Pix the Cat

A game by Pasta Games for PC, Mac, Linux, Xbox One, PS4, and Vita, originally released in 2015.
Pix the Cat is an arcade-style action game starring Pix, the big-headed blue cat who got his start in Arkedo Series 03 - Pixel! on Xbox Live Indie Games. Since then, the pixelated puss has visited other platforms via a port of his original game and the release of Pix’n Love Rush on mobile devices. In his first outing, Pix explored a traditional blocky platforming environment designed to mimic LCD-based titles, only with considerably more vibrant visuals. In addition to hopping and bopping on enemies’ heads and unleashing “meow.wav” projectiles, Pix could also enter individual blocks and move around in a zoomed-in world… and this concept carries over into his latest adventure.


Pix the Cat begins with only an Arcade Mode available, although there are three other modes that become available as the player reaches certain thresholds in the arcade mode: Laboratory, Nostalgia, and Arena.



Arcade Mode
There is only one level available at the start of the game, in the form of the Starter Grid, which explains the basic rules and then drops the player into the action to figure things out. Eventually, the player opens up the Main Grid (which is key to opening the other modes), and skilled players will eventually unlock the Dessert Grid, which drastically increases the challenge with more complex layouts and loads of enemies. Per arcade conventions, the rules are simple to understand and difficult to master, and the challenge increases with every bit of progress the player makes.

Spud's Quest

A game by Mouldy Toof Studios for PC, originally released in 2013.
At the start of Spud’s Quest, Spud lies sleeping in his bed when a talking frog bursts in through the ceiling and asks for his help. Apparently the frog is actually Prince Charming, and he has been changed into the hopping green creature by an evil wizard… a wizard that he accidentally freed when opening a mysterious chest in the mines under the town. Spud tells the frog that he had a dream where a voice called to him, telling him about an ancient evil that has awakened and taken someone prisoner.


The frog prince asks Spud to help him get into Redwood Castle to speak to his father, the king, but he can’t gain access to the castle because of his condition. When Spud asks why the frog can’t simply explain who he is – given that he can talk – he says that he doesn’t want anyone to know what has happened to him. And so, Spud agrees to help and sets off on a journey to help his friend, and ultimately to save the world.

Outland

A game by Housemarque for PC, Mac, Linux, PS3, and Xbox 360, originally released in 2011.
Outland tells the tale of an unnamed hero who is plagued with visions of the past. He seeks out a shaman who explains the origin of the world, which was created by two sisters, one of light and one of darkness. Eventually the sisters decide to destroy their creation, but they are stopped by a lone hero and sealed away for ages. As the sisters begin to rise again, so too is the soul of the hero reborn, and he must build his strength in order to face the sisters once more.


When the player leaves the shaman’s tent, he has only a very basic set of movement abilities, allowing him to perform a variable 2x jump, as well as walk, run, ledge grab, and wall jump. Wall jumps are executed in a slightly different way than in other platformers, as the character sticks to the wall for several seconds, giving the player a great deal of time to execute a second jump, which is often required in order to dodge sprays of projectiles.

Nuclear Throne

A game by Vlambeer for PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, and Vita, originally released in 2015.
Nuclear Throne, known during some of its development as Wasteland Kings, is a post-apocalyptic roguelike shooter featuring a colorful cast of characters blasting their way through hordes of enemies across the Wasteland to eventually reach the titular Nuclear Throne. There are no humans, nor any indication of what has happened to them; instead, the world’s remaining life forms are mutants, and survival means exposing themselves to more radiation in order to gain advantageous mutations to aid them in combat.


The Wasteland has randomly generated layouts, spawn points, and weapon/item drops spread across seven themed areas. There are 15 levels along the main route, but there are also numerous hidden levels – with unique themes – and these levels are often discovered by accident, as unlocking them often requires a very specific set of criteria.

