In the horde of salivating after the big, expansive mainstream titles, we often forget those small, independent titles that despite their lack of breath-taking graphics and scenes are nonetheless gems worth your playing time.
Granted many of them won’t cater to our fine-tuned palette, but if you are up for some offbeat entertainment, then these 2016 titles should help your cause immensely.
It’s a very misleading game in that its dressed as a sci-fi adventure but performs more like a text adventure. Most of our time was spent communicating with Kaizen, the AI system of our run-down spaceship.
Weird as hell, Event attempts to interpret your worded commands and responds with an appropriate reply. And we must say, it was successful most of the time. Its experimental but worth a shot if you are bored to bits.
A game that is about programming, like real programming. Much like TIS-100, Zachtronics’ 2015 game with similar concept, Shenzhen I/O eggs you on to build your own circuits that will aid in assembly of cheap electronics.
It can be intimidating at first, especially for those who aren’t used to programming basics, but once you get used to mastering a logic and find optimized solutions, you get the ultimate satisfaction akin to what Archimedes must have felt after his ‘Eureka’ moment.
Rusty Lake Hotel
We believe there is a lot to enjoy about this point and click game if you can get over the fact that you have to shrink and negotiate inside a man’s chest cavity to remove his heart! And if that’s not enough, you’ll have to find a way out of his body (hint: through his mouth). Oh, and did we mention that you have to poison him first?
Thankfully, the game has a very cartoonish feel which is necessary to dilute the gore aspects of what’s asked of you, and in tandem with Roots – the latest from the Rusty Lake series form an awesome twosome. The imagery might be unnerving for some, but if you can look past it, then what you get some serious puzzle solving and point-and-click gameplay.
As heir to the throne, you have finally inherited your father’s kingdom. But the life of a king isn’t so easy, there’s so many decisions that need to be made, some more existential than others. And in Reigns, you take those decisions by swapping left or right to choose one of two answers to a challenge.
For instance, your people are starving, but you have to decide whether to route the supplies to their aid or pass it off to your army fighting a battle. But, its amazing how a simple game concept can produce such engaging yet deep story arcs.
We spent an entire day playing Reigns and even then weren’t able to go through the complete gamut of scenarios. While this game is more suited to playing on a smartphone or tablet, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy the Steam version over your laptop.
Lets call it Crash Bandicoot in Cardboard box land, shall we? A 90s-era, mascot-based, collect-the-doo-dads kind of a game, you begin your journey as the newest member of a global group of self-delivering boxes.
But for some strange reason, you don’t do any delivery, just climb buildings, bobsled your way down icy paths, move between four dimensions (worlds) and oh yes, collect as many goodies as you can. We loved the whole boxy vanity, and those out-of-the-blue references to Metal Gear Solid, that are simply hilarious.
Off the bat, we have to say that Grim Dawn is neither unique nor the best-written game, but it is worthy enough to be placed alongside other action RPGs like ‘Path of Exile’ and ‘Diablo III’s Reaper of Souls’.
Grim Dawn’s main strength lies in its open-ended class system. As a result, each class has a skill tree, which when combined with other elements such as multi-classing and constellations list basically let you have different combinations of powers. Thus, in turn lets you play the game in different ways.
So, if you like character customizations, and that good old feeling of click and loot this, take that, then this is one game you simply shouldn’t miss.
For a game that took nine years to release, Owlboy incorporates some of the most breath-taking pixel art, that would give any of the other similar yet costlier titles a run for their money. In fact, we would rate it at par with the likes of Shovel Knight and perhaps a shade lower than Cave Story+, but that’s only because we love the latter.
As for the gameplay, you are a boy with wings of an owl who sets out on an adventure through cities in the sky and ruins on the ground. Great controls and an excellent soundtrack to boast of, Owlboy could easily be one of the best indie games of 2016.
Another title on the lines of Shenzhen I/O, Quadrilateral Cowboy is the alternative for those who like a good hacking-centric game with lots of wacky gadgets and puzzles to solve. In fact, playing it for a few hours, and getting the pseudo codes right and we started feeling like hackers ourselves.
The retro-modern look blends nicely with challenges thrown at you that graduate upwards in difficulty, until you find a new gadget that can makes it all easy. Honestly, we were surprised that the game got over so soon, but then it also means that it was that immersive.
Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun
We have saved the best for the last. Those who have played it have complained about its camera angle and isometric playing profile. But, make no mistake, this has to be by far the best game that we are happy to have played in 2016.
Creative, tremendously open-ended and total demand for stealth, Shadow Tactics reminds us so much of Commandos series of games, except it is based in Japan and features swords, shoguns and samurais.