iFest puts Australian Indies into the Spotlight

ifest melbourne

With the Melbourne International Comedy Festival already well underway, The Atrium of Federation Square was abuzz with a different kind of entertainment this Sunday—a celebration of Melbourne’s flourishing indie game scene. iFest is a free festival for indie game developers that has been held since 2011 over various locations spanning Sydney, Canberra, Seattle and Lafayette. Open to the public, the event encourages anyone interested in games and gaming culture to try their hand at a sampling of locally developed titles, with the chance to vote for their favorites. Melbourne’s 2015 showcase consisted of approximately 22 games which covered a diverse range of themes and genres. The winning entry of this year’s indie game showcase was a title called Space Dust Racers. Aside from that, there were a number of other titles on display as well.

Originating from a Global Game Jam, Adversarial Manifesto is a humorous multiplayer title that challenges players to come up with profound, often nonsensical quotes. Freely available via the developer’s website and currently in open Beta, the game features a series of words cascading like a credits roll on either side of the screen from which players select a noun or adjective, and send it hurtling at their enemy. Coffee cups at the bottom of the screen represent health, and take damage from each successful hit. At the end of each round, a rating system assesses the winning player’s linguistic efforts with a score of 1 to 9. Adversarial Manifesto is presently aiming to get Greenlit on Steam, with a planned release on PC, Mac and Linux.

Birrim King and Braden Wentworth showcasing ‘Bzerk’

Fans of endless-runner style games were treated to Bzerk, a medieval style game which stars a viking berserker that must break through a series of blocks that obstruct his path. The aim of the game is to reach a high score through smashing blocks; dark blocks are worth one point, but gold blocks are worth ten points. Just shy of one month in development, Bzerk features a simple touch/swipe mechanic which is used to execute jumps over the mountainous landscapes and avoid the sporadic litter of spikes. Each time the viking takes a hit, his stamina (represented by a green bar) depletes a fraction, but this can be offset with a shield, which offers protection. Bzerk is expected for release on iOS and Windows mobile platforms.

Described as a ‘chooseable path adventure’, Tin Man Games‘ To Be or Not To Be was released on Steam in early February. At its core, the game is a modern day retelling of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and allows players to select to play as either Ophelia, Hamlet, or Hamlet’s ghosts. It is based on the book written by Canadian writer and programmer Ryan North, who is also known for his Dinosaur Comics webcomic. To Be or Not To Be has been in development for approximately one year and, as Tin Man Games puts it, the game offers “another way of looking at the text.” Tin Man Games’ Kamina Vincent shared her thoughts on the current Australian indie scene, which is “amazing” and has a “great sense of community.” To Be or Not To Be is currently available on Steam for $11.99 USD, and is also accessible from the App Store, Google Play Store, Amazon Store, or in print.

A charming little reaper named Ollie is the protagonist of Grim Balance, a 2D platformer developed by Little Reaper Games. The story takes off when Ollie is hired to work in Death’s mansion as the Grim Reaper’s assistant. Unfortunately, while Grim is on holiday, Ollie accidentally breaks a jar containing a huge collection of souls, causing them all to spill out into different realms. As a result, players must set out in search for the lost souls and convince them to return to the confines of their jars. Now in development for 1.5 years, Grim Balance is an adventure platform game that was created using Unity. Project lead Adam Robertson had this to say about the Australian indie game scene: “The community has blossomed, and people are taking risks-which is great for the industry.” Grim Balance is scheduled for an end of year release on PC. For more on Grim Balance, be sure to check out Little Reaper Games on Twitter and Facebook.

If you long for the days of Ghostbusters, then pixel-art platformer Help! I’m Haunted may be a game to watch out for. Inspired by the likes of Castlevania and Mega ManHelp! I’m Haunted puts players in control of a ghostbuster named Harry who, while avoiding a flurry of bats, ghosts, and other strange beasts, must weave his way through fifteen levels of haunting fun. A single player experience, gameplay offers traditional, ghost-ectoplasm collecting action, deeply ingrained interaction with the environments, and a proposed chiptune style soundtrack. The developers at Sky Pirate Studios plan to release Help I’m Haunted on mobile and eventually on PC depending on player interest and feedback. Their advice to all aspiring indie game developers is to “do it because you love it.”


Collateral is a futuristic action game with racing elements that is set within a cyber dystopian city. The game has been in development for 3.5 years, and started out as a student project. It borrows the minimap feature from Grand Theft Auto, and fuses elements from Crazy Taxi and The Fifth Element to create a quest-based game that sends players off completing various objectives. Collateral artist and animator Robert Mayne shared a few words of wisdom for those interested in making their own indie game: “Know what you want to do. Specialize.” You can keep in the loop about the latest Collateral developments by liking Dancing Dinosaur Games on Facebook and visiting their website.

Originally previewed in the July 2014 edition of The Indie Game Magazine, Shapeway is Paperbox Studio’s take on a puzzle platforming game. Developed through GameMaker, Shapeway tasks players with assisting a “little box dude” through a series of grid-like, editable levels. The purpose in each stage is to move the cube towards the door, which functions as the exit and gateway to the next stage. Since last year, the game has been refined and updated to include a reward system that boosts the game’s longevity, and features an improved level difficulty curve. Currently planned for a free release on Android and iOS devices, the team at Paperbox Studios is also looking into a possible build for PC. To stay up to date with Shapeway, you can follow Paperbox Studios on Twitter and like their Facebook page.


Bikram Dey and Peter Mandile of Paperbox Studios

The next upcoming iFest will be in Seattle on Sunday May 2 from 10:30am to 4:30pm at the Seattle Center Armory. You can register for the event via the official iFest website.

A keen retrogamer who grew up playing classics like Prince of Persia, Aladdin, and Diddy Kong Racing, Katrina believes that digital games are not just fun, but a great way to learn. These days she enjoys studying Japanese language acquisition, and designing her own games.