Indie Watch- Charles Barkley + RPG = love

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The Great B-Ball Purge of 2041, a day so painful to some that it is referred to only as the “B-Ballnacht”. Thousands upon thousands of the world’s greatest ballers were massacred in a swath of violence and sports bigotry as the game was outlawed worldwide. The reason: the Chaos Dunk, a jam so powerful its mere existence threatens the balance of chaos and order. Among the few ballers and fans that survived the basketball genocide was Charles Barkley, the man capable of performing the “Verboten Jam”…

Flash forward 12 years to the post-cyberpocalyptic ruins of Neo New York, 2053. A Chaos Dunk rocks the island of Manhattan, killing 15 million. When the finger is put on the aging Charles Barkley, he must evade the capture of the B-Ball Removal Department, led by former friend and baller Michael Jordan, and disappear into the dangerous underground of the post-cyberpocalypse to clear his name and find out the mysterious truth behind the Chaos Dunk. Joined by allies along the way, including his son Hoopz, Barkley must face the dangers of a life he thought he gave up a long time ago and discover the secrets behind the terrorist organization B.L.O.O.D.M.O.S.E.S.

A tale of zaubers, b-balls, and atonement; brave dangers unheard of, face spectacular challenges that even the greatest ballers could not overcome, and maybe… just maybe… redeem basketball once and for all.

From that description, you’d expect a game continuing the internet’s tradition of absurdist humor… and you’d be half right. But what sets aside Barkley’s Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden is its entirely deadpan, nearly cliched Japanese RPG delivery. While you’ll be doing things as absurd as searching for “manufacted jamicite,” fighting a surgeon who fufills the wishes of the furry community by turning people into animals, and running away from the anti-B-Ball authorities, you’ll never hear genre-savvy characters remark on the inaneness of the situation. Rather, they take the world entirely seriously, as Barkley comes to terms with the loss of his wife, and Cyberdwarf deals with the intolerance of a society that can’t handle a person with skin made of basketballs. This juxtaposition is quite satisfying, and makes for a far more hilarious experience than most run of the mill internet humor. Add in decent writing, a turn-based battle system that’s better than a lot of commercial releases, tight dungeon design, and excellent music, and you’ve got a game good enough to distract me from Crackdown and Call of Duty 4. Oh, and it’s free.

Download the game here.

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Indie Watch- Advance Wars Meets Pool? I’m in Love.

You will not sell a publisher on a title unless the marketing weasels know how to pitch it to the retail channel. If it fits into an existing, established game category – an RTS, an FPS, an RPG, action adventure, driving, sports – then they know how to sell it. But if you’re doing something novel – forget it.

An industry that was once the most innovative and exciting artistic field on the planet has become a morass of drudgery and imitation

Thus saith Greg Costikyan, founder of Manifesto Games and one of the foremost advocates of independent game development. According to its proponents, indie games present a haven from the stultifying pressures of risk-averse publishers more interested in games-as-commodity than games-as-art. Free from corporate suits, marketing execs, and the epidemic of sequelitis that has afflicted the gaming industry for far too long, they claim that developers can realize their visions and lead the gaming industry into a new golden age of innovation and compelling new content.

That’s if you believe the hype.

But even if indie games frequently fall short of these lofty aspirations, they can usually be counted on to produce a quality product. Most of the time, they operate like PC’s Xbox Live Arcade or PlayStation Network- offering smaller, less technically accomplished games with free demos and cheap prices, and low system requirements to boot. In addition to the wildly experimental games, these outlets also serve traditional markets now all but abandoned by the big corporations. Here, the 4X and Turn-Based Strategy genres never died; here, point-and-click adventure games flourish; here resides many throwbacks to the days of 16-bit RPGs.

Despite producing some compelling, if fairly niche, products, this platform has been almost completely ignored by the gaming media. We here at StuffWeLike.com hope to fill this void in a new, hopefully regular feature called Indie Watch, where we point you towards some of the best games the field has to offer.

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Today’s featured game, called Ballistic Wars, is an odd amalgam of turn-based strategy, pool, and puzzle gameplay. So odd, in fact, that I’m not even going to try to describe it; it’s best that you experience it for yourself. While it’s not the best game in the world, it’s worth the download for the novelty alone. Check it out here.