Sometimes indie games sneak up on you; one minute they're nowhere to be seen, the next they're tapping you on the shoulder demanding your attention. Others, however, announce themselves much more clearly, showing themselves off early, making themselves available to players when still in an unfinished state via Steam Early Access or as paid alphas opened up to Kickstarter backers.
It's also important to remember that Steam is not the be-all and end-all of indie gaming, although for many devs it does represent a promised land of sorts. In the past it has been much harder to get unheralded titles onto Valve's digital platform, but times are changing with Early Access and Greenlight giving developers more ways of getting their game out to larger audiences than ever before (whether individually these are good things is an argument for another day).
But it wasn't always like this. In the days before Steam started the process of opening its doors, it was sites like Desura that championed indie games (it still does), and visibility and exposure for smaller studios was the biggest challenge that they faced. Indeed, it still is.
So it's good that indie games are getting their chance to shine (and not just on PC, the console platform holders continue to give indie studios more time than ever before), and that the brightest stars are able to shine when otherwise they might never have been seen. It means more great games, more than any one person can hope to play.
Here's half a dozen indies that have caught our eye in recent months. Some are coming soon, others are already available in one form or another, the rest, well, we just like the cut of their jib.
0rbitalis - Alan Zucconi
0rbitalis is a puzzle game that takes us back to our younger days and making patterns using a Spirograph. In truth, there's much, much more to it than just a simple geometric drawing tool, 0rbitalis is a game about gravity and momentum. The idea is to plot a path through a gravitational field and maintain that path for as long as is possible. A line follows your course creating patterns as you go. We've tried the game twice, once at a gaming show where we used an unconventional control device, and then later at home using the normal mouse/keyboard setup. Of course most people won't have the time (or inclination) to create their own custom built controller, so it's the regular setup that's most important. Orbitalis is a slow, measured game, peaceful and, at times, majestic. Whether it'll appeal to everyone is another matter, but if you're after something slower paced, you can check it out now on Steam Early Access.
DeadCore - 5 Bits Games
One game that won't struggle for exposure is DeadCore, an indie game that's just been picked up by Bandai Namco. It's a first-person platformer with a level of verticality that'll have the stomachs turning of anyone with vertigo. There's a gun, pointing to some Portal influence, but triggers pulled here simply allows you to interact with the world around you, hitting targets and activating sequences as you move up through the multi-levelled maps. Speed runs are going to be the order of the day, and from what we've seen and tried, the controls are well weighted and responsive, which should allow it to build up a competitive leaderboard for players to challenge themselves - and each other - on. It was originally called Deadlock, but whatever the name, you can get alpha access on Desura.
Richard & Alice - Owl Cave
Richard & Alice is a point-and-click adventure by Owl Cave that stars two characters, both prisoners incarcerated in a place filled with computers and leather sofas. The wider setting is a snow-filled world. It's a futuristic backdrop, where unpredictable weather systems have brought down the political landscape as we know it today. Players alternate between flashbacks and the prison setting as they unravel events surrounding the two titular characters. This one's coming to Steam in the very near future, but can already be purchased on places like GOG.com.
Not A Hero - Roll7
The team behind OlliOlli is back, and their new game is looking rather tasty if you ask us. Not A Hero is a 2.5 cover shooter. That might sound like an odd description, but the execution is wonderfully simple, and from the demo that we played, it's one of those easy to get to grips with but hard to master type of games. Like OlliOlli before it, timing here is key, with the character, who isn't a hero in any way, shape or form, darting between cover either side of him as he moves through traditional-looking platform levels, emerging from behind obstacles to fill his enemies' heads with bullets. It's still some way off as far as we can tell, but we really liked what we've seen so far. OlliOlli got a bit of stick recently on Gamereactor, but we've since played it on Vita and liked it more than the original reviewer obviously did, and Not A Hero looks like strangely logical progression for Roll7. You can find out more about the game here.
Gang Beasts - Bone Loaf
This is one of the most promising multiplayer games we've seen in a long time, and we'll be keeping a close eye on Bone Loaf's creation as it edges slowly towards a release of some kind. The build we've been playing involves beat em up fisticuffs with jellybean-like colour-coded characters in a variety of cartoony environments (that happen to be littered with deadly drops, blades and other nasty surprises). The jellybean men are actually placeholder, but they've proved so popular that they're going to be included in the final game in some capacity. At least, that's what we've been told. Either way, we can't wait to see more of the game, because what's already there is cracking fun, and it's only a few months into development. Here's a link to Bone Loaf's official site if you want to know more.
Monochroma - Nowhere Games
We don't know much about Monochroma beyond what we've seen in the cinematic trailer below, but that doesn't mean we aren't intrigued by this distinctive-looking puzzle platformer. It's set in a dystopian state circa 1950, and we'll be playing as a boy that witnesses a horrific crime perpetrated by an evil corporation. The story is going to be delivered through play alone, as there's no cutscenes, text or dialogue, and we're going to be asked philosophical questions along the way. Inspired by protests that were harshly put down in real-life Turkey, there looks like there might be more to this one than initially meets the eye. We certainly look forward to hearing more. Here's the link to the official site.