Best of 2011!
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A.R.E.S.: Extinction AgendaA.R.E.S.: Extinction Agenda is a new platform shooter from Extend Studio that's heavy on the fantastic sci-fi art as well as the action. Its gameplay is reminiscent of classic sidescrolling arcade shooters mixed with a little modern-knowhow and Metroidvania-style level design and progression. While it may feel old school in concept, the game is anything but outdated, and the heavy dose of action and exploration you'll receive will keep you in a trance for many hours.

AztakaBeing born to a destiny of studying at the local Aztec temple isn't the most exciting of fates. But when a sacred artifact is stolen, a grand adventure quickly ensues. Our hero Huitzilo is up for the job in Aztaka, an indie action/RPG platform game from Citeremis.

CapsizedA space ship. An explosion. An escape pod. A crash. It's just you and an alien planet replete with jungle creatures who aggressively attack you, lone guy in a well-equipped spacesuit. Capsized drops you in an unfamiliar world and gives you just a few tools to survive. Fortunately, a grappling hook and a number of guns happens to be amongst these tools, the former of which is handy not only for swinging around and pulling yourself up ledges, but for grabbing and moving obstacles. Other than that, you really have to rely on your wits in this gorgeously-illustrated but challenging physics/action game.

Deepak Fights RobotsRobots, man. They're the worst. Always pulling you out of your workplace and forcing you to battle them in a series of psychedelic levels, blowing you up, killing your cows. It's ridiculous. Luckily, we have Deepak, representing the everyman in the daily struggle against robo-baddies. Deepak Fights Robots, from Run-Man: Race Around the World creator Tom Sennett, is loaded with mind-bending levels, quick arcade action, more colors than a rainbow drowning in a crayon factory.

Dino Run SEThe first time I saw my velociraptor avatar trying desperately to outrun the scary wall of doom, I was completely sold. Three years have passed since the release of that Pixeljam racing platformer, and I find myself returning to its charms again and again. However, with time comes change, modification, upgrading, evolution. So is the potent rationale for the release of Dino Run: SE... And from what I've seen so far, it won't be going extinct from my hard drive any time soon.

FrostbiteCold where you live? Hot? Doesn't matter! Running around in the icy winter is always cozyĆ³ wait, what? No, the opposite of that! Frostbite is an adventure platform game that arms you with the barest essentials and sends you out across the frozen lands, searching for your missing wife. Strange thing is, ghosts and dead bodies are everywhere, but there are no clues as to why. While you figure out that mystery, duck into caves and the like to stay out of the cold, and always warm yourself at fires so you don't die of hypothermia. Keep yourself fed and rested, don't waste ammo, and you might just survive long enough to get to the bottom of all these mysteries!

IconoclastsAnother tragically abandoned game from sidescrolling action platform virtuoso Joakim Sandberg (a.k.a. Konjak, creator of Noitu Love and Legend of Princess), this one follows a similar set-up as the similarly abandoned Ivory Springs. Climb across some seriously good-looking terrain as you dispatch enemies with your smart-targeting cannon. Charge a blast and fire to deal extra damage or clear rocks out of the way, and be on the lookout for materials contained in treasure chests. It's the same Mega Man-ish/Metroidvania sort of game we love to devour, and this project shows just how alive and kicking the genre is.

Infernal EdgeEpically epic arcade shooting game, anyone? This deliciously retro release from Lazy Brain Games is packed with action, including dodging rotating blades, shooting enemies all over the place, using a grappling hook, and climbing through laser barriers like it ain't no thing. The game is all about climbing through the fiery Industrial Space Station LV-427 as you try to take it back from the evil Unicus. A high-adrenaline game that's both challenging and crazy amounts of fun to play, even when you die over and over again.

It Belongs in an Ancient RuinAnother fine game from a group of DigiPen students, this tidy little title borrows elements from several retro games as well as a little character you might have heard of named Indiana Jones. Stealing artifacts is the name of the game, and to do that, you'll need to hotfoot it to avoid lights, hide in plants to sneak around guards, swing from hooks to cross gaps, and generally be a really awesome artifact thief. Grab the loot, head out through the basement, and you're good for the next level!

MoonwalkA beautiful, imaginative game that casts you as a space adventurer lost in a field of tiny moons and planets. Circle the spheres to find a missing artifact piece, then bring it back to your ship to install it and proceed to the next level. No artifact in sight? Jump to another orbiting moon, that should help. Can't see one? Hold [tab] to zoom out, then wait for orbits to synchronize and take your leap. You can even pick up and throw certain objects, converse with a rare inhabitant or two, and deal with simple enemies. A very basic sort of game that champions creativity and exploration above all.

NightSkyReady for another game of ambiance and intrigue from Nifflas? NightSky is the latest release from the designer/artist known for creating enchanting atmospheric settings in his games, and this one certainly doesn't disappoint. It's simpler and more streamlined than Knytt Stories, but there's no shortage of challenge or variety to be had!

