by Matt Porter
reviewed on PC
One of the biggest shames in gaming is when you have an interesting idea let down by poor execution. This is exactly the problem that Team Indie from Brightside Games faces. It takes characters from ten different indie games, and attempts to combine all their best elements into one giant melting pot of a platformer. It sounds great as a concept, but ultimately, the game falls short of expectations.
The developer must have gone through some great lengths to gain access to the rights of each of the characters they use, which I applaud. Easily recognisable characters such as CommanderVideo from the BIT.Trip Runner, and Tim from Braid made it in. However there are also plenty of names that even the most hardcore of indie gamer may never have heard of. It is an odd mix, and I would be interested to see the list of characters that they got turned down for.
You start the game playing as Marvin the cat, who is being controlled by a guy in his bedroom outside of the game world. All Marvin can do is run and jump, which is fine for climbing up ledges and getting over gaps, but to get to the end of most levels you need a little more than that. That’s where the other indie characters come in. They are ‘hacked’ into the game, and bring their abilities with them. For example, Dustgirl from Dustforce has a double jump, the ability to wall run on surfaces that have leaves on it, and she can attack enemies with her broom.
How it works
Continuing the example, you might start the level as Dustgirl, going forth and clearing out enemies, perhaps reaching high areas and triggering a switch. Once you reach a certain point, the camera reverts to the start of the level where Marvin the cat is waiting. Now he can traverse through the level safely, having had all of the obstacles removed.
It’s an interesting way of doing things, but it does beg the question of why Marvin is even needed at all. He rarely contributes to actually solving the level, and is instead simply a spectator. He watches from the start as other characters do the dirty work for him, and then has the trivial task of getting to the end. It is fairly frustrating when you reach the exit to a level as one character, and then have to replay the same part to reach the exit as the cat.
I mentioned that the end task for Marvin is trivial, but that isn’t always the case. The platforming itself isn’t the worst I have ever experienced in a game, but it is nowhere near the best. You will get caught on random lips and fall to your doom, or you will try and grab onto something and it won’t register, having the same effect. It’s especially frustrating that you have to go all the way back to the most recent checkpoint, or even the start of the level when you fail, rather than the game plonking you back down nearby where you fell. Thankfully once you have completed a checkpoint as one character, you won’t have to do that bit again.
Or will you… Timing is one of the crucial elements of Team Indie, and it also happens to be the worst mechanic it has. As an example, if you know about the BIT.TRIP Runner games, you will know that CommanderVideo doesn’t stop for anything. He runs at a set pace, and has to jump, slide and bash his way to victory. In this game, it creates a timed element. He can slide under spiky flowers to get them to raise up, however you will have to time your latter run to coincide with this.
In Team Indie, sometimes you just have to wait. You might need a door to open up, or a platform to move your way, but it won’t be triggered until one of the previous characters has done their business. There is a fast forward time function, but this feels added on. It’s like the developers thought “hold on a minute, having your character do absolutely nothing for ten seconds or more is boring… we should fix that”. But instead of fixing it they have just included something to make the wait slightly shorter - it’s still boring.
Team Indie doesn’t stand up on its visuals either. They’re just… weird. All of the characters are recognisable from the various games, but there is something slightly off about them. Marvin is the only original character here, and he is entirely forgettable. I imagine the design process went something like: “What do the Internet kids like?” “Cats.” “Okay, he’s a cat.” The backgrounds are simple and repetitive, and the style itself isn’t particularly interesting. Thankfully the music is reasonably catchy and changes styles every now and then.
I was rooting for Team Indie, but it let me down. With each new character that became unlocked I was hoping that it would save things and bring a new exciting element, but it never did. At times it was entirely competent, but frustration was all too prevalent. It attempts to bring what made all of the games it borrows from great into an interesting crossover. But instead, I was left thinking: “Why aren’t I just playing the original games?”
Unique idea, good music.
What could’ve been a good crossover is just a mess of ideas, visually bland, poor platforming.