Every year at GDC we end up sprinting back and forth across San Francisco's Moscone Convention Center from one amazing talk or pre-arranged demo to another, trying to make it on time to each one, or at least not be embarrassingly late. We're running so fast that people start looking all red-shifted and wrong and we don't always get a chance to stop and chat with indie developers wandering the floor, laptops in hand. Fortunately, the annual MIX event (Media Indie Exchange) brings journalists and small, one- or two-person developer outfits together in the same room to mingle, drink beer, and play games without the need for appointments or athletics. It's a bit like speed dating as opposed to getting set up by a mutual friend.
Here are snap judgments on twenty of the unreleased games I played last night in various stages of development: betas, alphas or even epsilons. You can check them out for yourself as well as at the event's official website (opens in new tab) .(opens in new tab)
Escape Goat 2
The game that I'm keenest to start a relationship with. You play the part of a magic blue goat imprisoned for witchcraft, who must rescue his witch-sheep friends from a puzzle dungeon with the help of a mouse. The retro hand-drawn look is charming and the puzzles are nicely challenging, with the difficulty levels represented by harder-to-reach exits from each level.
Paradise Perfect Boat Rescue
This is a simplistic passenger ferry game. Players have to get Darwinia-style passengers from one island to another, struggling against the realistic wave physics which threatens to scuttle your ship. Also features bizarro quotes and island names.
A strange stunt-driving game. It looks like a swank, futuristic racing game with genuinely impressive graphics, but it plays like Tony Hawks or Burnout Revenge, with your car performing all sorts of tricks mid-air and on the track.(opens in new tab)
Dark Side of the Moon
Love's (opens in new tab) Eskil Steenberg is the developer behind this 2D RTS with a cute darkness mechanic. The design is reminiscent of N (opens in new tab) and the mechanics of Darwinia (opens in new tab) : two players control morphable units on the dark side of a planet that's stopped turning. It's heavy on the micro and has some nicely flexible and original unit types. Still very early in development.