Indie Royale June Bug Bundle

Indie Royale are the guys bravely trying to play catchup to the overwhelming success of the Humble Bundles. The first real imitators on the scene, they’re easily dismissed as a rip-off attempting to cash in on Wolfire’s lucrative model. But that’s enough negativity; what they might lack in originality they make up for in quality. Where Wolfire usually have the bigger-name indie titles, Indie Royale cater more to titles you likely won’t have heard of, but that doesn’t make them any less worth your while.

The current bundle available is the June Bug Bundle, consisting of  PixelJunk Eden, Escape Goat, Noitu Love 2: Devolution, and Auditorium. Thrown in as extras for those prepared to pay a little more than the minimum are the Escape Goat soundtrack and an updated alpha version of Iconoclasts.

The first title, PixelJunk Eden, by Q-Games is only available for Steam (well, you can buy it on PSN but you won’t get that in this bundle) which might be a turn-off for some, but I’d wager the majority of PC gamers have embraced the platform by now. An entertaining and arty title, you play as a small critter called a Grimp, a portmanteau of grip and jump, because those are primarily what it does. Jumping around highly stylised gardens, and gripping to the plants therein, you defeat enemies to earn pollen, which will grow more plants for you to climb in search of items known as Spectra which are described as a “fusion of light and sound”. Collecting these will grow plants in the hub world of Eden unlocking new gardens to explore. If there’s a goal beyond fully exploring all the worlds and growing all the plants, I haven’t found it, but it doesn’t need it. The gameplay is both relaxing and addicting with a techno soundtrack that complements it well. The gardens are a visual treat, vibrantly coloured but usually monochromatic with every level focused on a different colour. The plants too are beautifully styled making exploration very rewarding. It’s not as fleshed out as a bigger title might be, but for a quick casual game I can’t recommend it enough.

Escape Goat makes its début in this bundle. Launching primarily on Desura, one gets the impression its inclusion is there to sell the platform (unsurprising as the guys who run Indie Royale also run Desura) but for those unsold on the platform a DRM-free version for windows is included. A pixel art puzzle platformer, Escape Goat sees a purple goat locked away in a dungeon for the crime of witchcraft. Quickly teaming up with a mouse who is also eager to escape, the dynamic duo set out reclaim their freedom. You find a sheep who informs you that eight of his brethren are also trapped down there and only once all nine are reunited can you all make your escape together. It’s standard jumping, timing and pressing switch puzzles for the most part, with a few extra mechanics thrown in courtesy of your magical mouse friend. The controls default to a Japanese format (zxcv and arrows instead of wasd), which is something that will forever irk me, but that’s a personal gripe and they can be rebound so it’s not worth losing sleep over. All in all, it’s not the most original of concepts (outside the quirky character choices) but still a fun title that will keep you occupied for a while.

Noitu Love 2: Devolution by Joakim Sandberg recently made its début on Steam but Desura and DRM free windows versions are also available in the bundle. It’s a fast-paced, pixel art styled, old-school beat-em-up/platformer. To me, it feels a lot like the old Rocket Knight/Sparkster titles, and that’s no bad thing. You play Xoda Rap, a ponytailed ninja girl in a green hoodie and star of the Peacekeepers League. Your city comes under attack by a robot army and you set off to defeat its leader, Darnicus Damnation. Utilising a variety of ninja abilities you must fight through swathes of enemies, interrupted periodically to fight a boss. The bosses range from robotic dragons to giant armed steam trains to rival ninjas and are all a lot of fun to fight, each requiring different techniques to effectively dispatch. Learning the techniques necessary is half the fun and you’ll routinely get your ass handed to you until you figure out the ropes of each fight. Alas, the game is disappointingly short for a single play through, but harder game modes and scoreboards for each level make for extra replay value for those who want to be challenged or who are more competitive. As part of an extremely affordable bundle though, it’s very hard to find fault with.

Last but not least, Auditorium by Cipher Prime Studios, available for both windows and mac in Steam and DRM free versions as well as a Desura version. A phenomenally simplistic game, you start with a stream of coloured particles, and by placing a few orbs which exert a force on particles passing nearby attempt to direct the particles to the destination of corresponding colour. Each time a particle hits its goal it will play a note. If the goal is hit frequently enough a small looping tune will form. If all the goals are hit enough the full piece of music will be revealed. It’s tremendously pretty, but often frustratingly hard. On more than a few occasions I’ve finished levels by waving the force fields around fast enough, but it does leave one with the feeling of “that was totally not how I was supposed to do that”. A nice casual game, it’s great as part of this bundle, but lacking any real depth I feel it might struggle to stand alone.

As an extra bonus the updated alpha version of Joakim Sandberg’s Iconoclasts has been included. As an alpha, it’s probably pretty unfair to critique it, so I’ll let you enjoy it as the surprise bonus content that it is.

For the asking price (£3.21 minimum at time of writing) this is an astonishingly good value bundle. Noitu Love 2 alone typically retails for £3.99 and would be more than worth it. To add to it a very solid puzzle game and a couple of artistic casual games makes it a must-have. Do yourself a favour and buy the Indie Royale June Bug Bundle.

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