Indie roundup: Retro Machina, 0 Degrees & Base One

Three very different indie productions to discuss today – we look at action puzzler/metroidvania Retro Machina, 2D retro puzzler 0 Degrees and the sci-fi management sim Base One.

Retro Machina  

Developed by Orbit Studio and published by Super.com, Retro Machina is one of those indie games with instant appeal because of how charming it looks. Part Machinarium, part El Hijo – A Wild West Tale, the endearing robots and colorful isometric visuals, this is a beautifully designed puzzle/metroidvania title that’s out for PCs and consoles.

In a world now devoid of humans, you’re a little robot with some problems of your own but with the ability to control other machines around you. The campaign unfolds over the course of only a handful of worlds, but it’s a surprisingly long journey. Not all other robots are friendly, and they might have something to do with the fact that humans aren’t around anymore, so you’ll need to be careful. You can control many of them to aid you in your quest though, and this creates a twin stick mechanic where control of the ‘hacked’ robot transfers to the right stick.

retro machina

This is often the key to the game’s challenges, from attacking enemies to solving puzzles, as our little protagonist is limited in what he can do without help. Health is shared between you and your ‘avatar’ though, so you can’t just go crazy and hide in the shadows once you’re hacked in. This is especially useful to consider when you’re faced with the wave/arena-style battles you’ll come across, although health can be replenished with a few pickups as well.

You’ll regularly run into dead ends, which is where the metroidvania elements come in and you need to hunt for new abilities or keycards that open up new areas. These aren’t always clearly signposted, unlike situations where you face off against a boss before progressing.

Between the various upgrades, the beautiful presentation and diverse gameplay, this is an action puzzler that indie fans will want to check out.

0 Degrees  

Another week, another indie release from Eastasiasoft! 0 Degrees wants to be at the top of your alphabetically sorted games list, but also wants to scratch that indie puzzle game itch. It’s out for all major consoles, includes next gen compatibility, and can be purchased for a budget price.

Gameplay-wise, 0 Degrees takes players to icy cold environments, but it’s a very different kind of experience than the one in Subnautica: Below Zero. Visually, this one is a fairly typical 2D single screen type of retro game – the kind is quite prevalent in the indie scene, with its 8/16-bit style graphics and intuitive mechanics.

0 degrees

Expect lots of blue and white to underline the nature of the game’s freezy environments, which also ties into the gameplay a bit. Your main character is dressed nice and warm, but can cast ice cubes to help him reach the exit portal in each level. There are 40 levels in total, and with most being fairly straightforward this is a relatively short experience fitting its budget price point.

If you enjoy this type of game, however, then it’s a solid diversion. Expect the usual pushing of objects onto press plates, stacking ice cubes on top of one another, and figuring out how to use them to get to the exit while being mindful of how many cubes you have for a particular level. Most levels don’t require any precision platforming, which makes this is a good one for puzzle fans in particular. Trophy hunters will likely also be interested, since it’s a fairly short game with an easy to obtain platinum trophy.

Base One  

There certainly is no shortage of choices within the space base builder/management genre, especially for gamers who play on Steam. Base One from developer Pixfroze and publishers Blowfish and Gamera is the latest one, though it will also receive console versions further down the line.

base one

Narrative, Base One deals with an apocalyptic scenario in which all of earth and mankind is threatened by a wormhole that wreaks havoc on the planet. Not keen on giving up, mankind then takes to the stars in search of a new home – dealing with limited resources and adverse conditions along the way.

As the game gradually becomes more complex, all your tasks start to blend together as parts of a larger whole with various processes that all chain together. This is something that doesn’t become clear right away when your base is just one small hub, but as you add modules to cater for all the resources of your crew you quickly realize how multi-faceted a space station really is. A lot of modules require ‘simple’ amenities like heating and a breathable atmosphere, but in an environment where resources are limited it’s smart to leave some of them without an atmosphere to save some precious materials. The downside, of course, is that your crew will require special suits and airlocks to go in there.

base one2

Your crew will also need basics like food, sleep and medical care, but their behavior also demands your attention. But while there’s a narrative, these mechanics always feel more objective-driven than anything else, as you get caught up in the loop of fixing or improving one process in order to get to work on another. It’s an addictive loop, but unless the narrative gets a bit more fleshed out through future updates there’s a risk of it getting repetitive. Luckily, you’ll be good few hours in before that happens, if at all.

Visually, you can see why Base One is primed for a console launch. It has a nice clear interface that’s not too congested with icons and things to press, and even beyond the UI the visual style is very crisp and functional. Visually distinct modules let you quickly navigate between the various parts of your space station at all times. Base One has strong foundations, and we’re hoping for a few post-launch updates to build on them.

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