Our Favorite Indie Games of 2014 [Android]
Duet was one of the most memorable gaming experience of the past year. A mesmerizing twitch game, its screenshots may not render the depth of its gameplay, the sheer awesomeness of Tim Shiel's music and the ingenious story, full of symbolism. You control the two spheres, or circles, red and blue, traveling through a maze of cubes and rectangles. The two circles, or vessels, are interconnected by an invisible, yet powerful connection that makes them move in sync – tap left or right, and they rotate along an invisible orbit, remaining at equal distance to one another. And tap you will, for the white rectangles keep coming in a great variety – hit one of them and it's “game over,” leaving a blue or red trace, like blood drops. Notably, the stages are named after the seven stages of grief and loss - Ignorance, Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Guilt, Depression, Hope and Acceptance, each containing a number of levels and checkpoints. A beautiful female voice is guiding you, encouraging, and keeping your focus in moments of despair - “Never give up.” A tale of co-dependence, invisible ties and survival, wrapped in an intensely atmospheric, tripping soundtrack and art work, Duet stays with you, even when it's over.
The game is free to play, with occasional ads. A one-time purchase supports the talented indie devs, removes ads and unlocks Survival mode, daily challenges and four bonus chapters.
Doppler by My Go Studios, $1.99
Here at D3k, we love twitch games, and Doppler was an outstanding release last year. We featured the game on our list of best games to test your reflexes, and had a great interview with the folks at My Go Studio. The game is hard to the point of frustrating – each second you play without dying comes as a hard-earned, personal victory, which is very rewarding. You control two electronic circles floating on the both sides of an electronic wire (or space noodle, or a wave). The circles are co-dependent, and you need your both hands to control them. The catch is you need to lead them close enough to the wire to create a mutual charge, but without touching the wire itself because when you do – game over. It will make your arms ache if you play in a position that doesn't let your elbows rest, so I ended up playing with my tablet on my table. Awesome visuals, atmospheric soundtrack and the challenge that nags your ego make Doppler a great indie release we are glad to include on our list.
First Strike by Feinheit kreativ studio Gmbh, $3.99
First Strike is one of the indie titles that probably does not need an introduction because it received a lot of media attention when it launched, and when it got its major update 1.2 that comes loaded with super-weapons and a beefed-up UI with new features. We, too, had an interesting interview with the folks behind First Strike, and featured the game on our list of awesome games that destroy humanity. Not only it is creepy, but also incredibly, sadistically beautiful. The atrocity of a nuclear war, as it wages its destruction on our fragile blue planet, is a surprisingly challenging and engrossing strategy game you will want to replay over and over again, in different configurations and combinations of countries, weapons and strategies. The developers also donate 25% of their revenue to charity organizations that support the reduction of humanity's nuclear arsenal.
Bunny to the Moon by Bitserium, Free
A simple, yet hard endless (well, it has an end on the Moon if you reach it) horizontal twitch game, Bunny to the Moon is the best original rendition of the Flappy Bird-like gameplay. The game has a heartfelt charm and a cute protagonist that make the annoyingly hard gameplay lighthearted and addicting. The bunny has a dream – to fly to the Moon. So, he stocks his library with flying manuals and when the time is right, sets out on an ear-flapping flight through the caves, tress, clouds and all layers of atmosphere up to the Moon itself. Beautiful art work, very positive and optimistic story line and main character, nice music and tough challenge in a free title – delight.
Heavy Metal Thunder Gamebook by Cubus Games, $1.99
2014 marked a significant boost in gamebook adventures (see our standalone list), and my personal favorite is Heavy Metal Thunder, written by Kyle B. Stiff, and developed by Cubus Games. I suggest you venture into this complex web of a space adventure and human psyche only if you like reading sci-fi literature because HMT is a hefty deal of reading, a mild deal of dice throwing and a good deal of decision-making. Nothing is good in humanity's future, as envisioned by the author – even though we have expanded beyond our Solar System and colonized a multitude of planets, humans are still rotting with greed, selfishness, apathy and lust. One day, we encounter an alien life form that is superior in technology and physical strength. For better or worse, the aliens wish to have no negotiations with us. Instead, they strike at the heart of our empire, or rather corporation Earth, destroy our infrastructure and large cities, and enslave the survivals. All is lost, but a tiny speck of hope, as human fanatics are trained as unstoppable alien killing machines to free the human race and destroy the horned aliens. Our hero is one such warrior, a freak and a devoted guardian of the humans. His crusade is an intense, blood-chilling space adventure for the avid fans of sci-fi – a real treat.
