10 upcoming (and excitingly original) indie games you need to know about

A look ahead at some of the coolest, most creative, but still largely unknown independent creations


Platform: PSN

Retro/Grade has been in development since back when accessory-based rhythm games still generated cash, which is an important bit of knowledge here since this side-scrolling PlayStation Network shooter can actually be played with a guitar controller. But hey, if you don't already have a closet full of the things, you can probably grab one now for pennies on the dollar. Retro/Grade is also playable with a standard controller, but why not show a little love for those plastic instruments?

Time moves backward in this colorful space shooter, which finds you matching lines of beats using your compatible controller of choice. Doing so properly helps you evade attack and blast foes, while also building up the bumping soundtrack, and the glossy visuals give you something swell to look at while you're tapping your toes and potentially strumming the guitar. Granted, the last non-rhythm game to use guitar controllers - last year's platformer, Fret Nice - didn't exactly wow critics or top the charts, but we're still plenty curious to see how Retro/Grade fares on PSN.

Word Fighter

Platform: iOS

Words can be particularly hurtful, as we all no doubt learned quite vividly back on childhood playgrounds - but in Word Fighter, they're downright violent. This upcoming iPhone and iPad game comes off like the Puzzle Fighter version of Boggle, as you're tasked with connecting nearby letters in the playing field to connect words of (hopefully) expansive length, which in turn causes your hand-drawn fighters atop the screen to launch Scrabble-like tiles at his/her foe.

It's a delightfully amusing concept, made only more entertaining by the fact that your selectable fighters are based on literary icons like Edgar Allen Poe and Agatha Christie, each with a handful of special abilities in tow. Word Fighter earned a spot in the coveted PAX 10 and accumulated a lot of buzz among attendees, and the blend of fast-paced word combat and the amusing fighter-inspired aesthetic should make this brainy indie a big hit with iOS gamers this fall.


Platform: PSN

Closure's stark black-and-white aesthetic reminds us in parts of Limbo, or more notably a monochromatic take on Machinarium, but it's not one you'll see a whole lot of - at least not in full. Darkness punctuates the Closure experience throughout, which is done not to hide the sights, but instead develop a light-and-dark gameplay mechanic; one in which your character carries a light source to different areas of the side-scrolling stages to find a way through each puzzling challenge.

Taking a cue from Echochrome, Closure only affords physical properties to those objects in view at any given time, so walls and other structures simply cease to exist if covered in darkness. It creates a whole host of non-traditional play opportunities that you'll need to discover and master to work through the treacherous hazards, and based on what we saw at PAX and in various trailers, we're definitely up to the task when Closure hits PSN next spring. The original Flash version of the game (from a couple years back) is available now, though.

Go Home Dinosaurs!

Platforms: TBA

As fans of dinosaurs, we first want to say that we can't really imagine why someone would want them to go home - unless it's our home, for a party we're hosting. But we'll play along with the concept here, and it's certainly a doozy. Go Home Dinosaurs! takes a cute and colorful approach to tower defense, much like Plants vs. Zombies before it, but this vibrant little indie shakes up the expected formula by working in puzzle mechanics via towers that arrive on Tetris-like pieces, which must be wedged onto the cramped battlefield.

It's an interesting premise, no doubt, and it's not the first time that developer Fire Hose Games has tried mixing puzzle elements with another genre - this past spring's Slam Bolt Scrappers for PlayStation Network mixed Tetris, four-player combat, and ninjas with pretty stellar results. While the early footage of Go Home Dinosaurs! looks rather simplistic compared to usual tower defense fare, most folks thought the same of Plants vs. Zombies and ended up adoring that casual gem. We hope Fire Hose's attempt can do the same, even at the expense of the dinosaurs.


Platforms: XBLA, PSN, PC

Puzzle-centric platform games aren't especially in short supply nowadays, especially downloadable, side-scrolling ones, but Vessel grabbed our attention via its strong focus on liquid physics and the myriad possibilities that spawn from that concept. You'll take the role of Arkwright, a famous inventor who created mechanical "seeds" that suck up water (or lava, or other liquids) and become an artificial life form of sorts comprised of the elements of whatever forms its frame.

These "Fluros," as they're called, can be utilized to complete simple tasks, such as standing on switches to pop open doors; but with some apparently developing minds of their own, it's fair to say that not all the Fluros found within the gorgeously rendered stages are friendly. Plus, their interactions help shape some of the puzzling scenarios, as the combination of water and lava Fluros creates steam, and you can create explosive blasts by mixing chemically-based ones. All of that should add up to a mind-melting puzzle experience on PC, Xbox Live Arcade, and PlayStation Network come winter.

Sep 14, 2011


Freelance writer for GamesRadar and several other gaming and tech publications, including Official Xbox Magazine, Nintendo Power, Mac|Life, @Gamer, and PlayStation: The Official Magazine. Visit my work blog at http://andrewhayward.org.
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