Challenging Indie Games (Part 2) thumbnail

Challenging Indie Games (Part 2)

8 tough single player and co-op indies

A.J. Maciejewski

Written by for Rapid Fire Reviews on

If you're looking for a challenge then here are 8 recent indie games that can be quite tricky to master. Try not to smash your controller!

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Radical Rabbit Stew Review Xbox One ★★★★☆

Here's a stage-based practical puzzle game featuring distinct gameplay and cool boss fights so let's stir the pot and make some stew. v1d30chumz 3-237-29-69

Radical Rabbit Stew screenshot
Whacking these bunnies into their pots is trickier than it looks

Radical Rabbit Stew is a rather simple game at its core as you hit bunnies with spoons which makes them fly away from you. The goal of each stage is to place all of the rabbits into pots which can be tricky, especially when you factor in all of the gameplay complexities that get added throughout the campaign. For example, you'll utilize springs that change rabbits' direction, acquire a large spoon that wakes up fat bunnies, and you'll have to fling yourself over gaps at times, too. On top of this, you'll encounter bosses that are very challenging and great fun to master. I also love the graphics which are pixel-perfect and feature silly animations such as post-level dances. Oh, and you can complete stages while trying to obtain hard-to-reach coins which adds some much-needed replay value to the brief campaign.

When it comes to arcade-style puzzle games, few reach the heights of Radical Rabbit Stew. It'll make you hop with delight.

Radical Rabbit Stew gameplay video →

1993 Shenandoah Review Switch ★★★☆☆

When gamers think of classic challenging genres, shmups tend to come to mind so here's a retro-inspired shooter that's pretty fun.

1993 Shenandoah screenshot
1993 Shenandoah is retro though-and-through, especially its difficulty

1993 Shenandoah is an old-school shoot 'em up that features a nifty story as well as an interesting campaign structure where you can replay levels for more currency. The story involves taking on the corrupt Colonel Nestor and reclaiming a powerful device that he stole. As you progress through the lengthy and often grueling stages, you'll earn cash that you can spend on more ships and weapons as well as use it to upgrade your currently owned ships and arsenal. Although I found it extremely satisfying to customize and upgrade my armory only to watch my ship deploy a vast array of shots, I couldn't help but feel that the core gameplay is a little too derivative. Thankfully, there's 4 player co-op support which adds some value and you can rotate your shield which is pretty innovative.

It may be a mostly standard shmup but 1993 Shenandoah definitely offers some unique components that help make it stand out.

1993 Shenandoah gameplay video → More shoot 'em ups

Neon Abyss Review Xbox One ★★★★☆

For whatever reason, roguelike twin-stick shooters are flooding every digital marketplace so is Neon Abyss worth playing?

Neon Abyss screenshot
I'm sure you've already played dozens of similar games

Yes, Neon Abyss is yet another roguelike twin-stick shooter but it is a bit different in that it has Metroidvania elements and its gameplay is similar to a 2D run 'n' gun platformer as opposed to the standard overhead view. Anyway, you work your way through various maps in search of each level's boss and along the way, you can discover all sorts of goodies that'll help you in your adventure. For example, bombs can harm enemies as well as explode weak walls, keys can unlock doors and treasure chests, and shields will increase the amount of damage that you can sustain. Throw in silly mini-games, accessory-style items that grant boosts, and an array of cool weapons and you're left with a rewarding and full-fledged roguelike shooter that's sure to provide at least a few hours of fun.

From its distinct and challenging bosses to its satisfying unlockables, Neon Abyss is a great roguelike twin-stick shooter.

Neon Abyss gameplay video → More roguelike twin-stick shooters

The Otterman Empire Review Switch ★★☆☆☆

Here's a third-person mission-based shooter that you can enjoy with up to 4 local players but is it any good? I otter know.

The Otterman Empire screenshot
These space otters sure mean business!

I've actually been looking forward to playing The Otterman Empire since I saw it unveiled last year. The concept of playing as a space otter while completing missions appealed to me but now that I played it, I must say that it's a rather underwhelming experience. The basic controls allow you to aim and shoot and you're also equipped with a jetpack. However, being able to actually do anything effectively will cause much frustration due to clunky controls and a general lack of direction. In some missions, I had no idea what I was supposed to do even after reading the confusing instructions. Sometimes, I'd perish and have no idea why while other times, I could easily find an exploit that made me master a stage without any effort. It's more fun with friends but it still doesn't quite fit the bill.

If The Otterman Empire had clearer objectives, tighter gameplay, and more player feedback then it would have been a very cool indie.

