Kat’s Top 5 Indie Gaming Moments
While I’m more often drawn to bigger titles – the AAA franchises and the like – there’s still always something to be said for the indie games. For the alternative kind of experiences they offer – ones that often based on more intimate ideals, with a flourishing of creative experiments that would be unachievable on a grand scale. Ones that paint with a smaller pallet that belies impressive creativity from true artists across the industry. AAA gaming always offers its own kind of joy and satisfaction; but sometimes I still play the smaller titles to remember and appreciate what they can offer.
These are my top five picks for indie gaming moments.
**It’s worth noting that more than one of these doesn’t strictly fall under the category of indie in terms of funding – but I’m categorizing them here because of their base similarities to that of indie gaming in general. None of these experiences found here would exist in quite the same way in a AAA franchise.**
Transistor – The Beach
The closest that this game offers to a kind of hubworld is the beach – with accessibility made on occasion throughout the game from a Back Door. It creates for a great little pause in the adventure, with as much time to indulge as you please: hit a ball with your dog Luna, change the tracks on the record player, or lie in a hammock and watch the sun change colors in the sky. Not to mention the myriad of different combat tests made available – that help the gamer better grasp the mechanics, while unlocking new songs for the record player as a reward. It’s a great reminder that sometimes games don’t always have to be built around the big moments: sometimes it can be as simple as spending a few minutes staring at the sky and listening to the right kind of song.
The Unfinished Swan – Painting the World Black
This game has one of the fundamentally coolest openings to any I’ve played, simply for the sheer discovery of it. Indeed, I’ve rarely encountered another where exploring and finding each new nook and cranny in your gameworld took on such a literal meaning. And that the game lets (forces even) you to figure it out on your own increases the impact. The entire fairy tale world as you enter it is as white as a blank canvas: and to see where you’re going – the shape of the buildings, the placement of benches and fences and rocks, how to navigate the path over water – is entirely dependent upon the player painting the white world with blobs from the paintbrush to give it shape. It’s a fascinating way to begin such a fairy tale-esque story, and an utterly original gameplay mechanic, that re-playing through the early levels is always its own special kind of reward.
Child of Light – Floating on the Wind
One of the watermarks that really sets this game going is when you gain the ability to fly – allowing the player, as Aurora, to sail around the environment with ease. It’s not only a wonderful game mechanic that adds to the sheer joy of the game overall, but it also opens up the options for exploration. But beyond that, there’s often the simple pleasure of stopping and taking in the environment. The game’s soundtrack is an absolute masterclass in the field, and in between fighting monsters, navigating this dreamworld, finding treasures, and picking up story clues, sometimes it’s fun to just literally float through the sky. With the perfect soundtrack accompaniment, flying to the top of the screen oftentimes means letting yourself drift on the wind, enjoying a few brief moments of unfettered joy even amidst this dark and dangerous world.
Flower – Passing Through the Canyon
Of the multiple levels available to this game (one that is very much built with the concept of taking your time to enjoy the moment in mind) my favorite is always the third: where you open in a large field filled with windmills. Navigation to hit all the flowers ultimately sets off the largest, which shoots you off through a long canyon where the wind all but takes over, and you do your best to hold on and hit all the flowers you can. The music crescendos in the most delightsome and spectacular ways; it’s a thrilling ride where you can discover secret caves, and even do the whole thing over again to aim for higher or lower flowers missed the first time around. Of all the sections in this game, this one best presents the uniquely cathartic joy to be found here.
Journey – Apotheosis
It’s probably the most obvious choice to pick in the game, but it really is the defining moment (though sliding down the sand into the sunken city is also a treat). After traversing the desert, escaping leviathans underground, and weathering a brutal snowstorm, you’re rewarded with a long scarf, quick flight up the side of the mountain, and seemingly endless lakes of magic that constantly bolster you back into the air. The musical track alone counts for the praise the soundtrack gets, while all the moments of the game come together into a truly magical climax as you fly up and down and around, through waterfalls, and plants, and up into the apex of the mountain itself. Those final moments walking into the light are also something special – but it’s the moments preceding them that always get me the most.