Pixel Force: HaloFrom Eric Ruth, who previously demade DJ Hero and Left 4 Dead into 8-bit games, comes a delightfully NES-styled sidescroller modeled after Halo. Pixel Force: Halo plays like an old school Contra game, handing you a few guns and a few power-ups to dispatch waves of enemies that bumble back and forth inside 2D stages. Everything eerily mirrors Halo: Combat Evolved, right down to the end of level bosses and events that occur in gameplay. A superb demake that will please anyone, not just Halo fans!

ProunAn arcade racer with an artistic style you'd have to look far and wide in the indie gaming realm to match. Proun puts you in control of a ball racing against other balls down a wire. You can move around this wire, rotating the world as you do, to keep your path free and clear of dastardly geometric obstacles. The game is mostly about memorizing track patterns and working with your reflexes to refine your times, but it's hard to talk about the game without gushing over its beautiful visuals. I mean, look at that screenshot! Look at the other screenshots! It's like a playable painting! Proun also sports multiplayer splitscreen, online highscores, unlockable speeds, several tracks, and modding tools that help you create your own levels. Note: Proun is released on a pay what you want model, meaning you can even get the full game for free. If you give some cash, though, you'll walk away with a bonus track!

QuestlingWhen The Lost Vikings meets Lemmings, many awesome things occur. One of those thing is Questling, a game by flyboy created for Ludum Dare 20. Place markers on the screen to guide three characters through the dangerous dungeons above. Make them jump when they need to jump, make them disarm traps, pause and wait, or use their special abilities, all with a few simple commands. Each character can do something different, making each level an exercise in teamwork. Some of the puzzles require more timing than cranial calorie burning, but the concept is solid and more is on the way!

Sake Express Pro WrestlingPunch a panda, collect a power-up, explode some orbs, keep fighting. This insane game from mooosh plays like a cross between a shooter and some sort of mad arcade wrestling simulation. Press a mouse button to punch, then swipe to actually deal damage to the pandas. Keep your dukes swinging to stay alive, and pick up orbs to unleash quick powers that help you stay alive. Things get hectic after just a few minutes, not to mention wacky, but it's an experience you won't be able to digest without grinning like a maniac!

Station 37A game of bravery, rescue, and plenty of fire-related action! This 2D platformer tasks you with rescuing civilians from burning buildings one helpless human at a time. Use your fire extinguisher to put out flames in your path and your axe to remove obstacles impeding your progress. When you find a person, carry him/her back to the chief, then head back into the fiery building to do it some more! A short game that can get a bit repetitive, but the concept is different and it's a lot of fun to play the wonderful rescuing hero!

Super Space RubbishYou like Dino Run SE, right? And Nanotube? Well, imagine a game that's nothing like either of those games but co-created by the makers of each. Imagining that? Now stop and check out Super Space Rubbish, a game that satisfies the wildest fantasies you've had since starting this review, and does so with a fantastic retro style. Super Space Rubbish looks a lot like the classic Asteroids game on the surface, but really it's a mining/upgrading sort of experience where you customize your ship using materials extracted from asteroids smashed with your turret.

Team Fortress ArcadeIt's Team Fortress 2, old school beat-em-up style! Built by Eric Ruth using the characters, attacks, and some sound effects from the multiplayer first person shooter Team Fortress 2, this arcade demake plays like an arcade game of yore. Choose your character and fight through a series of stages with up to three friends. Each class has its own strengths and weaknesses, just like in the "big" game, only now, attacks have been re-worked to fit the constraints of a sidescrolling world. If you're familiar with TF2, you'll be surprised how accurate each character's moves are and how much of the game ended up in the demake, even the strong emphasis on teamwork!

The Indie Game LegendAre you a devout follower of the indie gaming scene? Do you enjoy retro games that let you shoot a lot of things, upgrade things, and rescue people who wish you could meet in real life? The Indie Game Legend is what you desire! Similar to a few classic NES games such as The Legend of Zelda and The Guardian Legend, pick up your weapons and fight your way through 125 rooms in this action/RPG, your lofty goal being to rescue the kidnapped indie developers. Sure, it's a lot more fun if you get all of the inside jokes and such, but even if you don't, just pretend Derek Yu is some guy whose calculator you borrowed in class and never gave it back.

UnepicPlaying a good old real-life RPG with your pals is great, but when you go to the bathroom, everything goes dark. Lighting your lighter you realize you're in a dungeon. Wandering through the passageways, you realize you're in a Castlevania-like sidescrolling action game. It'd be awesome if you were scared for your life! Earn experience to improve your stats and find tons of items and weapons to stash in your inventory. Even though this is just a pre-release demo, there's a lot of stuff to be done. The final product will no doubt be a truly un-unepic game! (Warning: Contains some harsh language.)

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