By Gareth F 10.08.2014 1
Team Indie, an upcoming release from Brightside Games, not only proudly celebrates the Indie ethos by adopting it as a name but actually manages to unite a good selection of some of the more memorable characters from numerous other Indie hits and utilises their signature moves for a suitably wacky platform puzzler. Read on as Cubed3 takes the title for an early ride…
Indie games in general have been enjoying quite the elevated profile of late thanks in no small part to featuring heavily in Sony's current gen strategy. It's a tactic that's definitely paid off handsomely for them as it's ensured a steady stream of new games for the ever growing player base to keep them occupied as they wait patiently for the big hitters to drop. While there's no denying that the Xbox 360 also has a sizable Indie catalogue to dip into, Microsoft hasn't done the greatest of jobs in promoting it and at times it can even be a real struggle to locate the Indie Marketplace on the console dashboard. However, having seen how well Sony has fared with its current Indie programme, Microsoft has since adopted a similar tack for the Xbox One in a bid to address the unavoidable games drought that goes hand-in-hand with a new generation of consoles. Those that have seen the excellent 'Indie Game: The Movie' will attest to the fact that in the past a lot of these smaller, independent developers suffered at the hands of the console manufacturers who were seemingly oblivious to their needs and at a loss as to how to effectively market them.
This in no small part is why the Indie scene has flourished and evolved on the PC, a direct manifestation of not having to face the tight restrictions imposed by console ecosystem, which makes it far easier for those with the inclination and knowledge on how to make a game to do so with relative ease. This results in some of the more interesting, inventive, and original game ideas coming from the smaller developers willing to take a chance and who aren't under pressure to recoup bloated, multi-million dollar budgets.
Brightside Games itself is a relatively young company located in Berlin whose first game, Zeit², was published by Ubisoft and released on Xbox Live Arcade and Steam after being a finalist in both the Independent Games Festival 2009 Student Showcase and the Indie Game Challenge 2010. Zeit² is a side-scrolling shooter with quite an original and interesting hook that involves allowing the player to rewind time after playing certain sections of the game and then re-playing the same section again co-operatively with an earlier version of themselves. It's such a simple, yet clever, idea that Brightside, having sensed it was onto something big, had set to work on developing the concept further and is now about a year into the development of Team Indie, which as a platform puzzler, is arguably a better concept to execute this idea in than a shooter.
In terms of story, many will wonder what was put in the water in Berlin as Team Indie tells the tale of a playful cat called Marvin, whom shortly after meeting his new owner has a minor altercation with the other resident moggy of the house and ends up lost inside the videogame world as a result. Irrespective of how a feline would end up in such a predicament, the natural instinct of any cat lover would be to get them out of there by any means necessary, but it's not just a case of opening up the PC case and enabling Marvin to escape … that's too easy. What's the solution then?
*Adopts gruff American accent, presses 'Play' on tape deck … the theme from 'The A-Team' can be heard*
'If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire Team Indie.'
Actually, unlike the A-Team, there are no cryptic phone calls, trawling through the classified ads for clues to their whereabouts, or even any mention of a fee involved for facilitating Marvin's escape. 'Team Indie' just turn up knowing full well there's a troubled cat running riot in its domain and, seeing as there aren't any litter trays in the videogame world, it's in its best interest to ensure that Marvin is delivered safely back to his owner.
Who makes up Team Indie, though? Well, as hinted at earlier, Brightside has pulled together quite an impressive cast of popular Indie game characters with the blessings of their respective creators / keepers and produced a puzzle-filled world playing to each of their individual strengths. Included in the roll call are the likes of Commander Video from Runner 2, Clunk from Awesomenauts and the old king of the rewinds himself, Tim from Braid. The fact that something like this can happen organically, without involving teams of lawyers or hefty licensing fees, actually paints the Indie game scene in quite a healthy light and it's reassuring to know that these guys are so supportive of each other with their creative endeavours. This crossover from multiple franchises does a good job of introducing characters that might not have previously been encountered, which in itself is an effective marketing strategy for all companies concerned as after puzzling through the preview copy it served as a reminder to play Runner 2 and Awesomenauts again … something that will hopefully be remedied once this piece has been written!
How does a typical Team Indie level play out then? Well, at the start of each section, Marvin is controlled, but this switches to one of the other characters upon hitting their respective icons that are scattered around each stage. Control of the secondary character continues up until another icon is hit, at which point the game will rewind, throwing control back to Marvin whilst simultaneously re-playing the accomplice's moves, thus effectively enabling co-operative play as a solo activity. For example, one level features assistance from Commander Video from Runner 2 who, besides being unable to stand still, can slide under low gaps inaccessible to other characters, and J. Jitters, from The Great Jitters, who has the ability to create a platform in mid air. The huge crevasse at the start of the level requires J. Jitters to jump midway to drop a platform to enable Marvin's successful traversal to the other side. However, once there, Marvin finds another dead end ... what now? Well, instead of taking Marvin across first, switch to Commander Video who can get to the other side of the crevasse and then quickly slide under a gap to hit a switch that activates a moving platform for Marvin to get to the next part of the level (but only once Jitters has put his platform down, otherwise he will just run to his demise down the crevasse).
Despite its cute exterior, Team Indie has actually got some devilishly tricky puzzles that admittedly had this previewer bamboozled on more than one occasion. Team Indie is set to be released for PC and Mac via the Steam platform at some point during the Autumn period of 2014 and looks to be the sort of puzzle-platformer that hardcore gamers will lap up with joy, and even just proving to be a fun 'spot the cameo' experience for others.