As A MAZE enters its second day at Tshimologong Precinct, the game’s festival’s video arcade is now open and attendees can get to grips with some truly unique experiences. That may sound like some buzz-worthy way to describe the game at A MAZE – every second title from a Triple A publisher is punted as ‘a unique experience’ but in this case it happens to be true.

The games at A MAZE aren’t created with a business plan in mind. Hell, most of them would be rejected by big publishers (although a lot would probably make onto Steam Greenlight). These are creations that exist simply because someone was passionate enough to make them and they’re more than worth a look.

A Normal Lost Phone

Visually presented as the interface of a smartphone, A Normal Lost Phone doesn’t look like much to begin with, but it’s an experience that’s as intriguing as it is deep. The beginning of the game offers players a list of text messages, a missed call notification and nothing else – it’s like you found someone else’s phone lying in the street, all the juicy content locked behind the password screen.

AMAZE 2016 A Normal Lost Phone

However, players who exercise their grey matter and find a clue to unlock the phone will find that it starts to tell a rather detailed – and in parts chilling story – about its owner. A Normal Lost Phone banks its appeal on the natural nosiness of us all and uses an interface familiar to millions to tell a layered and engrossing tale. It’s a compelling and rather ingenious little game.

You Try Not To Think About It

A game as subtle as it is subversive, You Try Not To Think About is a text-based adventure that may make one or two players re-evaluate what they know about themselves. (It certainly made an impression on our erstwhile hardware reviewer, Brendyn Lotz). The game’s plot unfolds partly as the internal monologue of its protagonists and partly through the character’s interaction with people in their life.

It's a simple game with a powerful message.
It’s a simple game with a powerful message.

On the surface, it’s a story that contains elements many will have had experience with – trouble at work, daily expenses and friends in need – but as the game progresses (and a twist emerges that for some players may come as a shock) You Try Not To Think About It strips back a curtain on societal norms in patriarchy and may reframe the views of some its players. The clue is in the title.

La discipline du rectangle

Possible one of the better Kinect games never made, La discipline du rectangle is infectious knockabout fun. Players stand in front of a massive flatscreen TV, which a camera projects them onto. A rectangle then appears around them on the screen and their task is to stay within its frame.

AMAZE 2016 Rectangle Discipline

Sounds easy enough… until the frame starts moving. And changing. And shrinking. Imagine an interactive game of Twister and you’re starting to get the hang of it. Score is tallied as the amount of time a player can last before they slip outside the lines on the screen. At the time of this writing, the record is 82 seconds.

Shattered Realms

Shattered Realms is a side-scrolling beat-’em’-up in the vein of arcade classics like Double Dragon and Golden Axe. What distinguishes it from its forbears – apart from its barmy protagonists Bullet Elf and The Summoner – is its nutty animation and the fact that team combos come into play quite a bit.

Shattered Realms

Oh, and the fact that your enemies are humanoid robot sharks. Yes, really.

Semblance 

If Super Meat Boy had been set in a world made entirely of Play-Doh, it might look a lot like Semblance. Part puzzler, part platformer, Semblance tasks players with guiding squishy little protagonist around a series of maps in search of glowing orbs.

Semblance

Naturally there are pitfalls – here, they come in the form of glistening spikes – but the workaround centres on the player’s ability to alter the environment around them and the shape of the character they control. The shapeshifting/world-altering mechanic opens up myriad possibilities from a game design perspective. This game is currently in its teething stages so Lord alone knows how complex it’ll be when it’s finished.

Super Wolfenstein 3D

You know Wolfenstein. You know Free Lives – the developers behind BroForce. What do you think that a meeting of these two entities would result in?

AMAZE Wolfenstein

You’re more right than you know.