Sometimes, a game does more than give us an enjoyable experience, helping us see the medium in an entirely new way.
Each year, the Independent Games Festival tries to recognize titles which execute ideas in novel or revolutionary ways. Maybe they offer a narrative which blends everyday issues with eldritch horror aesthetics; or, maybe they present a new twist on a decades old format, forcing players to consider different perspectives on the game’s they thought they had figured out. Of they many titles they look at though, only a select few have the honor of being the most innovative and ground breaking, and this year’s candidates for the Nuovo Award are all strong contenders in their own right.
Getting Over it With Bennet Foddy
Getting Over It is a lot like picking up an instrument you have no experience with. Maybe you assumed it would be easy due to having experience with something similar, or maybe you’re going in completely fresh. Either way, it’s a difficult slog with unwieldy controls that many will probably put down after a few minutes.
For those who persevere, however, there is a certain zen that comes from sticking with it. As the commentary from the game’s creator Bennet Foddy plays in the background, players can find a certain zen in the constant uphill climb they make, each attempt getting a little bit easier. By the end, should they manage to reach the end, it offers the same sense of accomplishment as any struggle, exhilarating in its completion and yet still ripe with more to learn in another playthrough.
Tarotica Voo Doo
In development since 1993, TPM.CO SOFTWORKS’ take on a classic dungeon crawler is a love letter out of a long buried time capsule, scratching the itch of even the most guarded nostalgic. Tasked with hunting down ingredients to cook a meal for a hungry family, players venture through hand drawn corridors of a haunted house, battling enemies that range from angry dogs to animated clothes lines. All the while, a simple chip tune sound track plays in the background, calming and mellow as players make their way deeper into each corridor. Earnest about its inspirations and straight forward in its design, RPG fans new and old can find something to love about this heartfelt title.
It can be easy to take for granted just how much we do in a day, and how often we do it. Karina Popp breaks the illusion with her title 10 Mississippi, which tasks players with inputing controls to allow someone to go through the actions of their routine. Everything from blinking to unscrewing a pill bottle to staying preoccupied on a train are fully controlled by the player, repeated again and again with each passing day. It provides a sense of control most might find cumbersome, but it does make you think: How much control is afforded to players in games, and better yet, what would the burden of control in real life feel like if we were as aware of it as this game forces us to be?
A Mortician’s Tale
Few, if any, games deal with post death proceedings like preparing a body for a funeral, comforting loved ones or running a funeral home, so Laundry Bear Game’s already inhabited a comfortable niche at launch. As those who have played it will tell you though, the game offers a very positive and cathartic take on death and its consequences for those it impacts. As the mortician, players do their best to present the dead in their best possible light for their burial or cremation ceremonies, touching up the body before their loved ones see them. They speak with family members and friends about who the person was and what they meant to them, filling in the blanks and painting each body not as another number for a game’s counter, but as a person with meaning and impact. It’s equal parts reassuring and contemplative, and about the best way a game has handled death in a long while.
Cosmic Top Secret
An abstract take on the hunt for a family member’s role in the Cold War, klassefilm’s platformer takes players on a journey filled to the brim with real world facts, revelations and heartbreak. Striking in its paper visual, the whimsical tone is offset by the tensions brought on by the secrecy inherent in the career of main character T’s parents, strained further by the escalating tensions within the world. Despite this, there is still joy and solace to be found in the title, as well as a new avenue for how one can express their own experiences through games.
Everything Is Going To Be Ok
Sometimes, it’s not ok to believe everything will work out in the end. Sometimes you need to admit there’s a problem.
This is the not-so-subtle message of Everything is Going to Be OK, a title from Nathalie Lawhead which places players in a variety of less than pleasant situations. From slowly sinking into a pit of lava to addressing another character’s existential crisis, players regularly face bizarre and harrowing situations that, when answered with immediate positivity, aren’t going to get any easier. It’ll take an honest view of things to progress and, as scary as that sometimes can be, players can walk away with a newfound perspective on how to handle their own dilemmas.
Baba Is You
For most fans of the puzzle genre, the rules are rarely something they consider. Used and rehashed for years, most know the confines of what they can do and limit their thought process to these restrictions.
That’s why Baba Is You, a title developed by Hempuli, is such a breath of fresh air. Tasking players with changing the rules in order to solve each level’s puzzle’s, the game exposes players to imaginative thinking they’d otherwise closed themselves off to. Who says you need to stay in 2D just because that’s all you can see? Why not become the block you want to push in order to better position it? It’s a great take on how to keep players guessing, and about the most fun you can have remembering something you forgot years ago.
An experimental take on the dynamic of crowds, Playables’ offering puts players into the shoes of one of the many, trying to blend in or stand out as much as possible. While the art is straight forward, the themes it deals with – isolation, a sense of belonging, group think – are all to familiar to just about anyone, and serve to poke and prod at players’ consciences in some very enlightening ways.