Necklace of Skulls by Cubus Games, $1.99
Another gamebook on the list and another memorable game from Cubus Games, Necklace of Skulls will have the fans of the history and mythology engrossed from the beginning through the end, or the ends because the replayability is huge with all the branching of this amazing story. Written by Dave Morris, a renowned author and adventure gamebooks designer, the game takes you to the Mayan civilization full of mysteries, magic, supernatural creatures and incredible beauty. You can play as one of the four characters, each with a set of skills, as you set out on a dangerous trip to save your twin brother, who perished as a victim of a dark sorcerer Necklace of Skulls. Vibrant, thrilling, scary and quite cruel, the world of Necklace of Skulls is teaching you with every replay you attempt, but the tricks you thought you learned won't work if you take a single turn that deviates from your previous gameplay. Beautiful art work by Xavier Mula has made it to the list of my favorite wallpapers and userpics while the atmospheric music and engrossing reading will keep you glued until you save your brother, or die trying.
TwoDots is a delightful puzzler, and even though Dots preceded it and won a lot of praise from the media, in my humble opinion TwoDots is a lot better. It is stylish, challenging, charming and addicting as hell. The premise is still the same – connect as many dots of the same color on a grid to meet the requirement in each level, advance through the map of 135 levels of increasing difficulty. Each new challenge ads a variety of additional objects onto your grid – anchors, bombs, fire – that make it either more difficult to beat, or help you out. The soundtrack is an instant addiction and the minimalist, stylish art work is a delight, especially since you go unlocking awesome vintage postcards. The game is free to play, and once you face a hard level that seems impossible to beat without IAP goodies, bear in mind – it's all about patience and persistence. Yes, one such level may take you a few sessions to beat, but there will be several “normal” levels after it, until you face another “boss” challenge. As a result, you can play without overspending, but we suggest you support the independent developers. The game is a work of art.
Stories of Bethem by GuGames. Dev, Free
Stories of Bethem is a paradox that made me change my mind about pixel art, dungeon crawlers and all games that tap into gamers' nostalgia for Zelda. Stories of Bethem, in fact, is one of the best and most enjoyable retro-styled roguelikes of 2014 for those who like to explore without the game leading them by the hand. The visuals are carefully crafted and beautiful, detailed enough and well-rendered. The gameplay is engrossing, fun and quite challenging as you walk through the dungeons, beaches and forests, collecting magic spells, herbs, artifacts and treasures needed to save your father. Thing is, the fantasy world of Bethem is dominated by witches, good and bad; and your Dad happened to spoil the mood of one particularly spiteful witch, who enchanted your father and put him to coma. He will die unless you find enough magic artifacts to let the good witch remove the curse. The vast territories of Bethem are riddles with puzzles, 400+ treasures and monsters, fun characters and side stories and quests with rewards, so combat and a peculiar sense of humor create a unique 10 hour+ experience. Zero IAPs or ads, the game is great in every aspect, even the faults in Spanish-English translation look like they belong here. Pure fun!
Star Realms by White Wizard Games, Freemium
Star Realms is one my favorite card collecting games of 2014. Combining deck building and trade center, it throws you into an intense story of space war waged against rebels trying to overthrow a lawful federation. The first thing that attracted me was the spectacular art work of the cards depicting spaceships, destroyers, bases, space stations and the entire arsenal of space fleets in detail. The gameplay is both complex, but rather easy to learn, and you can play vs AI in a free game, or vs your friends if you buy the additional features. The game contains a detailed tutorial walking you through the aspects and rules, and the free game contains a campaign mode with 6 missions while the paid version adds 9 more missions, three difficulty settings, local multiplayer, global rankings and online multiplayer. You can also download the desktop version and play it locally on your Mac and Windows.
The Silent Age ep. 2 by House on Fire, $4.99
The Silent Age is an amazing sci-fi adventure with a maximum of puzzles and minimum of text, even though some crucial things and circumstances are rendered by textual elements. Nonetheless, the art work of Silent Age is one to admire, especially the vintage wallpapers in the first part. I mention the first part because there is no way you can skip it. It launched in 2013, and was free, harvesting stellar reviews and gasps of admirers. The second and final part is a conclusion to the adventure of Joe, the mustached janitor working in a state building and living an intoxicatingly boring life some time in the 70's. He meets a wounded old man in a secret lab, and his life changes once and forever. The dying man hands him a time traveling gizmo and tells him that in about 40 years, humanity will destroy itself. Joe must prevent it by traveling to and from the future, solving mind-bending puzzles and finding that one scientist who should know how to prevent the Apocalypse.
