The Windows Central guide to lesser-known upcoming ID@Xbox titles
Owing in part to the success of Minecraft, indie developers have become an increasingly powerful voice in the narrative of console gaming. Whilst some of the larger publishers experiment with how many times they can rehash a title before gamers notice, indies are pushing boundaries with experimental gameplay mechanics and fill gaps in the market the big boys won't touch.
Most of us have heard about ID@Xbox games like Cuphead and Smite, but with this feature, I'm hoping I can introduce some of you to games you may have missed, and may ultimately enjoy!
One of the main reasons start-up devs may seek to join a publisher is increased exposure. Publishers tend to take on costly marketing duties by themselves, allowing devs to focus their energy on what they do best. Some of the smaller teams are doing PR alongside dev duties, and as such, often don't get the exposure they deserve.
I've compiled a list of my favourite upcoming indies below a certain (and vaguely unscientific) threshold of hits on Google / Bing / YouTube and will be doing so again throughout the year as more teams join ID@Xbox.
Let's get started!
Crabitron began life as an iPad game, tasking players to take on the role of a giant mutant space crab. With a series of taps, swipes and grabs, you make your way across the universe devouring innocent alien space stations, battling waves of cute, but vicious space monsters and causing general galactic disarray.
Developer Two Lives Left are bringing "the worlds most realistic space crab simulator" to Kinect 2 for Xbox One, featuring full body motion controls. Major titles like Battlefield 4 and Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim have dabbled with Kinect support, but the future of full blown Kinect titles seems to rest with the indie scene, and thus far they've been doing a pretty good job. Crabitron looks set to continue this trend with a combination of unique gameplay and charming enemies. Check out alpha footage below for an idea of how Crabitron plays, and stay tuned for more coverage!
Crabitron is slated for a 2015 release on Xbox One.
Puzzle games are big in the indie scene, but few look as action packed or frenetic as the upcoming Gear Gauntlet from Drop Dead Interactive. Touted as both rage inducing and mercilessly addictive, Gear Gauntlet has you guide a gear through an increasingly difficult labyrinth of coloured blocks. Gear Gauntlet tests your reflexes, patience and adaptability across 80 beautifully hand drawn trials, complete with competitive leaderboards. Stay tuned for a hands-on and interview with Drop Dead Interactive in the coming weeks.
Gear Gauntlet will be making us rage some time this year on Xbox One.
Commander Cherry's Puzzled Journey
Commander Cherry's Puzzled Journey is a truly unique Kinect platformer from Grandé Games. You play utilizing both your Xbox One controller and Kinect. In order to guide Commander Cherry through his surreal 2D world, Grandé Games asks the player to form platforms using their own body. Kinect can remove the background from images taken via its camera, enabling the game to effectively utilize extravagant selfie poses to build platforms.
Grandé Games have promised that the game won't enforce any specific positions on the user, noting that you can take multiple selfies to create more complex platforms. Commander Cherry can also burn through structures created via Kinect using his handy laser gun. The game has also been tested for use with house pets, expect tons of viral videos as a result of this one. Commander Cherry is a testament to Kinect's versatility as a gameplay input, and makes you wonder what the indie scene will come up with next.
Commander Cherry is targeting 2015 release on PS4 and Xbox One.
Makin Games are bringing the side-scrolling brawler "kicking and screaming" into the 21st century with Raging Justice. The game builds on a legacy begun by titles like Streets of Rage and the legendary Golden Axe, but takes more cues from the former with a tongue-in-cheek emphasis on gang violence in a modern setting.
Raging Justice sports a stylish stop-motion approach to animation in tribute to its 16 bit forebears, but features violence and weapons more akin to Mortal Kombat than Altered Beast. The game also features a form of morality system, which allows players to choose how they wrangle the criminals - either by beating them into a bloody pulp or arresting them in accordance with the law. Although, I'm not sure how much criminal would remain to arrest after running them down with a lawn mower...
