January 17, 2013 9:00 AM | Konstantinos Dimopoulos / Gnome
Ten games and another fifteen honorable mentions and we still can't feel 100% happy with our Top 10 free experimental games of 2012 list. If there is one thing indie developers simply excel at, you see, is not just coming up with, but actually trying out and releasing games based on wild and at times radical ideas. Games so different, so innovative and so unique we can't help but describe as experimental.
The selection that follows hopes to showcase some of the very best of said games that you can play for free. Just don't expect it to cover each and every excellent new idea; there are simply far too many of them...
10.Slave of God (increpare) [Windows and Mac]
Increpare's Slave Of God allows those with strong enough constitutions and super-human pattern recognition skills to brave the seizure-inducing sights and sounds of a night club in search of (what we assume to be) the sun. Along the way, one can run up an endless drink tab, expel such drinks in chunky yellow pixels in the bathroom area and more. The great thing about Slave Of God, aesthetics and surreal gameplay aside, is that it can let you vicariously experience the thrills of the clubbing life without wrecking your liver. Also, few games have been as colorful and hypnotic as this one.
9.Mainichi (Mattie Brice) [Windows]
Better known for her work with game criticism and less as a game developer, Mattie Brice released the amazing Mainichi and it is a thoughtful RPGmaker-driven affair that experiments in sharing personal experiences through game mechanics. Mainichi is far removed from your average goblin-slaying RPG. It is a glimpse into life as a mixed transgender woman and the daily occurences faced. It's short but something that is both enlightening and definitely worth at least a second playthrough.
8.Atum (Team Cupcake) [browser]
IGF 2013 entry Atum uses the player as the mechanic in a mixture of point-and-click gameplay and platformer puzzles, with design influenced by Blade Runner and Martian Time Slip. The team describes the gameplay as multi-layered and as "dipping its layers in mathematical loops and philosophical recurrences"; they couldn't have been more truthful. To say much more would sadly ruin the novelty of Atum. However, the interesting influence each genre has on each other is well worth exploring and you simply can't afford to miss its delightful ideas.
7.First Person Tutor (bigblueboo labs) [browser]
In 7DFPS entry First Person Tutor, players assume the role of a financially challenged teaching assistant serving an evil professor who pays off a bit of debt for every student failed. Players must snipe spelling and grammar mistakes to lower the student's grade before the timer runs out and provide the world with villains that can spell. Appropriately, First Person Tutor is a sadistic professor. Make no mistake. It's innovative, smart, tough and sometimes simple bonkers in its reactions.
6.Yeti Hunter (Vlambeer) [Windows]
Yeti Hunter was first released on the GDC show floor and it may well be the creepiest title that Vlambeer has so far manufactured. You're going to be gunning down some Abominable Snowmen in this one, but instead of the rampant mayhem and ridiculous selection of firearms of your average shooter, you'll be getting a game that is more or less on the quiet side of things. Most of your time in Yeti Hunter is spent combing through the snow-laden pixelated woods, alert for a fresh pool of blood or a flicker of movement. Though initially simple seeming, the tension in the game can ramp up when night falls. Will you become the hunted? Guess you'll have to play the thing to find out.
5.Hubris (Andrew Yoder) [Windows]
Hubris is another experiment, though this time one in minimalist beauty and color. It also is a short game that is heavy on the atmosphere and light on game play. According to Yoder's description of the game, Hubris was heavily inspired by Shadows of the Colossus, Egyptian architecture and the works of Robert Yang - all elements that show themselves heavily in the infrastructure and the construction of the level. It's a lovely, atmospheric piece and one that won't take too much of your time.
4.Frog Fractions (Twin Beard Studios) [browser]
Frog Fractions became the Internet's worst-kept, highest-praised secret back in October. In case you haven't heard or more importantly played this, well, secret game, do it now. It will teach you fractions! No, really, it will. Then again, Jim Crawford's Frog Fractions ends up teaching its players a whole lot more than that, in what feels like equal parts reckless abandon and methodical story and gameplay stitching. It parodies a gamut of games and subverts players' expectations all the way to its XXX, insect-ual ending, all for free and all with great gusto.
3.Unmanned (Molleindustria) [Windows]
There is something ugly about Molleindustria's newest game. It could be the way it lets the Aryan-looking protagonist flirt with his co-worker at will, the casual way he lies to those around him. It could be the disinterest the game's characters show in their work. It could be the de-personalized mass murder of people it tries to bring to our attention. It could be any number of things. Regardless of what the core reason is, it's hard to deny that Unmanned is an uncomfortable yet important experience, something which is rather unsurprising given that it comes from the lords of political and provocative browser games. Oh, and it can get really weird gameplay-wise too...
2.Dys4ia (Auntie Pixelante) [browser]
Are Skyrim-level visuals and sleek, responsive gameplay integral to the development of a game we won't forget? Dys4ia says no. Painted in neon-bright colors, Dys4ia is an autobiographical look at six months of its creators' life and the tribulations instigated by hormone replacement treatment. Poignant and almost painful to behold, sometimes Dys4ia was, and still is, a game that resonates with its brutal honesty. And, yes, it might just make us understand some rather important things.
1.Vesper.5 (Michael Brough) [Windows and Mac]
Made for the Super Friendship Club's final pageant with the theme of "ritual", Michael Brough's Vesper.5 for Mac and Windows asks to become a part of our lives "for at least the next 100 days". You will after all need 100 days to actually complete it. Vesper.5 definitely requires patience, thoughtful decision making and, most importantly, commitment (through ritual), since it allows players to make one move every day, in a wonderful game where even the smallest decisions have their consequences amplified. An absolute must-play, an utterly unique idea masterfully implemented and a masterpiece you have to at least try and properly play to completion.
Honorable Mentions: Swordfight, Passagebalt, Goblet Grotto, Gamer Mom, Nuign Specter, Microscopia, Argument Champion, Three Body Problem, Will You Ever Return?, Paradis Perdus, Middens, PacMan Portal, Polymorphous Perversity (NSFW), Foam, Guilded Youth
[IndieGames continues its year in review, with lists including the Top 10 Indie Adventure Games of 2012, Top 10 Indie Strategy Games of 2012, Top 10 Indie Horror Games of 2012, Top 10 Indie Shoot-'Em-Ups of 2012 and our Top 10 Indie Games of 2012 (+2!).]