IndieCade East 2014 just wrapped a weekend full of talks, panels, and workshops, but the show also included the excellent Indie Essentials exhibit that highlights the best of indie gaming, created in conjunction with the Museum of the Moving Image (MOMI).
It's a overview of the most interesting and important indie games over the last decade, and as an occasional indie gamer, I found plenty of great games that were new to me and worth checking out. And rather than the typical "walk and look" museum experience, the exhibit lets you sit down and play the games, with setups ranging from huge projector screens to arcade cabinets.
If you missed IndieCade East 2014, you can still check out the Indie Essentials Exhibit at the MOMI in Astoria, New York, running until March 2.
Killer Queen Arcade grabs your attention as soon as you enter the exhibit. The dual arcade cabinets let two teams work collaboratively against each other to either assassinate the queen, gather nectar, or retrieve the snail god. Killer Queen Arcade won the Developer's Choice Award at IndieCade 2013.
If Killer Queen Arcade encourages a raucous local multiplayer experience, Dear Esther is on the other end of the spectrum. It's a lonely, Myst-like experience, in which you explore an abandoned island while encountering pieces of the story from a letter read by the narrator.
Of course the Indie Essentials exhibit wouldn't be complete without Minecraft. Sure, you may already have a handful of systems capable of playing the breakout, open-world game, but here you get to play on a huge projector screen.
Dog Eat Dog is the only non-video game at the exhibit. It's a role-playing game that requires little more than dice and some chips, and it revolves around the conflict between a native population and an occupying force.
QWOP is a bizarre running game in which you control your character's thighs and calves using the Q, W, O, and P keys. It's a notoriously difficult game to control, but that is what makes it work. You're unlikely to go more than a few feet your first couple tries and falling is always hilariously awkward. If you want to give QWOP a spin, you don't have to travel to MOMI -- it's available to play right in your browser.
N starts off like a relatively simple platformer, but the levels get absurdly hard toward the end. The graphics have a minimalist charm, and the deaths are surprisingly violent for a glorified stick figure. This an easy level, but they get much, much harder.
Braid is one of my all-time favorite games, so it was no surprise to find it as part of the exhibit. It's a masterful mixture of difficult puzzles, gorgeous artwork, and a philosophical storyline that will leave you thinking of the game long beyond the end credits.
It only takes a few minute with The Path to realize it's a seriously creepy game. The unsettling soundtrack will keep you on edge as you're tasked with navigating a terrifying forest to find your grandmother.
Some of the most interesting exhibits are those that challenge what's typically considered a game. With Today I Die, your goal is to free the drowning girl, but you do so by rearranging words in a poem and dragging around other objects on the screen. It doesn't feel quite like any other game I've played before.
Quadrilateral Cowboy was the only unreleased game on display and it seems awfully promising. Most of the gameplay throughout the intro feels a bit like point-and-click adventure game, but as you progress you learn how to hack a virtual computer to defeat the security systems in your way.
Gone Home is a point-and-click adventure game where you search through an abandoned home to find clues as to what happened to your family. I only played for a few minutes, but there was a lot of personality in the game and it's on my "to buy" list.
Passage is technically a game, but it feels more like art. The only goal is to move your character through life, as you watch him marry, age, and eventually die. The whole thing is over in 5 minutes and it's an affecting experience.
I first played World of Goo on the Nintendo Wii and was immediately hooked. It's an endlessly fun puzzle game that involves building structures with goo, and if you missed it when it first came out, it's now available on both iOS and Android.
Kentucky Route Zero might have been my favorite "new to me" game at the exhibit. It's another point-and-click adventure game, but the fascinating art direction and the sense of strangeness that pervades the story stand out. The placard describes it as David Lynch-like and I'd have to agree.
If you missed IndieCade East 2014, you can still check out the Indie Essentials Exhibit at the at MOMI in Astoria, New York. The exhibit is running until March 2. There's more information about the exhibit and the games over at the Museum of the Moving Image's Web site.