Australia Day. It’s a day to reflect on The Lucky Country. To fire up the barbie, set up the stumps for backyard cricket and listen to the Triple J Hottest 100 countdown. It’s a day to decide whether to eat a lamington or a pavlova for dessert, and whether a Tim Tam slam counts. It’s a day to reflect on our culture and multiculturalism. It’s a day to recognize the men and women doing their best to improve our country and the world.
Many Australians are gamers, and we’ve had a weird and wonderful history with games. I thought it might be neat on this day to point out a few Australian games, in case you need something Australian to do to escape the heat. So smear a Weetbix with Vegemite, pour yourself some Milo and wander through these games made in Australia or by Australians.
Caveat: In this multicultural and multinational society, what’s Australian and what’s not is hard to define. I figure these examples are close enough.
Crossy Road is Frogger for the modern generation. Jump across highways, rivers and train lines to collect coins and go further than you had before. You can collect avatars which add a bit of colour and variety (occasionally reskinning the entire game!) It’s simple, it’s retro.
Armello is a beautiful blend of tabletop gaming and video gaming. It has all the prettiness of a video game, but the feel of board and card games. It’s an RPG strategy game that you can play single- or multiplayer. It’s done well for itself in awards, and comes straight out of Melbourne!
It’s available for almost everything: Steam (for PC and Linux), Microsoft store, Apple store, Playstation, Xbox One…
There’s a little genre of games that has a few entries but hasn’t quite achieved its full potential – hacking simulators. Hacknet is currently the best hacking simulators out there. It’s made by a one-man team and has a nice clean interface and a decent storyline and soundtrack.
Grab it from Steam. There’s a deluxe version (with soundtrack), and some extra DLC coming soon.
Card Hunter is close relative to board game Hero’s Quest and the classic Dungeons and Dragons campaign supplements. It’s a deck-building strategic combat game, with both an extensive single-player campaign and a bunch of multiplayer games. While you build up your heroes’ decks to become more powerful, you need to balance and synergise the cards. Plus many encounters require strategic control of the board, or clever positioning. The AI is tough but fair. Card Hunter was made by Blue Manchu games who came out of the 2K Australia/Irrational Games crowd.
Grab it from Steam or their website.
Irrational Games and 2K have had a complicated and tumultuous history, but one with deep roots in Australia. They’ve been responsible for some amazing games, even though they weren’t wholly made in Australia. One of the big ones was the Bioshock series.
The Bioshock series is an amazing collection of first-person shooter games. While made by a variety of studios across the world, a sizable portion of it was made in Australia. The Bioshocks have amazing visuals and story. They also have a unique “ecological” level design where enemies exist and interact, and you can freely explore the space, disrupting the melancholy stability.
The games are available on PC and consoles, and are well worth it. Elizabeth in Bioshock Infinite is one of the best video game characters of all time.
If you want a game that breaks your brain, and makes you rethink and analyse everything you’ve learned from first-person puzzlers or shooters, Antichamber is your game. This is another one-man masterpiece, this time by the insightful Alexander Bruce (who has an appropriately uber-Australian surname). It’s an amazing puzzle game. Don’t read anything more about Antichamber, just play it.
It’s available for PC and Mac.
Now to jump a fair way back into the past. The Dark Reign series came out in the late 90s, and was a competitor to the mighty Command and Conquer real-time strategy series. Dark Reign was made by a little studio in Queensland Australia, and featured a bunch of gameplay innovations for the time, especially around AI.
You can get Dark Reign, its expansion and its sequel at GOG, DRM-free and super-cheap.
LA Noire is an open-world detective noir game set in 1940s Los Angeles. It was made by Australia developer Team Bondi, infamously helmed by Brendan McNamara. Due to poor worker conditions, LA Noire needed help from their publisher Rockstar Games (responsible for the GTA series) to complete the game and eventually folded. The game still came out to critical acclaim. It had a good story, an intricately-realized game world, and some amazing facial performance capture. This last bit of technology dovetailed with the game in that you questioned people and tried to discern if they were lying via subtle facial cues. It’s a good couch game with one person controlling and everyone else watching and screaming, “HE’S LYING!!!”
It’s available on PCs and consoles.
In the old days, all multiplayer was split-screen. You could “cheat” by looking at other people’s screens, invariably causing childish biffo. Screencheat by Samurai Punk is a first-person shooter developed around this idea. Everyone is invisible, but you are explicitly encouraged to look at other people’s screens to figure out where they are. It’s enormously fun and tricky.
Screencheat is available on Steam and for modern consoles. Keep an eye out this year for Samurai Punk’s “American Dream“, a VR game where guns are used for everything.
As a change of pace, here’s a card game! Sushi Go is a card-drafting game based around eating sushi at a restaurant, made by Sydney designer Phil Walker-Harding. Games are quick with a bit of strategy, and not too much analysis-paralysis. I love the cute anthropomorphised sushi art.
Sushi Go is available from your local friendly games store.
Evergreen (coming soon)
I saw Evergreen at PAX Australia this year, and talked to one of the friendly devs from Siege Sloth Games. They happen to be from Canberra, and help the local game dev crowd! Evergreen is a beautiful single-player game where you are a tree, subtly influencing human history. The artwork and procedural generation is great.
Keep an eye out for it on Steam, the Humble Store, Greenmangaming, GOG and Itch.io.
Mini Metro (NZ)
As is traditional in Australia, we claim good New Zealand products as our own (Crowded House, Russell Crowe before he threw a phone…) Mini Metro is an honorable Australasian mention, made by Dinosaur Polo Club from Wellington, New Zealnd. You make metro train line maps, complete with that iconic style. You need to ship people along lines and make sure the customers don’t get impatient. It’s an incredibly beautiful and zen puzzle game.
It’s available on Steam or Humble Bundle, or just grab it from their website.
Have I missed any? Let me know in the comments!