This is the second article in my retrospective series on 2017’s hidden gems, and, as such, we’ll be looking at three different standout indie games from last year: GOLF STORY, SNIPPERCLIPS, and FIDEL DUNGEON RESCUE.

2017 was an absolutely amazing year for gaming, for large, first-party titles and smaller indie games alike. Indie games make up a huge part of the gaming sphere. Countless indie games are released every year, though a very small percentage of those get anywhere near as much coverage as triple-A releases. This does not mean that indie games are of lesser quality, however — far from it. In many cases, these games are developed by small teams and are their dream project. Look at the game OWLBOY, for instance. The game was in development for nearly a decade, and it clearly shows; the presentation alone is so polished.

The games for this week are GOLF STORY for the Nintendo Switch, SNIPPERCLIPS for the Nintendo Switch, and FIDEL DUNGEON RESCUE for PC. Each one of these games is brimming with personality; it is clear that their respective developers wanted to produce the best product possible. Without further ado, let’s follow suit from the previous article and talk about GOLF STORY.

How The Switch Became A Haven For Indie Games

GOLF STORY — A Quirky, Top-Down, Golf RPG:

GOLF STORY, developed by Sidebar Games, was released for Nintendo Switch on September 28, 2017. ITo be upfront with you, I did receive a review copy of the game from Sidebar, but the opinions expressed are all my own. Also, to get this out of the way, it was hard to play GOLF STORY without comparing it to EVERYBODY’S GOLF, especially after writing an article on the latter. While the two games are centered around golf, they are vastly different games. EVERBODY’S GOLF gives the player a more realistic golf experience and would be my go-to multiplayer golf game, while GOLF STORY is a more widely appealing single-player experience. The comparisons end here, so let’s move on to the game itself!

2017’s Hidden Gems #1: EVERYBODY’S GOLF

GOLF STORY — The Pros:

I try to keep my eye on smaller indie game releases, and GOLF STORY is definitely one that caught my attention. It looks like an SNES era RPG with the core mechanics of a golf game. What could be better? Well, I ended up getting what I expected plus funny writing and many innovative ways of using the golf gameplay.

I was instantly enamored by the game’s presentation. I have always been one to enjoy pixelated graphics, and GOLF STORY certainly does wonders with the style. There are many locales with widely varying appearances, accompanied with characters themed to fit the area, and all of the animations are crisp and fluid. The game is simply pleasing to look at. The music is also a standout; each area comes with its own distinct and fitting tunes.

indie game golf story oak manor
Oak Manor; one of GOLF STORY’s varied locales.

Moving past presentation, GOLF STORY has a ton of different types of gameplay. In fact, I felt like I rarely played through a full 9-hole golf course. Some of my favorite non-golf tasks include: launching eyes into skeletons to bring them to life, piloting a drone to drop golf balls into holes, and playing frisbee golf on a vast, mountainous course. The only problem is that many of these mechanics are seldom used. Flying a drone was fun, but it just seemed so random! Why was it just used for one minigame?

The writing style and humor in GOLF STORY is mostly spot on, but it also comes tied in with some of my biggest gripes with the game.

GOLF STORY — The Cons:

I had some problems with the game, and they boil down into two major categories: problems with the writing and problems with controls.

As I mentioned, the game’s dialogue is genuinely funny. There is one scene depicting an old-school golf vs. new-school golf rap battle. It is riddled with puns and rhymes that made me chuckle for the first minute or so, but I ended up mashing the A button just to get through it quicker. The dialogue went on too long in a few scenes, but it was not much of a problem overall.

golf story indie game rap battle
GOLF STORY’s rap battle scene: Funny, but far too drawn out.

My main issue is that other characters treat the player terribly. People cut him off during interviews, accuse him of cheating his way up the ranks, and ignore him in general. I don’t want to delve into spoiler territory, but the end of the game was not even that satisfying due to poor treatment of the main character. This problem irked me throughout my whole play through — I felt unmotivated to play more as I knew I would not get any in-game praise for doing so.

