JohnLee Cooper’s 10 Indiepocalypse Picks


I first found Indiepocalypse because of its constantly eye-catching cover images showing up on the front page. I eventually realised it was something that even a humble, unknown dev such as I could submit to, and I did! It’s one of the only times I’ve ever been paid for my art and I also really appreciate that it helps fund and promote underprivileged and underrepresented (not about me anymore) artists! I think it’s an important cause and the issues are filled with the most cutting edge independent game makers around. You should support it by buying all the issues that these 10 amazing games i’m going to describe are from!

JohnLee_Erg is a Torontonian indie game developer and amateur musician, who makes a lot of free experimental games in his spare time. He’s mostly known for his narrative unity-bitsy hybrid piece And Other Stories, featured in Indiepocalypse issue #20. He’s also loosely involved with various other groups and projects and buzzwords: Paradise, Plundercore, Project Plus Playing, and whatever “Puzzsoft” is.

Polymute (Indiepocalypse #12)

By Linker

Linker’s games, better than any I’ve played since Cave Story, evoke a sense of being transported to a magical little world. In polymute it’s an isometric world full of funny little critters who you can mimic the shape of to solve various problems, while learning about the quaint, Alice In Wonderland-type society you find yourself in. Some of the puzzles get pretty interesting, and the finale of the game does something very clever with the core mechanics that I was absolutely not expecting. But the really amazing thing about it is just the sense of place. The world of Polymute is a place that evokes a wide range of emotions in me, but all safely contained in this pleasant fantasy bubble. This is the one to play if you wanna escape for a while, to a world where you can be any little guy you want to be.

Little Dronich Inside Putin’s Palace (Indiepocalypse x kuš!)

By Nikita Lavretski & thecatamites

Little Dronich is a hilarious and bizarre satirical flatgame adventure, beautifully illustrated and written real smarted up. I don’t know, I feel like I can’t really do justice to thecatamites writing with my own. He has a way of layering silliness with political or allegorical meaning in ways that are thought provoking without diminishing their silliness. In this game you play as an anthropomorphic drone helicopter secretly spying on Putin’s fabulous mansion. The mansion is full of ludicrous rooms, luxuriously decorated with cut and paste photos and drawings. Things progress from there and there are several endings. I honestly think a lot of the context went over my head but it was still a thoroughly enjoyable experience. This is the one to play if you want to have a laugh at the absurdity of modern international politics.

Mushroom Season (Indiepocalypse x kuš!)

By Lote Vilma & Ash K & Amber Hope

Mushroom Season is a gorgeous top down exploration game about picking mushrooms. It’s fairly simple, but I get a lot of joy out of just seeing hand drawn art in motion like this. There’s several different kinds of mushroom to collect, and some fun people to run into. I think the particular thing that makes this game special is that it’s on a time limit. The sun goes down and you have to go home with the mushrooms you’ve found. But it’s not a stressful sort of timer, it’s an “all things pass :)” kind of timer, a way to make your time with the game succinct and meaningful. If you wanted you could replay it repeatedly and go get every mushroom but I think the deliberate cutoff makes for a more memorable and poignant experience. This is the one to play if you want to take a short stroll through an illustrated forest.

Fuzz Dungeon (Indiepocalypse #20)

By Jeremy Couillard

Fuzz Dungeon takes its players on a journey through many different minigames, in a variety of art and gameplay styles, in search of whatever a “sex amulet” is. Jeremy Couillard games are always beautiful and strange and funny and moving, and Fuzz Dungeon has The Most of that that you’re going to find in any one place. Aesthetically and narratively it sits in a very psychedelic place that you’ll probably love if you enjoy Forming or Holy Mountain, that kind of thing. There’s also some pretty raw thoughts about life and art coming through, and they’ve stuck with me. Also the music fucking rocks. This is the one to play if you just took a huge bong rip.   

death of vansat finfail (Indiepocalypse #22)

By Gurn Group

death of vansat finfail will take you less than 5 minutes to play, and if you’re like me, it will stick in your brain forever. I’m a strong believer in the power of a title and gurn group games often heavily rely on their titles for setting the mood. I’m not even going to tell you what happens in the game, I don’t even know if I can. But I’ll say that gurn group makes some of the most unique experiences out there and vansat finfail is perhaps my favourite of them all. This is the one to play if you’re looking for a game you can absorb all at once, like a bullet to the head.

