Anyone remotely familiar with game development knows that building a game on your own can be a grueling, time-devouring, and sometimes even fruitless labor of love. Faced with hundreds of indie competitors around the world at any given moment, it’s comforting to know that some of those larger studios who have already “made it big” are happy to support and promote smaller projects. Team 17—the award-winning creators of Worms W.M.D.—have come to PAX East not only to promote the upcoming Switch version of their megadrilcean free-for-all, but to also give PAX attendees a sneak peek at some great indie games under their game label. With Team 17’s Events Manager Bethany Aston as our guide, Stack-Up checked out three of these upcoming titles.
Stack-Up’s first demo was for a game called Planet Alpha, developed by a Copenhagen-based studio called Planet Alpha ApS. This atmospheric side-scroller throws you on a strange alien world filled with creatures both hostile and benign. As you travel the planet, your lone astronaut gains special powers that can control the planet in peculiar and fascinating ways. The demo at PAX East features one of these powers (the ability to shift the time of day) to help you traverse the floating rocks high above the planet’s surface.
The game demands plenty of timing and patience, since your character has no weapons to combat the massive wasp-like creatures that attack all intruders. Fortunately, Planet Alpha has no cap on lives! While the gameplay mechanics could take some getting used to (figuring out the timing of all the slides, jumps, and dashes can get a little frustrating), there’s no denying that the game’s art is absolutely gorgeous. Take some time to watch the massive whale-like birds flying in the background, or how the sun and stars move across the sky when you use your power. Planet Alpha is worth checking out for the visuals alone!
Up next was MakinGames’ Raging Justice, a beat ‘em up that meshes the classic format of an arcade game with modern realistic graphics. Jump into Big Smoke City as a cop who’s itching to bring criminals to justice…by any means necessary. Arrest stunned criminals who cross you for a health boost, or just hit them with fire hydrants till they stop moving. Whether they’re up against a dozen bikers or one mutated Goliath, Rick Justice and Nikki Rage are going to teach Big Smoke City’s underground that crime doesn’t pay.
Like any good arcade game, Raging Justice is better played with a friend. The controls are easy to pick up—anyone who spent hours playing beat ‘em ups as a kid will feel right at home—but take time to master, especially when you’re trying to earn those arrest warrant bonuses. The blood and graphic violence push Raging Justice it to the far edge of the ESRB’s “T” rating, but nothing too shocking. If anything, the Borderlands-like comedic approach to the violence just makes Raging Justice more entertaining!
“We’re hoping Raging Justice will be a good game to play for an hour or two when [the player has] friends over,” says Nic Makin, one of the game’s developers. With the recent addition of a third playable character, Nic is looking forward to Raging Justice’s release date in less than a month!
Finally, Stack-Up tried out a demo for Yoku’s Island Express, by the Swedish indie studio Villa Gorilla. This charming pinball-platformer hybrid follows the journey of Yoku, a little red dung beetle appointed as the new postmaster for Mokumana Island. Just when he thought he’d landed a job in paradise, Yoku discovers that the island houses a dormant deity creating storms and earthquakes from its nightmares. With his trusty ball of…let’s just pretend it’s a stone marble, Yoku must traverse the open world of Mokumana Island to deliver mail to its colorful inhabitants, and save his new home!
Yoku’s Island Express has an easygoing pace to help get the player adjusted to the game’s blend of pinball and platformer styles. The controls can be picked up in an instant, but anyone who has played pinball games/levels knows that it’s all about the timing. Figuring out what part of the flippers will launch Yoku into what area can get frustrating if you let it, though the happy kid-friendly aesthetic makes it hard to be too mad at the game. The RPG aspects of Yoku’s Island Express also make it more appealing to those who prefer a little more plot and sense of progress to a game than what Super Monkey Ball provides. Neither the pinball nor the platformer segments seem to hog the gameplay, so it’s a great bridge between the two genres wrapped in a delightful world!
Team 17 is helping these three studios (and others!) to get their projects not only off the ground, but on as many consoles as possible. Planet Alpha, Raging Justice, and Yoku’s Island Express are all scheduled for release on Steam, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch!