The usual massive booths are vying for everyone's attention at E3 2014, but indie games are scattered everywhere if you look just a bit deeper. A wide variety of them are collected in the IndieCade Showcase, including Dynamighty's CounterSpy (screenshot above), Extend Interactive's So Many Me and Juicy Beast's Toto Temple Deluxe. Here's a quick glance at each one.
Making the Cold War fizzle in CounterSpy
CounterSpy is a "satirical take on the Cold War" from San Francisco-based Dynamighty, according to co-founder and lead designer David Nottingham. The game casts the player as a spy from an agency called COUNTER who's attempting to prevent both the U.S., or "imperialists," and the U.S.S.R., or "socialists," from launching a nuclear strike at the Moon. (This has a basis in fact: In 1958, the U.S. government put together a top-secret plan for this very thing that was known as Project A119.) It's up to you to infiltrate both countries and prevent them from executing that dastardly plan.
This is accomplished from the side-scrolling perspective, although the camera can pull behind the protagonist for third-person melee combat and shooting. CounterSpy uses a DEFCON rating to assess how well you're doing; as you alert more guards and cause more mayhem, the rating will inch upward from 5 to 1, and if you get all the way up to DEFCON 1, a countdown to the nuclear launch will begin.
CounterSpy's striking art direction will instantly draw your attention. Influences in the art design include 1950s propaganda posters, the work of Saul Bass and Pixar's The Incredibles. (Dynamighty's art director spent 16 years at Pixar and worked on that film.) The studio also outfitted CounterSpy with visual trappings like a grain filter and rounded edges on the screen in an effort to evoke the look of an old-school TV.
CounterSpy looks like it can back up its style with gameplay. The title reminded me of Mark of the Ninja, with players having the ability to shoot for stealth or make their presence known like, say, James Bond. You can use a variety of firearms, from silenced pistols to louder guns, as well as close-quarters takedowns such as snapping necks. The levels tend to be more constrained than in other stealth games, although that fits the setting of mid-century government bases. The stages do have elements that are procedurally generated, so if you die and restart, it's not like you'll keep banging your head against the same trouble spot.
Dynamighty is planning to release CounterSpy on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita this summer; it will support cross-buy and cross-save. The studio is also working on a mobile version for Android and iOS that will offer a custom-built gesture-based control scheme as opposed to on-screen controls.
Getting by with a little help from your clones in So Many Me
So Many Me developer Extend Interactive had a different idea for a retro-style side-scrolling puzzle platformer: What if you had clones to help you get through puzzles? You play as a greenish blob, Filo, who started off with three clones in the demo we saw. Each one has its own personality, and their charming humor is a big part of the game.
Filo's clones all move along with him, until you start using them to solve puzzles. The primary move here was for a clone to turn into a block, which allowed the remaining blobs to keep moving forward. Blocks also serve as activators for objects such as pressure plates that control doors. So Many Me ramps up puzzle difficulty with obstacles such as blooms that spit out pollen, which prevents Filo from morphing into blocks, and turrets that fire lasers.
You can end up with as many as 10 clones, and they'll also be used in ways similar to Platinum Games' The Wonderful 101: In certain spots, you'll make a particular motion with the analog sticks and form a new creature with the clones. These collections of clones will help out with certain puzzles — for example, one of them is a bird, and flying comes in handy in that area. According to Extend, some puzzles will require more clones than you may have, so you'll want to return to those spots after you unlock more blobs. Of course, the more clones you have, the further in advance you'll have to think in order to make it through.
So Many Me is set for release on Linux, Mac, Ouya and Windows on July 17.
The frenetic multiplayer action of Toto Temple Deluxe
Toto Temple Deluxe originated as Toto Temple, a single level that developer Juicy Beast created during the 2013 Toronto Game Jam. It's designed for local play, and it plays out like a fast-paced game of keep-away: Two to four people fight to pick up a goat, and then attempt to hold it for as long as they can. The main move each player has is a dash in the four cardinal directions, which will separate an opponent from their goat if it connects. In the default game type, the first player to reach 4,000 points wins; you collect coins strewn about the arena for points, and holding the goat provides a significant amount of points every so often.
Jared Yeager, who handles developer relations for Ouya, told Polygon that the company is "gravitating toward local multiplayer on Ouya," and Toto Temple Deluxe seems like a great follow-up to Matt Thorson's TowerFall, which was a timed exclusive for Ouya at the console's launch. We played four-player rounds on two or three different stages, each of which had its own unique quirks and hazards, and it seemed like Toto Temple Deluxe could offer the same addictive, engrossing, local multiplayer fun as games like TowerFall and Samurai Gunn.
Toto Temple Deluxe is set for release this summer on Ouya.