Friday Indie Game Review Roundup: An Amnesiac Retrospective
Three years ago, Double Fine productions held an in-house event called the Amnesia Fortnight. The company was split into four teams, each of which set out to spend two weeks developing an idea for a small game and present it to the other groups at the end of the duration. All of the ideas turned out to be winners, and founder/owner Tim Schafer secured publishing deals for all four games to be released on a combination of XBLA and PSN. In honor of the excellent Trenched becoming the third game of the four to be released last week, this Friday Review Roundup will cover Trenched, as well as two previous Amnesia Fortnight releases for those of you who missed out on the fun.
The first Amnesia Fortnight product to see commerical release came out in October 2010 for XBLA and PSN. Costume Quest is an old-school JRPG set in a cell-shaded Halloween fantasy world where players must collect candy and use their costumes to transform into giant warriors to fight monsters. Each costume yields a different type of fighter, from giant robots to giant flaming Jack Skellingtons. It's every kid's Halloween fantasy.
For only $5—plus $5 more for each of the excellent expansion packs—this game will give even casual RPG fans at least 5 hours of lighthearted fun. It reminds me of Super Mario RPG, which is about the highest praise I can give a game.
Stacking followed Costume Quest onto the same platforms in February 2011. The protagonist is a Matroyshka doll named Charlie Blackmoore. His entire family of larger dolls is kidnapped, forcing him on a quest to rescue his family, armed only with his ability to stack. It is basically a puzzle game. Players can stack themselves into any doll around them one size larger, and every type of doll has a unique special ability integral to solving the game's many puzzles.
Stacking has a very stylish presentation and Double Fine's trademark humor, but my favorite part is how every single puzzle has multiple solutions. So often game designers trap us into following their logic when there are clearly other ways to solve a problem. Double Fine have avoided that nicely here, and created some extra replay value at the same time by rewarding players for finding multiple solutions to puzzles.
Lastly, there is Trenched. A hybrid of the classic mecha combat games of the '90s and modern tower defense, this might be the best game of the bunch. Players control a giant highly customizable robot tasked with protecting targets from waves of enemy invaders using a mix of on board armaments and defense towers. Balancing the two or specializing in one or the other are all effective strategies, giving the game a simliar feeling to Stacking as far as the openness of the problem solving.
The missions themselves are great fun, and couched in a loot-'em-up shell that makes replaying missions for cash to buy mech upgrades a full time addiction. I can't think of $15 I've been happier to part with.