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cradle dome

The best indie games of 2015

Once again it is almost time for us to wave goodbye to another year, forcefully having to accept the perpetual nature of time. It can be nerve wrecking to see the days and months fly off the calendar, each year seeming to pass by faster and faster.

But before this year passes and forever becomes a thing of the past we would like to commemorate five of the best indie games of 2015, a year that has brought as some truly unique, captivating and innovative titles.

Let us pay tribute to these wonderful titles for they do not only mark how far the industry has come but are the very building blocks that the future will be found on. These are the best indie games of 2015.

Cradle

Release Date: 24 July 2015
Developer: Flying Café for Semianimals
Publisher: Flying Café for Semianimals
Platform: PC
Price: R139

cradle screen 3

Cradle is undoubtedly one of the most bizarre and beautifully unique gaming experiences I’ve ever had.

It was developed by Ukranian-based indie game studio, Flying Café for Semianimals. Many of the team members played a prominent role in the development of the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. franchise and you will clearly see the influence in this magical title.

You play as 18 year old Enebish, a young man who has woken up in a cluttered yurt in future Mongolia with no recollection of his past. As he explores its content, and eventually the world beyond it, he discovers little snippets of information that sheds more light on his life and identity. But the more answers he discovers the more questions start to arise.

Among the mess in the Yurt, he sees a mechanical woman like figure sitting on a nearby table. After getting it online he learns that the robot is not powered by AI but rather houses the digitized conciseness of a human being. She also doesn’t remember her past and so you both help each other fill in the missing blanks of this mystery, a mystery that soon grows much more complex than anticipated.

Cradle boasts an immersive and captivating narrative that will keep you intrigued until the very end. Through the duration of the game you will meet few characters but each one will shine with believability. This allowed me to form an intimacy with these characters that not many games explore. Like Enebish, I also felt like I was remembering what these people meant to me.

If you are looking for something mysterious, magical and just completely different, then Cradle is definitely worth your while.

Her Story

Release Date: 24 June 2015
Developer: Sam Barlow
Publisher: Sam Barlow
Platform: PC, iOS
Price: R65

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Her Story is an intriguing detective style game that boasts a very unique approach to game play.

The game’s entire non-linear narrative takes place on a computer desktop. YOu are given access to a police database that holds archived footage from 1994 that covers a series of interviews detectives conducted with a British woman concerning her missing husband.

Did he leave her? Or did she murder him? It’s up to you to piece together the grand mystery.

The interviews are divided into small video clips of no more than thirty seconds and arranged in no specific order. Each clip contains a tag (or keyword) that relates to its content. mystery.

Using these tags, you will search the database for undiscovered footage and will have to piece them together to find the answer to Her Story’s grand mystery. As a quick example, if the woman said something about Scotland, then you can search for the word “Scotland and the database will return all interviews linked to Scotland.

In the words of the creator, Sam Barlow: “If you can Google, you can play Her Story.”

Many describe Her Story as more of an interactive movie than a game because of its unusual mechanics. BUt whatever the case, it challenges the way we see and experience video games.

Her Story is an eccentric but utterly immersive title. I’ve never played something quite like it. At times it will leave you feeling totally confused, while at other times you will be filled with the excitement as you start to see the bigger picture, much like a detective must feel when trying to solve a case.

Ori and the Blind Forest

Release Date: 11 March 2015
Developer: Moon Studios
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Platform: Xbox One, Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows
Price: R219

Ori Blind Forest 1

Every so often rare circumstances come together and give birth to something extraordinary. Be it the alignment of the stars or the direction of the wind, it is an occurrence so uncommon that its manifestation is measured in years.

Ori and the Blind Forest is one such extraordinary phenomenon. No matter from what angle you look at it, this title excels on all fronts. It is one of the most heart-warming and saddest stories I’ve ever experienced, regardless of medium.

You play as Ori (Hebrew name that means “My Light”), a child of the Spirit Tree and a white guardian spirit of the Forest of Nibel. But on one fateful night a great storm seperates you from your home and family, and you find yourself alone somewhere deep in the forest.

Fortunately you are discovered by Naru, a pure and peaceful dweller of Nibel, who takes and raises you as her own. You become an inseparable pair, mother and child, and together you create a perfect life within the magical forest of Nibel.

Then tragedy strikes again. The forest suddenly starts to decay and soon after Naru sadly dies of starvation. Ori is an orphan once again and now has to survive on his own. But as devastated as Ori is, something seems to push him forward. Deep inside his heart he can hear a call, a call that sends him on an epic adventure to save the forest and find his home.

