This year I was fortunate enough to go to the Insomnia Gaming Festival, which took place at the NEC in Birmingham. Aside from the stage shows, vendors selling everything from cosplay props to TTRPG materials, and the rows and rows of retro games (that let me co-op play Typing of the Dead with my partner, a core memory now) there were also a handful of brave devs showing off their indie game to the world before it had its final lick of paint on it. Here are three noteworthy ones that I think have the potential to go far. Please understand though, that this is not an endorsement/review of the final product, these thoughts are only based on what was shown at Insomnia gaming festival and will inevitably be different upon release.
Slap It Together
Slap It Together is a multiplayer zombie wave brawler that relies mostly on improvised weaponry found in the environment and teamwork to progress through the levels. In the alpha gameplay I was shown, the player is on a rooftop and between you and your teammates there are five hidden levers to find and pull to progress, all the while bigger and bigger waves of zombies are coming after you.
We all know there are a dime a dozen multiplayer zombie wave games, and maybe Slap It Together will fall among the crowd. But there’s potential here from what I’ve seen to make something lighter than a typical left4dead/back4blood experience, as I didn’t see a single gun in the alpha, only pipes and guitars and other miscellaneous objects that you could use as a melee weapon or throw at zombies, along with a crowd clearing kick.
Fleshed out and expanded upon with some alternate modes, imaginative enemy variety and leaning into the cartoonish/absurdist aspects of the game it could be a more upbeat and casual experience that stands out from its competitors by taking itself less seriously, but right now it’s only the skeleton so don’t expect anything released until next year. I’ll be keeping an eye on it though.
Kurat was a very different experience from what else was on offer, branding itself as a ‘real-time action board game’ the premise is each night the devil sends waves of monsters after you to collect your family’s souls, and after some atmospheric opening exposition a board opens up on a table in front of you like a pop-up book of a small environment, complete with your pixel art character class of choice, which you must battle the hordes with.
The atmosphere and concept of the game was immediately gripping, with nice pixel graphics and a seldom-used 2.5D gameplay to make the pixel art look like paper sprung to life. Where it currently falls short is its certain aspects of it’s gameplay, that being fighting off the hordes of monsters each night. You move around a grid using twin-stick melee mechanics to point your right analogue stick in a direction whilst your left analogue stick moves your character, and the direction you ‘attack’ in presents a sword on-screen that damages enemies that come into contact with it.
This unfortunately made the combat feel weightless and frustrating, and a nice slicing or stabbing animation to replace it with some controller feedback on a hit would feel much more gratifying to play, but I’d be just as happy to see them make the twin-stick melee component more satisfying somehow. Regardless, for its new ideas and atmosphere alone, Kurat is one to keep an eye on.
The one I was most excited about after my time with it, was Quetzal. Quetzal is a bullet hell platformer that sees you pushing through a gauntlet of obstacles that rely on high skill and full utilization of the game’s moveset to overcome. The obvious comparison in my time with it is that the platforming mechanic is very similar to hollow knight, where additional height and movement can be gained by directionally attacking certain objects/enemies. And, whilst some could argue it’s bad taste to simply copy those mechanics, I’d argue with the delay of silksong an indie dev that gives us more of what we love is no bad thing. With a stronger emphasis on the platforming with no exploration to speak of and minimal enemies, it could be a greatly refined experience.
The only issue I took with it is the end boss of the level was slightly boring in comparison, I’d like to see later bosses not be defeated with direct combat, but put an interesting platform puzzle to solve to defeat them along with pressure and incoming attacks to throw the player off. This game knows it isn’t hollow knight and isn’t trying to be, but anything it can do to keep the weight of its current gameplay whilst mixing up the formula can only help to give Quetzal its own unique identity, something I believe it should have.
Insomnia gaming festival roundup
There were plenty of other indies at the insomnia gaming festival so I’d encourage you to check out their lineup at the next one. If any of these games piqued your interest, please do check out the developers steam page/socials and give them your support, it would mean the world to any aspiring indie dev and give them some always welcome encouragement.
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