Igneous – the indie game you really need to play

05Apr10

The DigiPen Institute of Technology is kind of like to game designers what Stanford is to computer scientists: other colleges make them, but these guys make the best. It was actually a team of students from DigiPen that made Narbacular Drop, the game that caught the attention of Valve, got the kids hired, and served as the spiritual successor to Portal. Yeah, that Portal. The students here know what they’re doing.

Well, this year DigiPen’s Student Showcase has produced another winner: Igneous. It’s a short-but-sweet high-speed platformer where you control a cubic idol-type thing and have to make your way throw a very active volcano, avoiding lava, pits, and the like. The only controls are to maneuver your idol directionally and make him jump, but he’s capable of jumping even on horizontal surfaces, so you can pull off some impressive wall jumps if you know what you’re doing.

It might be because my college schedule has left me without a lot of time to play games of late, but this was the most fun I’ve had from a game in a little while. It’s fast-paced, and demands your complete attention as you meander around collapsing pillars and giant lasers (don’t ask) at Mach 1. The visuals are quite stunning too, especially when you consider that the entire game was coded from scratch: no pre-built engine here. (The intense tiki music really adds to the atmosphere, too.)

When I was playing Igneous, I couldn’t help but think that this is what a Sonic the Hedgehog game is supposed to be: going at warp speed, with obstacles appearing nary a second before you have to dodge the, over and over, with one mistake sending you plummeting to your death. Obviously Sonic has not made the transition to 3D very gracefully; the faithful among us have been waiting for over a decade now for a 3D Sonic game that didn’t… well, suck, and so far have been disappointed. It’s a long shot, but when the kids who made Igneous get hired by a big game company (and they will get hired, I have no doubt about that), I have this secret hope that it’s Sonic Team that does it. Poor bastards could use the fresh blood.

The only downside to Igneous is that you need an Xbox 360 USB controller to really get the most out of it. You can play it on your keyboard, but it’s just not the same, and my cheapo Logitech USB controller wasn’t accepted. If you’ve got one lying around though, you owe it to yourself to spend the half-hour or so it will take to beat this game. Windows only.

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