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The hóPLAY International Festival of Independent Games is now five years old, bringing developers around the world to the beautiful city of Bilbao in order to share the best innovative games out there. The festival emphasizes on creativity, rewarding the winners in each of the categories with a prize of 5,000€ (around $6,150) while being "a meeting point for knowledge exchange between local and international companies, and also a space where the public can try out the most creative games and check out job opportunities" (visitors can perfectly assist the conferences and project presentations for free). This year's edition was held between November 27th and December 3rd , and I was lucky to be there as part of the jury, getting to know great games and the event first-hand. So let's take a look at the winners to check out why attending next year is quite a nice idea.


Best Design: Kromaia - Kraken Empire

A gigantesque, neon world. Inconceivable speed, countless laser shots and six degrees of freedom. Kromaia is like a kaleidoscopic coin-op shoot 'em up inspired arcade, arisen from the most psychedelic shooter games. To top it off, Kromaia's enigmatic story creates a narrative thread that supports the frantic action and the swarm killing, as if we hadn't enough with the festival of light and sounds.



Best Idea: Missing Translation - Alpixel Games

This one sounds like as if someone looked at a smartphone lockscreen and felt the potential of a secret language hidden in it. Missing Translation is a puzzle game, yes, but not a standard one. Trapped in a strange town, players explore a weird world through a visual language that they can learn from the locals. Many times I've seen games claiming to have invented a language when it's just code, but Missing Translation features an interesting new language and an unsettling world to learn it in. Missing Translation received the Best Idea award in this year's hóPLAY edition, and will be available soon for free.



Best Sound Design - Soft Body - Zeke Virant

The bullet heaven is here, and it shall be painted. Soft Body features a meditative, musical world that rearranges itself, dancing with the player while the sound and motion intertwine in a unique experience. Inspired by twin-stick mechanics, players control two slime-like characters simultaneously, Soft Body and Ghost Body, each one with their own abilities. As the author says, Soft Body feels like "singing and playing an instrument at the same time". You bet.



Best Playability - Ziggurat - Milkstone Studios

What if we mix up Hexen, ye olde Doom and add a rogue-lite flavor? That's Ziggurat, a fantasy-themed FPS with procedurally generated dungeons. We have to deal with permadeath, yes, but there are countless perks and weapons to help us beat the ziggurat. Clean each floor of enemies, find the key and beat a not-so-scary (but tough) final boss. Go to a harder floor. Die. Repeat. ENJOY.



Best Basque Game - HassleHeart, I <3 Hearts - Santa Clara Games

Although hóPLAY is an international festival, it was born with the local indie scene of the Basque Country in mind. The autonomous community in northern Spain hosts the event, and traditionally the festival has awarded the best independent local game. This year's winner is HassleHeart, I <3 Hearts, a retro arcade game where a low-battery robot gets energy by extracting hearts from the chest of its helpless victims.



More about hóPLAY at http://hoplaybilbao.com/en/.