PAX has always been a place for finding high-grade indie-games worthy of talking about. The games are generally a mix of novel, innovative and fun with some prospect of them being close to completion. This year at PAX South 2016, I was able to wade through the dozens of independent games there and found a new game that has a good mixture of all three.
Invisigun Heroes is a mix of Bomberman and Hide-and-Seek. Give Bomberman a gun, make it 4-players and make all players invisible and you can immediately understand the game and easily imagine how chaotic things can get.
You’re not invisible all of the time and you aren’t impossible to be spotted at all times. Bump into a tree, people know where you are (kind of).
Walk onto a puddle of water and you leave a ripple behind, people know where you are (more than kind of, deadman).
But if you try to capitalize on knowing where someone may be, you have to shoot your weapon thus making yourself visible and easy to spot.
The game is remarkably flexible in accommodating a range of playstyles, and has been play-tested enough to know that people can vary in their levels of deviousness and recklessness and that those levels shift as a match progresses. Do you want to sit in one spot and wait for someone to make a mistake by exposing themselves at just the wrong time? Do you want to run all over the map and shoot in all directions hoping that you’ll get the blind hit? Do you want to bait out a shot from an opponent so they give away their location? Because of the invisibility mechanic, it adds a different magnitude of depth that a Bomberman game could never achieve.
That depth is augmented by the character’s that you get to pick which allow you to strengthen your chosen paradigm. Shoot to expose yourself and bait out a shot? Then use Iris to dash away from your old location and hopefully be in a location to catch someone else who’s made themselves vulnerable. Always have someone camping a location and never giving themselves away? Use Proteus to deploy a patrolling scanner that gives vision to small portion of the map, and maybe they’ll make a mistake and get caught by the drone along the way.
The different playstyles get scrubbed and rebalanced for every world that you play. Each world has its own visual style and hazards that affect the meta-game of each playstyle. The tutorial Forest World has puddles of water that ripple when disturbed, but more involved levels like the Big Brother surveillance-state levels have cameras that track the closest player near them. Each world gives different context clues that change up the meta-game and keep things feeling fresh as you and your friends try to adapt to each of the different elements and learn how they affect the game.
The game, as it stands now, lends itself to having two major strengths, it’s easy to pick up and no single power outperforms another yet. It has the simplicity to understand the basics in two sentences and the different player abilities are a simple one sentence explanation. With these and the simple controls of being a two button game (shoot and ability), pick-up-and-play with friends is easy whether they are traditionally gamers or not. The problem is that some characters powers seem underwhelming, though not making them irrelevant, and might require some rework and with the development of a few other characters in the works means that the balancing of the game is not set in stone yet. (Not like tiers are ever set in stone looking at Jigglypuff and Pikachu in Melee being competitive only after 10 years of play).
Personal Thoughts: I think that this is the kind of game that can be played for hours given your friends temperament as the levels of mind-games and tense moments mixed with excitement help keep the replay value high. Like a lot of party games, the barrier to entry should be low, the matches short and the penalty of death should be small. If you die, you shouldn’t have to sit out for a long time and the game should still be entertaining enough to keep those that died engaged and not bored enough to check their phones and hold up the game longer.
The game is being Kickstarted as we speak and I encourage those that like party-multiplayer games and Bomberman shenanigans to support this as I think it could be something worthwhile to have on Steam. One of the features being developed with the Kickstarter-funds is mix-and-match netplay so playing with a mix of couch co-op and internet-connected should make it easy to keep the slurs spewing and anxiety high as you keep playing.
With less than 2 weeks left (Feb 19) on the Kickstarter, it’s definitely one of the more polished games with a Kickstarter campaigns, if that gives any indication of being successfully completed in the near future.
And yes, I backed the game.
Kickstarter Page (Slated for Dec 2016)