Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Graveyard

Welcome to Indie Gaming Bingo's First Annual

The Graveyard, from humble shoot-em-up developer Tale of Tales, promises to be one of the spookiest indie games this halloween, so costume up, kiddies, and don't forget to check your apples for razors. Taking obvious cues from Silent Hill, it's not what you see that frightens you but what you don't. The slow-but-inevitable build up only serves to amp up the tension to a boiling point before the stunning conclusion involving the 20-foot floating ghost-head.

I wouldn't be caught dead calling this a game, folks. This is interactive. This is an atmosphere. it's an... actmosphere. "The Graveyard" gives me hope for what games can be. I envision a future where every game is an actmosphere, and in each one you walk more slowly than the last. The Graveyard already sets the bar pretty damn high for slow-walking but I challenge you future generations of independent actmosphere developers to do better.

If I have one complaint, it's that the song during the climax of the game is way too similar to Portal's seminal "Still Alive" piece, and way too soon.

The Rundown:

* Generic Mortality Message: Indie game developers seem to think "meaning" is a form of currency used to purchase respect and adoration from their peers. If meaning was a currency, Generic Mortality Message would be the $100 bill.

* Silhouette/Monochrome: Black-and-white might not qualify as monochrome, but it damn well should.

* Obvious Metaphors: A game about death, set in a graveyard... Please email me at dustingunn(at) if you can shed some light on this imagery.

* Counter-Intuitive: This qualifies mostly for the method of how you sit on the bench, which is you don't sit, you convince your in-game character that she WANTS to sit, then wait for her to make up her mind to do so.

* Experimental: This product could make film students blush with shame.

* Pretentious: I feel like writing this one in, this time. How about the French song overlaying a sad old lady sitting in a cemetery? French is the language of pretentiousness.

* Atmosphere As Gameplay: This is a stretch, I know. Knytt seems like Mario in comparison to this.

* No Gameplay: It would have benefited greatly from a run button and some ramps to do tricks off of.

* 15 Minutes or Less: Its 5 minute duration and 5 dollar price tag makes it a stunning value of 1 dollar per minute.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Path

The conclusion of the:

The Path is yet another game from Tale of Tales. Fans of Friday the 13th might want to sit up and take notice because they're in for another spooky romp through haunted woods. You play as one of six little girls with a variety of fashions and costumes for those who enjoy customization and rocking the latest styles.

Then there's the titular path. It is safe and brightly lit and the game tells you to stay on it. This is what my professor likes to call a "metaphor." You see, all life has a path, and we all stray from it. No matter how many times a ghost-girl has taken me by the hand and led me back to my path, I'm still addicted to crack and baconators. I've leave you with a quote from the game which says more about it than I ever could:

If I were a plant, I think I would have been a flower, just like these. Except there would only be one beautiful flower. All alone...

The Rundown:

* Indie Trendy: Non-linear meaning delivery service through the meaning network. Meaning.

* Gentle Piano Music: They also mixed in some violin to innovate the genre.

* Counter-Intuitive: People are still wondering what this game means, including the developer.

* Pretentious: Once again, this aspect is so strong I feel it deserves a write-up. If sitting in a wheel-chair in the middle of a forest reciting poetry doesn't trigger your gag reflex, this game might be for you. Also, if you ever wanted to get raped in the woods by a lumberjack.

* No Gameplay: Aside from some bitchin' flower collecting, I mean.

* Atmosphere As Gameplay: These last 2 always seem to go hand-in-hand, much like your character and the various ghosts she seems to want to hook up with.

Monday, June 22, 2009


Greetings, fellow denizens of 2010. I bring forth a game today which is all-encompassingly cubular to the Nth degree, as we kids tend to say nowadays. Night Game is a game from Nifflas where you control a nondescript ball through single-screen areas solving various puzzles involving bouncing and momentum while listening to a relaxing soundtrack. No, not that game from Nifflas where you control a nondescript ball through single-screen areas solving various puzzles involving bouncing and momentum while listening to a relaxing soundtrack. This one is new and has silhouette graphics!

Night Game would have seemed much fresher if it came out before Phil Fish's magnum opus, Ball Playground, which sported both the silhouette look and the aromatically enhanced game package. Nifflas has quite a task ahead of him if he hopes to match Fish's powerful, alluring odor. I haven't personally had the chance to sniff it over but my editor assures me it doesn't even come close. Quite the demerit to Night Game.

The Rundown:

* Indie Trendy: Although defying the current trend of making games starring the game developers themselves, digitized a la Mortal Kombat, this does dig up the old trend started by Nifflas himself, before copies of Knytt were declared legal tender.

* Gentle Piano Music: But with FUTURE pianos! This is the future. Gradients.

* Lo-Fi: It's on the Wii, it's lo-fi as fuck.

* Silly Title: You do not own the night, Mr. Nifflas. You cannot make the night's official game.

* Abstract Graphics: What the graphics don't let you see is you're actually controlling Jon Blow's massive monotesticle.

* Physics-Based: This is pretty amazing! You can jump on see-saws and push boxes just like in real life! Why hasn't anyone thought of making a game like this before?!

* Atmosphere as Gameplay: It was a risky move making a game like this after atmosphere was legally banned in 47 states.

* Silhouette/Monochrome: To create silhouettes like this, the game would have to be perpetually set during dusk. Why isn't this game called Dusk Game?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Gravitation isn't a direct sequel to Passage so much as a side-story. It carefully fleshes out the universe that the games take place in, much like Shadow of the Colossus did for Ico. You can see the effects that killing the end boss in Passage has had on the world and things are dire. The sun is dying... It's fading out and leaving the world in a state of dull, lifeless gray.

