game good or bad? Read on and decide for yourself.

Neon Krieger Yamato

Neon Krieger Yamato is a tough game to put down. It's got fast action, combo counters and slick level design, all the ingredients for addictive retro gameplay. Creator lionplex (a.k.a. Dong Lee) began crafting this homage to "the Capcom classics" in Sept. 2013. Like many other IndieCade exhibitors, lionplex has to spend some time in the real world to pay his bills, but the hours invested in Neon Krieger Yamato are very well spent. The game still has practical elements in development, like text boxes and a working UI, as well as lionplex's ambitions for boss fights and "Smash Bros.-style multiplayer."

Too Many Snakes

Fans of the classic puzzler Gridlock will find a lot to like in WhaleFood Games upcoming mobile title Too Many Snakes. But instead of stiff, boring trucks players get to make a psychic mouse bend snakes around the game board. The mechanics are the same: move the mouse from point A-B. But the twist of having the snakes, well, twist, adds another layer to the Gridlock-style experience. Plus the animations are adorable and the challenge level is accessible. Creator Jonah Wallerstein hopes to have the title available on iOS in April/May with Android and Windows phones soon after. He plans to release the first 15 levels for free and then sell 60 more for $2. (He doesn't really need the money though, his business card says he's the CEO, CTO, Secretary AND Janitor at WhaleFood Games, so that's like four incomes right there!)

Meriwether

Meriwether is an RPG game based on Meriwether Lewis, the Lewis of Lewis & Clark fame. To some the concept of a game based on a historical figure pioneering his way across the great American West, collecting plant samples and documenting wildlife, sounds like a sure-fire flop. But Josh DeBonis, creator of Meriwether and president of Sortasoft Studios, may be releasing his game at the perfect time. I urge you to consider it's contemporaries Day Z and Rust. Meriwether shares the same basic survivalist gameplay as these megahits, and has the added advantage of being true. Players aren't random nobodies surviving in the wild, they're Meriwether Motherf--kin' Lewis!

Your choices don't determine the outcome because, as DeBonis explained, "this is history and we have to stick to it," so you can't decide to NOT go West. But you get to decide how Meriwether treats his companions and, as someone who suffered from "melancholy" (i.e. severe depression), you can play the part of a moody, brooding genius or a pioneering patriot full of gumption. There's resource management and hunting and frontier medicine galore. The game has been exhaustively researched and has gotten investments from a number of public funds, including the Lewis & Clark Foundation. DeBonis himself has even camped along the Lewis & Clark trail and become somewhat obsessed with their journey over the course of the game's development. Check out the kickstarter page for all the details. This game looks to make obsessed history buffs of us all. Look for a release sometime this year.

Treasure Adventure World

If you've ever purchased a game from GOG.com (and if not, WHY?) then you already have access to Treasure Adventure World's predecessor, Treasure Adventure Game. Robit Studios' earlier release made such a strong impression on the GOG staff they include it, for free, whenever you make a purchase on the site. And, based on my time with the HD reboot Treasure Adventure World, there's good reason behind GOG's enthusiasm. TAW offers a gigantic, hand-crafted world for you to explore, full of wonderful art and clever level design. It's not just a re-skinned version of Treasure Adventure Game and features a retooled AI system and plenty of new puzzles to solve. The ultimate goal is to discover a series of lost treasures, but this isn't a game that's all about waypoint hopping. Creator Steve Orlando emphasized the game's difficulty above all else.

"We don't hold the player's hand," he said. For example, players must find and unlock a fast travel system and waypoints only give a general area where a treasure might be found. It's not about whipping through the world as fast as possible, it's about embarking on an adventure. Expect to embark on yours early next year.

Mushroom 11

When was the last time you had to think like a single-cell organism? If you're like me there is no last time, but Mushroom 11 will definitely be your first. The game features a large, amoeba-like creature tasked with navigating across a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Fallout this is not, and Itay and Julia Keren's mobile title packs puzzles, not punches, across it's eight different levels. I've never played anything quite like it and enjoyed the fresh take on the platform/puzzler genre. The project started two years ago as an entry in the global Game Jam and, ahem, mushroomed from there. It's got a slick look, indie funding and ambitions to be on just about every touch screen device within a year (including the Wii U).

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