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Eurogamer Expo 2009 Indie Arcade Round-up

The Indie Arcade at this year’s Eurogamer Expo 2009 sure is an eye-opener. In stark contrast to the games seen in the main hall, these indie developers have the space and opportunity to create some truly unique videogames. Garnering a positive amount of interest throughout the day, attendees flitted between the many top-spec computers to see which games rewarded their curiosity. Here’s a quick trio of titles that impressed.

Squid Yes! Not So Octopus 2: Squid Harder // Robert Fearon

Keen to stress that in this game you are controlling a squid, and not, indeed, an octopus, Robert Fearon’s ingeniously titled Squid Yes! Not So Octopus 2: Squid Harder certainly dazzled whoever was smart enough to give it a try. A supercharged follow-up to Squid Yes! Not So Octopus!, Squid Harder is everything a sequel should be – crazier, harder, louder and a hell of a lot more squidier.

Comparable to most popular schmup titles, Squid Harder is undoubtedly stylish. Taking everything that is great about titles such as Geometry Wars, Robotron 2084, Space Giraffe and old school Crystal Crazy, Squid Harder sticks them in a blender and serves them on a plate with some raw sushi and a side-order of strobe lighting.

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Giving you four worlds to terrorise, the aim of the game is to survive for as long as the world expects – you must survive for one minute in the first world, two minutes in the second etcetera. The game has a wicked sense of humour too, with phrases like ‘Games as art debate coming up’ flashing on the screen as you blast for your life. The enemies are not easy, and like in Geometry Wars will come at you from all angles without hesitation. The action is so frantic it’s easy to lose your squid and run straight into the opposition. The game’s addictive nature will see that right as you begin that ‘one more go’ mentality.

With explosive, eye-popping visuals and a soundtrack that pulses and beats like you’re on fire, Squid Harder is a game for when you just want a little mad shooter in your life. It’s already out, and can be downloaded for free right here. Don’t let this pass you by.

Cletus Clay // Tunatech

One of the more ambitious titles, this, Cletus Clay is a run and gun shooter-platformer where the visuals are made out of clay, and not videogame clay, but actual real clay. The game is filmed entirely in ‘claymation’, that is, the developers have to painstakingly graft and animate with clay the actions of the main character, the enemies, the background – everything. Taken off the official website: ‘the characters are first modelled in clay, then photographed, then digitally enhanced and composited into 3D space to create a convincing illusion of an all-clay world’. It sounds incredibly difficult, because it is – it’s incredibly impressive, too.

Thankfully the game works brilliantly, and the visuals really do make the game. You play as Cletus, a slack jawed hick tooth yokel with a lovin’ for gunnin’. It just so happens that aliens have invaded his precious world and so it’s up to him to show them the back door. With his trusty shotgun, Cletus sets out of his shack on an adventure like no other.

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The controls are simple and slick, and shortly after starting you realise that the game is not completely 2D, as you’re able to enter the background on occasion. The combat is deliciously satisfying, especially with the shotgun at your disposal. Aliens in this demo level are similar to Kane and Kodos off of The Simpsons as they fashion a big glass helmet covering their face. They’re designed to look more harmless than menacing, a little confused – but they’re full of character, even more so because of the stellar claymation. When Cletus fires a shot at them their helmets shatter and the sound that follows is just beautiful – crisp as you like. It’s a shame you run out of bullets fairly quick in the game, as while the hand to hand combat is still a blast, nothing beats the power of a hick shotgun.

The level was consistently enjoyable and it’s easy to just gawk at the scenery like a madman while you’re playing – it never looks anything but impressive. Part of the wonder is thinking how long everything must have taken. Later in the level you encounter UFOs and slightly more threatening foes; aliens with guns. By this time weapons were scarce so it was wise to make the most of the physical combat and roll, jump and punch your way through to the end.

Out of all the games on show, Cletus Clay was undeniably fantastic. The audio/visual combination was top tier and the characters wholly lovable. As well as standard single player, co-op will also be available for more clay inspired carnage. It will be heading to home consoles sometime in the future, ‘hopefully before Duke Nukem Forever’, according to developers Tunatech.

Super Yum Yum: Baby Rescue // Airplay

Making the jump from pocket gaming to big screen high definition 3D, Super Yum Yum: Baby Rescue has made the transition surprisingly well. The nauseatingly cute characters and visual style are intact and the best they’ve ever been, and the vibrancy and brightness they radiate make it something special.

Correctly defined as a puzzle game, you take the reins of Leon, a chameleon with an aptitude for changing colour. His mission is to save other animals’ kidnapped babies with his tongue. Well, not with his tongue per se, but he’ll definitely need it if he’s any chance of ever seeing them again.

The aim of the game is to get from one end of the level to the other, and eat lots of fruit in the process. The catch is that he can only eat the fruits that are the colour of his body. Each fruit has leaves on top and when you eat it, your body will change colour to that of the leaves. For example, if you eat a yellow pear with green leaves, Leon must be yellow, and when he eats the pear he will turn green. It’s a simple premise but one that later screws you over many a time, as you constantly need to think in advance.

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The opening levels do well to ease you into the gameplay but the difficulty soon ramps up – the restart button quickly becomes your friend. Unlike the gameplay mechanic, the visuals are hard to explain. The game operates on four planes, and you can turn the camera to one of these. Leon is a sprite that can be seen from all four sides, and is a lovably created chameleon. The environments you play on are surprisingly pretty, like a candy factory. The water gleams with life and the sky dazzles. It’s a relaxing aesthetic that contrasts quite heavily with the increasingly tough gameplay.

For anyone who likes their puzzle games, Super Yum Yum: Baby Rescue is special. It’s an indie title with a lot of life and a lot of charm. It’s easy to play, difficult to master, and is destined to frustrate when the later levels crop up. Final platforms are still to be confirmed, but its addictive nature means you’ll be playing the rainy days away when it surfaces in the near future.

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in July 2007. Get in touch on Twitter @_Frey.

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