“Better late than never”.

Apologies for the lateness on this one, folks! When I first started at CHUD, one of my goals was to bring you guys a weekly roundup of some of the better and larger-released indie titles available on the market today. These will typically range from PC to console titles, but from time to time, the focus may only be on consoles or PC, depending. What I’d like to do is declare one game an Indie Darling, with that title being my personal favorite of the week, with another title being the Indie Flop, being my least favorite release of the week.

This week, we saw the long-awaited release of Phil Fish’s Fez, as well as classic Capcom-inspired fighter Skullgirls. How did they fare? To quote my hero, Bret Easton Ellis, let’s slide down the surface of things …

1) Without Escape is a point and click horror title from developer PacoChan. The game immediately caught my eye, as I worked on Decay, which is another point and click horror adventure title on the indie game platform, so I was anxious to see what someone did with the genre. I’m always partial to downloading horror titles, and Without Escape showed promise, but the over the top music and sound design left me a tad cold. There also didn’t seem to be much in the way of proper editing done to the text, with “noone” being used in place of “no one” in a few spots. The game is only 80 Microsoft points, which translates to around a dollar, so if you’re looking for some lightly interesting narrative, powered by some neat visuals, give Without Escape a try.

2) Fez is creator Phil Fish’s charming and lush platformer/puzzle hybrid. Though Fish has generated plenty of controversy for statements made regarding Japanese game development, as well as the current state of gaming in general, Fez is not a game that should be judged on its creator’s merits. That established, I was bored with the game minutes in. The whole pseudo-8 bit aesthetic is not something I’ve ever appreciated, so for me to fall head over heels for Fez, I would need a strong narrative.

Unfortunately, Fez is lacking in that department, as well. The so-called chiptunes Vangelis-inspired soundtrack is absolutely brilliant, though, and the game’s learning curve is incredibly quick. A disappointment five years in the making. Available now on XBOX Live for 800 Microsoft Points, which is around ten bucks, I would perhaps wait until it’s around 400 MSP to nab it.

Indie Flop:

Skullgirls, a 2D fighting game developed by Reverge Labs and published by Konami/Autumn Games, is easily one of the slowest and least impressive titles I’ve played in recent months. As someone who played various Capcom titles semi-professionally up until his first few years of college, I was chomping at the bit to get my hands on Skullgirls, but when that time finally came, I couldn’t have been more disappointed.

Skullgirls seems influenced by a lot of sources, including Zach Snyder’s Sucker Punch (I’m not ashamed to say I think I’m the only CHUD writer who loved that movie, by the way), Tex Avery, early Disney and German expressionist filmmaking. These concepts meld surprisingly well together, and add to the universe that Skullgirls is trying to create, but overall, the gameplay itself is what suffers.

The most frustrating thing about Skullgirls is that it’s so incredibly beautiful, visually, has an interesting story, and great characters catering to any level of player and/or fighting style, but the game itself is just too slow for my tastes. Mind you, I grew up with Street Fighter 2: Championship Edition on the Genesis, then progressed through every iteration of Street Fighter from that point forward, until eventually earning a few bucks on the tournament circuit in the early 2000’s, so I’m accustomed to fighting games of multiple speeds. That established, Skullgirls feels “floaty” to use a nebulous term that only fighting game fans may understand (not to sound elitist, of course) and heavy, while a brilliant indie title like Battle High: San Bruno balances power, speed and floaty characters to near-perfection and only costs 80 Microsoft Points as opposed to Skullgirls’ hefty cost of 1,200 Microsoft Points (around $15 on PSN).

Indie Darling:

Teddy Defender is a game that was gunning for my wallet the second it released. A simple concept: The player assumes the role of a little boy’s teddy bear who must set up defenses using plastic Army men, toy planes, jacks in the box and toy blocks to slow down approaching nightmares that take the form of ants, wasps and evil teddy bears and more. At first, the tank-like controls of the game were a little difficult, but after a few minutes and waves, I was right at home with establishing a solid defense.

I’m always a fan of simplistic, engaging concepts, and Teddy Defender hits a grand slam for me. I know, when compared to higher polished fluff like Skullgirls and Fez, Teddy Defender may not seem like all that much, but it’s the relatively deep gameplay, charming visuals, soundtrack and sense of humor that kept me playing and got me to fork over my 80 Microsoft Points. I’m typically very harsh on my fellow indie game developers, as I feel there’s entirely too much garbage out there, but when I find a gem like Teddy Defender, I hold onto it and play it into the ground. It’s providing a nice break from my rounds of Shadows of the Damned and Modern Warfare 3.

So there you have it! The first indie roundup! Hope you guys enjoyed it, and you’ll check back next week, where I take a look at Kerbal Space Program (PC) and give a few more indies a test drive!