Indie Roundup: Foregone, Ray’s the Dead, Supermarket Shriek & FRACTER

Despite a lot of attention going towards big new releases and upcoming consoles, the indie scene is still very much alive with new releases pouring out every week. We’re checking out four interesting ones from this past week.

Foregone

This isn’t the first time we’re covering Foregone, because we also spoke to the people behind the game in one of our Gamescom interviews. Now, it’s out for PC and consoles, with versions for every current gen console out there, and the end result feels strangely familiar and comfortable, but most of all fun.

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Foregone’s official description is that of a 2D action-platformer, but its gameplay actually feels like a mashup of several different and popular styles and mechanics. You’ll see a bit of roguelike gameplay and Dark Souls influences in there, as you die but are given the opportunity to reclaim what you lost by reaching your previous place of death. You’ll see metroidvania elements, because you gradually unlock abilities, and you’ll see plenty of challenging boss fights where you learn the enemy’s patterns before exploiting them.

But yes, in between all that there’s a 2D action platformer as well, and you even get a (largely forgettable) narrative that’s super generic. The latter is more or less true of the gameplay as well, but it doesn’t matter, as all of its parts are finely crafted rather than tacked on, like we see in so many other crossover products. The controls are fluid, and the pixel art style visuals are gorgeous.

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Foregone’s biggest problem is that nothing really stands out as extremely original or memorable – it just does a lot of things right without trying to do a lot of new things in the process. Hardly a cardinal sin, just something that makes it hard for the game to stand out among the crowd in between the landmark examples we’ve seen before. Once you power up enough, the combat in the game becomes less challenging, but a side effect is that it flows extremely well and remains a lot of fun because you can switch between different weapon types and mix things up. There are melee types as well as ranged ones, and if you’re able to have fun with a game for over eight hours then I don’t care too much that it feels like something I’ve played before.

Ray’s The Dead

It’s out just in time before Halloween, but Ray’s The Dead from Ragtag Studio was hardly what you’d call “rushed out the door”. It was originally announced as a cross-buy release for the Vita and the PS4, making it onto my Vita wish list as soon as it was announced. It’s unlikely that that version will ever see the light of day now, but at least the game has been resurrected for PS4 users.

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The game’s clever title already gives us the idea that protagonist Ray has been brought back from the afterlife – and you have the ability to do the same for others as you try to figure out exactly why you’re in the situation you’re in and what’s happening in town – which has a Stranger Things-vibe to it with some cool pop culture references.

There are puzzles to tackle, but one of the key mechanics in the game revolves around your ability to turn fresh corpses into zombies – a trick you can also apply to newly slain enemies, growing yourself a little zombie army in the process. They don’t just blindly follow you around either, but can be given little assignments as well – attacking an enemy and moving into a target area being the most common ones. There are some definite Pikmin vibes about this one, and the cartoonish zombie setting certainly is a fun one.

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But while the story and presentation are fun, with a narrative that leaps back and forward in time between the worlds of the living and the dead, the gameplay itself feels a bit formulaic and basic, and so do the puzzles. This makes Ray’s the Dead a more family-friendly Halloween experience than the standard horror titles we see this time of the year, but unfortunately it’s not one that has co-op gameplay. It’s certainly charming, but ultimately it wasn’t worth the six year wait we had for it.

Supermarket Shriek

After Nippon Marathon, Supermarket Shriek felt like it was going to be another wacky multiplayer game from PQube. It recently made the leap to the Switch, PS4 and PC, and we played the PlayStation 4 version to see if we were right about that assumption. It turns out it’s not just wacky, but also a lot of fun.

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When you realize that Supermarket Shriek has you racing courses as a duo or character, things don’t seem quite that weird just yet. Picture both of them stuck in a shopping cart together, and you’ve got something that’s at the very least interesting. Then imagine that the only way to move is by screaming (or shrieking) and thus using airwaves to push yourself off, and you’re officially in wacky territory. Oh yeah, and one of them is a goat.

Each character occupies one side of the cart, and in order to go straight they both need to scream at the same time. If you want to turn, one outscreams the other and the cart moves in the opposite direction. You can use your trigger buttons to scream, but yes – connect a microphone or headset and you can go “full immersion” and scream your lungs out together with another player as well. While it’s not a control method you’ll want to engage with for hours on end, it’s certainly a novel idea and fun to try out for a bit – though the “controls” are overly sensitive and will react to regular talking as well, so you might want to tweak the sensitivity of your input a bit if you can.

supermarket shriek

After a brief tutorial, a wide range of obstacle courses and “race” events unfold where you knock down or collect items in the scene, with stars being awarded when you do well – unlocking new courses in the progress. In general, the faster you work, the bigger the rewards, and you’ll also gain a few cosmetic items in the process. You’ll also find new content in the shape of hidden levels, which even provide brand new and fun ways to play.

The main control mechanic might be a bit of a gimmick, but gradually unlocking new levels in new stores keeps you pushing for more. It’s a game best enjoyed in short bursts, but it’s a lot of fun and a novel twist on the party game genre that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

FRACTER is now out on Nintendo Switch

You could say that FRACTER isn’t a brand new indie release because it came out on Steam and mobile platforms a while ago, but it’s new on the Nintendo Switch and this version is the first one we got to play. Visually striking, it’s a puzzle adventure that plays out its short narrative by making use of shadow and light to create logic puzzles – the narrative often providing subtle or fairly overt clues as to what you need to do.

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Released at a budget price point, FRACTER is very well at home on the Switch, with the availability of touch screen controls for what is mostly a relaxing brain bender that, despite the isometric point of view, somehow still reminded me of Limbo. I’m rarely a fan of mobile experiences that get ported to consoles, but this one not only features a mature set of puzzle mechanics but is also pleasing to look at and listen to. Its puzzles, in which you guide light and will also have to apply stealth to not get caught by enemies, are over too quickly, but this game is one that made me realize it had been a while since I played a decent puzzler, and I certainly can’t remember the last time I was so glad about a game getting ported to the Switch after an earlier mobile release. Well worth checking out for puzzle fans.

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