31 Previews

Hands on with the PS4's next three promising indies

By Rob Crossley on Wednesday May 7th 2014 at 3:45 AM PDT

When Curve Studios revealed last week that Stealth Inc 2 would be a Wii U exclusive, part of the reason why it came as such a shock is the London based developer is so overtly pro-PlayStation right now.

Take for instance its Curve Digital publishing arm, which takes PC code like Proteus and Thomas Was Alone and ports it across Sony's whole suite of active games platforms, from PlayStation 3 to Vita to PS4.

This side of the business - offering smaller indie partners a streamlined publishing process where, essentially, Curve does all the heavy lifting - is not showing any signs of deceleration.

Jason Perkins, managing director at Curve, tells CVG that studios are now getting in touch asking to take part in the publishing service (previously it was Curve doing all the pitching).

He suggests that Curve, while making headlines for backing Nintendo's platform, sees further opportunities with the digital publishing programme.

Key to its popularity is the how it helps other developers focus on creating their games whilst leaving Curve to deal with the dirtier realities of publishing (specifically, the endless emails to legal and marketing).

During a recent showcase, CVG was invited to play the next three indie titles set to be published soon by Curve, and there was some real promising work on display.


Crunching Koalas, PS4/PS3/Vita/PC/Mac/Linux, from May 6, website

Mousecraft is a misleadingly unimaginative name for a game so full of bright ideas.

Actually, on paper the idea doesn't sound too inspired either: It's Tetris meets Lemmings. Fortunately the game begins to shine when you start to play it.

Close Close

It's a brilliantly playful puzzle title that gives you freedom to both ponder and experiment with ideas. Several mice are released on one side of an obstacle course and the only way to take them to the exit is by placing certain Tetris blocks along the path. Suddenly, Pajitnov's awkward L shapes and graceless Zs make for sturdy bridges and trusty stepping stones.

It was Picasso who said "good artists copy, great artists steal", and Mousecraft is a testament to that undeniable truth. Yes, may only be Tetris meets Lemmings, but at the same time, such a cross-pollination makes perfect sense when you play it for yourself.

Developer Crunching Koalas says Mousecraft is coming to PC, Mac, Linux, PS3, PS Vita and PS4 from July 8. Take a look at the trailer:

The Swapper

Facepalm Games, PS4/PS3/Vita/PC/Mac/Linux, from June 26, website

The Swapper is a dark and brooding adventure game that is distractingly beautiful and immensely intelligent. The shorthand description, "Super Metroid without the action", is both unfair and accurate.

Players tumble further down a rabbit hole in pursuit of answering the most basic questions - who am I? Why am I here? - while overcoming some ingenious puzzles blocking their path. The visual presentation, meanwhile, offers a fascinating blend of the real and the alien (many underground assets are, the developers tell me, assets built from photographs of rocks and dirt).

Puzzles and conundrums arise from the player's ability to replicate themselves and placing new replicates on certain platforms. Once created, the main character and its doppelgangers all move to the same controls simultaneously. Throw in various floor switches and out-of-reach areas, and pretty quickly this eerie adventure will leave players perplexed.

That's the core appeal of The Swapper. Its chthonically dark corridors are enthralling yet, once explored, become dumbfounding and seemingly impassable. If developer Facepalm Games manages to correctly pace the thinking and the discovery, this could be a landmark debut title.

The Swapper is already available on PC, Mac and Linux, and will release on PS3, Vita and PS4 from June 24.

Titan Attacks!

Puppygames, PS4/PS3/Vita/PC, from May 6, website

Released now on PlayStation platforms, Titan Attacks! is the complete edition of a game which was initially released on PC back in 2006 and has perpetually been updated ever since.

Developer PuppyGames has previously described it as a modern-day homage to Space Invaders, and the game is hinged on that same core principal. The final fifth of its 100 levels become brutally difficult, making it something that schmup purists will likely gravitate towards, while the RPG element of upgrading your ship gives you a good reason to keep the controller in your hands once each level is finished.

It's not a remarkable breakthrough game, no, but certainly something for 2D shooter fans to ponder. Titan Attacks is available on PC, PS4, PS Vita and PS3 now.