Indie Update: Talent Not Included, The Bunker, Touhou, Superhot
On this edition of Indie Update, we’ll take a look at the recently released theater-themed platformer Talent Not Included. Also, Superhot was a big success, and one of the game's designers says that success came courtesy of some good ol’ fashioned risk-taking. Finally, we’ll run through a few of the latest releases that might be worth your precious time.
Let's talk indie games!
Feature Story: Talent Not Included focuses on a single fun idea, which is both a blessing and a curse
Looking back on my three-hour playthrough of Talent Not Included, I have to say I mostly had a good time, even if I was a bit underwhelmed after a while. The game doesn't do anything mechanically bad. In fact, it plays quite well, features tight controls, and incorporates a cool gameplay concept. The game is a single-screen platformer that tasks you with collecting candy in constantly changing theater-esque levels. The problem is that the game relies on its singular concept throughout its entirety, which means it loses its appeal rather quickly.
There are 45 stages in Talent Not Included. Collecting candy gives you points, and the goal is to get as many points as possible. Enemies, spikes, fire, and other obstacles keep this goal from being a mere cakewalk, and there are times when there are so many roadblocks in your way that the game gets pretty tough, but it's also most rewarding during these moments. It just never evolves past its base gameplay mechanic, so by the end of it, the game's just not that interesting.
A lot of games have succeeded by utilizing a single idea. Super Mario Bros., Super Meat Boy, and Inside all come to mind. The thing about those games is that their worlds evolved, challenging the player to use the tools they gained earlier in the game in different ways. Talent Not Included remains largely the same throughout its three-hour candy-collecting duration, which acts as a detriment to the experience. After finishing the first 15 levels, I'd had my fill of the game's very specific brand of platforming.
There is fun to be had, though. Trying to get a higher score is a worthy challenge. And the theater theme of the game is pretty novel. There's also quirky humor that's referential to pop culture, video games, and even pro wrestling. I just wish there was more to Talent Not Included. It's the type of game you should approach with caution. You'll have fun with it, but depending on how determined you are to collect all the candy onscreen, the amount of fun you'll have will definitely vary.
The Bunker is an FMV psychological horror game
FMV is back (again)! The Bunker from Splendy Interactive and Wales Interactive tells a dark tale about one man's battle with his own mind. The game features notable actors Sarah Greene (Penny Dreadful), Grahame Fox (Game of Thrones), and more.
Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor is ... weird, but hey, that's cool!
It's hard to describe Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor. The game, developed by Sundae Month, is described as an “anti-adventure.” You pick up trash, but you can also burn it. Or eat it. And then you can enter weird dungeons and pray. Yeah, the game's super weird, but also super neat!
Slain: Back from Hell brings the metal to PlayStation 4
Though it's been out on PC for a few months, Slain: Back from Hell has now hit PlayStation 4. Developed by Andrew Gilmour, the game features a Castlevania-inspired aesthetic and a loud, metal soundtrack. If stabbing dudes and rocking out is your game, maybe you should check this one out.
Slain: Back from Hell will run you $14.99 on PlayStation 4.
Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity is, well, curious
Though it's a fan-made game, Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity has sole creator Team Shanghai Alice's blessing. The game is more action-RPG than bullet-hell, so it's a strange change of pace for the series. I've played a bit myself and had fun, and I look forward to jumping back into it soon.
Touhou: Scarlet Curiosity is out now exclusively on PlayStation 4 for $19.99.
Superhot Proves That Risks Do Pay Off
Superhot is unlike any other video game to come along in recent memory. The stylish project, which features a unique gameplay mechanic where everything around you only moves when you move, also plays well. But its ingenuity should not be understated, because Superhot Team really managed to create something bold and unique. In an article published by GamesIndustry, Superhot Creative Director Piotr Iwanicki emphasized the importance of going in an unorthodox direction and how doing so helped the development team create something truly special.
Iwanicki stressed that despite the risk, it was important for the members of Superhot Team to go with their gut. That can often be a risky move, but Iwanicki believes that's how great ideas come to fruition. “It was intuition,” he told GamesIndustry. “When it comes to intuitive choices, you're often a lot smarter than you think. You shouldn't be afraid of that.”
The interesting thing about Superhot is that it was created with a lot of the fundamental thinking that goes behind a jam game, which tends to be a faster process. That's not to say that Superhot was rushed, but the team essentially concocted the idea and rolled with it immediately. Though Superhot Team indeed worried that people wouldn't “get” what they were trying to do with the concept, the studio moved forward. As it turns out, people dug the idea, and according to Iwanicki, “It was refreshing to see how it resonated with people, us going in these directions.”
If history has taught us anything with regard to indie games, it's that nothing is certain. You can have an overnight success, but you can also have an amazing idea implemented into a game poorly, resulting in countless letdown fans. More heartbreaking still, a game can actually be good – great even – and fail to meet any sort of financial gain, which is always a tough break for struggling developers. Superhot proves, however, that sometimes it is indeed best to take a risk, because playing it safe may cause more damage than good.
Indie developers shouldn't be afraid to take risks, because the payoff could be the big break they are waiting for. More specifically, even if a dev is playing it somewhat safe, the initial idea for a game should remain as close to its original form as possible. Like Iwanicki points out, “It's art, creativity — you have to find your own way.”