In case you didn’t know, the A MAZE indie games festival is in full swing at Tshimolong Precinct in Braamfontein and punters have just today and tomorrow to check it out.
While aspiring devs, coders and creatives will likely be converging on the festival to take part in the workshops or hear one of the many panel discussions, for a lot of us, the draw is the selection of amazing games on show.
Really, you won’t find many games out there like the ones at A MAZE; a lot of them straddle the line between digital art and gaming, but there are a couple of more traditional offerings this year such as puzzle platformers and combat games involving bloody dismemberment.
We took a gander at what’s on offer and what follows is a list of our favourites. If you have no plans this weekend, we urge to head down to A MAZE. (And if you do have plans, cancel them, and head down to A MAZE anyway.)
Let’s start things off with local heroes Free Lives. The developer behind the SA smash hit BroForce is at A MAZE this year with a rubbery hack ‘n slash called Gorn. Players take on the role of a gladiator dumped in an arena facing some lumbering orcish fighters and are tasked with smashing them up with an assortment of weapons.
The game is running on a high-end PC and players have to strap on headphones and an HTC Vive to play it. It’s all great fun, although there is something rather unnerving about seeing grinning trolls up close when you’re armed with a hammer that looks like it’s an inflatable toy!
A retro-themed riff on Pong, Pomg takes the conceit of its source material and rolls back on it. To wit, players don’t control sliders that whack a ball around – they control the ball instead.
While this sounds like it should make the game pretty easy, players can only send the ball upwards or downwards in a diagonal direction. The ball’s environment incidentally is filled with all manner of obstacles that can trip them up – sliders that they need to time correctly to pass and surface that result in instant death. Pomg may hinge on a single conceit, but some decent level design makes it rather addictive.
If you’re a gamer who fancies themselves an amateur DJ you should check out VinylOS. In this game players use record scratching and turntable positioning to blast different shapes and rack up a high score.
It’s unlikely this game will follow in the footsteps of other A MAZE alumni from yesteryear and end up as a commercial product – really, after the failure of DJ Hero how much call is there for Asteroids on a turntable? A MAZE might be your only chance to see it.
Every year we at htxt are on the look out for a game at A MAZE that stands a fighting chance of seeing commercial release. This year, the top contender is Isometric Epilepsy, one of the most devilishly clever offerings we’ve seen in a while.
Players move a cube around a series of ledges, moving from one end of a level to another. But what starts off as a simple game of pushing a square turns into a rhythm-based puzzler where one’s success or failure depends on learning patterns, quick reflexes and the ability to play a game to a beat. It’s sublime.
If you’re down at A MAZE with some mates, you might want to try out Frog Smashers, a knockabout platform/combat combo that’s oodles of fun.
Each player controls a frog with a baseball bat and they score points by – you guessed it – battering the daylights out of the other players. Occasionally a fly buzzes onto the screen and, for the lucky frog that swallows it, give a power up that can send targets flying across the screen.
Mega Man fans will be in familiar territory with Star Scooter as it’s basically a pared down version of Capcom’s classic platformer.
Players speed along a futuristic 2D environment, jumping over bottomless pits and shooting robotic enemies. Like its source material, this Zambian-made game is absolutely rock hard.
Not so much a videogame as it is a homemade time challenge, Rotoring is an Arduino-based construction that gives players a dial and one button as input and then proceeds to torment the living hell out of them.
Players control a white light that’s constantly on the run from a series of red lights, pursuing it in a clockwise direction. They’re able to switch between two tracks of lights and the longer they last, the faster the game becomes. There’s no scoring system here, but we suppose if this week hasn’t made you suffer enough, you could try this out.
More a digital art installation than a game, Alone sees players controlling a slowly moving protagonist as they wander through a series of vistas.
Yes, you could call it a walking simulator, because that’s pretty much all you do and the speed at which your character moves will frustrate the living hell out of anyone who plays twitch shooters. But if you’re after a relaxing few minutes set in beautiful surroundings with a soundtrack Brian Eno would be proud of, Alone will see you right.
This side-scrolling beat-em-up pits goblin-esque characters against one another in a series of battles using swords, daggers and bows and arrows. It’s pretty simplistic in its design, although time a jump or a thrust incorrectly and you could end up as a kebab.
It’s also rather gory, with characters shuddering as swords poke through them, exploding as they’re diced to pieces and turning to goo as an opponent crushes their head with a flurry of stomps. Next to Gorn, this is probably the bloodiest game at A MAZE – even if the blood does look like cheese sauce.
You are a window washer at a set of traffic lights in a South African city. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to make as much money as you can by washing car windows.
Cars come in three types: Red cars have angry drivers who pay well but are impatient, Yellow cars have irritable drivers who will wait a little longer and pay less and Green cars have happy drivers who are happy to wait but who are also cheapskates. Earn cash! Buy stuff! And never be nasty to a window washer at the robots ever again!