Two things the indie gaming community thrives on are experimentation and nostalgia. Some developers push their concepts so far the resulting experience is unlike anything we've ever seen. It may be fun, it may be frustrating, but we love it for the boundless innovation. Other developers take classic concepts and reinvent them for the modern player, resurrecting proven gaming mechanics for everyone to enjoy once again. The selection of games below illustrates both concepts quite well, with a few games blending both nostalgia and experimentation in equal parts. Gotta love indie game creators!
Harmony (Windows, 41.7MB, free) - A great retro-styled first person shooter made by Thomas van der Velden using the ZDoom game engine. Arm yourself with weapons to take out enemies as you work your way through almost a dozen massive areas, collecting passkeys and slowly opening more rooms to explore. Secrets are everywhere in this game, so keep your eyes peeled for anything that looks out of place. You'll also want to visit the options menu to config the controls to your liking. Eight years in the making (wow), the game is packed with original graphics, music, and level designs. Monsters were even molded from clay figures! An impressive accomplishment that's especially awesome for us gamers who grew up with the likes of Doom and Duke Nukem!
Featherweight (Windows, 15MB, free) - Another bite-sized release from adventure game creator Ben Chandler. You play as Thadd, a scout for a rebel group fighting against not-so-nice robots. One of your fellow non-robots has been captured by the machines, and he sets out to rescue her. The game is set up like most adventure games with a point-and-click interface, and any shortcomings in the puzzles or story are minimized because the game is so short. It's an excellent way to get a casual taste of adventuring without settling in for a marathon gaming session. Also check out some of Ben's other adventure games: Awakener, Heed, and Annie Android.
Dungeon (Windows, 3.5MB, free) (direct download) - A tough, minimalist platform game created by indie stars cactus and Mr. Podunkian. Run through the green dungeon, avoiding spikes, enemies, and falling into that flowing pool of lava (who keeps lava in their castle, anyway?). A story is pieced together at the top of the screen as you move through each area. Be ready to die multiple times in this game, but fortunately you respawn only a few screens back, so frustration never really kicks in.
Devil's Tuning Fork (Windows, 42.9MB, free) - Created by a group of DePaul University students, Devil's Tuning Fork is an experimental design that plays on your sense of visual space and sound. Trapped in an illusory world, you play a child who mysteriously falls into a coma. Other children have suffered the same fate, and as you wander around the pitch black world you must collect stuffed animals to help set them free. Using a tuning fork, you can emit sound waves to temporarily see your surroundings. Different kinds of sound waves can be used to see different things, all shown with a gorgeous water-like flowing motion. The controls are a little sticky, and sometimes it gets annoying being immersed in a completely dark space, but the atmosphere of intrigue is intense and you'll be compelled to see the game through.
Note: All games have been confirmed to run under Windows Vista and are virus-free. Mac users should try Boot Camp, Parallels, or CrossOver Games to play Windows titles, Linux users can use Wine. If you know of a great game we should feature, use the Submit link above to send it in!