My next issue comes down to controls; they did not feel as polished as another golf game I promised not to mention. Adjusting your aim, switching clubs, choosing where to hit the ball, and placing a marker of how hard you would like to hit the ball are all mapped to the analog stick, though the latter two require an initial button press to set up. I constantly found myself pressing the wrong button or inputting wrong commands, even at the end of my near 20-hour playthrough. It also does not help that the controls change depending on what direction the player faces when teeing off.

Improving the Sequel to BREATH OF THE WILD

GOLF STORY — The Verdict:

GOLF STORY is a good game overall, especially when considering it is an indie game developed by a very small team. It is more of a single player RPG than a standalone golf game, and as a result, it is easier to recommend to a wider audience. If you have a Switch and want a funny game to pick up every so often, I highly suggest buying GOLF STORY. Moving on from GOLF STORY, let’s look at the other Switch game on the list.

SNIPPERCLIPS — The Cutest Co-Op Puzzler on the Market:

SNIPPERCLIPS is an indie game; it is also the biggest one on the list publicity wise. This is because Nintendo directly published the game and promoted it as a Switch launch title. SFB Games developed SNIPPERCLIPS, which was formerly known as FRIEND SHAPES. SFB pitched the game to Nintendo who ended up loving the idea, and the rest is history.

indie games snipperclips characters
The game’s titular characters, Snip and Clip, are tasked with completing the first puzzle.

SNIPPERCLIPS — The Gameplay:

SNIPPERCLIPS is a co-op game first and foremost. It is possible to play single player, but it requires one player switching back and forth between two characters. This is cumbersome, so multiplayer is definitely the way to go. The game supports anywhere from two to four players who each control a simple rectangle with one rounded edge. The gameplay seems relatively simple at first glance; players can rotate their shape, walk around, and “snip” one another into different shapes. I’m truly amazed at how above and beyond SFB went when designing puzzles based on these mechanics.

SNIPPERCLIPS contains various types of levels for the player to complete. Simpler levels have players cut a block into a certain shape, which occasionally requires the players to cut each other into the proper template. Others require players to cut each other into specific shapes and then pose in the right position — think tangrams or even a jigsaw puzzle. The more complex levels are where SNIPPERCLIPS really shines.

One example of a complicated stage has the two players cut out a pathway for a princess to walk on in order to pick up a collectable. There are also multiple collectibles to pick up all in one go. You can already see that this requires a lot of thinking, and the puzzles only get harder from there!

indie games snipperclips puzzle
SNIPPERCLIPS’ aforementioned ‘Princess Level.’ The game definitely gets tricky!

SNIPPERCLIPS contains only three worlds of challenges to romp through, so your fun with a friend may be cut short. Well, that is until SNIPPERCLIPS PLUS launched in November.

SNIPPERCLIPS PLUS — The DLC:

SNIPPERCLIPS PLUS is the DLC expansion to the base game, sold either standalone or bundled with the full game. This add-on contains 30 new challenges to play with a friend and remixes old levels into new ones.

To be frank, I have yet to purchase the DLC or even complete the base game, but I am very close. I play SNIPPERCLIPS with only one specific friend, and now, we are both out of school and have busy lives. The game is always a blast to play together, and I’ll probably buy the DLC somewhere down the road, but it doesn’t seem to be in the cards as of yet.

New Nintendo Downloadable Content: Detective Pikachu and Outlast 2

SNIPPERCLIPS — The Verdict:

SNIPPERCLIPS is a great time through and through; it is some of the most fun I’ve had with a game last year. Granted, you need someone to play with to have fun with SNIPPERCLIPS at all. I have yet to play the game with more than just two players, but it seems hectic.

SNIPPERCLIPS’ levels are varied and creative, but fun also comes from just messing around. Countless failed attempts have led to me and my friend chasing each other around the stage trying to snip each other into oblivion. It is always a good sign when a game can be fun with no set objective.

