There has been a dramatic rise in the number of indie titles released each year, with multitudes released in 2014 and no sign of this abating in the new year. This is mainly due to the much higher accessibility to these releases on Steam than through ‘Greenlight’; a system in which game ideas receive feedback and the most positive are released on Steam itself. Then there are the indie titles, crowdfunded or not, which Valve is all too willing to release. This, along with Sony announcing that indie games, new ideas and creativity are the core and “heartbeat” of the games industry, has led to countless individuals and small groups developing and publishing their own works.

One of these new year indie release titles is Vintage Year, a top-down shooter with elements of ‘roguelike’ games. It is what many call a ‘Twin-stick’ shooter, which originates from these top-down shooters in which one stick on a controller is movement and the other is direction of view. These often require fast reflexes, a sharp eye and precise movements. This twin-stick set up mixed with randomly generated levels and permanent death give Vintage Year a frantic and fast pace, regardless of what speed the player wants.

Nooner Bear Studio’s first title is set in an old man’s basement, in which he keeps his vintage wines and one particular vintage which is priceless. He does not deign to mention spike traps and other assorted monsters which seem to inhabit it. He does however mention the large group of bandits which are occupying the cellar in an attempt to find this priceless vintage. This is where the player character(s) come into play.

Developer: Nooner Bear Studio

Publisher: Nooner Bear Studio

Platform: PC

Upon starting, the player is confronted with a selection of characters, from Merlot and Malbec to Mead and Zinfandel. There is a noticeable and humorous pattern. Each character is different in appearance but each also possesses a perk which changes parts of the game. Some have better accuracy or a cannibalistic tendency which regenerates health after kills. Some are explosives enthusiasts, replacing the standard secondary knife weapon with dynamite, while others are bears.

The gameplay itself, as stated before, is challenging. And due to the permanent death nature of the game, each death means complete restart. The main currency of the game, wine corks, remain untouched by death. These are used to purchase upgrades in game or characters and extra accessories in the menus. These in game upgrades last only during that life and must be bought or earned again in a future play through. These upgrades will often reflect physically on your character, and who doesn’t like to see a bear with a shotgun wearing a bandana?

Many players will die in the first level, mainly those unsuited and unfamiliar with this genre of gaming, but the controls are easy to pick up. Some find using a controller and the actual twin-stick method easier but the mouse and keyboard is also available for use. While the controls are simple and easy to pick up, they are far more difficult to master. Constant movement is key while maintaining accuracy and this is not done easily. There is also the matter of traps and narrow corridors which complicate this task. The music in the game is very simple but adds to the frantic feeling. In typical roguelike fashion, the farther a player progresses, the harder the levels become and the faster the music gets. There are increasing numbers of enemies who are stronger and more accurate and the amount of traps increases. The skill and luck required to survive also increases with each level, and every fourth level will be a boss. The difficulty will rise and the player must cope or die.

Vintage Year is currently only five euro to purchase on Steam and is definitely worth a buy. Nooner Bear Studio has shown itself to be a creative and capable team and many players will be waiting to see their next title.