Transistor, Hohokum and Galak-Z: The Dimensional all feature lush graphics drawing on illustration and manga traditions.
Every year the Electronic Entertainment Expo is dominated by giant booths showcasing big games from big companies. It's overwhelming, but between the aisles and in the quiet corners you can find hidden gems; indie games that are smaller, cheaper, and less bombastic than your average Microsoft game – I'm looking at you, Halo – yet far more interesting. After only a few days at E3, we've already found a ton of great indie games coming next year to PlayStation 4 that you should know about.
If you only pay attention to one indie game in 2014, make it Transistor. It's the sophomore effort of SuperGiant Games, them who developed the critically-acclaimed Bastion back in 2011. But while Transistor's lush isometric world and mysterious plot seem ripped straight from its predecessor, the similarities end there: Transistor sports a unique turn-based combat system that gives you a choice between battling enemy robots in real time or freezing time to issue orders and cut down multiple enemies in a flash.
The only drawback is that after any strategic time-freeze you have to wait a few moments before attacking again, a limitation of the sentient electric sword that lends strength to your cause and his name to the game. Transistor is a weapon that channels the voices of the dea; it's found by Red, a mute former singer on the run from a mysterious foe called The Process. Throughout the game she'll imbue Transistor with the souls of the dead to gain new abilities, and I can't wait to play more of the game when it comes out next year.
Hohokum is a brightly-coloured 2D game that basically asks you to fly around having fun and listening to music. You control the Long Mover, a thin snake-like creature with a single eye and a long, rainbow-colored body. Every world you visit has different challenges and a unique aesthetic; the level I played at E3 looked like nothing so much as a series of cartoonish floating stone huts straight out of a Dr. Seuss picture book.
I never quite figured out what I was supposed to be doing, either – I spent half an hour zooming around the level picking up villagers and ferrying them to pick up dead trees and plant them on floating hills near the top of the level. Each time I planted a tree the villager would leap off and start flying a kite, but even after delivering six villagers to the kite-flying green I couldn't seem to solve the level. It didn't matter; I had a ton of fun gallivanting around the sky and listening to a soothing soundtrack that dynamically changed every time I changed something in the world.
Galak-Z: The Dimensional
Brightly-coloured space combat straight out of an '80s anime helps Galak-Z stand out from the crowd of dreary post-apocalyptic manshoots cluttering up the E3 hall. This open-world space shooter comes to PlayStation 4 in 2014 courtesy of 17-Bit Studios, the team who developed Skulls of the Shogun exclusively for Microsoft.
Despite the common parent, Galak-Z couldn't play more differently than the turn-based strategy of its predecessor; this game challenges you to beat high-level A.I. in ship-to-ship dogfights using stealth, trickery and a metric ton of explosive armament. Players pick a ship and load up on machine guns, lock-on missiles or other weapons to do battle with enemy ships among asteroid fields and lush animated nebulae.
17-bit has also partnered with Cyntient, a software developer that specializes in artificial intelligence, to fill Galak-Z with enemies that cooperate with each other and adapt to your tactics. Realistic A.I. behavior is an exciting goal rarely achieved in modern games, making Galak-Z one of the most intriguing indie games at E3 2013.