Best of 2012: Canadian Edition – Best Independent Game


If you’ve been following the Canadian game industry, you might have noticed an overwhelming number of critically acclaimed independent games released this year alone. From Game Critics Award and IGF winners, to PAX 10 inductees, to one of the highest scoring PC games on Metacritic, our contenders for the Best Independent Game award category were serious digital heavy-hitters in 2012, not just in Canada, but in the United States as well.

What’s wonderful is that our picks are available on PSN, XBLA, and PC; meaning indie developers are able to reach larger audiences than ever before. Minority Media showed us that games can not only be fun, but tackle serious psychological issues as well with Papo & Yo. Queasy Games introduced PS3 and PS Vita owners to one of the most unique music-platformer games ever created with Sound Shapes, and VBlank Entertainment brought us back to glorious 8-Bit with Retro City Rampage. Klei Entertainment proved that stealth and 2D sidescrolling gameplay can be a successful combination with Mark of the Ninja. And finally, Polytron successfully combined 2D and 3D planes into a fun and fresh platformer with FEZ.

This year’s contenders are:

  • Papo & Yo – Minority Media
  • Mark of the Ninja – Klei Entertainment
  • Sound Shapes – Queasy Games
  • Retro City Rampage – VBlank Entertainment
  • FEZ – Polytron Corporation

Find out who won our award for the Best Independent Game after the break.

And this year’s Best Independent Game is Klei Entertainment’s Mark of the Ninja!

Mark of the Ninja is the first game to nail 2D stealth mechanics previously bungled by other developers. It’s got a unique look that oozes style and gameplay that boasts depth and substance. Each of the game’s levels are like moving puzzles that you’re free to solve in as creative a way as you can.

See, Mark of the Ninja’s levels are divided between parts that are lit, and those that are dark. It also employs an AI line of sight mechanic tells players if they’re hidden or in plain sight. Mark of the Ninja gave players a number of ways to distract and sneak by enemies with tools like the smoke bombs, noise makers, and even a cardboard box. And really its up to them how they’ll pass by or dispatch each opponent.

The Ninja is an incredibly agile hero and can traverse the environments using ventilation shafts, garbage bins, and pretty much any place that can be used to hide in to perform his trademark silent kills. I think it’s safe to assume that everyone at JTM loved sneaking into a room, stealthily taking out all of the light sources, luring a guard inside and introducing their katana to the unfortunate fool.

I think JTM staffer Lee Guille said it best in his review of Mark of the Ninja:

Every level, from first to last is well put together. The character design meshes incredibly well with the dark and beautiful areas you traverse. Even the map screen is a pleasure to look at. Each level is also filled with hidden secrets and challenges ranging from smashing a certain number of lights to not being detected for an entire level.

Mark of the Ninja plays very similar to a puzzle game. Rooms often have several solutions, letting you pass through as a merciless killer or a focused assassin. This, combined with the secrets and challenges, give this game real replay value.

In the end, we chose Klei Entertainment’s Mark of the Ninja as our pick for Best Independent Game of the year because it disposed of long-standing stealth game mechanics (that worked for 3D and not 2D) and introduced new ones like focus-aiming, a binary light mechanic, and wider-spaced checkpoints to not only challenge the player, but to make stealth gameplay work on a 2D plane.

Not a lot of developers can say that their game solidified a genre, (2D Stealth-Platformer) but that’s exactly what Klei Entertainment did with Mark of the Ninja.


About janhutchings

Canadian Game Industry Blogger / Contributor for @Sonyrumors & @ShogunGamer / Communications and PR Professional. Voice of Canadian and Indie Gaming.

Posted on January 3, 2013, in Best Of 2012 Awards and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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