GDC Indie Roundup • Page 2

Monaco, Closure, Trauma, Shank and Vessel.

Trauma

  • Developer: Krystian Majewski

The game where Myst collides with severe head injuries, Trauma is the collated interactive dream-sequence of a solemnly-voiced woman who's recently been in a road accident.

It's essentially a sequence of still-images elaborately displayed and stacked on-screen, and as you investigate through them you hear her sad, monotone German-tinged voice commenting on the significance of the locations and analysing what you see. It's beautifully put together, and utterly captivating in its proud sense of psychological oddness.

Further interaction comes in the form of gestures you can learn from golden symbols hovering around the various photo-memories of the game's urban environments, which teach you how to turn from left to right or progress past certain obstacles using a drawing made on-screen with the mouse.

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There's no real sense of difficulty, because this isn't a puzzle game - far more an exercise in storytelling, acute scene-setting and the creation of a frankly mesmerising ambience.

From the way one picture flicks to another with the sound of a photo being taken, to the way that it feels a little (a little) like Deckard constantly zooming further into his evidence screen in Blade Runner, it's four chapters of brain-based oddness you'll be advised to click through immediately upon its release.

Shank

  • Developer: Klei Entertainment

Who's the man? It's Shank! A large muscly man who's rather adept with knives, guns and a chainsaw he manages to keep unseen about his person until it's being used to carve a punk's midriff.

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Shank is a fairly simple brawler, but it's also an utterly beautiful one - meant to come across as the game in which the Golden Age of Comics and the stylings of Tarantino (and perhaps Rodriguez, seeing as there's more than a touch of Desperado/El Mariachi about it) come together in one glorious and bloody sunset.

It's not the deepest game ever then, but the controls are slick and your attack moves merge together beautifully. Once you see Shank raising his chainsaw above his head for a plunge-attack while silhouetted against the setting sun on a rickety bridge, it's hard to avoid utterly adoring the visuals to boot.

Quite how the game holds out over an extended period is still up for question, but as far as pick-up-and-play side-on bloodletting goes the level on show at GDC was startlingly proficient. Recently signed by EA.

Vessel

  • Developer: Strange Loop Games
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It may share the storyline of Robin Williams' mug-fest Flubber, but don't hold such spurious comparisons against it. Vessel is the story of one man's quest to rid the world of the synthetic fluid-based creatures of an inventor called Arkwright - and who henceforth should therefore be thought of as looking exactly like a late 1970s Ronnie Barker.

What makes the game interesting are the liquid physics - as you run around through levels solving puzzles with a variety of squirt-guns - from nozzles that lob splats of goo around the place, to hoses that you can merrily run around with and dribble on the scenery. Everything that's wet is physically simulated, and impressively so, from an eruption of lava all the way through to a dribbling pipe.

What's more the Fluros, the synthetic life forms that you're helping A-A-A-Arkwright to bring back into control, are similarly afflicted by liquid physics (and can be splatted-apart by the machinations of the scenery as such) and their wanderings across the 2D landscape can often be part of the puzzles you'll face. The simplest brainteasers deal with filling up containers and machines, or blasting different switches with wet stuff, but super-hot lava liquids and sticky green goo soon make their presence felt too.

Vessel is undeniably a remarkable piece of coding, and if the game entire can match the simple pleasure of hosing down a level with an array of suspicious liquids then it'll certainly be one to watch.

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