Retro-styled games have been back in vogue for the past few years, becoming the go-to for independent developers all around the world. There’s plenty of reasons for this: the pixelated art styles associated with retro games are vastly cheaper for small (as small as one person) teams to create; there are plenty of entry-level tools out there to create these games from software like RPG Maker to more robust programs like Construct; and most importantly, we want them.
We want games that capture that feeling of our youths, transporting us back to halcyon days of squinting at Game Boy Colour screens in the back of the car, trying to play by the scant glow of passing streetlights. Kickstarter, for better and worse, has become a haven for these new retro games, from successes like Shovel Knight, Pillars of Eternity and Hyper Light Drifter which build on the foundations laid down in the past, to flops like the much-maligned Mighty No. 9, which shamelessly aped the games of old without offering anything new or noteworthy. Kickstarter is always a gamble, but I’ve selected a few upcoming funded games I’m excited for that I think will capture that retro feel and that independent spirit.
A Hat in Time
The Internet was set ablaze by the reveal of Yooka-Laylee on Kickstarter, and rightly so. People had been crying for a return to that Nintendo 64 collectathon style of platformer, so who better to do it than the people who made those games in the first place?
Here’s the thing though: A Hat in Time got there first. Culling talent from all over the world with proven experience in communities like the Team Fortress 2 modding scene, Gears for Breakfast’s first game looks like a belter. Featuring a beautiful Wind Waker-inspired art style and that classic collection-based gameplay, all wrapped up with a whimsical charm, I’m really looking forward to this one.
I love co-operative games. There’s nothing better than gathering a bunch of mates for a night, jumping on Discord and just having a blast. Hive Jump looks like it’ll fulfil that need perfectly. It’s got some gorgeous pixel art, culling influences from Metroid and Starcraft amongst others, with nice dynamic light and fluid animation.
The procedurally-generated levels should provide a lot of varied content and ensure no two play sessions are ever the same, and I’m a big fan of Jimmy ‘Big Giant Circles’ Hinson‘s work on OC Remix, his own original work and his work on games such as Mass Effect 2, so I’m looking forward to his soundtrack for Hive Jump. If you’ve ever wanted to live out those Starship Troopers fantasies of splatting bug after bug after bug after bug, this looks like the game for you (and me!).
Heart Forth, Alicia
Metroidvanias are a genre inextricably tied to the indie game scene. From on of the first big successes, Cave Story, to recent titles like Axiom Verge, it seems like there’s always some sort of Metroidvania game springing up. Yet, you never really see fantasy-themed ones. Heart Forth, Alicia looks to rectify that with some sumptuous pixel art and an intriguing story, marrying it all to some in-depth RPG elements and progression systems. The pixel art alone sold me on this one, and the way the game looks in motion has me very excited.
Arena shooters are back! I have incredibly fond memories of old-school arena shooters, from hours crowding round a GameCube to play TimeSplitters 2, to getting around twenty-five of the folks in my games development college class onto a LAN at lunchtimes to play insane games of Unreal Tournament 3. Now there’s a new Unreal game on the way, there are a few independent efforts like Toxikk springing up, but none do them with as much style and humour as Diabotical.
I love the cartoony look of the egg-robot characters, the slightly cel-shaded graphic style and the irreverent humour, though I hope it doesn’t pull a Borderlands and become choked with tired, cringeworthy memes. Multiplayer shooters have a history of never getting the community they need to keep the servers alive, so hopefully Diabotical maintains a strong, dedicated playerbase because it looks like a riotously fun time.
I’m so sick of the voxel style. Since Minecraft blew up, a ton of hack developers have been cobbling games together out of similar, blocky aesthetics to try and cash in on Mojang‘s success. But STRAFE gets away with it because… well, just look at it.
It’s an honest homage to an era where 3D models weren’t even in existence yet, so the pixelated look suits it to a tee, and when you see this frenetic, gib-filled pandaemonium in action, you’ll realise that you need this game now.
It’s fast, fun, furious and offers a glimpse into an alternative future where Half-Life never happened, shooters never evolved past their arcade roots, and Doom, Wolfenstein 3D and Rise of the Triad reign supreme. And that future looks awesome if STRAFE is anything to go by.