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What Makes a Game Indie? “Rochard” Blurs the Line

What Makes a Game Indie? “Rochard” Blurs the Line (photo)

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In 2008, the new European developer Recoil Games was creating an ambitious first-person shooter called “Earth No More.” The team was large and the product was larger. In 2009, the financial crisis struck, and the project was postponed indefinitely. Yesterday, we met with a smaller, but equally hopeful Recoil team to discuss their new game, “Rochard,” a downloadable exclusive for PlayStation Network. What happens when a major studio tightens the belt like this? Can a once traditional developer be indie?

“Rochard” is a tough title to define. Like “Metroid” and “Shadow Complex,” the titular hero (voiced by Jon St. John, the throat of Duke Nukem) navigates a 2D plane, blasting enemies, solving puzzles and exploring a sci-fi world.

The pot-bellied, mustachioed engineer has two unique methods for manipulating gravity — the crux of the game. The first, the G-Lifter, is Rochard’s go-to weapon and puzzle solver. With a click, the gun lifts a nearby crate with ease. Another click launches the crate like a deadly projectile. The second trick, initiated by holding a shoulder button, shifts the room’s earth-like gravity to moon-like gravity.

Combing the two, Rochard bounds two or three stories high, gliding boxes across the screen like their trapped in transparent molasses.

It feels like a small game compared to the boxed shooters with which it will compete. But it also feels like a passion project. There’s wholeness to the game’s vision: the ultimate redneck space opera.

A steel guitar tune introduces the world, Rochard skimming through the stars, piloting with one hand, emptying a “root beer” can with the other. He’s less perverse than Duke Nukem, despite sounding quite similar. This is the 80s movie everyman with a gold-dipped, artery-clotted heart.

The developers gabbed enthusiastically about everything during our preview: The talented musicians that crafted the soundtrack; Jon St. John’s hilarious line readings; Hopes to make “Rochard” a recognizable character – the sort you want to befriend and welcome into your home again and again.

None of this felt disingenuous. They love “Rochard.” The character. The game. The opportunity.

At the hotel room where we all watched the unlikely hero jump from platform to platform in an alien mine, the Recoil team didn’t feel like a development giant. They felt like human beings doing what they love.

“Rochard” is no epic first-person shooter or mainstream blockbuster, but it looks to be a humble, well-realized downloadable game. The game and the people behind it feel so similar: humble, genuine and perhaps a little more ambitious than you’d guess at first blush. An old habit, perhaps, from a different time.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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