Where is my Heart? – Die Gute Fabrik
As nice as that trailer sounds (and looks), there were no headphones or speakers plugged into either computer showcasing Where is my Heart? Which just makes me sad. Where is my Heart? is an odd, disorienting and absurdly cute puzzle platformer that sees you controlling a family of three little monsters on a journey to find their home. Each level is viewed through lots of individual windows and these are often muddled up somewhat making navigation a tricky affair. On top of this, each level also has a puzzle of some sort that requires the unique abilities of your monsters to solve. I was stuck for what seemed like an age trying to work out the controls and conventions of the game, but after some kind soul told me how to head butt the ground (!!) the rest slowly dropped into place. I wasn’t sure what to make of Where is my Heart? as I was playing it but looking back I’d love to jump back in and carry on. Especially with sound.
Zineth – The Arcane Kids
A few games came to mind while I was playing Zineth: Jet Set Radio (rather obviously), Fotonica and Journey. All of these games, to a certain extent, celebrate speed and movement; Zineth is no different. In fact, according to the Arcane Kids’ site that’s exactly what it’s celebrating, as well as Twitter, of all things. I didn’t play it for long and was aware there was no tangible goal or purpose to the proceedings but there was something exciting about the openness and height of the colourful desert playground and the prospect of achieving blistering speeds, making soaring jumps and gracefully gliding from one place to another. I never learned how to skate along walls (as seen in the trailer above) but I get the feeling I’d have enjoyed it a lot more if I had. Zineth is available to download here, both on PC and Mac.
Sokobond – Alan Hazelden and Harry Lee
Sokobond is a lovely chemistry puzzle game that involves moving a single element around a small grid and bonding it to other elements in order to create specific compounds. So on the first level you have to form water by bonding your hydrogen atom to two oxygen atoms. Simple enough. However, as you progress, the order in which you connect the different elements and the way in which you traverse the grid, often having to ‘nudge’ elements into certain positions so you can bond with them, gets trickier and trickier. Don’t be fooled by its disarming elegance: Sokobond is a tough little nut to crack. Indeed, it’s so effortlessly elegant that there’s not a tutorial or help bubble in sight, you just play it and everything clicks (I actually heard Alan Hazelden behind me say he hates tutorials). Sokobond will be ‘coming eventually’ on PC, Mac, Linux, iOS and Android. I recommend it.
Sentinel – Matthew Brown
I wasn’t sure what to make of Sentinel. On the one hand it seemed like a pretty standard fare tower defence game with a somewhat sterile but highly polished geometric aesthetic. However, on the other, it had this lovely dynamic where a wave would pass across the grid-based playing field causing towers it collided with to not only shoot at any enemies within range, but to generate sounds in time with the beat. Different towers created different sounds and by the end of a level, when all your defences were in place, the music would be a delightfully hypnotic pitter-patter of resonating blips and pulses– see this video to see and hear what I mean. The problem was, actually getting to that stage wasn’t especially enjoyable and the terrific sound design could easily be missed in the noisy expo environment (as Harbour Master and I discovered with one headphone on and one off as we discussed the game. You can see me playing it, on my knees no less, over at Electron Dance). Anyway, Sentinel‘s currently in alpha so it’s early doors yet, but I’m keen to see where Matthew Brown takes it.
There were a few other games I checked out at the Indie Arcade but I didn’t find them particularly interesting. Last Knight was another running game of sorts, but from a third person perspective, where you play as an apprentice knight on his horse running down country lanes and forest paths jumping over fences and walls, taking out oncoming knights and collecting coins and chests. It was competent and enjoyable for a spell.
There was a single-stick retro shoot ‘em up called DRM: Death Ray Manta (what was I saying about DMC: Devil May Cry?) that looked like QWAK rutting with Robotron. Super fast paced, eye-poppingly colourful, busy, and very tough. It wasn’t my bag but it was recently rewarded 8/10 in EDGE. Perhaps I should give it another look.
Finally there was Dirac, which looked far more interesting than it was to play in the ten minutes or so it took me to get… well, nowhere in particular, really. Viewed in first person, Dirac seemed to be a glacially slow exploration game set in a hard onyx world of faintly lit organic forms and wireframe structures. There was nothing besides the visuals to compel me to explore this odd space (I couldn’t hear any audio) so I eventually moved on. An oddity at present and perhaps one to keep an eye on.
Kairo and Proteus were also on show but they’re two games I intend to play in the future and preferably away from the noise and bustle of an expo. I’ll wrap up the Indie Arcade coverage here, but for more information and chats with some of the developers above, be sure to swing by Electron Dance.
In the totally unintended third (and final) part I’ll reveal the last few games I played at the expo, two of which were personal highlights.
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