The Corsair's top game picks for IndieCade 2015

With over 200 different games on display - from the physical reality of the tabletop to the virtual realities of the Oculus Rift - IndieCade 2015 was a showcase of variety and novelty. Discovering both twists on familiar formulas and genuine novelties was never an issue during the three-day festival in Culver City. Rather, the challenge of the ‘Cade was in parsing through the pile and finding something not only praiseworthy within the sphere of the indie arts scene, but that shows enough promise to merit recommendation to the public at large.

The following are what Corsair writers Nik Lucaj and Adam Thomas considered to be the best of the show.

Nik’s Picks:

Best Multiplayer Experience - Tumblestone

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A complete reinvention of the match-three genre.

- Ty Taylor, developer of Tumblestone.

Of all the games at the festival, Tumblestone seemed to have the most traffic. The addictive four-person multiplayer mode had a constantly rotating group of players that seldom gave the game time to breathe.

What looks like a marriage between "Tetris" and "Candy Crush," takes a page from the former's playbook by having incredibly simple gameplay mechanics and parlaying them into a much deeper experience that constantly tests your ability to plan ahead and make the best decisions possible. The Butterfly Effect of every single decision will affect the rest of the round and makes every move meaningful.

The competition that the game generated brought the emotions of players to the surface like no other game, inducing a roller coaster of surprise, disappointment and elation. Players were engaged from start to finish and this was just one of Tumblestone's many modes. It will also boast a 25-hour single-player story mode and an arcade mode.

Going deeper than any match-three game has ever gone before, Tumblestone is sure to engross many and has the potential to become a classic.

Best Multiplayer Experience - Chasm

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Chasm is a 2D action platformer adventure game done in authentic pixel art style.

-Dan Adelman, Business/Marketing on Chasm.

Anyone who owned a Playstation in the late-90s most likely played “Castlevania: Symphony of the night.” The low-key platforming adventure game quickly blew up and became a cult classic overnight. It helped spawn the Metroidvania genre, sharing the portmanteau with the immortal platformer, "Metroid."

“Chasm” looks and feels like “Symphony of the Night” took “A Link to the Past” out for a romantic chicken dinner, closed the deal in the back of a Chevy and nine months later produced a lovechild. It is kith and kin to the retro Metroidvania games and its art style will spark feelings of nostalgia in any old school gamer.

The story follows Daltyn, a soldier sent to investigate the small mining town of Karthas. He soon discovers that the town has been invaded by sinister paranormal forces and takes to exploring the mines to find the source of the evil.

The game randomly assembles a world map, choosing which six of the many pre-made levels will be used in any particular playthrough, ensuring that consecutive playthroughs will be different. This keeps the personal feel of playing a human-designed level while still being able to give tremendous replay value.

Dan Adelman, who is in charge of Marketing on the game, said, “One of the things that drove [procedural assembly] was a lot of us played ‘Castlevania: Symphony of the Night’ and 'Super Metroid’ over and over again and we were like, ‘Man, I love the game. I just wish I didn’t know where everything was, and I wish I could just rearrange the rooms in some way so I could have that exploration.’”

Chasm has RPG elements as well with a leveling system similar to “Dark Souls”. You collect Essence by killing monsters and breaking boxes, which you can then use at a bonfire to raise any one of your four base stats. It also includes a variety of weapons and armor that you find throughout, giving the game good depth.

With all the Metroidvania tools in tow and and a gorgeous art style, Chasm looks to have the makings of an indie all-star. It may be a long wait until its release sometime in 2016, but from what has been shown so far, it will be worth it.

Adam’s Datum(s):

Best Multiplayer Experience - Throw Trucks with Your Mind

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I’m going to let you crush people with your brain over the internet.

-Lat Ware, creator of "Throw Trucks with Your Mind."

Thanks to the Neurosky Mindwave, a commercially available EEG (electroencephalogram) biosensor headset, the words of Digipen graduate Lat Ware are 100% accurate. By attaching an EEG headset that reads your level of frontal cortex activity, "Throw Trucks With Your Mind" puts you into an FPS arena deathmatch where players control a number of psychics who hurl objects at each other using their own ability to concentrate and calm their brains.

It’s not a 1:1 control, as your mental activity determines the intensity of your in-game powers while you still control your avatar with the traditional keyboard and mouse inputs. It’s a fairly expensive gimmick as well — the EEG headsets run around $80 — but once you spend a few minutes getting used to the sensation of willingly concentrating and becalming yourself, the experience of having mental control over a virtual ability is a novelty like nothing else. You feel like Tetsuo or Carrie or Yoda in a grand battle of wills that actualizes what past games like "Psychic Force" could only depict visually.

Plus, the technology is being put to good use. Ware developed the concept based on his own experience with neuro-feedback therapy as a teenager coping with ADD, and is hoping to see the game gain medical applications in the future. “I dream of a world where children who are diagnosed with disorders are prescribed video games,” Ware said.

So while "Throw Trucks with Your Mind" may only be a novel twist on an old formula for most, it has the promise of being one of the first steps to something far greater and more beneficial to humanity in the future.

Best Single Player Experience – Nevermind

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It’s an atmospheric, surreal experience that can maybe help you live a more stress free life in the real world.

– Erin Reynolds, Creative Director at Flying Mollusk, developers of "Nevermind."

Keeping with the theme of “games that use biofeedback to enhance the experience” brings us to Nevermind, which mixes Tarsem Singh’s "The Cell" and Christopher Nolan's "Inception." After a successful Kickstarter campaign, Nevermind was originally developed as a thesis project for the Interactive Media and Games division at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. The game sees players acting as a psychologist using a virtual reality device to dig around in the subconscious minds of patients to reveal suppressed memories and heal internal trauma. Creative director Erin Roberts calls it, “. . . a dark, twisted 'Psychonauts.'”

Mechanically, it’s a modern twist on the "Myst" formula: you explore levels in first person collecting clues and solving puzzles. If not for the game's interface gimmick, where it takes readings from a biofeedback sensor to measure the player’s heart rate in order to gauge their fear and anxiety, it could be mistaken for yet another “walking simulator.” But as the player’s heart rate goes up, their health drains and the world becomes even more frightening. At high levels of fear, the next shock or scare becomes a failure state kicking the player out of the mind machine, so the disturbing levels themselves act as the enemies that players battle against.

The whole system works really well. With vivid art and soundscapes creating a constant sense of creeping dread and devious script triggers meant to illicit shocks, learning to calm yourself down becomes a game mechanic and further draws you in to the whole experience.

As with "Throw Trucks with Your Mind," the developers are aiming for a therapeutic application of the system — in this case to help teach those who suffer from PTSD and anxiety coping techniques to manage stress. But ultimately, even if the game (recently put up on Steam) can never find an application in the world of medicine, it does succeed as an excellent, if short lived (there are currently only three levels), spooky experience.