Because We May Sale Makes Indie Games Cheap(er) for a Week
Independent game developers have at their disposal a wide variety of methods for trying to boost sales. Some of these include banding together with other indie titles to generate publicity, as seen time after time with the Humble Indie Bundle and its many imitators. The latest such scheme doesn’t actually package unrelated games together or sell them at any price the buyer decides (as is the case with the HIB), but it is eye-catching in that there are a ton of indie games available right this very moment at heavily discounted prices.
The promotion, Because We May, runs for the last week of May (May 24 through June 1) and features games from Steam, iOS, Google Play, the Mac App Store, and the official websites of computer game developers. There is a wide array of titles available with more still being added, and none of this accounts for games that are on sale right now outside of the promotion (like Infinity Blade II, Grand Theft Auto III, and many of EA’s titles).
It’s always nice to see indie developers supporting each other, even if doing so also helps to attract attention to their own games. Some developers have gone so far as to make their games free during Because We May, and while that may be closer to a more appropriate price for some, there are some quality, standout titles.
Gravonaut is one such game. It’s an old-school platformer very reminiscent of VVVVVV and is well-suited to iOS. It gets around the usual problems with touchscreen buttons in a platformer by functioning like an auto-runner, leaving the player to only flip the gravity back and forth to make it through levels. The music becomes tiresome over time and I never like it when platformers don’t allow you to see where you’re supposed to be jumping to, but anyone who is a fan of grinding through difficult platformers would be well-served to check it out.
Anodia is another free game more than deserving of your attention. It may appear to be a fairly standard Breakout-style game, albeit a nice-looking one, but to leave it at that would be doing it a major disservice. Aside from the inordinately satisfying sound effects (there’s something about the ball bouncing around that just sounds so much better than most other brickbreaker games), the levels are much more inventive than other games’. Rather than finding different ways to arrange standard bricks, each level offers something different — light bulbs rotating around in a circle, brightly-colored circles that slowly move around the level (including into your paddle), colored targets that can only be taken out when a switch is turned to the corresponding color, and so on keep things fresh from level to level.
Invader Zurp also fits into this category of freebies demanding to be checked out. Imagine Boom Blox on rails and you’ll be on your way to understanding this game, which has you shooting missiles at various buildings and structures made out of bricks. This becomes a challenge because each structure has turrets which will shoot back at you, forcing you to find a balance between protecting yourself by shooting down incoming missiles and going for hidden blocks. The game isn’t without its faults, as I wish the structures collapsing provided some sense of feedback (there’s no crashing noise or anything) and at times I feel like I’m shooting at whatever the game wants, not what I’m actually tapping, but the way the game is structured — you seamlessly move from one structure to the next — makes for an addictive experience.
You’re not taking much of a risk by downloading any of these free games; bandwidth and time aside, there’s nothing to stop you from checking them all out for yourself. Doing the same with all of the games that still cost money would prove to be somewhat costly. While it would be impossible to evaluate them all, below are some of my favorites (outside of the big-name titles like Braid and Super Meat Boy) that are worth checking out at their original prices, let alone at their Because We May prices.
Anomaly Warzone Earth (iOS, Steam, Android, Mac): What started out as a unique take on tower defense on PC — you’re in charge of managing the units moving along the path, not the towers — is an even better game on iOS. The removal of a physical character you control takes care of the only potential issue with playing the game on a touchscreen, and it looks great, especially on the new iPad. There is enough content here to justify the original $10 price on Steam; now for $4 (or $.99/$1.99 for the iPhone/iPad and Android versions) it would be a mistake to skip it.
Canabalt (iOS, Android): It may lack the depth of other auto-runners like Jetpack Joyride, which remains my personal favorite, but there is something to be said for how straightforward it is. There is no fluff whatsoever, only tight controls (it still counts as “controls” even if you only tap to jump, right?) and a great soundtrack. With new features possibly on the way, this is a perfect opportunity to start practicing for some multiplayer action.
Edge (iOS, Steam, Android, Mac): Another platformer that works well on iOS by not resorting to a virtual d-pad or joystick. Edge has a very minimalist look to it and is easy to pick up and get right away, although what I appreciate about it most is the replayability of each stage. Having prisms to collect and shortcuts to find gives you a reason to go back and play a level over even when you think you’ve managed to make it to the end in good time. Plus, any time you can play a game that makes you think about Tim Langdell and giggle, you have to do it.
Jamestown (Steam): A gorgeous top-down shooter, Jamestown’s graphics and soundtrack would be its most noteworthy features if not for how good the game itself plays. Cooperative play makes for an even more entertaining experience than playing solo; my only complaint is that multiplayer is local-only, though that should not stop shoot-em-up fans from checking it out.
Trainyard (iOS): While directing trains to their destination initially seems like a far-too-easy task, the difficulty in Trainyard quickly ramps up. The ability to have two pieces of track on each tile adds a great deal of complexity, as it opens up the door for requirements like not allowing two trains to touch one another. It also requires you to pay attention to the order in which trains will go, as the tile will swap between tracks as a train drives over it. The rules are slowly taught to you over time and are not difficult to comprehend, although that doesn’t mean you won’t find yourself scratching your head as you search for a solution.