Play These Indies: Baobabs Mausoleum, Aftergrinder, & Iron Crypticle
Welcome to the very first edition of Play These Indies! New indie games are released practically every day, and it's impossible to play them all and even more difficult to find the best of the bunch. We've got your back here at GameCrate, so we'll be taking a regular dive into the land of indie games in order to put the spotlight on the most interesting, entertaining, and straight-up quality titles worthy of your time.
Baobabs Mausoleum Ep. 1: Ovnifagos Don't Eat Flamingos
Baobabs Mausoleum Ep. 1: Ovnifagos Don't Eat Flamingos from Celery Emblem is one of the weirder games to arrive in recent memory — the title alone is indicative of that. It's a fitting title, as odd as it may be, because once you journey into the game's mysterious small town, you're in for a wild 90-minute ride that's just as unique as it is fun.
You play as Watracio Walpurgis, an eggplant vampire dude working for the FBI who finds himself stranded in Flamingo's Creek. Hoping to find his way out of the dreary town, it isn't long before the strange inhabitants drag Watracio into a string of surreal happenings.
Initially, Baobabs Mausolem starts out like your typical adventure game. You begin by exploring an overworld map (complete with collectible coins), and from there you visit a local bar, movie theater, and cemetery. Like a traditional adventure game, you progress by talking to different characters, solving puzzles, and finding key items.
Baobabs Mausoleum is anything but traditional, though, and soon you'll find yourself in a side-scrolling driving mini-game, a first-person adventure quest, and a Zelda-inspired dungeon. Watracio's mission to get the heck out of Flamingo's Creek takes you to some really interesting places and introduces you to a cast of bizarre characters. And though the final act — which is the only one to use a hit point system — can drag a bit, this first episode is a blast overall.
Adding to the game's dream-like themes is an appropriately dark pixel art style that's high on surrealism and a moody soundtrack that's solid but can get repetitive. Inspired by Twin Peaks, the eerie mystery gets off to a good start, even if there are a few typos in the otherwise strong and lighthearted writing.
The game ends with a cliffhanger, and given how strange and enjoyable this first chapter is, I hope it isn't too long before we see more of Baobabs Mausoleum.
Though OlliOlli popularized the 2D skateboarding genre, we still don't see too many of these types of games. Aftergrinder plays more like a runner, but the intense, high-speed spirit of skateboarding is very much alive in this title from Grave Danger Games.
Aftergrinder is a lot like VVVVVV in that you can't jump. Instead, you can attach yourself to the ground or ceiling at will as your character auto-runs from left to right. Changing positions on the fly is essential to your success, and you'll find yourself narrowly avoiding deadly traps repeatedly throughout the course of a single run.
You have a boost ability that allows you to speed up if you're going for a fast time on the leaderboard and also allows you to break through certain walls that stand in your way. In certain instances you'll have to hit the boost button to outrun deadly missiles and laser beams.
There are 90 levels in Aftergrinder, and as you continue to get deeper into the game more obstacles are put in your way, making progression incredibly difficult. While finally clearing a stage is sure to fill you with the utmost satisfaction, there are also some moments of frustration to be found in the game, especially given how much it relies on twitch reflexes, memorization, and trial-and-error. In fact those last two elements can sometimes be a bit detrimental to the enjoyment that there is to be had in this game.
Visually, Aftergrinder uses a minimalist art style that's decent but is sorely lacking in variety. While I was able to appreciate the basic style the game was going for, it would've been nice if the levels had just a little more personality. Instead, they begin to come off as generic by the time you've played a dozen or so stages.
Minor quirks aside, Aftergrinder is a heck of a good time, and that can be attributed in large part to its excellent controls. The game is super responsive and tight, and every time you clear a stage, you know you earned it. Here's hoping we get a sequel that introduces a bit more variety, as well as some more of these rad side-scrolling skateboarding games in general.
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Iron Crypticle is one of those games that will bring back fond memories of titles like Smash TV for a lot of folks. It's an arcade-inspired gem, and its real luster lies in its simplicity. The game is a top-down twin-stick shooter that immediately drops you into dungeon rooms filled with enemies. At first the game eases you in by introducing weak baddies, but it isn't long before the big guns start popping up to take you down. Oh, also, it's a roguelike, so once you die, it's back to the start with you.
While Iron Crypticle may not strive too much to create a constantly evolving experience from beginning to end, it includes plenty of nice little features to keep you coming back for more. For example, as you kill enemies your combo meter increases. Keep your combo high and you'll begin to see special drops appear on the screen. Grab these and you'll obtain stat boosts that'll last you for the rest of that run.
Various items appear throughout the course of your runs. The more you play the more you unlock, and while stat upgrades don't carry over to subsequent runs, unlocked items, upgrades, and spells do, so you'll begin to see more items popping up in later playthroughs.
Even on its lowest difficulty setting, Iron Crypticle can get quite challening. This is a game that's best when played with friends, and thankfully developer Confused Pelican made sure to include a local co-op mode for up to four players. Unfortunately, online co-op is sorely lacking. I can definitely appreciate that the game stays true to the retro style of couch multiplayer that was so awesome years and years ago, but I really wish I could just jump online and play with a buddy at any given time.
If you've got a friend or three who are readily available to join in some old school couch co-op, this game's undoubtedly worth checking out. If not, it's a bit of a harder sell, but it's still definitely loads of fun. Iron Crypticle doesn't shake up the twin-stick shooter genre, but it utilizes the essentials that make arcade action games so much fun, and is most certainly worth a look.