With the first year of the website coming to a close, what would be more fitting than a game that celebrates all things indie by parodying a whole variety of indie classics under one roof?
Will Indiecalypse live up to that promising premise?
Indiecalypse focuses on three young videogame developers: Jack, Ethan, and Violet as they struggle to become indie game developers. Despite there being three characters, Jack will be your primary playable characters, with the others only having a short chapter to themselves to explain their backstories. The story sees the horrendous protagonists suffering (self-inflicted) misfortunes in their personal life, and then teaming up together to make the ultimate indie game.
It’s an interesting premise, but the story also presents the game’s major pitfall: the story and the accompanying dialogue is pretty trash. Not only are the protagonists unlikeable murderous psychopaths, but the threadbare story is bizarre in just how stupid it all is. Having a stupid storyline can add to a game’s charm if written well, but the writing for the characters is awful. From cringeworthy stereotypes (overweight gamer, anyone?) to attempts at crude humour that are more embarrassing than humorous, the story can be quite painful to sit through.
DO OR (IN)DIE
It’s a shame that the writing is so bad, because the game is genuinely beautiful to look at. The artstyle is clearly based off of the Gravity Falls cartoon, and they nail it perfectly. It’s clear that a lot of love went into the presentation, from little background details in the world to the animation of the characters, I was really impressed at just how good it looks, and it gels well with the primary gameplay style, which is a pseudo narrative adventure game. I say pseudo because there’s really no puzzling involved, with environments all being small and requiring you to just wander to the next minigame trigger point. The game usually requires you to fetch an item or two in order to complete your objective, but it’s all so linear that you’ll never need to think about anything. Does your father need a drink? Go and get the half-finished can from your bedroom. Need to buy drugs for your boss? Get them from the dealer outside the school. These moments only really serve to progress the story and introduce the minigames, so you’ll likely not be disappointed by the lack of complexity here.
The minigames are where the real meat of the experience are, and there’s quite a diverse range on offer too. Binding of Isaac, Cuphead, Hotline Miami, Cooking Mama, and even Carmageddon are among those parodied in the game. The vast majority will play similar to their original counterparts, but some only share the title and general theme. For example, Carmageddon resembles a mobile phone endless runner where you pick up coloured cubes as you drive down the street. Most of them play fine, even if some are a little clunky or shorter than you’d expect. The main issue with them lies with the instructions given to you as you load up the game: before you play or replay each title, a set of slides appear that intend to show you how to play the game. Unfortunately, there are no button prompts or text included, meaning that it’s next to impossible to interpret what it’s trying to get you to do. Some games even require the use of buttons that aren’t used anywhere else in the game, meaning you’ll end up resorting to trial and error most of the time. In the Cooking Bad minigame(Breaking Bad is included as a parody, for some stupid reason), I thought the game had crashed until I realised it needed me to use the triggers to turn the dial of the cooker here. It can be quite frustrating as you fail multiple times due to lack of proper instructions. Worse still, some minigames contain pretty major bugs that can force you to restart. I had to retry the extremely long Papers Please parody many times due to multiple things that caused the minigame to stop responding. They really take the polish off the whole thing. That being said, when they get a parody right, it can be genuinely fun. The Hotline Miami and Cuphead minigames stand out as being surprisingly competent, and show off what the developers are capable of. Unfortunately, these gems are the exception rather than the rule.
At the end of the day, there’s so much going for Indiecalypse from the music, to the artstyle, to the occasional decent minigame; however the awful dialogue, laughably obtuse instructions, and mostly mediocre minigames stop it from being as good as it could have been. That’s not to say that the game is without merit though, and anyone who wants to try it out is certain to find some enjoyment in it – but I’d recommend waiting for a sale.