John Thyer (Crono Maniac) impressed me with his debut game, Quarantine, and he's showing a different side with his excellent sophomore release, Fugitive. The graphics are also retro and minimalist, but in a different way than those of Quarantine. The set-up uses one of my favorite sci-fi scenarios: you are an astronaut who has crash landed on a strange and hostile planet. The developer's previous game was a puzzle-platformer, but Fugitive is a much more of an action-oriented affair.

The gameplay focuses on making judicious and well-timed use of your abilities, which include double jumping (Z), firing your laser (x), and deploying a brief deflecting shield (C). You'll have to contend with hostile aliens, robotic missile turrets, and spikes, spikes, and more spikes. Later, elements like darkness and water add to the challenge. Just having enough oxygen can often be as imperative as not getting shot.

Fugitive creates a mood of mystery with its atmospheric grayscale palette and retro aesthetic. There is a feeling of exploration and discovery as you progress, coming up against new, greater challenges among new surroundings, but the path is steadfastly linear. There's a cool ghost of a story that develops, and it eventually becomes clear that the checkpoints are not artifacts of gameplay, but actual cloning devices. Playing Fugitive brought to mind the questions of morality and identity raised by works like Algis Budrys' novel Rogue Moon and the Duncan Jones film Moon (not related).

Fugitive sometimes plays like a hardcore platformer crossed with a shooter. It also reminds me a bit of the Apogee classic Monuments of Mars. It's a cool game from a notable new talent in indie gaming.

[Download Fugitive for Windows]