home_coded at rAge 2013

You may have gathered from some of my columns that I really enjoy indie games – not being constrained by the expectations that are placed on AAA titles allow for a lot of creative freedom and unique ideas.

So when I got to rAge this morning, I quickly found my way to the home_coded section, where there were a ton of locally developed indies on show. I tried my hand at all of them; some quirky, some fun, some that still needed a little work. But one game in particular really impressed me.

That game was Pixel Boy, an addictive RPG from local developer Giant Box Games. What really made it a great experience was one of the developers of the game, Dominic Obojkovits, was on hand to talk me through it as I played.

His passion and enthusiasm for the game was obvious, and it shows as soon as you start playing. There’s been a lot of thought put into the actual gameplay, how a person picking it up for the first time would experience it; something I felt was lacking in some of the other titles on show. It can be difficult when you’re so deeply invested in a game to see it the same way a pair of fresh eyes would, but this is something Giant Box has pulled off beautifully.

The controls were easy and the gameplay was intuitive. I never felt stuck about where to go or what to do. This is assisted greatly by the presence of a narrator, who guides you through the game, giving you instructions where necessary. It functions at times a bit like a tutorial, but without the boredom of having to jump through hoops before getting into the action.

The combat is pretty unique for an RPG; in that it makes use of arcade-style projectiles. It’s fast-paced and intense, involving a lot of skilful backpedalling in tight spaces, narrowly avoiding enemy fire while trying to aim your own.

Dominic tells me the game has five acts in total, which equates to around ten hours of gameplay. The bit I played through had a more traditional RPG feel, with chests that can be opened for loot and dungeons full of enemies to kill.

You’ll also advance in levels as you gain experience, earning points which you can spend in various stats such as Health, Damage, Fire Rate, Range, etc. One thing I liked was how quickly you moved from level to level, becoming more and more powerful. It also allows you to build your character in different ways – you can sink your points primarily into damage stats, becoming a kind of glass cannon, or you can choose to pump your survivability at the expense of damage. You can of course also go for a safer, well-rounded build, but where’s the fun in that?

“But Chris,” I can hear you asking, “What about the loot?” Ah yes, what RPG would be complete without some sweet, sweet loot? This is where Pixel Boy has really gone in a different direction. Instead of your standard armour, weapon, potion etc. pickups, you’ll discover various power-ups for your weapon which give it all kinds of unique abilities.

Where the game gets really interesting, however, is that you’re able to craft these various power-ups into a single item, saving you precious inventory space and allowing you to create over 6000 unique items. After about ten minutes of playing, I’d already crafted myself a heat-seeking, spread-fire, critical hit attack. This process sounds complicated, but it’s just as intuitive as the rest of the game.

I didn’t get a chance to meet Dominic’s partner, but he mentioned to me that rAge is actually the first time they’ve met in person, which kind of makes this even more impressive.

I think this is an awesome game that’s flown a little under the radar, and I would highly recommend heading to the Steam Greenlight page here and giving it a thumbs up.

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