Ori and the Blind Forest is a true gaming masterpiece. It is an achievement in so many respects and it deserves all the positive attention it gets, perhaps even more. Its narrative was incredibly powerful and moving, its sound design masterfully executed and its gameplay smooth and challenging. It is everything a game should aim to be. No one should be deprived of the excellence that is Ori and the Blind Forest.

Party Hard

Release Date: 25 August 2015
Developer: Pinokl Games
Publisher: tinyBuild Games
Platform: Android, iOS, PC, other Steam platforms
Price: R139

Party Hard 6

Have you ever craved a bit of peace and quiet or a good night’s sleep, but your next door neighbour is hosting a rave well into the early hours of the morning? Have you ever, in a situation like this, imagined inflicting a series of horrible and painful deaths on all those who are partaking in this festival of noise?

If so (you’re probably old and mentally unstable), then Party Hard might just be the game for you. Developed by Ukrainian-based indies Pinokl Games, Party Hard will provide you with the opportunity to live out your morbid fantasies in your quest for silence.

Party Hard puts you in the shoes of a man who simply wants to sleep undisturbed. Unfortunately for him, his neighbours are engaged in an all-night pursuit of promiscuity and inebriation, and aren’t showing any signs of slowing down. Unfortunately for them, this man doesn’t possess a moral compass and is coming to cut the party short, so to speak.

What starts out as a single inconsequential mass murder spree soon turns into a more noticeable massacre of party animals. From rooftop parties to outdoor festivals, this man has had enough and has made it his mission to eradicate the world of the perpetually intoxicated.

In essence, the game relies on uncomplicated gameplay mechanics, but skilfully strung together to provide a gaming experience that is both engaging and increasingly challenging.

You will enter a party dressed as a party goer and then will have to stealthily dispose of the real party animals one by one, making sure to hide the bodies in the process to minimize the risk of getting caught.

Beyond the standard (and literal) stab in the back, each party will provide you with a plethora of ways to take care of your victims such as rigging speakers or stoves to explode, poisoning the food or throwing them in the cage of a flesh hungry Panda.

Party Hard’s blend of simple pixel art and challenging recipe of stealth and strategy makes it a wonderfully unique and eccentric gaming experience. It has an original approach and balances gameplay and narrative extremely well. It’s definitely a game I will remember for quite some time.

Kholat

Release Date: 10 June 2015
Developer: IMGN.PRO
Publisher: IMGN.PRO
Platform: PC, other Steam platforms
Price: R219

kholat 3

Kholat is a masterpiece in its own right. It combines an in-depth and strange narrative with an immersive and graphically stunning environment. Together with Sean Bean’s (Game of Thrones) voice acting as narrator, it is as a cinematic and captivating gaming experience as any other.

The first thing that caught my attention about Kholat is the fact that its mysterious narrative is based on a true story, making it all the more chilling. Kholat delves into an unsolved case known as the “Dyatlov Pass Incident”. The story is as follows:

Nine students go hiking on Kholat Syakhl (translated as “Dead Mountain”) in the Russian Ural Mountains. On 2 February 1959 all of these hikers were found dead near their campsite in strange and mystifying circumstances. Investigators could determine that they had torn their tents from the inside, probably in an attempt to escape an unknown threat. It could also be seen that fled in a hurry as many were found with no shoes.

The bodies showed no sign of a struggle (such as bruises or abrasions) but two of the bodies had cracked skulls and broken rib bones. To this day the case remains unsolved and there have been numerous speculations ranging from an avalanche to a hostile extraterrestrial encounter.

Kholat provides you with the chance to explore this mystery and follow in the footsteps of the nine unfortunate victims.

The game boasts a seductively eerie tone that is set within one of the most beautifully realistic visual environments that I have encountered in any game.

In terms of game play, it is a very simple first person exploration game. One aspect I found significant was the game’s lack of guidance. You are never told what to do or how to do it and you are pretty much left to your own thoughts and devices. I feel this both respects the player’s intelligence and leads you to explore the wonderfully constructed world.

Though exploration is encouraged, the game does mostly provide linear paths to follow with some secret little passageways to discover that will usually lead to a note or book that reveals something about the story. Nothing in this game is without meaning, and it all contributes to further enhancing the immersion of the story.

I would love to say more about this game but I feel like I would be diluting its impact. What I can say is that if you are looking from something different that masterfully combines story driven game play, atmosphere and jaw-dropping beauty, then Kholat is undoubtedly the game for you.

Author Bio

Wiehahn Diederichs: Columnist
Capetonian freelance writer and photographer. Wiehahn is a lover of stories in all their forms, and has been an avid gamer since he took his first breath. If he is not working or gaming, he either pours his creative energy into his passion for music or plays foosball in some... More