Indie Games Steal the Spotlight at Comiccon Montreal

Kelsy Medeiros

Published on 25/06/2024

Comiccon is like Christmas morning for indie developers, offering a massive opportunity to interact directly with consumers in B2C marketing. Imagine a playground full of excited kids already entertained by various activities—this is the vibrant atmosphere that Comiccon Montreal provides for indie game developers.

Building a reputation as a new player in the market can be challenging, but indie games have seen growing popularity and positive reviews. Platforms like Steam have made it easier for independent developers to apply and publish their games. Indie titles are prominently featured on homepages and in their categories, making them easily accessible to gamers.

In 2020, Steam announced that 50% of its 50,000+ game library comprised indie games from small studios with fewer than 20 members. By 2022, that number increased by another 8%, highlighting the rising trend and success of indie games.

Comiccon: A Golden Opportunity for Indie Game Developers

This past weekend, I had the privilege of attending Comiccon Montreal, which turned out to be the largest Comiccon yet, with over 60,000 attendees. The event showcased more than 20 upcoming indie titles, significantly more than last year, confirming the growing number of independent game studios.

Navigating the convention was a challenge. It took me over four hours to move from the main shop exhibit on Floor 2 to the Indie Zone, hidden behind the main shops. The Indie Zone featured a large space where indie developers hosted board game tournaments, playtests, contests, and demos.

The Indie Zone was a much-needed escape after feeling overwhelmed by the crowded main exhibit. Despite being of average height, the sheer volume of people was overwhelming. However, discovering the Indie Zone felt like a breath of fresh air, with the cool air conditioning providing relief.

Although the long lines meant I couldn’t try all the games, the Indie Zone’s popularity spoke volumes about the quality and appeal of indie games in a crowded market. Comiccon Montreal truly highlighted the thriving indie game scene and its growing influence in the gaming industry.

Indie Zone Showcases Passionate Developers and Inspiring Games

ComicCon 2023 Montreal – – 📸: Kelsy “SuperGirlKels” Medeiros – Content and Communications Specialist at GameAddik.

However, independent games have received better reviews than AAA titles, as seen with It Takes Two, which won Game of the Year in 2021 with ratings ranging from 88% to 100%. Indie developers have been gaining popularity due to their advantages in the gaming market.

On the other hand, from my perspective, as a person passionate about games and competing in many tournaments, bigger studios are putting out quick content with no expected quality due to budget and franchise pressures. Creating large game experiences is also increasing, and games are becoming more expensive for consumers.

Now, back to Christmas morning in Montreal Comiccon. Parents expect cheap, fun experiences for their kids to remember. Indie games provide that experience for them and for gamers looking for fresh and more affordable solutions.

Developers in this growing niche market don’t have to release their product until it’s ready, and communication between each developer is clear and easier. Although the game may take longer to create, the results are usually beautiful and meaningful. So, let’s talk about the games I played there, shall we?

1. Venture to the Ville

The first example comes from the first game I played at Montreal Comiccon, Venture to the Ville, which has been in production since 2019. It presented a demo focused on seeking feedback for improvement. Venture to the Ville was the first game that caught my attention. I’m a big fan of 2D visuals, whether sprite-animated or 3D graphics.

Venture to the Ville stood out to me due to its unique attitude and art direction. It reminded me of Alice in Wonderland from 2010, as it had a creepy vibe while remaining true to the world’s persona. In Venture to the Ville, you explore a 2.5D metroidvania with 3D depth exploration. It’s like Metroid and Zelda had a baby, resulting in an incredible game.

You start the game with the main character waking up from what seems to be an experiment that was done on you. Your arm is blackened by the monstrous entity that you now find yourself in “The Vile.” But wait, you’ve got some pretty cool tricks with this new arm. Using it, you can begin your adventure and protect yourself from approaching monsters and enemies while planning your escape from wherever you are.

An enjoyable gameplay and experience

The lighting and ambiance are stunning. Each NPC (Non-Playable Character) is full of life and has a unique personality and voice. What makes Venture to Ville stand out is its exploration system.

In most Metroidvanias, maps are available to mark when exploring. But not here. In this crazy town, you use the foreground and background as your map. The visuals are clean and show the depth of the entire world to explore.

If you get stuck somewhere, chances are you need to retrace your steps by looking in the background or foreground to see how to advance. It’s such a great idea, something that, as someone with a horrible sense of direction, I never thought I would enjoy so much. I never felt too lost as I could backtrack quite easily while remembering where I’d been based on the enemies I already defeated.