Necrosphere

A game by Cat Nigiri for PC, Mac, PS4, Vita, Xbox One, iOS, and Android, originally released in 2017.
In Necrosphere, you play the role Terry Cooper, some sort of agent who is killed during an ambush, and his spirit (or whatever) passes into the Necrosphere. Fortunately, his partners in the real world manage to survive have somehow found a way to slip little helpful notes into the Necrosphere to aid him on his quest… which is to find an exit and return to the Normalsphere. In order to do this, he’ll need to complete some tough platforming challenges and earn powerups that allow him to explore additional routes, metroidvania style.


According to Terry's still-living friends, the Necrosphere is the size of Earth, and he’ll have an eternity to explore and find the exit, which is rumored to have been permanently sealed. Fortunately, the game world is considerably less than the size of an entire planet and level designs are somewhat straightforward, so the player won’t spend much time wandering aimlessly.

Fight‘N Rage

A game by Seba Games Dev for PC, originally released in 2017.
The beat ‘em up genre is a tough nut to crack. Even industry veterans during the heyday of arcades and 8- and 16-bit consoles had difficulty consistently creating games in the genre that were engaging from beginning to end, given the inherently repetitive nature of gameplay. A few franchises have made a lasting impression, including Double Dragon, Final Fight, and Streets of Rage, while many others fell to the wasteland of unmemorable brawlers.


For years, indie developers have tried their hands at this beloved genre but have generally failed to make much of an impact (as it were), since even a competent genre entry can be seen as repetitive and boring. But that is certainly true in the case of Fight’N Rage, a brawler that is not only inspired by the giants of the genre, but also manages to play on their level with versatile and engaging combat, a variety of colorful and captivating enemies, branching paths with alternate storylines, and oodles of unlockables, including several add-ons, new costumes, and more than 20 unlockable enemy characters to use in the game’s extra modes.

SteamWorld Dig 2

A game by Image & Form for PC, Mac, Linux, Switch, PS4, and Vita, originally released in 2017.
SteamWorld Dig 2 picks up after the events of the original SteamWorld Dig. In the original game, players took on the role of Rusty, a steambot whose father passed away while working in his mine. Rusty takes over working the mine and finds that it is not only filled with valuable minerals but also mysterious artifacts which grant him new abilities. But time has passed and Rusty has not returned to the surface, so a young steambot named Dorothy goes looking for her friend.


The SteamWorld universe is comprised of SteamWorld Tower Defense, the SteamWorld Dig series, and Steamworld Heist, and these games follow an alternate timeline for Earth in which 19th century humanity creates simple steam-powered robots and mechanical computers to perform basic tasks. But the rise in technology eventually leads to humanity’s destruction, forcing the remaining survivors underground while steambots continue living on the world above, largely unaware of the ancient technology that exists beneath their feet.

Pirate Queen's Quest

A game expansion by WayForward for PC, PS4, Vita, Xbox One, Switch, and Wii U, originally released in 2017.
Pirate Queen's Quest is a paid DLC expansion to Shantae: Half-Genie Hero which allows you to replay the game from the point of view of Risky Boots, the series' primary antagonist. The game begins with Risky stating that every story has two sides, and she is about to explain how events really unfolded. The introduction is familiar, with Shantae’s uncle demonstrating his new invention which goes unexpectedly awry once it is powered up. On cue, Risky drops in to announce her nefarious plans, and then disables Shantae escapes with the device, with which she plans to take over all of Sequin Land… as soon as she can collect the remaining components.


In the next scene, Risky is seen sitting in a bubble bath aboard her ship, while her Tinkerbat minions stand around and await her orders. The bubble bath serves as a hub, which Risky revisits between each mission (hey, at least she stays clean). From here, players may select between any of the five areas in the original game, and these may be played in any order. The boss of each area gives up a machine component when defeated.

