Earlier this month, the Mega Visions crew made their annual pilgrimage to one of the most beloved conventions on the East Coast – Super MAGFest. A four-day, non-stop party celebrating the history and culture of the gaming community.
Super MAGFest is a lot of things: a marketplace with artists and vendors hailing from all over North America, a massive arcade and console room almost as large as two football fields, a museum featuring vintage and classic gaming hardware, a concert hall supporting multiple acts simultaneously, so on and so forth. It can also serve as the launching pad for a small-time indie developer’s career.
One of Super MAGFest’s premiere events is the Indie Video Game Showcase. Year after year, small-time developers submit their passion project to be played and reviewed by over 20,000 attendees. Whether you’re a fledgling designer just starting to understand Unity or a seasoned veteran of the scene showing off what you and your team put together during your most recent 24-hour game jam, everyone has the spotlight shined on them. The Indie Video Game Showcase is my favorite event of the convention, so naturally, I dragged the crew to test out the latest and greatest. Below is nine of our top picks of the Showcase, and we encourage you to take the time to check them out!
Exit 73 Studios
I’ve been following #Blud for the better part of a year and had the privilege of first playing it at Too Many Games 2019. For me, it goes without saying that Exit 73 Studios is one of the most experienced indie developers in terms of animation. Their portfolio is packed with works that many of you are already familiar with, including The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, OK KO Let’s Play Heroes and the Angry Video Game Nerd.
#Blud follows the misadventures of occult-enthusiast Becky supported by her quirky sidekick Corey as they work together to save their neighborhood (and probably the world) from the evil vampire Draugur and his Legion of Darkness. You control Becky via a top-down orientation, much like older The Legend of Zelda series, as you traverse between home and school to fight off ravenous rats and one-eyed bats. Along the way, you’ll find all sorts of different equipment to either aid you in combat or exploration.
As stated before, #Blud’s charm lies in its animation. From Becky and Corey to the rest of the NPCs, each of the character’s movements have this caricature style about them that’s always overly accentuated. It already has the polish found in mainstream cartoon syndicates comparable to the likes of Adventure Time and Clarence. Exit 73 Studios are still deep in development with #Blud, so no expected release date yet – but follow them at their website for future updates and other upcoming projects!
Crescendo is one of the more unique games we played at MAGFest. While visually simple, Crescendo is a rhythm-based platformer, where players must time their movements, jumps and dashes to the beat of the synthesized soundtrack to grab an orb and return to an elevator to make it to the next stage.
Compounding the difficulty are strategically placed lasers that will fry you to death if you make a noise louder than that of the music. There’s a meter that tracks the music’s volume and your own, so you can better time your path through each stage.
The soundtrack has a very soothing beat, but mastering each stage can get difficult very quickly. Developed by Nate Largo, Crescendo has a nice difficulty ramp that introduces new mechanics, obstacles and abilities.
Crescendo is due out in early 2020, and you can download the demo here.
Neon Deity Games
So, we can all agree that music and video games go hand in hand. There’s just something about an outstanding soundtrack that helps drive the emotions in a video game. While the soundtracks you never notice are sometimes the strongest compliments to games. The reason we bring this up is because when we started our indie showcase journey at Super MAGFest, one game that caught our ears was Junkpuncher.
Junkpuncher is a 2D robo-themed action-platformer developed by Neon Deity Games. It follows the story of our main character, a mixture of Marty McFly and Bionic Commando, and his journey to return The Atlas: a bio-mechanical robotic arm prototype that has attached itself to our unnamed hero. As he traverses electrified hazards and battles cybernetic troops to return The Atlas to The Pantheon, our hero quickly discovers a nefarious global plan and must put a stop to it.
Some things that stand out to us in Junkpuncher are the phenomenal soundtrack, the tight controls and the amazing sprite work. Take our word on this one, let yourself die at least once just to see the awesome death animation. We were able to chat with the game’s composer, and he informed us that the game is still quite early in development, but a public demo will be available soon. (But not soon enough in our opinion!) Check out their website for future updates.
Two Scoop Games
Quick mobility and tight controls are major factors when it comes to video game development. A game could have one of the best storylines ever written but would end up being terrible if the controls were horrendous. This is where Kick Bot comes into play.
Kick Bot is developed by Two Scoop Games and is a fast-paced, wall-jumping game where you play as Kick Bot, a cute little robot that must stop the GigaLeg – a device created by the evil artificial intelligence that has been banished to Earth’s moon. Backed with a heart-pounding electric soundtrack composed by Jake Mercer, you’ll control Kick Bot through numerous levels of hazardous buzz saws, death springboards and treacherous jumping terrain to save the day. If you fail, the GigaLeg will kick Earth into oblivion!
