Indie GOTYs 2018 Part 1

Well, with a heavy sigh of relief attached to it, 2018 is over.


Gaming-wise, when celebrities weren’t trying to be relate-able by mentioning Fortnite, the year was filled with all sorts of good games. In fact, one might go so far as to say it was better than 2017 for games, and 2017 was bloody huge. With this in mind, we have found it appropriate to pay attention to the little guys in the independent scene.


Spread across two parts will be ten games that me and fellow writer, Zachary Kauz, feel showcased the best of indie gaming in 2018, with the exception of Matt Makes Games’ magnum opus, Celeste, with the reason being that Celeste is the only indie title good enough to see it to the normal Game of The Year list. The only rules in play are that their first releases had to have been this year, and they’ve been reviewed by us at Sick Critic. With that in mind, here are three honorable mentions that couldn’t make the cut for one reason or another.


Honorable Mention: Subnautica – Developer: Unknown Worlds Entertainment


The player character of Subnautica looks over the underwater base they have created.


The first honorable mention goes to Subnautica, the underwater survival simulator that made this cynical world fall in love with “early access survival sim crafting system” games once more. With a brilliantly executed spin of the formula, an atmosphere that’s both comfortable and terrifying, and a narrative that keeps you intrigued throughout, it’s dead set to be on anybody Game of The Year list, let alone an “Indie” section. So why is it here?


One simple answer: I’m crap at it. Aside from having a paralyzing fear of the ocean, the amazingly dense world of Subnautica is one you need to devote full time to, and that’s the time I simply didn’t have before this list was curated. Nevertheless, Subnautica is the best survival crafting game released since Terraria, and it’s worth a playthrough no matter what.


Honorable Mention: Forgotton Anne – Developer: ThroughLine Games


Anne lies still in her bed, surrounded by light.


The next honorable mention goes to Forgotton Anne, one of several titles Square Enix’s “Collective” program, which has been pushing out several unique titles over the past two years (Another one of which is in this list, wink wink). Forgotton Anne’s best quality is quite easily its anime-influenced animation, which translates quite smoothly to casual platforming. Aside from that, the meat of this meal comes from an interesting narrative revolving around the idea of forgotten household items and clothing, leading to an adventure brimming with creativity.


Why is it here? Well, it’s good, but it’s not as good as other titles on this list. Forgotton Anne is a game that misses being called a “walking simulator” by a fraction of an inch, with a lot of moments simply being you looking at some of the wonderful vistas on offer. It has memorable characters, smart but fleeting puzzle design, and visual design that’ll make it memorable, but as a game? It’s fairly lacking, yet it’s still worth mentioning and putting it onto this list for the visual presentation alone.


Honorable Mention: GRIS – Developer: Nomada Studio



Now, our own Nathanael Hueso would consider it blasphemy and curse on bloodlines for not including the recently released GRIS on this list in some way, shape or form. However, it didn’t get reviewed, so here he is explaining why it’s so bloody good while it stays on the honorable mention list:-


GRIS doesn’t necessarily try anything groundbreaking with its gameplay or art style. What it succeeds so well in doing is taking established ideas and using them to prod at you emotionally. This game awakens something deep, maybe even something spiritual, that you didn’t know you had locked away.


Relegating GRIS to the genre of hand-drawn platformer robs the game of its spirit. If you finish GRIS and feel nothing, you walked into it with the wrong expectations. Go into GRIS looking for an experience, not a simple game. Even if you don’t end up a huge fan, at least you experienced this beautiful work of art.


Right, onto the winners! Here’s five of them.


Vesta – Developer: FinalBoss Games


Vesta and her robot pal DROID prepare to navigate through the murky under-depths of a forgotten factory.


This year started off on a strong note with Vesta, the sophomore release from Spanish studio FinalBoss Games. Following the story of a 6-year old girl with an eye for exploration who is paired with a robot named DROID to do all the hard work for her, the puzzles simple yet smart design provided a solid and cute journey, along with having some well-done pacing.


If there’s one complaint that can hamper your experience, it’s the dull aesthetic, which can lessen the strong tone and atmosphere the game set up in the vein of Portal. Other than that, you had puzzles that made you feel good, a soundtrack that fit perfectly with the vibes the game gave off, and gimmicky boss fights that weren’t a complete pain in the arse. Stellar stuff all around.


Minit – Developer(s): JW, Kitty, Jukio, and Dom


The main character of Minit prepares to speak to the very slowly-talking NPC underneath the lighthouse.


The more you think about your experience with Minit, the deceptive adventure game from what seems like the game developer equivalent of rock supergroup Them Crooked Vultures, the more wholesome your thoughts become. Faced with the seemingly impossible task of making a Groundhog Day mechanic not awful, the four-person team pulled through to the end to create an experience of flip-flopping atmospheres and comedic timing.


It’s the achievement of making every microscopic moment worth experiencing that makes Minit such a fantastic game. Regardless of how janky the gameplay can be, JW and co. paid attention to the finer details throughout, from characters to new areas, to the jaunty little tunes Jukio created for all areas. With that in mind, some of the gameplay can be overlooked, and JW, Jukio, Kitty, and Dom can be commended for making a game that lasts less than an hour in length radiate in players memories for so long.


Octahedron – Developer: Demimonde


The main character of Octahedron navigates through a neon landscape, avoiding deadly X-Shaped lasers.


Just like Celeste, Demimonde’s Octahedron is an old-school platformer subscribing to a specific trend, but with an emphasis on one mechanic in particular. In Celeste, it was the dash, and in Octahedron, it’s the power to create a platform underneath your feet at the apex of your jump. Add a few bells and whistles to it, and you get the platforming equivalent of finding a tin of all your favorite Quality Street chocolates, and there’s not a single Toffee Penny in sight.