Greedy Guns

A game by Tio Atum for PC, Mac, and Linux, originally released in 2017.
Greedy Guns is an open world shooter centered around greed… and guns. The game features an evil corporation that sends mercenaries to otherwise peaceful alien worlds to destroy the inhabitants and gather up valuable relics and DNA for their nefarious research purposes, thus allowing them to destroy more alien life and keep their shareholders neck deep in cash. The company wears its nefariousness on its sleeve, cheerfully plundering alien worlds and living off the riches, while making its hired mercs pay for their own weaponry.


Players can select between one of two characters – or play together in local 2P co-op – for some alien-blasting action. Players can aim independently of movement, turning their weapons a full 360 degrees to take on foes from all directions. They begin with a weak pistol but eventually unlock the ability to purchase a number of armaments of varying strengths and projectile types, including rapid fire machine guns, strong but slow-firing lasers, bouncing bullets, and powerful grenade launchers that overheat quickly and can cause splash damage to friend and foe alike.

Songbringer

A game by Wizard Fu Games for PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, and Xbox One, originally released in 2017.
Songbringer is an action adventure heavily inspired by the original Legend of Zelda, featuring a sword-wielding adventurer journeying through an isometrically-presented overworld, exploring mysterious locales, and descending into dungeons to fight enemies, solve minor puzzles, and take on tough bosses. Even the opening scene features the protagonist standing in a clearing that has passages leading to the left, right, and up, with a dark cave entrance nearby, and venturing into the cave (with a Zelda-style descent animation) reveals a sword. However, this isn’t a “dangerous to go alone” situation, as pulling out the sword seems to awaken some sort of evil multi-eyed demonic creature.


The game is not set in a world of fantasy, but rather one of science fiction, and the weapon is no simple wooden sword, but rather a nanosword that hums like a light saber. The main character, Roq (and his trusty robot companion, Jib), is not a legendary hero, but rather a member of a group of spacefaring miscreants – on a ship called Songbringer – who have searched the stars for a place to have some fun. When Roq discovers a presumably abandoned planet called Ekzera, he descends to scout it out, but he is blasted out of the sky by a bolt of lightning.

Nidhogg II

A game by Messhof for PC, Mac, and PS4, originally released in 2017.
In 2014, a quirky indie game entitled Nidhogg was released. Originally conceived as a prototype called Raging Hadron in 2010 (a play on words given the game’s aggressive sword-based combat), the game was further expanded upon with new features, arenas, and online play. The game features a pair of simple-looking single-color swordsmen – barely more than stick figures – fighting one another in a confined environment, and the fighters are able to use their swords to slash and parry, with a successful strike resulting in an instant kill and a spray of pixelated blood.


In addition, players are able to jump, slide along the ground, or risk it all by throwing their swords across the screen in hopes of taking down their opponents, possibly resulting in fisticuffs when both players are disarmed… or an easy kill for the player who is still holding a weapon. The defeated opponent respawns after a few seconds, and the player’s goal is to reach the opposite side of the screen as quickly as possible between sparring sessions.

Silver Grapple

A game by Jamie Rollo Games for PC, originally released in 2017.
The grapple-based action genre is sparsely populated but offers a surprising amount of variety in terms of swinging mechanics. Bionic Commando is known for its rigid grapple arm but a complete freedom to grapple any point in the environment, whereas most other games with grapple mechanics only allow the ability to be used at specified points. Ninja Five-O allows for more momentum and control over swing speed and grapple length, but requires players to fling themselves around obstacles instead of pulling themselves through them. UmiharaKawase, on the other hand, offers a more slow-paced and technical experience with a fishing line instead of a taught rope, allowing players to hang down from ledges and be dragged along conveyor belts, while making it more difficult to build up momentum.


Silver Grapple offers a rope that can be fired in eight directions, but no ability to reel it in or out. Walking along a flat surface and aiming the grapple upward at a 45 degree angle does not initiate a swing, as walking forward causes the rope to become slack. The game’s protagonist (which may be male or male at the player’s option) does not have superhuman abilities. The player begins the game with a waist-high hop before encountering high jump boots that allow for a 1x variable jump.