December 29, 2009 4:06 PM | Michael Rose
That's it, 2009 is soon to be the past and 2010 will be king. We've seen some incredible indie releases this year (just check out our Top 10 Indie Games of 2009 for a glimpse) but 2010 isn't worried - in fact, he's pretty sure he can match that and then some.
So which games should you be keeping a close eye on over the coming 365 days? Would a carefully selected list of the best upcoming titles be useful? Of course it would! After the cut is such a list (please note, in no particular order!) full to the brim with excellent indie gaming goodness which you should be foaming at the mouth for. If you thought this year was fantastic, you may need to hold onto something - here comes 2010.
Fez (Polytron Corporation)
What is it that excites everyone so damn much about Fez? It is THAT trailer released earlier in the year? Is it the dimension-flipping gameplay? Is it the incredible 8-bit polish? Come on, you know the answer to that - it's a little from columns A, B and C. This is the game every indie enthusiast is longing for.
With every new screenshot featuring Gomez the little fez-wearing guy in it, the excitement builds. If we're honest, part of the excitement surrounding Fez is the fact that we know barely anything about it! Beyond 'a 2D man on a voyage through a mysterious 3D world', it's all being kept heavily under wraps. Not for much longer however, as Gomez will be flipping onto an Xbox Live Arcade near you early next year.
Joe Danger (Hello Games)
I've already written extensively regarding Hello Games' motorbiking wonder, and having now played the IGF build to death I can say without a doubt that Joe Danger will be a huge XBLA (or PSN, depending on where it finally lands) indie hit in 2010. Take Trials HD, give it a comic feel, minus the frustration and you're on your way to understanding what Joe Danger is about.
What makes daredevil Joe something to look forward to is the sense of pure, unadulterated fun flowing through his veins. Powering his little chopper along the track, doing crazy flips and wheelies, it's impossible not to smile the whole time. The sheer amount of tracks and game modes is the icing on this glorious cake. Take heed, console owners - this is one to watch out for.
Vessel (Strange Loop Games)
Tim mentioned this one in his IGF 2010 picks, and with good reason. As he put it, you get the same feeling from Vessel as you did when playing Braid for the first time. Armed with some sort of water vacuum (think Mario Sunshine's FLUDD), your task is to complete 'The Device', exploring caves and interacting with the 'Fluros'.
It's a platforming puzzler with some incredibly clever ideas behind it. The overall atmosphere really sets a wonderful scene, and the physics-based gameplay and fluid simulation engine give Vessel something so unique. Expect to be blown away when this comes to town.
Boryokudan Rue (Joshua Nuernberger)
Welcome to the planet Barracus. Crime syndicate 'The Boryokudan' are your enemy in this science-fiction adventure game, your surroundings cloaked in a film-noir dressing. You follow the interweaving stories of two protagonists, ex-cop Azriel Odin on his quest to find his brother, and Delta-Six, a prisoner in a strange facility who can't remember a thing.
This is just insanely brilliant adventure gaming. The story contains some of the best plot and dialogue I've seen in a good while, and the hand-painting scenes look gorgeous. In addition to the traditional point-and-clicking, there are also action scenes which require timing and precision. There's a 'kick' verb too! Adventure gaming fans need to keep this one in their radar.
VVVVVV (Terry Cavanagh)
Both myself and Tim have banged on about Terry Cavanagh's VVVVVV way too much - even putting it in our Top 10 Indie Games of 2009 before it's even fully released - but just in case you missed it, here I go again: This game is incredible. A retro style coursing through the whole experience, players traverse each screen by flipping gravity and trying not to land in the spikes.
Featuring a number of separate worlds each connected together by a huge overworld, each area has its own special conditions, meaning no two worlds play out the same. Then there are trinkets to collect, speed runs to master, extra gameplay modes to conquer, and all with an incredible chiptune soundtrack delivered by the genius that is SoulEye. To be released on 10th January, you shall have this in your life soon.
It wouldn't be a real indie gaming list without a bit of cactus, right? Tuning is cactus' recent submission to the IGF, and it's a crazy beautiful thing. Controlling a ball in a world of blocks, the job is to reach the goal on each level. As you progress, the levels get stranger and stranger, with odd perspectives and graphical tricks abound.
This is arguably a literal 'art game', with players having to use the art to determine exactly what they're meant to be doing on each new layout. Whether it be a strange camera angle, zooming platforms or a trick of the mind, Jonatan has definitely created something unique and worthy of your time.
Max and the Magic Marker (Press Play)
Our first Wiiware entry into this list, and if you can imagine combining Petri Purho's Crayon Physics and a platforming game, Max and the Magic Marker wouldn't be far off. Players use the Wii remote to draw shapes, creating bridges, seesaws, lifts and platforms to help Max on his quest.
It has to be seen to be believed, so if you've not feasted your eyes on the official trailer yet, it's definitely worth a gander. The gameplay looks so fresh and exciting, it's impossible not to be drawn (ha!) in. The Wiiware service hasn't exactly provided the indie gaming scene with a barrage of excellent titles, but Press Play look set to help fill in that gap.
Saturated Dreamers (Studio Eres)
Soon after completing his big tower-defense styled hit Immortal Defense, Paul Eres [EDITOR'S NOTE: an occasional writer for IndieGames.com, though not involved in creating this list] began work on a futuristic top-down exploration title, now known as Saturated Dreamers. Two years on, and it's shaping up to be another big release for Paul. The action plays out like a Zelda game, but with a lot more focus on exploring, interacting with other characters and solving mysteries.
The main character, a human travelling around in a huge spaceship, has been sent to an alien world to study it and discover its secrets. Said world has but a single lake stretching off into the distance in every direction, and filled with an abundant of strange creatures. Completely non-linear, players can choose to explore the world in whatever order they choose, and the focus is on making progress without shooting everything in your path. Coming early next year.
Super Meat Boy (Team Meat)
Another upcoming indie game which needs no introduction. What can you expect from Super Meat Boy? Incredibly unforgiving platforming which will make you want to cry. Jumps and maneuvers which require perfect precision and timing. Lots of lots of blood and meat. And a few more tears.
Not for the faint-hearted, Super Meat Boy is difficult stuff, but then that's why so many people loved the original. Plus, it's a well known fact that gamers love blood-splattered levels. Expect Team Meat to deliver all of the above with a side-order of hilarity to the WiiWare store.
Shank (Klei Entertainment)
Completely OTT action-platformer, just the way we like it. Shank doesn't just kill his enemies - he slices them up, throws them into the air then riddles their bodies with bullets. He knocks them to the floor, then delivers the blade of a chainsaw to their faces. He slams them against the ground numerous times before throwing them off a building. And he does all this in front of the most beautifully crafted backdrops.
Shank is an out-and-out beat, slice and shoot-em-up with stunning comicbook style visuals and great arcade gameplay. Mastering the skills provided, such as running up walls, swinging from poles and using your enemies as weapons, is always going to be the key and muster the satisfaction we all crave. Prepare to get completely excessive soon.