The Best Indie Games Of E3 2017

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The independent game scene has exploded in recent years, with hundreds of amazing titles to discover and appreciate. Lots of prospective releases make their way to E3 to try and stand out in the crowd, and we’re keeping our eyes open throughout the show for our favorites. We’ll be updating this story with new entries as soon as we have a chance to jot down impressions, so check back daily for additional entries. 

Games are listed alphabetically. 


The Artful Escape
Developer: Beethoven & Dinosaur
Release: TBA
Platform: Xbox One, PC

Being an artist is a creative journey, and The Artful Escape taps into that philosophy in an imaginative way. Playing as young musician Francis Vendetti, you help him discover his stage persona by traveling through the cosmos and multi dimensional worlds. With the power of his guitar, you conquer enemies in musical rhythmic battles and strum your instrument to fly across chasms in a beam of light. The Artful Escape is a soulful adventure with gorgeous artwork, and it’s up to you to help Francis find himself. In the demo I played, I made my way through a glittering snowy world, with rock tunes blasting in the background. The Artful Escape excels at creating a psychedelic atmosphere, one that is both magical and compelling. I look forward to seeing more, though no release date has yet been announced, and the developer told me that its still far from release. – Elise Favis

Ashen

Publisher: Microsoft,
Developer: Aurora44

Release: 2018

Platform: Xbox One, PC

In Ashen, players are dumped into a sprawling, open world
that doesn’t have a sun. The only light comes from illuminated ash that covers
the dangerous world, which is inspired by The Road by Cormac McCarthy. You control a lonely traveler in this third-person action
title, but the hook of Ashen is that your character probably isn’t alone for
long. Passive multiplayer permeates the experience as the team at Aurora44
wanted to design a game that simulates the experience of meeting a stranger and
working together; much like the multiplayer in Journey, you don’t know who you’re
playing with, and you only have small gestures to communicate with the other
character. Together with this other player, you explore dark dungeons, solve
puzzles, battle enemies, and explore a world full of hazards. Ashen features
punishing combat, numerous secrets, and a ton of loot to find. Inventive, difficult boss
battles, such as the Elder Dark boss battle I witnessed, caps off what appears
to be a thoroughly promising experience that I’ll be keeping my eye on leading
up to its 2018 release. Brian Shea


Donut County
Developer: Ben Esposito
Release: TBA
Platform: PC, iOS

Donut County is a physics-based adventure game where you control a hole in the ground. Through a sequence of levels, you move around this hole in different environments as it progressively gets larger, and you attempt to swallow up every object (and animal) in sight. Donut County is a fictional town heavily based off of Los Angeles, where anthropomorphic animals live. However, all its inhabitants now live underground following an apocalypse, where a giant hole swallowed up their homes and everything they knew. You unravel what happened by switching between present day and flashbacks. In the flashbacks, you control the hole and solve puzzles, and in present day you listen to the characters share conspiracy theories about what caused the hole as they murmur around a campfire. It’s a strange but charming premise, and although most physics puzzles I played through were simplistic, I was told the difficult amps up as you progress and gain new powers for the hole. – Elise Favis

Matterfall
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Housemarque
Release: August 15
Platform: PlayStation 4

The studio behind the arcade masterpiece, Resogun, is back at it with a new fast-paced shooter, this time with platforming added into the mix of blasting and dashing. The game stars a futuristic soldier as she makes her way across a landscape of endless energy blasts, bullets, and damaging red matter. As this super-soldier, the player must leap and fire their way through the action, and like Housemarque’s best games, the only way to success is constant motion, quick reactions, and an attitude of charging directly into the thick of the fighting. A dash move can obliterate many projectiles that you pass through, while jumping is mapped to the R1 button. That unusual convention is necessary, since 360 degree firing is enabled on the right analog stick, so face button jumping simply wouldn’t work. Other actions blast off secondary weapons, or send out an energy beam that can power up elevators or make platforms visible for brief moments. The pace is frantic, and the complex controls take some getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, Matterfall looks to be ready to scratch that itch for fast, intense, score-focused arcade-style action. -Matt Miller

Star Child
Publisher: Game Trust
Developer: Playful
Release: TBA
Platform: PS4, PSVR

Playable on a standard screen or using a PSVR headset, Playful’s new sidescroller is a sci-fi cinematic adventure. Our demo was in VR, and the environment immediately caught the eye, offering an impressive depth of field, with swaying objects in the foreground and the background, lending the sense that you were watching scenes unfold from within the setting. Even leaning forward zoomed in on the action, offering a better view of the female lead as she leaped and ran her way across an alien landscape. The brief demo showed off some simple puzzles in which the main character needed to connect some battery lines to open progression routes, and as the demo concluded, she met up with a titanic humanoid robot that first protected her and then lifted her up off the ground. Playful isn’t talking much about the primary gameplay loop, or about the mystery of the giant robot. Nonetheless, the visual presentation in VR and the beautifully drawn game world is attention-grabbing, leaving us ready to see more. -Matt Miller

Sundered
Developer: Thunder Lotus
Release: July 2017
Platform: PlayStation 4, PC, Mac, Linux

Sundered is a dark, mysterious game in the vein of Super Metroid that mixes procedural generation and bespoke challengers. Though many of the game’s paths are new every time you approach them, every boss encounter is tailor-made, as are several key challenge areas. Combat uses Dark Souls’ duck-and-move combat flow as a starting point, but throws in some interesting additions: Not only do you acquire new abilities that make you more mobile, but you can “corrupt” those abilities to make them even stronger. In the demo I played, I got the ability to perform a sideways air dash. The corrupted version, however, can move in eight directions, including upwards. This makes moving around much easier, but corrupting your abilities will affect the ending you receive, as well as the the final boss. Those who want the uncorrupted ending will have quite a challenge ahead of them, according to developer Thunder Lotus. – Suriel Vazquez

Yoku’s Island Express

Developer: Villa Gorilla

Release: 2018

Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

Yoku’s Island Express mixes the immediate fun of pinball with the progression of The Legend of Zelda. Playing as Yoku the Dung Beetle, you land on the island of Mokumana to replace its current mailman. As you might suspect, things don’t stay so simple. Pushing a small boulder around, you quickly find that much of the path has been blocked off, and can only be traversed by tethering yourself to the boulder and and using the many flippers and bumpers strewn around the island to move around.  As in classic pinball, where the ball lies on the flipper when you press the right trigger, determines the angle at which you launch, and the puzzles had me mucking with angles to get into a few hard-to-reach places. These puzzles were fun to solve, challenging me to use my pinball skills to scour every nook and cranny of a particular area. I’m curious to see how Yoku’s Island Express holds up over the course of the hours Yoku’s journey will take, and eager to play more when the game hits PC and consoles next sometime next year. You can read our full preview here. – Suriel Vazquez

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