Great Downloads: Award-Winning Indie Games

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Empyreal Nocturne

With a wink and a nod to Sega's Panzer Dragoon, IGF 2008 finalist Empyreal Nocturne expands the aerial action genre by giving you control of a flock of birds. Your enemies are living geometric configurations and your goal is to knock out orb-like segments glued to your enemies' appendages. As the "god" bird, you don't directly engage anything, but instead command dozens of bird-like subjects that can attack on order, rush to your defense, or sacrifice themselves to restore your health.

Getting around in the air can be a little tricky if you're wed to your keyboard, and a game controller is almost mandatory (the game supports the Xbox 360 gamepad). But once you've got the kinks worked out of your up-down and left-right vectors, you'll be able to charge these fabulist monstrosities weaving and winging their way through the clouds, isolate their weak points, then unleash your flock of aerial havoc.

Download Empyreal Nocturne (Freeware)

Galaxy Scraper

From orifices opening out of the front-sides of planets to whatever you want to call the little volcanic nubs directly in their rears, IGF 2008 finalist Galaxy Scraper sends you on a zany platform-style adventure in the vein of Super Mario Galaxy, only raunchier. At the outset you have to careen around a planetoid that's straight out of When Lips Attack meets The Little Prince, knocking little red, yellow, and purple creatures that look like two-legged gumdrops into a toothy mouth yawning out of the ground. Once you've fed it enough, you have to beat a timer to the planet's backside at which point you'll be "expelled" to your next destination.

Each of the demo's planetoids offers an overarching puzzle, one requiring combat (you can essentially "kick" enemies), the other requiring you navigate a precarious lava-covered planet to throw levers that open gates and further your progress. It's fast, furious, and best played with a gamepad (natively supports the Xbox 360 controller).

Download Galaxy Scraper (Demo)

Gesundheit!

Weird hardly describes this whimsical little puzzler about evil booger-eating monsters who've invaded a series of lovingly hand-drawn levels accompanied by a soundtrack packed with whistles, flutes, steel guitars, and euphonious vocals. The monsters' only weakness? A passion for nasal discharges, which you have the pleasure of delivering (at long range) as Gesundheit, the resident allergy-prone pig. Using only the mouse, you left-click to direct Gesundheit around obstacles and out of the way of glowering potato-shaped creatures who'd love to chow on him, while clicking the right mouse button to fire greenish projectiles (the longer you hold, the further they fire) that momentarily distract the monsters and can be used to lure them into spiky traps.

Keep out of line of sight using buildings and other miscellany and the monsters will snooze, but they'll pop awake and charge the moment you enter their visual range. Solving increasingly complex levels requires shrewdly bouncing Gesundheit's snotty ejections off walls, across holes, and through starry teleporters.

Download Gesundheit! (Demo)

Mayhem Intergalactic

IGF 2008 finalist Mayhem Intergalactic offers no-frills turn-based strategy in an elegant, easy-to-learn wrapper that boils the so-called 4X (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit and eXterminate) genre down to just the "expanding" and "exterminating" stuff.

On a flat map sprinkled with planets, players launch ships at neutral nearby planets in a bid to see who can grab up the most in the shortest time and then train all their firepower on the opposition. Simple colors identify who's who, and deploying ships is easy as clicking a planet and confirming your fleet size. Longer distances add extra turns, but adjacent planets are usually just a single interval away. While the demo only lets you play with a dozen planets, the full game offers hundreds, promising extensive enfilade maneuvers and back-territory raids that combined with the simplicity of the mechanics make this strategy game feel almost tactically speedy.

Mayhem Intergalactic's AI automatically gets smarter as you win battles, with half a dozen adjustable levels, but the game's clearly designed for multiplayer, where flank maneuvers by multiple opponents can be devastating.

Download Mayhem Intergalactic (Price: $19.95; feature-limited Demo)

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