Sumico by Ludomotion, Freemium
One for the math nerds, Sumico has you solving mathematical puzzles in a fun, smart and very addictive gameplay. The numbers are on the polygonal grid, and you are tasked with different challenges, for example, create specific numbers through addition and subtraction. It increases the difficulty and before you know it, you will be playing with negative numbers, and numbers placed in a way that seems impossible to reach the given requirement, but that's the main fun of it – pure mathematical gameplay wrapped in awesome design. The game is ad-supported, so you get to play the full version without any IAPs. If you don't like the ads, buy the ad-free version and enjoy your supremacy.
Polygon Evolution by Alex Dantis, Freemium
Polygon is similar to Sumico, but it takes the polygonal challenge to the whole next level – instead of numbers, you play with abstract symbols, each a stage in a linear evolution. A dot evolves into a line; a line evolves into a triangle; a triangle evolves into a polygon. You need to match three identical symbols so that they evolve, but they merge into the one you touch last. Hence, a complex web of abstract symbols merging in a specific cell, which is very easy to forget, translate into a complex, vibrant and engrossing gameplay. Another virtue that makes Polygon Evolution a top notch game is the design – there are 12 color themes that look amazing, and in my time with the game, I even used the screenshots as my wallpapers. Multiply the great visuals by the unique procedurally generated soundscape that creates a great sci-fi atmosphere, and you get an amazingly challenging strategy puzzler that may very well be the best rendition of a match-3 scheme you've ever played.
Smash Hit is an obvious winner, harvesting numerous nominations and awards for its art work and challenge. It is hard, but possible to master while its design sets a benchmark in first-person twitch games. You float in a hi-tech environment, beautiful, but cold. Glass traps and obstacles emerge on your way – some can be seen from distance, others get activated as you approach. You smash traps by throwing metal balls at them, but don't miss the crystals – if you hit them all, the number of balls you throw in a go increases. The gameplay and music is in sync, and each new unlocked chamber has a different pace and sound effects. Also, your own movement is different – sometimes you float slowly, then fast, then start rotating, which can make especially susceptible folks dizzy. Overall, Smash Hit comes with 11 gorgeous graphic styles in 50+ rooms while the glass shattering effects are absolutely realistic. It is super fun and free to play, but if you want to unlock checkpoints and cloud save, as well as new game modes, buy the premium upgrade.
Shattered Planet by Execution Labs, Freemium
Shattered Planet is one of my go-to roguelikes whenever I feel like smashing some space crabs. You are a clone generated on a space station orbiting somewhere around an alien planet. Your job? Scout the new worlds, harvest scrap metal, explore alien life forms, collect occasional keys and power-ups that come handy if you need to fight. Some aliens can be tamed, others are sort of neutral, but the majority are quite dangerous. I die regularly, and feel upset losing the goodies I have worked quite hard to collect. Nonetheless, each replay is a brand new experience because the levels are procedurally generated. However, there is one thing that remains constant – an unknown signal keeps beckoning, and you need to find its origin. The number of alien creatures is great, and each new species adds more variety to the scenarios you can play. It is punishingly hard, but once you get the taste of the discoveries it offers, it will keep you coming back for more. Oh, and as you progress, you will be able to choose different clones for yourself.
Back to Bed by Bedtime Digital Games, $1.99
The very notion of sleepwalking creeps me out, but that makes it an attractive premise for a game. Set in the world of dreams, it does remind Monument Valley in the impossible architecture and optical illusion you need to operate to guide the sleepwalker Bob and his subconscious guardian Subob back to bed unharmed and safe – a very entertaining concept. The challenge is tricky, and the dangers are numerous, and the overall gameplay is delightfully unusual, but what really grasped my attention is the art work. Reminiscent of Dali, Back to Bed's painting-like imagery is outstanding and absolutely admirable while the music and ambience are pure magic. It is a work of art, and we encourage you play it. The controls are a bit finicky, but the smoothness also depends on your hardware. Overall, it is a very decent indie game and one of the most gorgeously looking titles of 2014.
Exiles by Crescent Moon Games, $6.99
Crescent Moon Games is quite an established, big, but nonetheless indie developer, and its recently launched Exiles looks fabulous. If you are a fan of the sci-fi RPGs rendered in a gorgeous 3D that takes you to an alien world full of technogenic structures and alien creeps, Exiles is your kind of game. It may come on an expensive side, but the experience is totally worth it. A conspiracy plot crafted to enslave the world may not be new, but taken on an interstellar level, it takes on interesting twists and turns, as you play as an Elite Enforcer, taking on missions against dangerous aliens, killer robots, deadly viruses. You can choose to be a male or a female character of one of the three typical classes while the arsenal of weapons is impressive. The game features a large open world, so you get to explore alien hives, creepy caves and impressive alien architecture. One of the most delightful elements are hoverbikes and mechs you use to travel through the alien land, which is dangerous and desolate, but also beautiful thanks to the top notch graphic design.
