The video games industry is a competitive market with thousands of titles hitting platforms such as Steam throughout the year. According to Steam Spy, 7632 games were released on the platform in 2017 alone.
Release day is daunting for an indie developer, not only because of deadlines but being aware of titles that are launching nearby which could blow their chance at obtaining sales. It’s a shame that the creativity of wonderful developers is being overshadowed by blockbuster titles, but here are five of those indie games that bombed but shouldn’t have.
Developed by DigitalDNA Games, CastleMiner Z was one of many ‘clones’ of Minecraft but had a unique sense of charm compared to other games available at the time. It was obvious that in 2011 Minecraft was the big ‘craze’, everyone was playing it and the game ended up being labelled as the game that allowed gamers to unleash their creativity. CastleMiner Z didn’t get the attention it deserved, it was released into an endless pool of games of the same genre making it especially difficult to stand out. In an article on IndieGames.com, designer Thomas Steinke had this to say: ‘Simply put I don’t see CastleMiner Z as a Minecraft “clone”, but a creative expansion on a genre.’
CastleMiner Z abandoned many of the ideas that its inspiration established but introduced mechanics that appealed to fans of First-Person shooters. The biggest differentiation that the game has is its introduction of firearms which at the time was unexplored in the genre; it makes the survival elements of the game challenging as crafting ammo is a more demanding task. At first glance the game can be visually seen as dark and depressing, but the variety of objectives that are achievable make it an outstanding experience.
Available on: PC (Steam)
Eden Star is one of those early access games that are technically unfinished but is updated occasionally, utilizing the feedback of the community during its ongoing development. Flix Interactive had innovative ideas with the games physics-based combat but the lack of exposure led it to missing the mark in terms of popularity.
The game has one of the most intriguing core mechanics present in any survival game, there is the ability to manipulate various items and materials using a robotic hand. Combining this with the destructible environment, it makes the online multiplayer thrilling as the core focus of the mode is base building leading to some crazy moments. It still needs some more tweaking, but the developers are some of the most dedicated individuals in the industry who listen to their player base attentively.
Available on: PC (Steam)
Table Top Racing: World Tour
During the earlier days of 3D polygonal gaming, we were introduced to the interesting PS1 classic, Micro Machines V3. Table Top Racing: World Tour feels like the classic but on a grander scale, offering a bigger multitude of cars and maps that provide a variety of interesting gameplay moments.
The game was overshadowed by other popular released in the same month, including the popular team-based shooter Overwatch. It is unfortunate, as the game provides a unique twist on a densely populated genre with its unique map and car design.
Drawn to Death
Exclusivity can lead to a lack of awareness, and that’s exactly what happened with the PlayStation 4 exclusive, Drawn to Death. The game started its life as a free title for members of PlayStation Plus, but even with that marketing advantage not many players were actively playing, even on launch day. It is a tactical third person shooter that utilizes a unique art style that is presented in the idea of a sketch book. The visual style didn’t sit too well with critics, being classed as ‘jarring’ and somewhat of an eye sore.
The problem with the critiques surrounding the game’s art style meant that the excellent gameplay was completely ignored. As with most games of the same genre, it provides chaotic multiplayer shooting action with objectives for team-based and single-player modes. There is some humorous dialogue and references scattered throughout the games dynamic playable maps, maybe encouraging you to chuckle at the grotesque humour. If you are a fan of multiplayer shooters, Drawn to Death is an excellent title to consider playing.
Available on: PS4
Playtonic Games launched a Kickstarter project in 2015 for the revival of the 3D gameplay style, which at the time was a “dead” genre. Their answer to this, Yooka-Laylee, a spiritual successor to the popular N64 game Banjo Kazooie, with a development team containing members who worked on the latter. At release, the game received multiple accounts of unfavourable reception.
However, it didn’t help that most of the criticism was comparing it to its ‘predecessor’ which meant the game couldn’t stand on its own. It shines because of its colourful huge open-ended levels that were not possible during the N64 era because of technical limitations. The creativity present in each world is gobsmacking, the platforming challenges available are some of the most unique concepts present in the genre. Playtonic didn’t receive enough praise for their memorable characters, dynamic landscapes and the array of collectables available.