Challenging Indie Games (Part 4)

Challenging Indie Games (Part 4)

Sneaking, summoning, shooting, and grabbing

A.J. Maciejewski

Written by for Rapid Fire Reviews on

Putting your gaming skills to the test can make for some rewarding moments so let me share 8 recent indies that are quite challenging.

Disjunction Review PlayStation 4 ★★★★☆

Although stealth games are mostly 3D nowadays, Disjunction takes the genre back to its roots with some truly clever mechanics.

Disjunction screenshot
Wherever I go, dead bodies always manage to pile up behind me

When I started playing Disjunction, I was immediately reminded of the old Metal Gear games and let me just say, its gameplay is so solid that it actually rivals Hideo Kojima's classics. Disjunction takes place in a futuristic New York City where you control 3 protagonists who have intertwining stories. The core gameplay takes place within overhead stages as you use an arsenal of nifty gadgets and weapons to sneak by or take out enemies. Sneaking around is quite tense and atmospheric and whenever you get caught, enemy guards will relentlessly gang up on you so thinking ahead and using your arsenal effectively are the keys to success. Whether you're distracting guards with smoke grenades, disabling cameras, or blasting your way through with a shotgun; you're bound to enjoy every moment.

Disjunction is one of the best indie games that I've played recently with its brilliant blend of story, stealth, and gadget-based combat.

Disjunction gameplay video → More video games set in New York City

Sword of the Necromancer Review PlayStation 4 ★★★☆☆

Recruiting monsters to fight alongside you is nothing new yet Sword of the Necromancer incorporates it in a cool roguelike setup.

Sword of the Necromancer screenshot
Which ones are mine again? Oh, right...

Sword of the Necromancer has you play as Tama who's on a quest to revive the priestess Koko back from the dead. Its gameplay loop basically involves heading out to the procedurally-generated dungeon and whenever you perish or get the option, you can return to the hub area where you can enhance and store gear as well as review your collectibles. What makes its gameplay unique is that whenever you slay a monster, you can resurrect it to fight alongside you. The thing is; you can only carry up to 4 weapons, accessories, or monsters with the titular blade taking up 1 spot so you're severely limited in your capacity to become overpowered. Although all of this seems cool, the gameplay is disappointingly typical and simplistic thus making its intriguing premise fall flat. It's definitely challenging at least.

As a dungeon-crawling roguelike, Sword of the Necromancer is quite predictable for the genre despite its clever resurrection mechanic.

Sword of the Necromancer gameplay video → More roguelikes

Crashlands Review Xbox One ★★★★☆

Trying to survive as you craft items and build structures usually makes for a satisfying formula but does Crashlands bring the goods?

Crashlands screenshot
I know; I'll turn this driftwood into an epic weapon!

In Crashlands, you control Flux Dabes whose ship crashes during a delivery after the evil alien Hewgodooko attacks it. You then have to survive while building things and dealing with alien life forms that can range from friendly to threatening. Thankfully, you're joined by a robot named JuiceBox and the dialogue throughout is quite funny. Anyway, collecting materials while warping around the map to build safe structures and craft powerful weapons, useful tools, and durable armour is a great deal of fun, especially when you're able to slay daunting aliens that caused you a lot of trouble earlier in your journey. Plus, exploring new environments and meeting the collection of quirky NPCs adds even more reward to your initially isolated adventure. Oh, and did I mention that you can play co-op with a friend?

Crashlands strikes the perfect balance between the unforgiving Don't Starve and the laidback Minecraft to create a fun survival game.

Crashlands gameplay video →

Crashnauts Review Switch ★★★☆☆

Multiplayer battle arena games can be a blast with friends if done right so let's lock and load and see if Crashnauts is worthwhile.

Crashnauts screenshot
Why can't we hug each other instead?

Crashnauts is a somewhat simple 2D arena shooter that you can play with up to 6 players. All you really do is run and jump around stages while shooting your currently equipped weapon to take out your adversaries. It's basic stuff that has been done a million times before yet there's a lot going for Crashnauts with its variety of customizable characters, intelligent AI players, and assortment of modes, weapons, and modifiers that make each match feel different. With that being said, the gameplay is incredibly frantic to the point where it's often hard to follow and there's not enough feedback whenever a player takes damage or bites the dust which causes a lot of needless confusion. On the plus side, you can crush players whenever you respawn if you aim and time it perfectly which is very cool.

