Best of the Independent Games Festival 2012

ACMI presents a fresh batch of the world’s finest independent games in Best of the Independent Games Festival 2012. The sixth instalment presents an inventive selection of award-winning games from San Francisco’s 2012 Independent Games Festival, which recognises the best in game development across categories including design, technical excellence, audio, visual art, and innovation.

Art Exhibition previously on at ACMI - Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Victoria, Australia.
From Tuesday 27 March 2012 to Sunday 08 July 2012

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These award-winning games will also be available for visitors to play free of charge in the gallery.

Best of the Independent Games Festival 2012 features 14 local and international games, including four games for mobile devices, which push the limits of what gaming can be. From the latest trends in touch screen technology along with games that immerse the player in beautiful interactive animations, the exhibition features Fez, the winner of the Seamus McNally Grand Prize; Dustforce, the Australian innovation which puts the player’s ninja credentials to the test; and Spelunky, with its clever design that randomly generates a new set of levels at each play.

“This year’s exhibition features a wide variety of trends from original and atmospheric games like Dear Esther and Proteus, which walk a fine line between game and interactive artwork, to the highly stylised strategy game, Frozen Synapse,” said ACMI Curator Fiona Trigg. “ACMI is also thrilled to introduce Botanicula – from the same studio in the Czech Republic that created Machinarium (Best of the IGF 2009). A wordless puzzle game with beautiful animation, it also features the music of experimental pop band DVA.”

The Independent Games Festival – the world’s biggest and longest running festival dedicated to independent games – was established in San Francisco when organisers were inspired by the success of the Sundance Film Festival and the recognition and commercial exposure it provided to independent filmmakers. Believing a similar festival could be created to support independent game developers, the Independent Games Festival was established in 1998 and has since grown to become an important date on the games industry calendar.

Best of the Independent Games Festival 2012 is exhibited in Gallery 2 at ACMI in Melbourne from 27 March until 08 July 2012. Entry is free. For further information please visit


Botanicula (Amanita Designs, Czech Republic)
Winner: Excellence in Audio

Featuring delicate animation, mischievous point-and-click puzzles, and a joyful soundtrack rich in birdsong and percussion, Botanicula invites the player into the beguiling world of five little tree creatures who are trying to save the last seed of their host tree. From the studio that produced Machinarium.

Dear Esther (Thechineseroom, UK)
Winner: Excellence in Visual Art

Is it a game? Is it a ghost story? Dear Esther has both wowed and confounded critics with its gorgeously rendered landscapes and minimal action. The player explores a seemingly deserted island guided only by fragments of letters written to the mysterious Esther. Accompanied by the haunting music of Jessica Curry, this is an experimental game that foregrounds reflection over interaction.

Dustforce (Hitbox Team, Australia)

Dustforce is a fast-paced 2D platformer that puts the player’s Ninja credentials to the test. The player progresses through 50 exacting but exhilarating levels as they use a variety of moves to sweep away leaves and dust without missing a spot. The game also features a series of fantastic environments and euphoric electronic music.

Fez (Polytron, Canada)
Winner: Seamus McNally Grand Prize

Five years in the making, Fez is an innovative 2D platformer set in a 3D world. It’s all about exploration and the sheer pleasure of the player finding their way through a luminous blue-skied environment that rotates at their command. Fez and its creator Phil Fish feature in the forthcoming documentary Indie Game the Movie (2012).

Frozen Synapse (Mode 7, UK)
Winner: Audience Award

Frozen Synapse is a turn-based strategy game set in a futuristic cyber world. The player has full control over its strike team, directing their every movement. At the same time, their opponent is plotting to defeat them. The player plans their moves, tests them out, and then hits the “Execute” button; at the same time, their enemies’ turns are also executed. Single player mode is also available.

Proun (Joost van Dongen, The Netherlands)

Taking its name from a series of dynamic paintings made by El Lissitsky in the 1920s, Proun may be the first in a new genre – the art racer. The player controls a speeding ball along a spinning cable which plunges headlong through a world of abstract colours and shapes that also reference the work of Klee and Kandinsky. A vibrant jazz score completes the wild ride.

Spelunky (Mossmouth, USA)
Winner: Excellence in Design

Spelunky is a platformer with lots of monsters, traps and secrets. The player will die many times. But each time they restart, they’ll play a new, randomly-generated set of levels. The player has to think on their feet, but they learn as they go. Played enough times, some of Spelunky’s deepest secrets will be unravelled.

To the Moon (Freebird Games, Canada)

A quietly engrossing grame, To the Moon is an adventure role play gaming with a unique and emotionally involving story. The player assists Dr Rosalene and Dr Watts as they travel backwards in time in their quest to help an elderly man achieve his dying wish. By exploring his memories they learn how to create poignant new ones for him.

Lume (State of Play, UK)

Assuming the character of Lumi – an inquisitive young girl – the player discovers that power to their grandad’s house has failed. Grandpa’s nowhere to be seen, but has left his granddaughter some intriguing clues. Solve puzzles to help restore the power through ingenious eco-technology, and uncover a deeper mystery behind the blackout. With a set built entirely out of paper and cardboard, and sumptuously filmed, Lume is a game with a style and tactility unlike any other.

Proteus (Ed Key, UK)

On this island there are no enemies, no conflict, no dark secrets, just a landscape alive with colour and sound for the player to experience and enjoy. Day turns to starlit night but still no beasties appear. It’s just the sound of music, the buzzing of bees, and the bright rain-washed landscape waiting to be explored.


ASYNC Corp (Powerhead Games, USA)
Nominated: Best Mobile Game

A puzzle game with cheerful sound effects and music, where the player’s job – as a worker at Async Corp – is to swap coloured blocks from one side of the screen to the other to create larger packets to send off screen. The game offers a variety of modes, some which emphasize speed, and some strategy.

Beat Sneak Bandit (Simogo Games, Sweden)
Winner: Best Mobile Game, Nominated: Excellence in Audios

A one button game that tests the player’s sense of rhythm while they solve puzzles. The evil Baron Von Clockface has stolen all the clocks in the world and it’s up the player to recover them. With funky music and cartoon graphics, the player will find themself bopping along to this playful timewaster!


Fingle (Game Oven Studio, The Netherlands)
Nominated: Nuovo Award, Honourable Mention: Best Mobile Game

Turn the iPad into an interactive board game with this touch-screen game for two players that encourages touching (fingers only)! Inspired by Twister, with an appropriate wah-wah soundtrack, Fingle is an icebreaker or a trouble maker, depending on who it’s played with!

Temple Run (Imangi Studio, USA)
Honourable Mention: Best Mobile Game

The player tests their reflexes as they race down ancient temple walls and along sheer cliffs. They swipe to turn, jump and slide to avoid obstacles, collect coins and see how far they can run! With over 30 million downloads already, this game hardly needs spruiking, but ACMI wanted to see if visitors can resist having ‘one more go…’

Best of the Independent Games Festival 2012 is exhibited in Gallery 2 at ACMI in Melbourne from 27 March until 08 July 2012. Entry is free. For further information please visit