Infinite lives are a Catch 22 of design for platform games. If the designer gives the player infinite lives, then the designer has the freedom to be creative in level design to the point of being downright diabolical. If the designer gives the player finite lives, then the designer must be more simplistic in level design and make sure the solution sets for a given level can be found by everyone and executed by most players. Simpler level design can be augmented with secrets and <wretch> achievements </wretch> to provide greater challenges for players of all skill levels. As it pertains to Team Indie, this design choice means the difference between a comparison with I Wanna Be the Guy, and a comparison with American Super Mario Brothers 2.
Team Indie is a nested timing-based jumping puzzle platform game. The player starts each level as either the Marvin the Cat or 1 of a multitude of characters from other Indie games. Each of the Indie game characters has a unique power. The goal is to navigate each level using the Indie characters’ unique powers while collecting gems, and using Marvin to collect medals for each of the Indie game characters spread throughout the levels. As a character navigates their way through each level, icons appear for other characters. Tap the icon, and change into the new character, as well as establish a mid-level “save” point. Tap the golden cat icon, and the player is returned to the last place Marvin the Cat was to continue to play the level with the help of the Indie characters. Navigate Marvin the Cat to the portal at the end of the level to see how many gems and medals were collected for that level.
There’s a lot to like with Team Indie. The levels are generally straight forward in design, but provide decent challenge for the OCD player who wants to 100% every level. Each character is introduced in a level with only the new character and Marvin the Cat. Subsequent levels increase in complexity along a reasonable difficulty curve, and eventually mix in other characters the player has already seen. By the time the player gets to the boss level, the player must make transitions to multiple characters multiple times across some large and complex landscapes to advance.
Each character’s special power is used in every level they appear in to one degree or another. The special powers themselves are varied enough to keep the player interested from level to level. The mixing of characters is smart; consequently, the combination of character abilities and level design results in a generally pleasant experience.
The game looks and sounds really good, and the controls are simple, consistent, and well executed.
But…and there are some large “but’s”.
Because the choice was made to give the players infinite lives as well as rewind ability, there are specific places that require pin point accuracy in jump/ability positioning, or down to the millisecond timing between characters/abilities and Marvin the Cat’s jumping. This leads to situations that are outright vexing, especially in areas that have large distance or particularly tricky elements between mid-level “save” points. Team Indie isn’t nearly as hard as “Guy Games” by any stretch of the imagination. Indeed, someone with “Guy Game” experience is going to make fairly quick work of most of the levels in Team Indie. Conversely, someone who likes a more casual platformer experience is going to face more than a little frustration. When a character “dies”, and they will die a lot, the game automatically rewinds to the last transition between characters. The rewind feature is fine most of the time, but there are a couple of places where the transitions among characters is very fast, or the transition between characters is at a critical point that results in the player resetting time and time andtime again. Fortunately, the player has control of rewinds with the push of a button, so players won’t get stuck. That said, the rewind feature moves the player to the previous character transition all the way back to the beginning of the level, and some of the character transitions are far apart.
Speaking of characters, I found myself more than a couple of times wishing Team Indie was like Super Mario Brothers 2, where I could pick, or more importantly, not pick (looking at you, Luigi), my starting character for each level. Being able to pick characters at the start of the level would compromise the fundamental mechanic of Team Indie; however, being mired in levels with characters I didn’t like left me longing for the times when I could mock Mario, Luigi, and Princess while picking Toad for every level.
I did notice the occasional graphical glitch on my system (i7 @ 3.2GHz, 24 GB RAM, GTX 650), but the glitches were nothing that would adversely affect gameplay. Keyboard and joypad are both supported, but everyone will want to use the joypad, as even a budget Logitech Xbox controller gives the player better control than the keyboard does.
Gamers who like platform games will find an enjoyable experience with Team Indie, and for 12.99, there is value to be had with Team Indie. Gamers who aren’t terribly interested in platform games, don’t have joypad, or who are easily frustrated with intricate jumping puzzles should probably look elsewhere.
Good fare for fans of platform games; optional fare for everyone else.