Although Duck Game is still my go-to multiplayer arena shooter, Crashnauts is a solid entry in the genre with some nifty mechanics.

Crashnauts gameplay video → Similar game: Duck Game

Project Starship X Review PlayStation 4 ★★★★☆

Around this time last year, the shoot 'em up Project Starship released and it now has a sequel that's a huge step up from the original.

Project Starship X screenshot
This fellow doesn't look quite ready for space combat

I enjoyed my time with Project Starship despite its simplistic approach to the genre and I definitely wasn't expecting its sequel to be as fantastic as Project Starship X is. After choosing your pilot, you blast off in the hopes of mastering 5 randomly-assigned levels with 14 of them in total. The gameplay is typical of a fast-paced narrow vertical shmup as you shoot and dodge incoming projectiles but there are some truly unique mechanics in play such as the ability to dash to certain points in order to avoid hazards as well as collect items. There are also segments where you hop around in a frog machine which are quite tricky and there are oodles of gaming references throughout which is always a treat. Everything from its innovative power-ups to its sense of humour is spot-on for great shooting fun.

Project Starship X is a prime example of what happens when a developer puts a lot of effort and love into creating a stand-out sequel.

Project Starship X gameplay video → Project Starship Review

Zotrix Starglider Review Switch ★★☆☆☆

There have been a few Zotrix games over the years and Starglider is here to provide some co-op shmup action but is it any good?

Zotrix Starglider screenshot
Teaming up makes bullets fly everywhere

Zotrix Starglider is a barebones arcade shooter where you and a friend fend off encroaching enemies throughout multiple mostly empty stages. All you essentially do is move around as your ship automatically targets and shoots at nearby enemies which, let's face it, makes its gameplay exceptionally redundant right from the get-go. On the plus side, whenever you're close to your co-op partner, both ships fire huge clouds of projectiles in every direction which is fairly satisfying albeit rather overpowered. You can also "space dive" as you play which I think is supposed to be a way to dodge enemy fire but you really don't have to do it. There are power-ups, too, but when the gameplay is so simple and automated, they frankly aren't anywhere near as satisfying to collect as they are in similar games.

If you enjoy arcade shooters then Zotrix Starglider will make you want to play some classics from the '80s so you can have a better time.

Zotrix Starglider gameplay video → Zotrix Review

Ghost Grab 3000 Review Switch ★★★★☆

Indie takes on classic arcade formulas come in many varieties yet Ghost Grab 3000 is one of the more unique titles and it's a ton of fun.

Ghost Grab 3000 screenshot
Getting a full-stage chain is oh so satisfying

Speaking of classic arcade games, Ghost Grab 3000 feels like a long-lost score-chaser from the '90s yet it's unlike anything I've ever played before. You essentially control a little head with a grabby arm thing attached to it and the point of the gameplay is to attach to each enemy within the stage by having it pass through a line between you and the previous enemy that you tagged. This sounds simple but when you factor in a dash move that makes you invincible, explosive power-ups, permanent upgrades, and the fact that the line converts onscreen projectiles into energy, you're left with one intensely frantic arcade formula. In fact, it's so much fun that whenever I play it, I find it extremely difficult to put down so if you enjoy retro arcade games and want something different, I highly recommend it.

Ghost Grab 3000 is one of the best indie takes on classic arcade games out there. I simply can't recommend it enough for genre fans.

Ghost Grab 3000 gameplay video → More Arcade-style Console Games

Bonkies Review PlayStation 4 ★★★★☆

Just because a game is co-op, that doesn't mean it's easy so here's the impressively tricky and enjoyable Bonkies for up to 4 players.

Bonkies screenshot
Planet of the Apes is a lot less menacing than I remember...

Bonkies has you and your friends control monkeys with jetpacks as you grab heavy blocks and assemble them within goal outlines. Of course, this sounds easy-peasy but it surely isn't. The first step usually involves figuring out how the pieces fit together and if you fail that then you may as well start the level again because you're timed so recreating what you've built often isn't feasible. Anyway, the pieces are regularly so heavy that you can't lift them on your own so you'll have to figure out the best spots for you and a friend to latch onto before carrying objects to their destinations. If you grip in inadequate spots, you'll have a heck of a time trying to lift things. Plus, there's a lot of variety within the stages and you can master each one in under difficult par times which adds a good deal of replay value.

If you want to master a tough co-op game then Bonkies provides plenty of tricky levels that'll keep you and your chums entertained.

Bonkies gameplay video →
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