It's been a busy week here at Indie Games Ichiban, between attending PAX and breaking news stories about Stabyourself and Playdead Studios, that there's been relatively little time for some honest, good old-fashioned game playing. But time was made and here are two excellent indie games of varying age and platform with two very different themes.
South America is not among the global hotbeds of video game development. Chilean developer ACE Team (not to be confused with tri-ACE, the JRPG developer) is not a big nor old company, but the newly released Rock of Ages has cemented their reputation as a talented and wildly eccentric groups of game makers.
Like their previous game Zeno Clash, Rock of Ages is tough to explain. The core mechanic is rolling giant boulders through complicated downhill levels full of obstacles and slamming them into the enemy base at the bottom until your destroy it. Buildings and pedestrians on the way can be killed for money, but crashing into objects damages the ball and makes it less effective against the enemy base. There is an opponent trying to roll a ball at the players base as well, and in-between rolls of the rock, there's an overhead view strategic segment where one can purchase and place defenses to slow down and damage the enemy ball.
Monty Python? While the gameplay is odd, the trimmings are odder still.
In the single-player campaign, you're Sisyphus, and you begin the quest to crush historical figures such as Agamemnon and Emperor Justinian I with a giant rock after they use it to smash their way out of Hades. The story is conveyed through Terry Gilliam-esque cutscenes that solidify the weird story and hilarity of the package.
There's also online and local multiplayer to compliment the campaign. I got to try local co-op at PAX and it was great fun to crush someone sitting next to me with a giant stone, as you can imagine. The game is out now on XBLA, Steam, and PSN for $10. Check it out if you have even a passing interest in rocks and smashing things.
And now for something completely different—Is It Time?, a free Flash indie by a lone Northeast developer named Jaime Fraina. It's all about old age and death. The player character is an elderly woman whose husband has died and daughter has moved out of the house (but still lives nearby). The goal is to get through each day, deciding at the end whether or not to end your own life.
The game seems simple and bleak on the surface, much like the existence of many elderly people, but with some experimentation and patience (hint: mash your spacebar on things) the player can find meaning in the desolation of the game. Without giving too much away, I played until I literally could not anymore. Give the game a try, especially if you have any emotionally significant experience with the elderly. It's thought provoking, if nothing else.