Midnight City brings an enjoyably off-kilter games lineup to E3 2014

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Midnight City skipped the flash and fanfare of E3 2014’s show floor in favor of an evening “Media Indie Exchange” event on the posh rooftop of a residential skyscraper in downtown Los Angeles. The indie publisher’s games weren’t the only ones in attendance, but the DIY team carved out a corner for itself, then proceeded to fill the space with cheering, jeering onlookers. They mostly gathered around Videoball, a competitive game that plays like a cross between air hockey and that old Atari 2600 title, Combat.

That’s just one of the games we checked out in the publisher’s E3 lineup for this year. Here’s a closer look at what’s coming up from Midnight City in the months ahead.

Organic Panic

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Let’s start with the elevator pitch for this one: Organic Panic is a physics-based 2D puzzler that pits the fruits & vegetables forces of good against an army of rotten, weaponized meats and cheeses. Once you get past the completely bananas pitch (pun definitely intended), you find a sharp, if unfinished game behind it. 

At its heart, Organic Panic is a level-based puzzle game that tasks players with guiding a variety of fruits and vegetables, each with different abilities, to a map’s exit location. We tried out Cherry, who wields the power of Earth to spit out a stream of whatever surface he’s standing on, and Kiwi, a Water-focused swimmer that uses his H2O jetstream to push around enemies and fill containers. There are others too, like the fire-spitting Carrot and the gravity-altering coconut. Things get a little weird.

It all works thanks to a polished physics engine that offers open-ended solutions to most challenges. Each fruit/veggie’s power is limited by a magic meter that only fills when you collect shining orbs. Meanwhile, an assortment of power-ups — speed boosters, invincibility, and the like — allow for even more strategic puzzle-solving. The whole thing ties together around a colorful, almost Angry Birds-esque aesthetic, though with a slightly more subversive sense of humor. The game is unfinished now, having launch on Steam Early Access back in May. You can check it out now for $10.

Slender: The Arrival

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Like Gone HomeSlender: The Arrival is a previously released PC game that’s coming to consoles, compliments of Midnight City. Release dates aren’t set yet, but we should hear more about the publisher’s plans soon.

Slender comes from indie dev Marble Hornets, turning the Internet-spawned Slender Man urban legend into a survival horror games that sends players off to explore a series of abandoned spaces while the mysterious, black-suited figure gives pursuit. As you explore deeper into each level, armed only with a camcorder that helps alert you to the Slender Man’s presence, more of the story unfurls itself. Finding bits and pieces that flesh out the narrative is a double-edged sword, however, as every discovery only ups the intensity of the Slender Man’s pursuit.

PC gamers can check out Slender: The Arrival right now, and the console release is expect to follow closer to the final months of the year. Given the subject matter, a Halloween-ish timeframe seems like a safe bet.

Videoball

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Action Button Entertainment’s Videoball has its eye on popular party games like Towerfall and Samurai Gunn. It’s a minimalistic evolution of Pong, with players competing to reach a point target by launching the titular ball into the opposing team’s net. You manipulate the ball by firing projectiles at it; all players can shoot, though different levels of charge — there are three in all — have differing effects. The quick shot level one projectile is great for disrupting opponents and the ball’s momentum; a level two shot is slow and larger, but it shoves the ball around much more effectively; finally the slow-moving level three shot halts a moving ball dead and sends it sailing. There’s also a fourth charge level that spawns a temporary blocker right in front of the player that creates it.

Players can tweak the settings for individual matches before they start, to play on different courses or with a varying number of balls (for example), but the basic rules remain the same: keep putting the ball into the opposing team’s goal until you have enough points to win. Videoball is frantic and exciting at its best moments, and the straightforward control scheme works well with the deceptively deep set of rules. This is a fun one… we just don’t yet know when it’s coming or which platforms it will be available on.

Krautscape

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Spawned from the minds of Mario von Rickenbach, Phil McMahon, and “contributors,” Krautscape is an unusual racing game built around transforming futurecars that turn into powered gliders with the press of a button. The track is more of a guideline than a requirement; certain modes require players to really stick close to the path that’s been laid out, but there’s nothing to stop someone from, say, avoiding an obstacle by flying off the edge of the track and into open space. The lack of in-air thrusters always keeps the action anchored to the track, however, since that’s the only way to pick up speed.

Krautscape has a couple of different modes, including Snake, in which players earn points for “building” new sections of track as they cross each checkpoint first; Ping Pong, a multi-lap race in which the track fills in as racers reach a set end point; and Collector, a mode that takes full advantage of Krautscape‘s mobility as it tasks players with soaring off the side of the track to grab floating cubes, then get back to the road to lock in the points they’ve earned.

Krautscape is out now on Steam via Early Access; you can grab it for $8.

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