Set to a mesmerizing synth aesthetic that somehow feels fresh in this age of overdone Blood Dragon knock-offs, along with a fantastic soundtrack by chiptune artist Chipzel, everything goes right for this title. Sure, it may seem like originality wears thin once you get past World 5, but it’s the journey you’re taken on before then that makes the trip worthwhile. It’s just a really nice platformer with a really forgiving difficulty curve, and you’d be doing yourself a disservice by avoiding it.


Ashen – Developer: Aurora44 (A44)


One of the bosses in Ashen prepares to face the player-character and his partner.


“Better late than never” is a motto that’s gotten me through everything in life, and even though it’s just barely scraped past the deadline for this list, that doesn’t lessen the blow that Souls-like Ashen gave players. With beefy combat, a beautiful aesthetic and vibe flourishing from it, and a narrative focusing on a community effort, nothing could stop this from being the best Souls-like money can buy at the moment.


As stated in the review, the one thing most heartbreaking about Ashen is that it misses mere perfection by inches. There’s something about the elements, the formula, the fury and fire– It simply never clicks properly. Regardless, Ashen is still an enticing experience, and if you’re sick to death of half-baked Souls clones littering your hard drives and game libraries, then this will surely be a breath of fresh air to you.


Dead Cells – Developer: Motion Twin


The main character of Dead Cells is in the process of obliterating an enemy that blocks the path.


For the final entry in this list of five, it was a no-brainer: Dead Cells, the 2D tribute to Dark Souls which feels more like a tribute to Final Fight, than anything else. That’s not a bad thing though, absolutely not, as it simply means that Dead Cells holds more cathartic action and beat ’em up flavor in its gameplay than anything else out there, and for that alone, it deserves endless praise.


With murky yet beautiful pixel art, a soundtrack that gets you more than pumped up, and combat more refreshing and gratifying than finding out your worst enemy stepped on a plug this morning, there’s barely a bum note hit throughout your time on the endlessly shifting island of Dead Cells. Go visit it, go experiment with the tens of weapons the game houses, go seek out the small handful of masterfully crafted bosses, it’s all waiting for you.


To Be Continued…


For now, those are five of our Independent GOTY picks, along with three that missed the cut by an inch. Stay on the lookout for part two of this list, where fellow snob Zachary Kauz will list another five games that deserve to be a part of this list. From there, we’ll have a recap of what happened in 2018, and finally, we’ll look towards the future, with a showcasing of fifteen games set to arrive in 2019.


Bye-bye for now.

No comments

Leave a Reply


Front-page display image of the Conquer COVID-19 Humble Bundle, displaying a small sample of the games on offer (includes Agents of Mayhem

Humble’s Conquer COVID-19 Bundle Offers a $1,071 Value for $30 Until Tuesday

The Humble Bundle company have repeatedly stepped to the plate in times of need to offer immense values to customers for the sake of charity, and they have outdone themselves…

April 3, 2020, 119
Image of the WoW Diary book written by John Staats. WoW is running on a laptop in the background

Developer Dialogue: John Staats’ Journey as a WoW Level Designer

If you made your way into Blizzard’s offices in the early 2000s, you might think you’d accidentally stumbled into a DnD enthusiast’s Mom’s basement. Faded posters on the walls, food…

April 1, 2020, 629

Asphalt 9: Real Game Stuffed in a Mobile Game

Finding yourself trapped indoors with nothing but your internal monologue to sustain you can drive a person really insane really quickly. From a strictly medical standpoint, you should be playing…

March 27, 2020, 287
Shaun Of The Dead Tea self isolate

Best Video Games to Self-Isolate With

Bad news, the Coronavirus situation is rapidly getting worse with each passing day, and many are recommended to self-isolate. Good news, there’s never been a better excuse to hole up…

March 18, 2020, 522
Dreams concept image showing a kaleidoscopic display of shapes, colors, and guitars

Media Molecule Opens Up Dreams Beta Evaluation

The potential of Media Molecule’s game-creation system, Dreams, has seemed limitless since its debut and starting today, Dreams has made another massive stride. Central to the platform’s focus is the ability to…

March 13, 2020, 257

Sony Worldwide Studios Discusses First-Party Releases

After Sony’s continued silence on the PlayStation 5, Worldwide Studios Head Hermen Hulst broke the ice by detailing the company’s strategy for their first-party games. While Hulst confirmed that PS4-exclusive Horizon:…

March 11, 2020, 1,049
Vitamin Connection Title Screen

Vitamin Connection Review – A Tough Pill to Swallow

WayForward has an impressive portfolio of games, including the likes of Shantae and Mighty Switch Force. I was pretty excited to try out another one of their games when I…

March 11, 2020, 306
E3 Cancelled due to coronavirus

E3 Cancelled Due to Coronavirus

[12:25 EST, 03/11/2020] UPDATE:  It’s official: E3 2020 has been cancelled due to Coronavirus. The Electronic Software Association released this statement officially confirming the event’s cancellation: “After careful consultation with…

March 11, 2020, 287

The Radar Room: March Game Releases to Look For

Welcome back to the Radar Room, where we cover the biggest upcoming releases in gaming! March is looking to kick 2020 into high gear with multiple highly anticipated sequels to…

March 10, 2020, 563
DOOM Eternal Archville vs. Crucible

DOOM Eternal PC Specs Announced

DOOM Eternal‘s PC minimum and recommended specs have been announced! There are plenty of options for playing DOOM Eternal, but there’s a certain attractiveness to playing with a mouse and…

March 7, 2020, 439