Shadow Sun by Ossian Studios, $0.99
An amazingly deep story-driven RPG, Shadow Sun is a console quality fantasy adventure set in an ancient world that is both graphically impressive, yet deadly dangerous. Create your own, or choose from the pre-made characters, and embark on a deadly mission to the city of Shar, plagued by a virus that turns people to zombies. However, zombies are not your major headache – healthy humans are because the deception, aggression, intrigue and treason are boosted by dark magic, mind control and very modern political technology aimed at turning one country against another. All that would be quite manageable if it weren't for the upcoming Apocalypse – the Sun is being steadily overshadowed by a mysterious and ominous shadow. Your goal? Save the world, as usual, but there is ton of side quests, characters to chat and interact with, companions to make friends with, and even a loyal dog. The world is massive, the quests are abundant, the combat is fun, the controls are smooth and the overall experience is stellar. If you are a fan of top notch RPGs, Shadow Sun is the one to play.
The Inner World by Headup Games, $3.99
The Inner World is a highly acclaimed point-and-click adventure game for the families and anyone appreciating kind and hilarious games. It takes you to a fantasy world of Asposia, where the protagonist Robert lives in a wind monastery and works as a court musician. Unlike our world, Asposia is a hollow space surrounded by infinite ground. Hence, the wind monastery alongside two other sources of air are crucial to the world's survival. Robert is a bit goofy, kindhearted and jolly fellow, an unlikely hero to save the world, but following his Destiny, he sets out on an adventure to discover the reason why the air sources have died. A mysterious thief Laura joins him, whatever her motivation is, and the adventure begins! The game is abundant in hilarious dialogues, tricky puzzles, hand-drawn world that is a treat and delight for your eyes, high level of detail, a complex hint system that lets even children play the game. A lot of love and work has been invested in this five-chapter adventure, complete with cinematic cut scenes, lip sync voice overs and an amazing soundtrack.
Unmechanical by Teotl Studios, $2.99
Unmechanical is one of my favorite puzzles of 2014, set in a strange tech world, lonely and creepy. You play as a robot that looks like a tiny helicopter with eyes. It traveled in a group of friends, but got sucked into a vent shaft, or something, and now it has to travel through the underground tunnels, solving puzzles, opening gates and finally, solving a big mystery – who is behind the puzzles and the dungeon? Throughout the game, the robot is alone, but there is a constant feeling someone is watching its progress. The puzzles are physics-based, and get increasingly difficult, and remember – when you find the shining ball, take it and keep it with you at all times. There are also memory challenges and logical puzzles. It is a fascinating game, ingenious, challenging and engrossing – a great adventure for the puzzle fans, kids and families – no violence.
Wayward Souls by Noodlecake Studios, &5.99
Wayward Souls is a stellar retro-styled dungeon crawler absolutely worth its price. Huge replay value, fast and intense gameplay sessions, during which you try to make it as far as possible through the dungeon maze filled with supernatural creeps – vampires, ghosts, ghouls and all that undead legion. You can choose from the six heroes of the tradition mage, rogue and warrior triad, and each character comes with their own skill set and combat tricks and weapons. A split second is the difference between life and death, and more often than not you will be reading the words written on your tombstone. The game is smooth and beautiful in every aspect – the pixel art, the atmosphere, the music, the controls, variety of areas, and procedurally generated dungeons with different traps and monsters. You increase the skill level of your character as you play, so grinding is quite rewarding. And then, there are hats! The game is painfully difficult, but it is not the one to beat and forget – it is a long-time neo-classic hit.
Laserbreak Laser Puzzle by errorsevendev, Freemium
Another puzzler on the list is Laserbreak, a gorgeous 3D physics-based charmer that has you directing the laser beam onto different surfaces to guide it to the X spot. Some surfaces consume the beam, others reflect it onto other surfaces. Thus, you play by manipulating objects in each scene to play with the laser beam, burn and explode stuff and reach that target spot, making it to the next level. It is captivating, increasingly hard, atmospheric and offers a great variety of objects that introduce new challenges and opportunities. 30 levels are available for free while 60 more can be purchased via an IAP. The best part is there is more than one way to solve each puzzle.
