Kick-Start My Heart: 6 Crowd-Sourced Games You'll Fall in Love With.

Six of the most unique, strange, and ambitious crowd-sourced indie games worth a few backing bucks.

If you haven’t realized it yet, we are in the midst of a paradigm shift when it comes to how we choose the games we play.  Platforms like Kickstarter and Indie Go-Go utilize potential player bases to create games for the people.  Sure, the existence mega game studios will never dissipate.  However, crowd-sourcing not only opens up opportunities for little “hole-in-the-wall” game studios, but allows those developers to keep a close ear to the ground – allowing them to truly capture the features their backers want out of their game.  After hours of perusing through these sites, I’ve uncovered that they contain a few games that are hits – accompanied by many more misses (my favorite miss: GROWsim – a medical marijuana growing simulator).

Let’s take a second and put our big-name titles aside.  Join me, as I unveil the strange, the unique, and the most ambitious crowd-funded games out there that need your help in coming to fruition.

1. Novus Æterno

This exciting MMORTS combines the strategy elements of Starcraft with the player driven politics of Eve; it brings about a truly unique online gaming experience.  Build your empire across a vast galaxy containing thousands of players on one seamless map. You begin with a planet you cannot lose, and after that, you're left to your own devices on how you choose to build your empire – whether it be through diplomacy, military might, or trade.  Beware though, each action you take has a ripple effect for future decisions that are coded into the game.  For example, if you expand your empire too fast, some dissenters in your empire may start a revolution, hindering any progress.

With 41 days left to go in this game’s campaign, it’s already been fully funded.  The hype meter for this one is truly off charts, as Novus had met its funding goal in only 102 hrs.  Still, any additional backers for this project can only lead to a more polished, and reliable title at launch.


2. Leroy Johnson in The Greatest Game Ever Made

We’ve all seen or at least heard of Blaxploitation films such as Super Fly, Black Dynamite, and Disco Godfather – now it seems this inescapable (now ironic) genre is making its way to gaming.  In Leroy Johnson, you play as suavely dressed, afro sporting astrophysicist who battles aliens and creatures in a highly-stylized world – across a variety of dimensions portraying different versions of earth.  This game plans to incorporate the “run and shoot” style found in games like Mega Man, integrated with pure RPG elements similar to Zelda games.  The developers also claim that they are integrating STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) concepts within the gameplay – allowing for an experience not usually found in other platformers.   

Unconventional weapons, exotic settings, and unique boss fights all add to this indie-darling’s appeal.  Even the soundtrack, composed by Grammy Award winner Daryl Pearson, gives this game a smooth 70’s funk to accompany the fast paced, and hectic gameplay.  Plus, I’ve always been a sucker for games that take a stylistic approach with their artwork, as opposed to realistic graphics.


3. Reset

This Sci-Fi noir puzzler looks as beautiful as it does appealing.  Playing as what appears to be some sort of work droid, this single-player adventure is set in some sort of dystopian future on a volcanic island in the Galapagos.  The developers sate that they intend borrow concepts from games like Portal and Ratchet & Clank Future – all while allowing you to explore a 16 km open world.  The gameplay consists of brain teasing puzzles, and other lateral story elements that deepen the experience.  Aesthetically, this game is beautiful; it’s truly next-gen when it comes to lighting and graphical rendering – which is pretty impressive considering this game is being built by a two-man development team.

The most remarkable gameplay feature is the use of time travel to solve certain puzzles.  Each time you go back, another timeline of reality is created, allowing you to solve complex puzzles – with even more elaborate puzzles needing additional timelines.  Combine the brain twisting gameplay with beautiful next-gen graphics, and we have ourselves quite an interesting concept.


4.  The Golem of Prague.

Inspired by one of Prague’s most terrifying legends, The Golem, this creepy indie game combines alchemy, logic, and dialogue gameplay, along with elements of mythology and occultism – all set in the 16th century.  You will play in third-person as a drunkard baron hell-bent on vengeance due to his loss of power in the imperial court.

The designers hint that this game will feature intuitive controls, an unconventional atmosphere, and a believable environment.  This project is meant to entice players who enjoy a stylistic setting and an engaging story – and will be released in episodes, similar to Telltale’s Walking Dead games.  If these features appeal to you, and you happen to enjoy lore akin to Poe and Lovecraft, this may be a game worth shelling out a few dollars to back. 


5.  Talk ‘Em Down

This odd, but charming project gives you the opportunity to literally talk down suicide jumpers, as they stand prepared to end their lives on the edge of buildings.  This twisted concept for a game relies on your ability to say the right things to save a life.  Before each level, you are given a dossier on the jumper -- filled with information pertaining to their family, background, and other factors that could be used to deter their potential suicide.  Rationality, empathy, and critical decision making are all aspects you need to harness in this game. Your controls?  How about the English language?  While the jumper inches closer and closer to the edge, you must furiously type reasons on why they shouldn’t jump – otherwise they come crashing down.

This may not be the most visually impressive or content heavy project, but Talk ‘Em Down is darkly humorous, and it's accompanied with a unique concept I never would have considered to be a game.  Also, if you pledge enough money to the Kickstarter, you can appear as a suicide jumper in the game, complete with real life details in your dossier. 


6.  Delaware St. John:  Asylum of the Lost

A horror-based adventure game, Delaware St. John falls in line with the standard “point and click” style adventure genre.  Beyond that however, this title provides a haunting story as you play as psychic Delaware St. John, as he explores the rotting remains of an old mental asylum.  While this game doesn’t really offer much from your traditional first-person point and clickers, the story seems terrifying enough to warrant further exploration. 


There you have it folks, six crowd-sourced games that each offer a bit of something not found in many mainstream titles.  Remember, a lot of game footage you see on these pages are most likely early builds, and will be updated and refined the further along as the project goes. 

Make sure to follow me here on Game Skinny, and on twitter @richardwhelchel

Published Dec. 16th 2013
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