Sylvie Lime (Indiepocalypse #34)

By Sylvie & Aria

Sylvie knows exactly how to make a platformer interesting, and she does it time and time again while ignoring all standard platformer conventions. In Sylvie Lime she’s tackling the Metroidvania, sort of. It’s an open world platformer where you can find many powerups that radically change how you can tackle the many challenging, spike filled rooms. The base powerup, the ability to turn into a gravity defying lime, is actually enough to beat the whole game on its own, but much of the fun of the game is figuring out creative ways to progress more easily by combining abilities. Rather than boring locks and keys, nearly every item you find is a new tool for movement, combat (there are boss fights!) or both. The result feels like the Elden Ring’ of Sylvie games, where you can take a sandbox approach to the many masocore rooms it presents you with. Also, it has an extremely compelling narrative tucked in there as well, that almost made me cry! This is the one to play if you want the full package of an open world platformer with totally unique movement. 

businessmen (Indiepocalypse #36)

By Mut

businessmen feels like a physical thing that you squish around with your hands. It’s a short experience, and one that resists interpretation, but it really feels good to move around. To beat it is mostly just to figure out how it works and what is actually happening. I think Mut would probably describe it as a “skategame”, and I think the fact that I clipped myself doing cool 360s while sliding around in it would be evidence of that being true. This is the one to play if you wanna have a good time zipping around in a smart suit.

Orchestra For Dying At Sea (Indiepocalypse #16)

By Big Flan

Titanic II: Orchestra For Dying At Sea is a sequel to the famous film, The Titanic, based on the boat of the same name. It’s also a haunting look into the mind of a drowning Mario. It’s a quintessential example of the kind of game I like to call “Plundercore”, meaning that it takes pieces of pre-existing works and mashes them together in ways that milk new meaning out of your preconceived notions of the originals. While on some level the videogame equivalent of a Youtube poop, Titanic II makes me contemplate death, love, the afterlife, art, and the importance of marine life. This is the one to play if you want to never be able to think about Mario or The Titanic or Celine Dione the same way again.

YRKKEY’S PARADISE (Indiepocalypse #16)

By Droqen

Yrrkey’s Paradise is a 2D platformer starring a cute little raccoon, but it’s also…. A 2D platformer starring a cute little raccoon. It’s got a very interesting split structure that dives deep into ideas of cyberspace and reality and paradise. You play as a raccoon who has to physically assemble a computer (a fairly interesting mechanic on its own) in order to enter a little videogame (also quite fun on its own) that all it’s friends are playing. You can then progress alternatingly in both the virtual realm and the “real” one, and there are corresponding endings in both, but the game never feels like it’s making moral judgements on you, just exploring what kinds of spaces make people feel happy and fulfilled. I think the thing that always impresses me the most about droqen’s games is their solidity. All the mechanics and their particularities interlock so perfectly it feels like the game could never have been made any other way. This is the one to play if you want a perfect meta platformer full of adorable critters and big questions.  

Gloom Reducer (Indiepocalypse #22)

By Chloe

Despite the name, and charming sprite characters, Gloom Reducer is not your    standard wholesome feel good adventure. The gloom is in fact plentiful in the hostile and cryptic world you get dropped into. It’s a top down exploration/puzzle/combat kinda thing in the tradition of the gameboy Zeldas, but structured more idiosyncratically and completable in a session or two. There is indeed a way to reduce the gloom, but it will take some serious cleverness on the part of the player. I’m a huge fan of these whole-game-puzzles and Gloom Reducer is a very well executed one that’s full of interesting challenges and surprises. What I like most about it though, is that even having 100%ed it as far as I can tell, I’m still thinking about it. The imagery, sparse dialogue, and moody tunes sit with you, prompting some good pondering. This is the one to play if you’re trying to take a look at some classic videogame ideas from a very different angle.