Everyone likes a top-10 list. They’re a bit of fun, and always good for discussion. And so every so often we pull together a “top 10” list. These are here for fun and laughs – we’re not pretending that we’re the authority of good games taste in the world and this is purely the author’s preferences. Agree with him/ her or not, it’s all good.
This week I though we could look at one of the PlayStation 4’s real strengths: its catalogue of indie games. You could argue that the console still hasn’t built up a huge list of must-play blockbuster exclusives (the disappointment of The Order: 1886 didn’t help matters here), but once you start digging into what is available for download off the PSN, it’s really quite hard to complain about the breadth and depth of content on offer.
With that in mind here’s our pick for ten games that are easy to gloss over when browsing through the PlayStation Network store, but if you take a risk and pick any of them up, you’re in for a good time.
Australia’s own Defiant Development produced this brilliant mix of CCG concepts, choose-your-own-adventure style narrative, and action RPG combat. This game offers loads of content and features so much randomisation from one game to the next that it doesn’t really matter how many times you play it, because you’re always going to get a fresh experience.
Take a plot that could have been ripped straight from a God of War game, and apply it to a 2D platformer that just happens to look like art on the side of an ancient Greek pot come to life, and you have Apotheon. A surprisingly complex and intense combat system, heavy on the dodging and blocking, combines with some light Metroidvania-style exploration and you’ve got an intense and visually vibrant experience. It’s just a pity that it lacks a decent multiplayer mode, because this game would be awesome in co-op.
Pinball is awesome fun, and RPGs are good fun, but I never once thought to myself “surely these two genres would go well together.” Well, with Rollers of the Realm I got something I never even realised I wanted. It really is a pinball RPG, where the ball on the play field represents your characters, and whacking them into enemies and objectives represents the combat and creates the story telling. It’s a weird mix at first, but after coming to grips with it for a half hour or so, Rollers of the Realm becomes truly addictive stuff.
It is games like Never Alone that demonstrate to us that games have have meaning beyond entertainment. By retelling a traditional story, Never Alone represents the natives from the frozen north in the same way that the film, Whale Rider, represents the native people of New Zealand. It is an outlet to represent a culture we don’t hear about nearly enough in modern culture, in other words, and that means that simply by playing the game, we’re exposed to knowledge, philosophy, and culture, and that is meaningful stuff. It doesn’t hurt that the game itself is good, genuine fun, too.
It’s easy to dismiss Entwined as a simple arcade game that forces players to co-ordinate both right, and left, movement at the same time. It’s a maddeningly difficult thing to master, so playing the game certainly provides the arcade experience, but Entwined is so much more than that. It’s an abstract exploration of the nature of relationships; of the conversations, the arguments, the moments where things come together in sync. It’s a deeply intelligent arcade game, in other words, and deserves far more recognition that it got when it was released last year.
Speaking of abstract games, it’s hard to look past Hohokum as a true indie darling on the PlayStation 4. A brightly colourful and hugely charming interactive canvas, Hohokum pushes boundaries on what constitutes a game at times, but from start to finish it is, at all times, a bright, bubbly experiment, and it’s hard to play it and not think to yourself that this is a bold future for arthouse games that Hohokum is trailblazing towards.
Dust: An Elysian Tail
Dust is a much more traditional game that some of the others in this list, but it is a load of fun. A 2D action brawler, in the vein of titles such as Vanillaware’s Muramasa: The Demon Blade, Dust features gorgeous environments, tight action, and a light RPG system sitting over the top, just to keep players interested in the characters and the progress they’re making. The only concession that it was essentially a one man job is the voice acting and narrative is a little basic, but that’s something that you’ll forgive very quickly thanks to the quality action on offer.
Road Not Taken
A puzzle roguelike might sound like a strange concept, but in execution Road Not Taken is seriously good stuff. A simple, almost Flash-like visual aesthetic hides underneath it some truly mind bending puzzle action, which is difficult as only roguelikes can be. And, because the puzzles are randomised, this is a game that will keep you on your toes no matter how many times you play. A haunting and understated narrative sitting behind the puzzling is well worth experiencing, too.
And, yes, the title of the game and the poem are complementary.
From the cool, cyperpunk theme, to the original and clever turn-based combat and truly brilliant voice acting, Transistor is truly essential stuff. Developed by the same folk behind the excellent Bastion, Transistor exudes style, but it’s a clever kind of style, and this is one of the most worthy and lasting indie games currently available on the console.
In the film industry, the horror genre has traditionally be owned by young filmmakers, using innovative ideas and techniques to create atmospheres of terror. Think the original Halloween, Friday the 13th, Saw, Paranormal Activity. These films are some of the finest examples of the genre, and they were done in the indie spirit. This applies to the game industry as well, as evidenced by Outlast. Developed by a small team, Outlast is a game of raw terror, and essential for any horror fan.
So, what are some of your favourite indie games on the PlayStation 4?
– Matt S.
Find me on Twitter: @digitallydownld