After enjoying some really good documentaries lately (that I have yet to write up), iTunes Genius recommended Indie Game, a film about three groups of game designers working on their games for XBox Live releases. One ‘group’ was really just Jonathan Blow, who made the breakout indie game, ‘Braid’. He talked a lot more about the success of that release rather than the new work he was doing. It provided a good comparison against the other two groups who were yet to make any big releases.
The second group was Phil Fish and his company, Polytron Corporation. Phil has been struggling to release his long awaited game Fez. His position was unique in that Fez was recognized very early on for its artwork, which brought in many fans. Unfortunately, this fan base became a curse in his eyes as their enthusiasm ebbed into exasperation at the long wait for release. I say unfortunately, because this pressure drove Phil very close to the edge by the time his game came out and eventually led to his leaving the game industry (to our detriment).
Fez is an awesome concept game that reminds one of the novel Flatland, by Edwin Abbott. In Fez, a 2D character awakens to the 3D nature of his world with a magic Fez. In addition to the brilliant concept and execution, Fez appears to be an entirely delightful trip into this world, devoid of ‘Boss fights’ and other standard game standards, instead, Fez is out to bring the world back together.
The third group was Team Meat, otherwise known as Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes. Like Phil, Ed and Tommy were being crushed by the pressure of bringing their game to XBox Live. In order to get a release date, they were forced to push much harder than they otherwise would to make the deadline. I really felt for Tommy, who was internalizing the stress the most. I think Ed had the benefit of his wife (and a pretty laid back general demeanor) to help soften the blow.
Team Meat’s game, Super Meat Boy, looks like an amazingly hard, but hilarious game in which the player is a skinless boy faced with a world of hurt. Meat Boy has to maneuver his way through a seemingly endless array of spinning saw blades and climb up and over obstacles by throwing himself forcefully into the walls, where he momentarily sticks before leaping again. Fortunately, Super Meat Boy does have an earlier release on Armour Games, which my son and I are dying to play.
(We don’t have an XBox or PC, so we’re doing the best we can.)
In the end, this was a really well done documentary, with gripping, real-life characters. We were really pulling for them all and wish we could support them by buying their finished products).
I give it a 9.5 (because only Nadia gets a perfect 10).