Xon Ep 2 by imagoFX, $1.50
XON is the oddest game I have ever played, and I know the value of a good odd game. On its surface, it is a physics-based puzzle, but it also comes with a story, even though there is zero text in it. Nor is there any other character but you, and the game is a first person exploration. Long story short, you find yourself in an alien... I'd love to tell you what that is, if I only knew. A factory, a garden, a park, or a building – it is hard to say, but the nature of technology suggests it's alien. The visuals in XON are by far the best I've seen in mobile gaming – the play of light in the trees, the shine of marble, mysterious crystals and stone elevators rendered in great detail and coupled with a very realistic sound score. The controls in XON 2 are smooth and allow you to inspect the tiniest details of the environment. Your goal? Open at least one gate to get to the next chamber. Sounds easy, but I nearly wept as I tried getting out without watching the walk-through. The atmosphere is definitely unique, and I was hoping to see an alien behind the closed gate. For the fans of Myst and Riven, too.
Dumb Ways to Die by Metro Trains, Free
Dumb Ways to Die is a collection of 15 fast-paced mini games designed to teach you, or your kids, simple wisdom – a 2-week old sandwich may be poisonous as much as the tube of super glue, or a hive of wasps if you kick it, or a sleeping bear if you poke it. Inviting a stranger into your house may end up pretty much the same, with you dying, so can your attempt at crossing the subway railways, or standing too close to the edge of the platform. It is hilarious despite the death it depicts – the imagery is explicit enough to let your kids grasp the idea, but not violent enough to scare them. Nonetheless, I would suggest parents guide their children and explain the action – consequences connection. Also, it is free and comes with a hit soundtrack. In late 2014, Metro Trains released a second series of games, if you liked the first one.
Pixel Boat Rush by XperimentalZ Games Inc. $2.49
An addicting physics platformer Pixel Boat Rush combines shoot them up and racing in one, particularly cute pixel game with awesome effects and a fun gameplay. You get to ride a motor boat through the endless maze of waves, defying physics, taking down your rivals with a machine gun. The replay value is excellent and the game will keep you glued for hours on end because it is so much more than a simple racing game. Full of hilarious twists and turns, surprises, inventive take on design, Pixel Boat Rush is both hectic and engrossing, featuring an intuitive controls system, where one button is to race and the other two are for offense and defense. I loved the humor-filled dialogues with funny characters and a rewarding career mode, which is easy to pick up, but quite hard to master. It also has an arcade mode, 20 mini quests, 50 racing boats, 20+ guns and 100 racing events – a real treat.
If Cut the Rope married Badland, Volt would be their first born, and what a delight it is to play this odd, yet charming game. Volt is a battery that needs to get out of the factory where it was scheduled for destruction. Suddenly, it becomes self-aware and starts using the remaining energy to move through the maze of shredders, explosive traps and painfully hard boss stages. The mechanics is similar to Cut the Rope – activate this, switch that, avoid traps, use your energy wisely, otherwise – boom and you're dead! Volt can use his electric beams to hang on to walls and move, or destroy stuff, charge generators and the like. The industrial zones are incredibly beautiful, which is both surprising and delightful, and ultimately, remind Badland's atmosphere. Play smart, and you will unlock other batteries and levels. Finally, the number of lives is unlimited. A real treat if you've been looking for something to replace the Om Nom game you've played in and out, and a long-time affection.
Bonus: Shu's Garden by Jason RT Bond, Free
The bonus mention is for the children, kids and any adult player looking for a moment of peace. Shu's Garden is beautiful, kind and slightly educational – tilt your device to make the charming little round alien spin along its planet. Gather dry seeds onto its fur, drop them in other places, water them with its one hand (or tail?) and watch them grow into beautiful, colorful flowers, bushes and huge trees. You also grow grass, and underwater plants. Once in a while, when the night sets in, a mysterious arph living at the bottom of the lake surfaces and floats in the air, playing wonderful music. Shu can play with it, bathing, splashing and diving – it's pure magic. Better yet, Shu's planet is surrounded by other, minor planets, and occasionally Shu will be able to jump high enough to overcome his planet's gravity and make it to another planet. There, too, there is work to do planting seeds and watering them, turning deserted and boring landscapes into beautiful, lush gardens. Don't forget to water them regularly, though, because the greenery needs water. Otherwise, it will grow dry and die, but don't worry – you can start over. Unique, relaxing and fascinating, Shu's Garden is the one to set your mind at peace.
That's the entire list. Enjoy and leave a comment if you have other indie game suggestions.