The indie game scene is too chaotic and unknowable to predict with much accuracy. Some games languish in development limbo for years after their first sneak peek, others pop up seemingly from out of nowhere and get released mere days or weeks later.
That said, there are always a few interesting projects in the oven that we can hope will arrive sooner rather than later.
One of those is Jonathan Blow’s The Witness. It’s a three-dimensional puzzle/exploration game that, based on a couple of early reports, challenges players with mind-bending mazes. Little beyond this has been revealed, but all many game fans will need to know to get excited is that it's being made by the man who produced 2008’s brilliant indie award winner Braid.
Another game sure to do well based on players' respect for its pedigree is Scrolls. Developed by Minecraft-maker Mojang, it's a role-playing adventure that combines elements of board games and trading card games. The legal battle Mojang fought against Bethesda Softworks (makers of the Elder Scrolls games) in 2011 to keep its name only raised Scrolls' profile. A release date hasn't been announced.
The long-gestating Fez, meanwhile, will hopefully find its way to Xbox Live Arcade in coming months. One of the games featured in the upcoming Sundance Film Festival documentary Indie Game: The Movie , it’s a puzzler that turns Escher-like optical illusions into deceptive dimensional dilemmas.
Also headed to Xbox Live Arcade as well as the PlayStation Network is Trapdoor’s Warp, which stars a blobby orange alien that teleports his way through a labyrinthine laboratory. Players can choose to avoid potential captors or warp inside them to blow them up. The trailer makes it look like a lightly disgusting delight.
Side-scrolling platformers are always a popular genre among indie game makers, and we’ll see plenty more of them in 2012. Might & Delight’s Pid features a young boy who wakes up on a dangerous and exotic planet filled with aggressive robot-like creatures. He navigates strange environments using odd items ranging from a life vest to a bag of gravel. And Flying Turtle Software’s similarly atmospheric A Walk in the Dark offers a stylized, monochromatic, two-dimensional world filled with challenging traps. Taking on the role of a spry black cat, players avoid spiky hazards with deftly timed jumps.
More interesting indie games are sure to pop up through the course of the year. I’ve got my eye on Spiky Snail’s physics-based colour-spattering game The Splatters, the Canadian-made side-scrolling actioner Shank 2, and Robert Briscoe’s experimental adventure Dear Esther, which is coming to Steam in February.
The trick comes in finding these hidden gems, whick lack the marketing and publicity budgets given games from major studios and publishers. I’ll do my best to spare some words for those that I think may be worth a bit of your time.
And that’s a wrap on our look at games to come over the next 12 months. Click on the links below to check out earlier entries in our 2012 preview package.