The indie scene is alive and well and we’re looking at three more releases that caught our eye. The brand new Can’t Drive This is out for all major consoles, Luckslinger brings a 2015 indie hit to consoles and Escape From Life Inc is a Lost Vikings-inspired puzzle platformer. Time for a closer look!
Can’t Drive This
From what we had seen, Can’t Drive This looked a bit like a new take on Nadeo’s incredibly successful Trackmania franchise, which was more than enough reason to want to check it out. It was developed by Pixel Maniacs, whose previous game ChromaGun VR is still the closest thing to playing Portal in VR. In other words, we couldn’t wait to try this one out.
It turns out that, aside from the visual style, Can’t Drive This is something quite different, and a game that was designed with cooperative play in mind. In this scenario, one player controls a car, but you’ll quickly notice that the track isn’t finished. This is where player two comes in, who has to quickly lay out the track in front of you so you can keep going. Fall of the unfinished track and you lose. Go too slow because you’re waiting for more track, and you’ll explode, so speed is literally of the essence on both ends.
If we had to make a comparison, Can’t Drive This feels a bit like Trackmania meets Pipe Mania, a classic arcade puzzler where you have to guide water from A to B using different pipe pieces. Here, they’re track pieces, but the idea is the same – get your buddy to the end and make sure your track doesn’t dead end somewhere in between a ramp of ring you have to jump through.
Gameplay modes include Yardage, Game of Drones, Capture the Egg and Lone Racer – the latter one being a single player offline mode that combines both roles, but lacks the excitement that comes from cooperation. Capture the Egg is a local multiplayer mode that’s a lot of fun because of the party game-like structure of it, while the other two modes are online co-op centered.
As a whole, it’s a thin package no matter which perspective you’re coming from. As a local multiplayer game there aren’t enough modes to make it work like a party game, and as a single player game you’re way better off heading back to one of the Trackmania games instead. Yardage is a lot of fun, supports cross-generation play and is a truly great co-op experience, but it feels like a game mode for a broader experience that’s not really there. Can’t Drive This doesn’t feel like a single player game, and adding more local co-op options would go a long way in making this a fun couch co-op title.
It’s not uncommon to see well-received indie games make their way from the PC to consoles, but it’s quite rare to see one that was originally released almost six years ago. 2Awesome Studio is breaking that trend though, by bringing Duckbridge’s wild west luck-based action adventure Luckslinger to all major consoles next month. We got an early look.
As you can probably infer from the title, you play as a gunslinger in a world that is heavily affected by luck – for better or for worse. And while this mechanic translates to things like loot drops in RPGs, it’s applied in a much more direct and visceral way this time around, making for a refreshing experience in a crowded genre.
The setting, narrative and plot are straight out of the age where films like Once Upon a Time in the West and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly were hits in cinemas, with plenty of bad guys whose luck is about to run out. The gameplay is far more fast-paced though, with quick reflexes needed and sometimes unresponsive controls getting slightly in the way. Racking up some luck (you’ll collect this by killing bad guys) can make a big difference though, as bullets that look certain to kill you suddenly miss their target and platforms materialize out of thin air to break your fall.
The way luck is implemented can often be surprising, and brought a smile to my face while playing. The opposite is also true, because bad luck is generated if you get killed too often and will result in unpleasant surprises popping up left and right. To a degree, you can manipulate your luck as well, by temporarily boosting it – useful for getting out of a tricky situation or past a boss.
With its pixel art visuals, Luckslinger has ‘indie’ written all over it, and it’s as relevant and fresh today as it was back in 2015. That also applies to the soundtrack, which doesn’t opt for Ennio Morricone-like orchestral symphonies, but instead goes with hip-hop beats and scratches. It’s not what you’d expect, but with the luck-based dynamic that’s exactly what Luckslinger is all about.
Escape from Life Inc.
Escape from Life Inc was developed and published by PowerBurger on Steam last year, but was just ported to consoles by Sometimes You. At the time of the original release PowerBurger was actually a 15 year solo developer from Sweden, so we were curious to see what tomorrow’s coding talent would bring to the table.
A puzzle platformer at heart, Escape from Life Inc. evokes memories of Blizzard’s recently re-released The Lost Vikings. There are no vikings here, but instead you get three animals that are trapped inside an evil corporation (Life Inc.) that they plan on escaping from. The storyline is silly (your fish character walks around on little stilts), but each character bring its own unique abilities to the game. Bob, Ern and Rick are your fish, eagle and reindeer protagonists, and you can switch between then at any time.
To make things a bit easier for single player gamers, there’s also the option to have the other two characters follow you automatically, though you need to be careful when using that option – for obvious reasons. Abilities are gradually unlocked, and in some cases they’ll allow you to revisit earlier levels to get access to spots you previously couldn’t get to – modern Metroidvania-like game design that wasn’t there when The Lost Vikings launched.
Platforming can feel a bit floaty, but luckily the game is pretty forgiving in that you’ll just respawn and try again if you fall to your doom. This also makes it more interesting to go for the many unlockables the game has, and makes it less frustrating when you get noticed in stealth sections or fall in combat.
There’s plenty of personality in the game as well, because in addition to your main cast you’ll also run into plenty of other animals, often bringing a dash of humor to the proceedings through dialogue or cutscenes. Escape from Life Inc. is a lovely little budget-price game from a solo developer that fans of The Lost Vikings will want to take a look at.