Because Transistor exemplifies the best of what indie games can offer
It’s not a surprise that Transistor became the poster child for indie games this year, as it clearly demonstrates all the best qualities a self-motivated, self-monetized, and self-managed game made by a smaller team has over a larger budget AAA title: Innovative mechanics, stark new art direction, some oldschool sensibilities (this is an isometric game after all) bucking of trends (a game that stars a female protagonist and with a love interest? Not something you see, except for maybe Otome games but those are centralized around that idea).
Plus, there’s a great sense of just plain fun in the game. There’s a hum button, where protagonist Red would hum to the great soundtrack. There’s a flourish button, where Red would just twirl the sword, which has no discernible purpose. You can hang-around in the beach areas, play with a robo-dog, or just sleep on the hammock and enjoy listening to different tracks of the game. It’s all just there because they’re fun things to do.
Because a great competitive game must start with a solid simple basis
2014 has been a strong year for local “couch” competitive games. Nidhogg, Sportsfriends (on Playstation at least), Samurai Gunn (which was technically December of 2013 but I only managed to play it this year), and the new Smash Bros. But Towerfall is definitely the best of them all. Even Smash. which while great, essentially incorporates the same exact mechanics from Brawl (if not Melee) with a little bit of fine-tuning and a general increase in speed. I mean take out all the new stages and new characters and you pretty much have Brawl but in HD. It’s a shame there is no online-mode of sorts. And it’s also a shame that the new expansion is probably not going to add Online multiplayer. But if you have even a single couch-buddy, Towerfall is so much fun.
Because it’s a silly little game with a lot of heart
Octodad reminds me of SEGA’s Virtual-On, of all things. Now I love Virtual-On, it’s a great mecha-action series with a fun, deeper-than-it-looks competitive edge and great iconic mech designs that take advantage of the chunky polygonal look of early 3D games. But it seems the game’s convoluted controls may have turned off people from playing it. But to me, it’s that weird controls that makes Virtual-On so fun. Because the complex controls gives the game plenty of nuance on what you can and cannot do at a specific time, which is all important information that players need to learn in order to up their competitive game. Plus I imagine piloting giant mechs like those won’t be as easy say driving a car.
And that’s what is fun about Octodad too, figuring out how to control Octodad IS THE WHOLE POINT of Octodad. And even failing that yields many hilarious moments. It brings back that tactile feeling of trying to figure out how to play Super Mario Bros for the first time, or Super Mario 64, and then being rejoiced once you learn how to Z-Jump. If you’ve been playing games for a while now, on different genres, you can probably discern how any of the upcoming games would probably controls like: The Order 1886 will probably control like a 3rd person cover shooter, Zelda Wii U will probably control like the last few Zeldas, even indie games have clear inspirations they take from and conventions they follow. In most of these games, controls are the medium to deliver a game’s main point, whether to showcase amazing graphics or an interesting story or a massive scope or exciting mechanics. But in Octodad, the controls are the message. And that is so rare these days (The last game I could think of that shares a similar idea may be EA’s Skate. ).
And this is all wrapped up in a super charming and funny story about a person trying to disguise their identity to fit-in to society’s expectations, only to find it so hard for themselves that they end up having to reveal their true personality, getting them both accepted by their family and friends and also shunned by others (well, a seafood cook in this case). It’s just a fantastic game, one that you won’t forget anytime soon.