The lights are on
E3 is full of hundreds of people cramming into booths and forming lines behind the kiosks of high-profile games. You would think a collection of little-known independent games would have a unimpressive smattering of people milling about, but it is one of the most difficult areas to navigate. Many people are trying their best to get away from the chaos of E3, and check out a small innovative game that represents something they’ve never experienced before.
Among the already popular IndieCade location at E3, there is an especially long line that forms behind the Oculus Rift titles. After spending only a few minutes with The Recital, it’s easy to see why.
E3 is not the place to experience a video game in its purest form. Distractions are everywhere, and even the best set of headphones can’t prevent you from realizing that you are in the middle of a crowded floor shoulder-to-shoulder with other gamers shooting at aliens. It’s difficult to get immersed, but strapping on the Oculus Rift makes in no problem at all.
The Recital is sort of an on-rails puzzle game, and it was the only game at E3 that made me forget I was there while I was playing. You hold a controller in your hand while playing, but it’s not controlled like a traditional first-person game. Holding the right trigger moves you forward, and the direction you are physically looking in is the direction you walk towards.
I walked up to a clock on a desk and looked above my head to see a chandelier. After pressing a button while looking at the clock, the world began to shift and multiple identical hallways with chandeliers hanging from the ceiling appeared. I picked a hallway and started walking. As I progressed my walking movement got faster and faster until the world shifted again and I found myself flying up a spiral staircase. Eventually, I ended up in a bed with an alarm clock blaring at me to wake me up.
The whole experience was like an interactive dream with its immersive impact tripled with the use of the Oculus Rift. Creator Julian Kantor is still working on the project without a release date in mind just yet.
Lovers In A Dangerous Space Time
If you were to take the iconic scene from Star Wars where Luke and Han man the turrets of the Millennium Falcon to take on Tie Fighters while shouting down the hallways at one another and made a game out of it, it would be Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime.
With an art style reminiscent of the PixelJunk Shooter games, two players are in control of a large two-dimensional round spaceship. Ladders and platforms lead to different areas of the ship that control turrets, shields, and navigation.
In order to take on the attacking aliens and move to planets in need of saving, two players need to share duties by moving around the ship jumping on turrets, moving the shield into the right location, or grabbing the stearing wheel.
I played for a few minutes with an artist and ,Jamie Tucker, the game's programmer, and found myself very quickly and comfortably getting into the cooperative groove.
Tower Of Guns
Joe Mirabello was working on the Kingdoms of Amalur MMO before the project was shut down in a spectacularly public fashion. After that project – which he was quick to point out was an excellent working experience until the lawsuits – he decided he wanted to do something entirely on his own.
Tower of Guns is a self-defined as a “roguelike-ish first-person shooter” with randomized levels and power-ups. This fast-paced first-person shooter has more in common with Binding of Isaac and Quake than Call of Duty. The game also has a focus on vertically. Mirabello says, “If you can see it, you can get to it.” No invisible walls exist.
Mirabello doesn’t have an exact release date for the game, but he says that it will release before the new Thief. Once Thief has released, Mirabello wants to play it and doesn’t want to feel guilty about not working on his own game.
The game is currently seeking Steam publishing through Project Greenlight.
C3 is a puzzle platforming game built by a group of students who just graduated from college. You play as a robot from the third-person perspective, firing a weapon towards nodes in order to rotate the room you are inside. The ultimate goal is to solve environmental puzzles to open doors to eventually exit the giant rotating room of which you're trapped in.
The game has been in production for a little over four months, and the team is hoping to release the game next year, but are making no promises.
That Dragon, Cancer
We covered That Dragon, Cancer recently on our website, and much like The Recital, it’s a title that quickly pulls you in, even on the crowded E3 show floor.
The game is based on creator Ryan Green’s real life experience with his young son who has terminal cancer. It takes place during one night in a hospital room, and plays like an on-rails point-and-click adventure. It feels like an interactive heart-breaking short story. It’s based on real events, on a night when Green could not console his son when he wanted something to drink.
Green encouraged me to take my time playing the game, and I’m glad he did. At E3 it’s hard not to rush through a game and move on to the next. It’s slow paced, and more about listening to spoken words and witnessing the environment. It’s a sad game, but the demo has its positive moments and was a welcome experience at a show usually reserved for game titles that practice trying to shout as loud as they can to anyone who walks by.
6180 The Moon and Guns of Icarus
Both of these titles are available to play now, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth mentioning.
6180 The Moon is a visually simple 2-D platformer with an interesting twist: there are no bottomless pits. If you fall off a ledge, you continue your fall from the top of the screen. Alternatively, if you jump upward off the screen, you will continue your leap from the bottom of the screen. The result is a series of platforming challenges that feels more like interesting puzzler than a platformer.
Guns of Icarus looks and plays like a first-person shooter, but in the big picture, it’s really a ship combat game. You are part of the crew of a floating airship, and your class dictates your job. You can be an engineer, running around repairing broken engines, a captain piloting the ship and giving orders, or a gunner manning the turrets that you fire at competing ships. You won’t be firing weapons at other players or even taking damage from flying bullets. The win scenario is you keep your ship floating in the air, and the competing ships don’t.
Indie Cade is a bright beacon at an E3 full of similar games. The experiences I had at that booth were easily the most memorable of the show, and I’ve barely scratched the surface of what was on display.
This story was originally published on June 13, 2013.
Email the author Kyle Hilliard, or follow on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Game Informer.