Our hero in this story takes the obvious course of action: play catch with a girl until your head sets on fire which allows you to fly and collect stars which turn into blocks that can be pushed into a furnace. Unfortunately, Jason Rohrer leans heavily on block pushing puzzles and collectathon mechanics akin to Banjo Kazooie, and I felt that perhaps after Passage he would strike at a more unique genre. As Derek Yu would say, "LET'S GET IT AWN: The bingo that is! I'm Derek Yu. Buy the award-winning action-adventure 'Aquaria' for $19.99!"

The Rundown:

* No Gameplay: Slightly more than Passage and slightly less than Knytt; Gravitation exists in gameplay purgatory along with good-hearted atheist games who did not accept Jon Blow as their lord and savior.

* Silly Title: I spent years thinking this was a sequel to Lunar Lander.

* Indie Trendy: In an innovative move, Rohrer breaks the mold by following his own indy trend.

* Lo-fi: If this game were any more "lo-fi" it would be a low quality speaker, because the term "low fidelity" has nothing to do with games when you think about it.

* Abstract Graphics: It might be a stretch since Passage didn't get a mark here. Everything's so low resolution that the line between abstract and actual art starts to blur.

* No Instructions: Are you an indie enough dude to figure out the abstract goal of an art game? Probably.

* Experimental: The experiment was to replace gameplay with metaphor and see if any of the test subjects noticed.

* Counter-Intuitive: I don't like describing both this one and "no instructions" in the same post, so if, in the future, you indie game developers could include one or the other I would appreciate it.

* 15 Minutes or Less: This one can describe both my attention span for playing this game, or its actual length. The latter is just a guess, obviously.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Blueberry Garden

As a bonus to winning this year's IGF, the makers of Blueberry Garden also received a voucher for one free BINGOing. Erik Svedang's mastery of simplicity is such that to write even a few paragraphs about this game will be challenging. Trying to write about Blueberry Garden at length is like trying to write a soliloquy about a rock. Alas, it is my burden and I must deliver.

You wander around, sometimes gliding like Knuckles from Sonic and Knuckles (A great jab at mainstream gaming from Erik!) until you find large objects that automatically teleport to a column in the middle of the world. Sometimes you eat things and sometimes eating things causes things to happen. Your main character is a bird, and he can pick up other birds, or rocks. There's trees and they grow fruit. There's also some water sometimes. My name's Dustin and this was my report on Blueberry Garden. Thank You.


* Wikipedia
* My mom who's a marine biologist

The Rundown:

* Silly Title: Blueberries do not grow on trees, goodnight.

* Physics-Based: Physics continue to innovate the industry with "pick up and drop" gameplay.

* Indie Trendy: Indie games continue to try and replicate the experience of being blindfolded, driven to an undisclosed location and released to find your way home.

* Gentle Piano Music: Some of the gentlest, pianoest music out there.

* Abstract Graphics: Explore a rich and varied world of black-and-white outlines.

* Atmosphere as Gameplay: Once again, this seems to go hand in hand with gentle piano music. Whether a successful atmosphere was established or not, it is clear an attempt was made.

* Counter-Intuitive: Leave intuitiveness to the mainstream. Someone has to make games that have no clear goal, and who else but the independent?

* Experimental: The experiment of not telling the player any kind of context or goal was a great success. It really goes to show how obsolete the concepts of clarity and conflict are in gaming.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Knytt often gets credit for starting the most popular recent trend in independent game making: stripping out every single gameplay feature to truly let the atmosphere shine. After "playing" Knytt, our fallacy was now clear to us; all this time we had assumed games were strongest as an interactive medium. By rendering once interactive characters and events as mere, untouchable background noise, the player can now be fully immersed.

Story, challenge, reward? 20 years from now your children will be reading about these terms in a history book. They will have learned the most important lesson of all: to reduce is to innovate. Every day will be a new adventure as they accompany Marcus Fenix through the mountain-side trail in Gears of War 4: Post-Victory, or perhaps they take on the role of Luigi as he explores a thriving capitalistic Mushroom Kingdom marketplace in the thrilling epic, Mario Is Missing.

The Rundown:

Not too many hits this time. Disappointing, but let's try something new and analyze the results.

* Experimental: It's subtle, but if you're like me and have been playing games for over 22 years, you start to pick up signs and signals that this game you are experiencing is subverting your world view and destroying preconceptions right from under your nose.

* No Gameplay: The word "game" no longer is sufficient; the paradigm has been shifted. I suggest Inter-Sphere, a contraction of "Interactive Atmosphere." I challenge you to find a better label!

* Lo-Fi: This game isn't lo-fi, it's bottom-fi. It took "fi" all the way down and started rebuilding. Flat, textureless colors are tastefully applied to every surface.

* Atmosphere As Gameplay: This hardly needs explanation, as it practically pioneered the concept for the modern age. If only it had come before Half-Life 2 and convinced Newell not to soil its gorgeous vistas with conflict and violence.

* Gentle Piano Music: Inter-Spheres and gentle piano music are absolutely inseparable. Knytt is no exception.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Marriage

How can you describe The Marriage and give it justice? Electronic Arts' hot new franchise can be broken down like so:

Do you remember the first time you fell in love? Remember how she rammed into you and devoured part of yourself to become bigger while dodging falling circles? No other game has come this close to recreating what it's like to have a relationship. Definitely the best EA Sports game since Tiger Woods '06.


Glitter Words -

masao kitamura engineer