Indies for the Weekend

2023-12-28 by George P

Zombotron Re-Boot

It's the last few days of the year that have been great when it comes to gaming and less great when it comes to other things going on in the world. However, this is also one of the reasons many of us enjoy this thing called gaming because it lets us get away from everything going on around us and for that short while allows us to think about something else. With that said here's a selection of indies that might do just that.

In this shooter platformer, you assume the role of an intergalactic freelance mercenary who, after a failed rescue mission, becomes stranded on the planet Zombotron. Around you, the remnants of an abandoned settlement envelope both the planet’s surface and its underground caverns. Before you can fully examine your surroundings, you are ambushed by undead entities and robotic contraptions. Your task will be to not only survive in this highly hostile environment but also discover the hidden truth behind the planet and its deserted colony. Let me preface by saying that, for a platformer, the gameplay of Zombotron really packs a punch. It is quick, snappy, physics-based, and has a great amount of variety in terms of both enemy types and equipment. It also benefits from a well-thought-out level design that further enhances Zombotron’s already strong features. On top of that, the game’s cartoony art direction, polished visuals, fluid animations, and great particle effects help deliver an experience that feels dynamic and engaging. What is interesting to point out here is that Zombotron is in fact an old Flash series. One that I used to play more than a decade ago.

This version is a remaster that aims to improve the overall experience while maintaining all the elements that made the original series stand out. Through a clever approach and clearly a lot of effort, the author manages to achieve exactly that. All the ingredients that made the original series memorable are still here. The smart level design, the physics, the interactive environment, the destructible structures, the different enemy types, the variety of ways in which you can approach an encounter, and more. While maintaining these key elements, this remastered version manages to improve many aspects that were lacking in the past (mainly due to engine and file size limitations). The visuals, the animations, the higher resolution options, the controls, the UI, and the sound design, are all components that have received a substantial makeover. Through these improvements, the overall experience feels smooth and modern but does not lose the authenticity that many veterans of the game will expect. Zombotron Re-Boot is a high-quality shooter platformer with clever and action-packed gameplay that both newcomers and fans of the original series will certainly enjoy.
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An Arcade Full of Cats

After a crazy experiment to “catify” the history of video games went awry, and countless innocent cats were lost across time and space. In order to repair the damage, you will join Leo and Fofino and embark on an astoundingly absurd adventure to find and rescue hundreds of missing feline friends. Using a Back to the Future Delorean-type car, Leo and Fofino will time travel to various arcade environments, from the early 80s to the start of the second millennium. It will be your duty to carefully scan each and every scene and pinpoint the locations of a seemingly endless collection of stealthily concealed cats. You will time travel across a total of five different years: 1980, 1985, 1990, 1995, and 2000; all accompanied by their distinct era-specific characteristics. Let me point out here that An Arcade Full of Cats is one of the best-hidden object games I have ever played. There are numerous elements that contribute to this highly successful final result. First of all, the artwork is adorably beautiful and works perfectly in terms of both pleasant visual presentation and engaging gameplay.

The hidden cats are designed to cleverly blend in the background in a remarkably large number of ways without ever evoking any sense of frustration to the player. All the five arcades that you will visit across the five different years have their own unique personality, soundtrack, and of course, references! There is a truly staggering number of nostalgia-inducing references throughout the entire game relating not just to video games but also to the technological and aesthetical peculiarities of each era that you will journey to. Beyond cats, there are also other curious objects hidden in each environment. One such object is the cat coin! A rare and well- hidden token that will give you the chance to play various old-school games within the arcade. Each game is equipped with a unique gimmick and acts as an additional environment for feline search and rescue. Overall, An Arcade Full of Cats is a brilliant game that can provide hours of relaxing and cutesy fun to players of all kinds.
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Liminal Dreams

You wake up in a quiet white room. Initially, nothing looks out of the ordinary. Just a regular house with a bed, a table, a television, some chairs, a wardrobe, and more mundane furniture. But sooner or later you will realize that something is off. A lost journal will confirm your suspicions and lead you toward an interdimensional gateway. This gateway will give you the option to teleport to different realms, all with their own unique intricacies. For example, the Green World is characterized by disorientation. A place surrounded by gigantic hedges which form a seemingly inescapable labyrinth. Throughout this maze, you will notice park benches, public toilets, picnic items, swings, and even a carnival ride. Hints of past joys are visible but now bleak isolation haunts the atmosphere. The Pink World on the other side feels much less familiar and much more otherworldly. An abandoned concrete town constructed on top of colossal pillars above the surface of the ocean. Remnants of a lost civilization are visible and a feeling of oppressiveness defines the built environment. As you investigate your surroundings you will unearth clues that point to something increasingly sinister.

These are just some of the realms and mysteries that you will have the chance to explore in Liminal Dreams. Without wanting to spoil any further details, I wish to highlight some elements that make this project much more compelling than many of its counterparts. After the Backrooms became a viral internet sensation, the indie scene witnessed an explosion of games trying to imitate the alluring “liminal” style. It would be putting it too kindly to say that most such projects were of “varying quality”. What always surprised me is how most of them seemed to completely miss the mark in terms of atmosphere. Thankfully, Liminal Dreams fully encapsulates the sense of loneliness, nostalgia, familiarity, and uncanniness that has defined this sub-genre of media. It is a game that piques your curiosity and delicately invites you to explore its surreal dreamscapes and unravel their enigmas. This is not a game that will appeal to everyone but if you enjoy exploration, discovery, otherworldly environments, and secluded secrets, then Liminal Dreams can easily deliver an engaging experience.
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