Microsoft and Nokia do a lot to inspire indie game development for Windows Phone and Windows 8. Most notably, Nokia's AppCampus program helps train indie developers and fund game development in exchange for timed exclusivity for Windows platforms. As for Microsoft, the big tech giant recently held a Unity Porting Lab in Switzerland that aimed to help Unity developers bring their games from iOS and Android over to brighter shores.
Both programs helped contribute to the lineup of indie games that arrived on Windows Phone and Windows 8 in June. For part two of our indie games roundup, we played Mind: Brain Training, Pigs Can't Fly (newly available on Windows 8!), Pop! Food Factory, and The Quest: Anniversary Edition. Some indie games are better than others, as you'll find out from our impressions and hands-on video!
Mind: Brain Training
If you want to keep your mind brain fresh, you'll need to train it often. This free, ad-supported game from Scottish developer Guerilla Tea Games aims to help. It features three selectable minigames:
- Calculate: A sequence of squares will light up on the screen. The game then quizzes you on how many squares lit up in total.
- Sequence: Here's a memory sequence game like Ditto, but with only twelve buttons to watch and remember. Unlike most games of this type, the sequence doesn't build on the sequence that came before. Each one is completely new, which probably adds to the challenge.
- Eidetic: Quite similar to Calculate, but all of the squares light up at once. You simply need to count them before they disappear.
Players get three lives per mini-game. Make a mistake and you'll lose a life. The game tracks your highest score, providing some incentive to try harder.
All three mini-games utilize the same attractive art style. The screen is always filled with a field of gray squares, each square divided into quarters. The unifying visual theme looks smart and sleek. But the lack of an actual metagame to tie the mini-games together will probably reduce Mind's long-term replay value. Note that I had trouble finding the game in Store searches, so you'll probably want to use our link or QR code!
- Mind: Brain Training – Windows Phone 8 – 7 MB – Free – Store Link
- Mind: Brain Training – Windows 8 and RT – 6 MB – Free – Store Link
Pigs Can't Fly
Last month George reviewed this clever game about a flying pig. This month developer Chillsters released a Windows 8 and RT version, prompting us to give Pigs Can't Fly another look. The game starts out with a darkly humorous introduction in which a bunch of pigs get killed at the slaughterhouse. One of those pigs attempts to fly to heaven on his angel wings, but winds up in the underworld instead.
To escape hell, our player pig will have to fly through 80 challenging levels spread across four different acts. The exit for each level tends to be locked, so the pig will need to find the key before he can get out. As a secondary goal, he can grab any stars found in the level as well. Collect enough of these to unlock amusing skins for the pig.
Various hazards threaten to thwart the winged protagonist such as wall-to-wall spikes, lava, and even monsters. But the real challenge comes from the Flappy Bird-like controls. Tapping the left or right side of the screen makes the pig fly upward in that direction. You have to tap carefully in order to avoid running into things that will cook your bacon.
Pigs Can't Fly (not to be confused with the totally different Android game of the same name) is a fun and challenging game... Also a pretty one, except for the lack of parallax scrolling. The backgrounds are completely flat, making them a lot less attractive than they should be. Oh, and Chillsters should make this a universal app. But those issues aside, I'd still call this "SOME PIG."
- Pigs Can't Fly – Windows Phone 8 – 16 MB – $.99 – Store Link
- Pigs Can't Fly – Windows 8 and RT – 16 MB – $1.29 – Store Link
Pop! Food Factory
This game from Blacksmith Software (makers of Ditto) has a lot of potential. Unfortunately, a totally shoddy porting job kills most of the fun. Also the title screen is fairly hideous. But I digress…
Pop! works a bit like Fruit Ninja, but with sweets instead of fruit. A variety of bubble-encased food floats up from the bottom of the screen. Players have to tap the cakes, donuts, and other sweets before they float away. Hitting 3-5 of the same food type in a row gets you bonus points. Missing a sweet or hitting a non-food item like fish bones and toxic beakers will cost a life.
The game includes two modes at launch: Classic and Arcade. Classic goes on until you run out of lives, whereas Arcade lasts for sixty seconds no matter what. The title screen also teases a third mode or feature called Recipes that will presumably come in a future update.
Fun mechanics and tasty food items aside, Pop! runs just plain terribly on Windows Phone. The frame rate slows down the instant more than three items float on-screen, which is most of the time. The score tallying process at the end of the game is excruciatingly slow and can't be skipped. The Windows 8 version seems to run better, but it still doesn't let players skip the score tally.
I don't know how Pop!'s glaring problems slipped through the development process, but they really need to be fixed before I can recommend the game to anyone.
- Pop! Food Factory – Windows Phone 8 – 58 MB – Free – Store Link
- Pop! Food Factory – Windows 8 and RT – 8 MB – Free – Store Link
The Quest: Anniversary Edition
Wikipedia tells us The Quest was the first game developed by Guerilla Tea Games (makers of Mind) back in 2011. This year, Guerilla Tea revisited the title and dubbed it the Anniversary Edition.
Things start out with an amusing introduction starring a knight named Steve. Our hero has been charged by some god or other to find the Holy Grail. Thus the quest begins…
The Quest is an unusual puzzle game. Each level consists of a Rubik's cube-like world on which we find Steve. The goal is simply to reach the exit. Players have to rotate the various sides of the cube in such a way as to create a path that Steve can use to reach the exit. The puzzles start our really easy, but things quickly become more complex. Steve will have to circumvent obstacles and use tools like a boat in order to move from land squares onto water. You'll have to make a lot of twists and turns in order to set Steve on his path!
With three colorful worlds and a total of 72 levels, The Quest has lots of cuboid puzzles for players to solve. Note that this is a universal app for Windows Phone and Windows 8 and a paid game.
Oddly, the Windows Phone version suffers from a bug in which it thinks the paid version is actually a trial (as pictured above). Trying to access the post-trial levels will take you to the Store screen, at which point you have to press Back to return to the game. After that, The Quest recognizes that you've purchased it. An annoying bug, but don't let it deter you from a purchase. I'm sure Guerilla will fix it soon.
- The Quest: Anniversary Edition – Windows Phone 8 (universal app) – 25 MB – $1.29 – Store Link
- The Quest: Anniversary Edition – Windows 8 and RT (universal app) – 23 MB – $1.29 – Store Link
That's all for our June indie games roundup. Be sure to read part one of this series. And don't forget to let us know which of these indie games you're playing on your phone and tablet!