The final boss of the demo was a great test of the skills I learned over the 15-minute demo. I died twice in the boss alone but never felt frustrated with the experience. I learned habits and tracked my gameplay through experience to use against the final boss. It was such a pleasure to enjoy!

However, I must mention that the game is not nearly finished. Venture to Ville aims for a 2024 release on Steam and console. The team said they still had a lot of work to do and appreciated the feedback the players brought them at the event.

Overall, I added the game to my wishlist on Steam and followed the studio for updates. It’s a game with massive potential, and I can’t wait to see the final product! Just a short video about this beautiful piece!

2. Spiral

Right next to Venture to Ville, I had the opportunity to try out Spiral, a game made by a team of fewer than 10 people. Developed by Folklore Games and SpaceJazz, Spiral has been generating buzz in the gaming community for some time now.

After playing its 15-minute demo, I was left in tears and worry, finally understanding why the game had been causing such a stir. Spiral’s impact is remarkable through its symbolic imagery and storytelling. The lighting, camera effects, and music tone contribute to the demo’s anxious atmosphere.

Spiral is a third-person narrative title that tells the story of Bernard, an old man who is fatally ill and wants to say goodbye to his remaining memories before his mind fades away. Your goal is to help Bernard remember his past life before he reaches the end.

Different interactions trigger new memories or loss of memory, leading to the end of the demo. It makes me wonder if the final game will have multiple endings depending on the memories you find before the end of the story.

The title made me very emotional, and I appreciated the care the developers took in crafting the personal story. A lot of time, effort, and research went into replicating this experience of living with brain diseases.

Although there is no release date yet, this game will surely blow people away (myself included). I look forward to playing this game with the lights turned off, on a large screen with loudspeakers, so I can feel every little bit of emotion that Bernard feels and show my utmost respect to the character.

3. Checkmate Showdown

Okay, so. I played Checkmate Showdown, a game that mixes chess and fighting genres, during a tournament in Montreal. Created by BadRez Games and published by ManaVoid Entertainment, this game is unique and got me hooked immediately.

For once, algebra class came in clutch. As someone who isn’t the biggest fan of linear fighting games, chess, or puzzle titles, two negatives truly do make a positive. It starts as a regular chess game, but when a piece is about to be taken, a 2D fighter breaks out. Each chess piece has its unique move set and feel, so mastering each is key to victory.

Checkmate Showdown is designed for chess masters and fighting game experts so everyone can have a satisfying experience. It controls smoothly, and every piece on the board presents a unique move set, weight and feel.

Personally, the character I connected with was Knight with his fast and furious combo game. Although the release date has not yet been announced, Montreal Comiccon developers said they plan to launch the game later this year on Steam.

4. Goons: Legends & Mayhem

I have seen many indie titles at Montreal Comiccon, but none have elicited laughs as loud as those from the Goons: Legends & Mayhem booth. It is the Canadian video game we have always wanted: hockey but with frantic blends of Mario Party and Super Smash Bros. The game is fully online and cross-playable across Steam, Nintendo Switch, Xbox, and PlayStation.

It is visually stunning, with bright and vibrant colours that emphasize each character’s unique personality. You play as a team of two, with an automatic cardboard goalie following the puck’s movement, making scoring incredibly difficult.

The trick is to use teamwork alongside items and unique powers that each character and player earn throughout the game. It is a sports title you have never seen before, and the only way to truly understand it is to experience it firsthand. The game has been in production for more than six years, but the hard work is finally paying off. It will be released later this year.

ComicCon 2023 Montreal – – 📸: Kelsy “SuperGirlKels” Medeiros – Content and Communications Specialist at GameAddik.

Experience the Heart of Comiccon: Indie Zone

Comiccon’s Indie Zone was the best part of the event’s experience. It was so refreshing to interact with each developer who was willing to show such passion for their project while being able to play the game through their eyes, which inspired me.

I got to understand some of their personal stories surrounding budgeting and the development process of their game while just trying to get the name of their project out to all the gamers out there, even with such low budgets on their hands.

So, they focus on the tools they can access through their team’s skills. Indie games range from as low as $5 to an average of around $40. This is such an approachable price for consumers. It helps even more when the gamer feels they earned such quality in gameplay for such a price. “Three’s a crowd,” as they say. Smaller teams have more impact on the development of the game.

Every gamer waiting hours to try these games walked out with huge smiles. It’s an experience you see after a good concert by your favourite artist. You will remember it forever and look forward to it when they return to your hometown.

I have to say, Christmas in July was pretty awesome for developers this year!

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