Kick Bot feels incredibly good to control, and the quick respawn times get you back into the game. The controls are simple: two buttons to jump left and right. What was interesting was that Two Scoop Games had modified what looked like Steam controllers into only having the shoulder and trigger buttons available to the player. This prevented any confusion on what buttons to use.
We get some heavy Super Meatboy and Mega Man X vibes from it, and that’s A-OK with us. Kick Bot will be coming to consoles and PCs soon. Until then, it can be added to your wish list on Steam.
Initially, we weren’t on board with Lazergrrl, but after sitting down and playing for about 10 minutes, we were hooked. Developed by Sandwich Generation, LazerGrrl is a fast-paced, PvP strategy game that combines the mayhem of Bomberman with the strategic depth of a real-time strategy game.
Players have a base that must be powered by energy nodes that are placed throughout the map. The energy collected can then be used to purchase more energy generators, connector walls and powerful lasers to help defeat other players. Whether players choose to go 1v1, 4v4, or free-for-all against one another, they must outwit and out speed opponents to become the victor(s) of the grid.
Once we took the time to learn how Lazergrrl worked, we were having a lot of fun with it. Not only does it push a player’s ability to build an efficient resource base, it also pushes them to think two steps ahead of their opponents. Lazergrrl is available now for Windows along with a free 1v1 demo for players that are interested but want to try before they buy.
One Step From Eden
Thomas Moon Kang
At this point, most people in the indie scene know One Step From Eden, and they know Thomas Moon Kang. It’s the recipient of DreamHack 2019’s Best Strategy/Simulator Game, Tokyo Game Show 2019’s Best Game Design Award, and part of the official selection of the Indie Mega Booth at both the Game Developers Conference and PAX East for 2019. Within the scope of a year, Kang’s love letters to Roguelikes and Deckbuilders exploded in a way no one expected.
If you were a fan of the fantastic Mega Man Battle Network series on the Game Boy Advance, you’re gonna want to pay attention to this. One Step From Eden has that same unforgiving real-time grid combat, loaded with over 200 spells, more than eight playable characters, and sports a new PVP mode, where you can take the fight to your friends. No two campaign runs are the same as you’ll travel to different worlds, choose different paths and face some the fiercest of enemies on you journey to Eden.
With the way that Kang and company have kept on delivering, I have no doubt that One Step From Eden will be a contender for my indie game of the year. One Step From Eden is due for a February 2020 release on Steam and Nintendo Switch.
Them’s Fightin’ Herds
In what was probably the most unexpected surprise of the con, Them’s Fightin’ Herds was throwing haymakers I couldn’t see coming. The original vision was based in developing a My Little Pony fighting game called Fighting is Magic until a cease and desist letter from Hasbro tried silencing the project. But instead of scrapping the game, developer Mane6 re-purposed assets, created new characters and drafted a new story with the help of MLP‘s very own Lauren Faust.
As per the game itself, there’s a lot of influence from Arc System Works and French Bread games like BlazBlue, Under Night and Melty Blood – hell, I would claim Velvet is Jin Kisaragi via therianthropy. It’s an easy pick-up-and-play 2D fighter with a deceptive amount of depth to explore.
I’ve played a lot of indie fighting games in my time, but none as unique or robust as Them Fightin’ Herds. While it’s now commonplace for modern mainstream fighting games to feature a tutorial mode and combo mode, I have never seen a game actually spell out what is mean to have “advantage on block.” Any fighting game can teach you normals, footsies, etc., but Mane6 goes above and beyond to teach players the importance of frame data. As it stands now, Them’s Fightin’ Herds is my “go-to” recommendation for players new to the fighting game genre.
Them’s Fightin’ Herds is currently in early access on Steam via Humble Bundle.
Typhoon Unit – Butterfly Requiem
Ghostly Feline Games
Typhoon Unit – Butterfly Requiem is a horizontal bullet-hell shooter, where you control one of three monster girls (Gale, Fia, and Casey), who together form the Typhoon Unit.
Each character has her own unique ability, and the game has a feature where you can switch between them on the fly. There’s also an interesting mechanic called the “Synergy Combo,” which gives players a short boost when they use their magical abilities.
The game’s story centers around a series of mysterious attacks upon the city by a sword-wielding woman known as the Steel Butterfly. We were only able to play through one stage, but the final game is said to have seven chapters each with a unique boss fight.
You can download the Typhoon Unit – Butterfly Requiem demo here.
This year’s Super MAGFest was a blast and featured some of the best indie games we’ve played in years. If you attended the show, let us know which games you thought shown bright. We’re going to keep a very close eye on all the games we played, so look for future updates right here on Mega Visions!