Raging Justice is 'coming soon' to Xbox One, PS4, PC and Mac.
Grave is one of the more well known titles on this list and was funded via a successful Kickstarter campaign, which touted a unique blend of procedural levels and first person survival horror.
Developer Broken Window Studios hope that Grave will sit between the more mainstream action horror titles like Resident Evil and more contemporary horror games like Amnesia and Outlast, which typically disarm the player. Grave features some limited light-based weapons, akin to Alan Wake, but will work to ensure the player remains perpetually vulnerable whilst traversing the game's surreal desert landscape.
Certain areas unlock either randomly, or via the result of a collection of triggers. Some of these areas are only temporary and appear only during certain times of day (or night) forcing the player to make a decision about where and when to travel. Travelling at night may come with higher risks and thus yield greater rewards - but may come at the cost of a ruined pair of underwear or two.
Grave will be haunting PS4, Xbox One, PC, Mac & Linux in Fall 2015.
Submerged is a breathtakingly gorgeous looking exploration adventure game developed by Australian outfit Uppercut Games. You play as Miku, set adrift in a rickety fishing boat whose only hope for survival (and that of her younger brother Taku) hinge upon a mysterious ruined city, half-submerged beneath a beautifully rendered Unreal Engine 4 ocean.
The game features music from BAFTA award winning composer Jeff Van Dyke, whose haunting trailer has generated some considerable buzz since its reveal.
Submerged is heading to PC, Xbox One, PS4 and mobile devices some time in 2015.
Bedlam is a chaotic first person shooter from RedBedlam, and is based on an eponymous award winning novel. You play as Heather "Athena" Quinn, who has fallen afoul of a medical experiment and become trapped in a genre spanning world of retro video games.
The gameplay takes cues from various classics, from 8 bit schmups to retro first person shooters like Doom and Quake. Fans of the old school should feel right at home here.
Bedlam is slated for a Q2 2015 launch on Xbox One, and is already available on Steam early access.
Road Redemption is another attempt to revive a classic, and it looks as though DarkSeas Games might be on to something. Road Rash was a staple of my childhood, combining intuitive motorcycle racing with high-speed gang warfare. Road Redemption seeks to further that legacy, bringing with it deep customization, online multiplayer, modern visuals, physics and a surprisingly interesting dystopian plot. The game has also earned the blessing of Road Rash co-creator Dan Geisler.
Our own Paul Acevedo went hands on with the game in a detailed preview here.
Road Redemption is currently available on Steam Early Access, with PS4, Xbox One and Wii-U versions to follow.
Kaiju Panic is an adorable tower-defence-meets-Cannon-Fodder hybrid from MechaBit Ltd. Your charge is to defend densely populated cities from natural disasters, extreme weather phenomena and waves of encroaching Kaiju, a mysterious force of violent (and cute) monsters. Check out the gameplay trailer below.
Kaiju Panic is slated for Xbox One, PC, Linux and Mac this summer.
Edge of Eternity
Edge of Eternity began life as a Kickstarter project, seeking to rekindle the lost art of the classic turn-based JRPG. As of writing this, EOE's Kickstarter was in its final hours, exceeding their asking price by over $100,000.
The game brings elements of classics like Final Fantasy 6 through 10, and has tapped Yasunori Mitsuda to produce the game's sound track, famed for his musical treatment of games like Xenosaga and Chrono Trigger.
Edge of Eternity has already been shown running on Xbox One, and whilst Final Fantasy XV looks promising, it possible that Midgar Studios may be our best chance to experience that classic Final Fantasy play style once again.
Edge of Eternity may not arrive until well into 2016, but the small team have accomplished a lot so far, so fingers crossed!
If you've made it this far, thanks for reading! There's already a few games I'm kicking myself for not including, but I'll add them to a future list later in the year.
What's your favourite upcoming ID@Xbox game? Hit the comments!