If you own a Switch and want something to play with a friend, you should pick up SNIPPERCLIPS right now. I promise that you won’t regret it. Now, we’ve looked at two indie games on the Nintendo Switch, so let’s move to one on another platform.

FIDEL DUNGEON RESCUE — Dungeons, Puzzles, and One Cute Dog:

The last indie game on this list is FIDEL DUNGEON RESCUE, a cute rogue-like puzzle game on PC, developed by Daniel Benmergui, Jeremías Babini, and Hermán Rozenwasser. I am always beyond impressed when a small team develops a great, extensive game.

I was first made aware of FIDEL through watching a “Let’s Look At” video covering it, produced by Northernlion, a popular YouTuber. This is unrelated, but if you’re looking for a new gaming content creator, Northernlion is 100% the place to go. His “Let’s Look At” series covers many indie games right around their time of release. I’ve watched many of these videos, but FIDEL was the first game that I purchased right after.

FIDEL DUNGEON RESCUE — The Gameplay:

FIDEL’s gameplay is relatively simple. Players must guide the titular dog to the end of the level, all while gaining experience points and keeping an eye on his health meter. Fidel’s leash directly tracks his path and he is unable to cross over it, somewhat similar to the classic game SNAKE. What’s nice, however, is that players can choose to backtrack at any time — none of Fidel’s movements are permanent.

indie game FIDEL level
An example of one of FIDEL DUNGEON RESCUE’s earlier levels.

I briefly mentioned that players must collect experience points. These are vital because leveling up increases Fidel’s heart counter by one. Hearts are the most important thing to look out for while playing. Stomping on experience gives Fidel experience but depletes his health by one. Stomping on an enemy with no hearts remaining requires the player to backtrack and sends a ghost running his way. Touching the ghost means game over, so don’t let Fidel’s hearts run out!

I played through FIDEL trying to get as much experience as possible. Each level has an optimal route, a route that nets most killed enemies and heals in between. There are a variety of enemies; some must be stomped from a certain direction while others can only be killed when Fidel’s health is zero. FIDEL’s gameplay is immensely creative; the puzzle possibilities are endless.

FIDEL DUNGEON RESCUE — Post-Release Additions:

FIDEL has added extra content since its initial release. I hadn’t played the game since then prior to writing this article, so I was very excited to check everything out.

I replayed FIDEL just to refresh my memory. Completing the final stage gave an award that was not present previously: the game’s soundtrack! I was not expecting any out-of-game reward, so this was definitely a pleasant surprise.

Previously, completing FIDEL granted the player access to a harder version of the game. Now, completing the game unlocks this as well as three additional game modes. My favorite of these is the dedicated puzzle mode. Here, Fidel faces a simple room of enemies and a stage exit locked by a certain experience requirement. Players must guide Fidel on the one correct route that nets the player enough experience to exit. This mode really got me to think, which improved my skills in the main game.

fidel indie game game mode
Centipede; one of FIDEL’s unlockable game modes.

FIDEL DUNGEON RESCUE — The Verdict:

FIDEL is a great game; it represents what all smaller indie games should strive to be. It is inexpensive, contains a ton of fun gameplay, and received more content post release. Like the other indie games on this list, it is clear that FIDEL DUNGEON RESCUE had tons of passion poured into it. If you are looking for a fun puzzler or a cute game that you can easily pick up for fifteen minutes at a time, FIDEL DUNGEON RESCUE is undoubtedly the way to go.

Closing the Curtain on 2017’s Indie Games:

GOLF STORY, SNIPPERCLIPS, and FIDEL DUNGEON RESCUE are just three of 2017’s standout indie games; there are countless others worth buying and even more that I have yet to play. Indie games are a rapidly growing facet of video games as a whole and some definitely deserve much more attention. Hopefully, this brief list has inspired you to pick up a smaller game you would not have previously considered.

Now, if you don’t mind me, I’ll be waiting for some of 2018’s indies such as a full release of SLAY THE SPIRE and GUACAMELEE! 2.

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