Great Downloads: Award-Winning Indie Games

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Racing Pitch

True to its name, Racing Pitch involves getting dragsters to accelerate by half-growling, half-screaming into a microphone. That's right, a microphone, which means you'll need one to play (I used the USB mic that came with my Xbox 360 copy of Rock Band, but any headset will do). Pick a character to match your vox-box -- Stemcell-Bill sounds in the baritone range, while Miss O'Pzekt responds to a nice, screechy alto -- and you're ready to squeal, squawk, and rumble.

"Drag Race" lets you propel a race car with the sound of your voice down a stretch of track on a timer -- keeping the needle buried by maintaining a constant pitch is critical, and pulling that off without cracking or wavering unless you're a trained vocalist is harder than it sounds. "Pro Drag Race" is just "Drag Race" with a requirement to drop your voice at timed intervals to mimic shifting gears.

Download Racing Pitch (Freeware)

Toribash

Mix a turn-based fighting game with floppy ragdoll physics and out pops Hampus Söderström's deceptively simple Toribash. Boil human anatomy down to spheres on the ends of chubby pipe cleaners and you've got a sense for what Toribash's contenders look like. Click joints with your mouse then tap hotkeys to relax, hold, extend, or contract appendages in a contest to see who can inflict the bloodiest damage first. Turns zip by at intervals -- one is roughly equal to raising your arm from hip to head, or kicking a foot forward from flush with the ground to hip level -- and gauge your success by monitoring your "ghost," a translucent projection into the future represeneting what would happen if you ended your turn with your current selections. Tapping the spacebar commits your choices and advances the clock.

Inflict enough damage with a single blow and you'll send body parts flying -- the game is in fact quite fond of blood geysers, though it's worth noting you're maneuvering bundles of simplistic geometry as opposed to anatomically realistic people. Moves run the kung-fu gamut, inviting sophisticated tactics, including everything from "punch" and "kick" to exotic stuff like "aerial body breaker," "good arm removal," "overhead body split," and "super duper simple decap." It's even possible to engage in different fighting styles, from kickboxing and judo to "taek kyon" and "wushu."

Download Toribash (Price: $20; Feature-limited demo)

Clean Asia

In this futuristic IGF 2008 finalist, twin American pilots with distinctively armed space ships and special sixth senses blast off to battle a pair of evil eyes (yes, eyes, as in "the eyes of mankind") responsible for toppling countries in Asia like Thailand and New Korea. China opts to battle the eyes themselves and shuns help from the rest of the world, which is where you come in with those two pilots, who've designed special space craft capable of dealing with the threat.

Maneuvering dot-like ships around a vertically scrolling landscape, your modus operandi entails pulverizing enemies, then interacting with the debris, which you relate to differently depending on which ship you're piloting. The first can employ a special thrust move to destroy pieces of an enemy, suck those pieces up like a magnet, then fling them at subsequent opponents. The second has unlimited ammunition and upgrades its bullets by collecting enemy debris to cumulatively release seismic blasts. Can you beat the game's three largish levels -- crawling with dozens of enemies and fourteen bosses -- with both ships?

Download Clean Asia (Freeware)

Synaesthete

Possibly the most exhilarating music game to materialize since Guitar Hero, IGF 2008 finalist Synaesthete combines the rhythmically complex beat-matching mechanics of the latter with the simplicity of an isometric action game and wraps it all in a pulsing, grooving, funked up universe of light and sound. Take on denizens like the Voxel King, who rules "a machine world made of funk and rhythm," or the Viper Vizier, "master of an endless plane of trance," all by tapping out simple or complex rhythms on the keyboard with your right hand while guiding your Synaesthete out of harm's way with your left.

To create those rhythms, you have to match falling "notes" that rain down the middle of the screen and correspond to the J, F, and K keys. When you're strike on the beat, your Synaesthete automatically fires laser-like beams at encroaching enemies. When you're off, enemies pounce and whittle away your health. Clear a room and you can move to the next one by way of adjoining staircases; clear an entire level and you advance to increasingly psychedelic venues. Eventually you'll fight boogieing polygonal bosses in blistering rhythm-jams that on the highest difficulty settings should set all but the nimblest fingers fumbling.

Download Synaesthete (Freeware)

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