The Otterman Empire gameplay video →

REZ PLZ Review Switch ★★★☆☆

If you enjoy co-op games with a friend and want to play a new puzzle platforming adventure then REZ PLZ is here to provide some fun.

REZ PLZ screenshot
There's no stopping these wide-eyed brothers

REZ PLZ stars 2 brothers who you and a friend control. You can play it solo but it's much more enjoyable with a chum. Anyway, you basically traverse puzzle-filled levels while trying to figure out how to progress. You'll find yourself swinging from hooks, taking turns standing on buttons, and even purposely perishing so your partner can use your corpse as a platform. There are lots of mechanics and hazards throughout and the game's name comes from the fact that you can resurrect each other but you will need a blue crystal in order to do so. Overall, I had fun mastering each stage with my gaming pal although the gameplay is frequently frustrating. Learning how to jump and generally move around effectively does take a lot of practice and once you master it, you're bound to still mess up.

When it comes to co-op puzzle platformers, REZ PLZ offers some fun mixed in with oodles of frustration so bring plenty of patience.

REZ PLZ gameplay video → More Switch Co-op Indie Games

#Funtime Review Xbox One ★★★☆☆

Twin-stick shooters have been around since the awesome Robotron from 1982 so does #Funtime live up to its name?

Funtime screenshot
Why did I include this screenshot from Geometry Wars?

From its visuals to its gameplay, #Funtime is an undeniable Geometry Wars clone. Although this initially put me off due to its apparent lack of originality, I ended up having quite a lot of fun, especially after I was introduced to its more unique gameplay mechanics. Aside from controlling your ship and aiming to shoot, you'll also have to change colour in order to move through coloured lasers and paint around similarly-coloured enemies to destroy them. Each level has a leaderboard which I enjoyed climbing but more substantially, there are various arcade-style modes that I found to be even more fun than the main campaign. Within these modes, you can earn cash to unlock upgrades and stuff, too. With all of that being said, I found that the camera doesn't do a good job of showing imminent danger. For example, off-screen enemies can fire super-fast projectiles at you and you may not even know that they're there.

#Funtime is a solid twin-stick shooter with plenty of modes and some cool mechanics but its awful camera can be downright maddening.

Funtime gameplay video → Similar game: Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions

Elden: Path of the Forgotten Review Switch ★★☆☆☆

Here we have an old-school top-down adventure game with combat that's inspired by the Souls franchise but is it worthwhile?

Elden: Path of the Forgotten screenshot
It definitely looks like an early '90s PC game but does it play like one?

Right off the bat, I was impressed with Elden: Path of the Forgotten's visual style as it reminded me of gaming in the early '90s on PC. Once I started playing it, the lack of direction made it clear that it's not messing around and that's something that I can appreciate, too. However, after clearing out waves of enemies while opening gates and activating magical seals, I started to get incredibly frustrated by the tedium of it all. On top of that, it's a rather glitchy and unrefined experience. For example, you'll often be surrounded by enemies in arenas but sometimes, an enemy or 2 will be just outside of the arena thus rendering them unreachable. You'll also get poisoned which makes the screen virtually indecipherable for an extended period of time. Who thought that was a good idea?

Playing Elden: Path of the Forgotten is an exercise in patience. If you can tolerate it then perhaps you deserve enlightenment.

Elden: Path of the Forgotten gameplay video → Let's Play Elden: Path of the Forgotten video →

Never Breakup Review Switch ★★★☆☆

If co-op games are your thing and you want something simple yet surprisingly challenging then here's Never Breakup.

Never Breakup screenshot
These goofballs would do a lot better if they weren't tied together

Last but not least, here's yet another tough co-op game. Never Breakup has you and a friend control spherical animals that are attached with a rope and the goal of each stage is to guide at least one into a bowl. Why do you have to do that? Who cares; it's a silly game. When we first started playing it, my gaming chum and I were confused by how to play it but after realising that we could anchor ourselves in place as well as shrink the rope between us, we began forming strategies to overcome each situation. From then on, the stages provided a mix of satisfying challenge and frustrating failures; the most annoying of which required us to time jumps perfectly and completely synchronously. Therefore, it can be quite a finicky game but one that also offers some goofy co-op fun.

Never Breakup may not be in the top echelon of co-op games but it's certainly a fun indie that'll make you and a pal laugh.

Never Breakup gameplay video → Similar game: Biped
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Gameplay video playlist for Challenging Indie Games (Part 2)
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