A taste of the indie game dev scene in Barcelona

Sewer Wars and Nihilumbra on the App Store

When you think of Barcelona, images of a beautiful seafront, Gaudi architecture and delicious Spanish food come to mind — not a powerhouse in video gaming by any mean. The thoughts of Barcelona and gaming weirdly triggered the nostalgic memory of Scott Forstall inviting the Barcelona-based studio Digital Legends to stage at WWDC in 2008. There's a clip of the moment here showcasing the recently announced SDK for the iPhone. "We only learned about this developer last week" he said; that's how exotic this is. In the last weeks two indie developers in Catalonia have reached out to tell me about their games on iOS. So what is the indie game scene like five years later?

Sprite Lockdown is a two-man team formed by Karim Sabet and Antoni Masso. Founded in 2012, the studio has just released the quirky Sewer Wars, a 2D platformer where you fight a world-scale rat infestation orchestrated by evil cats. The sewer part comes from the main character, Joe Gillis, a plumber type with a Mario moustache who takes the assignment of saving the world from a global infestation, equipped with a foam gun as well as other ingenious gadgets and power-ups. The gameplay combines the classic auto running controls with a shooting mechanic, using score multipliers to freshen up a genre that feels a little overused these days.

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The art style is on the cartoony side and the rats and cats character animations charming. There's also an trailer that serves as an intro and sets you right in a world that draws inspiration from popular culture, comics and video games you know. Oh, and the city of Barcelona with its Sagrada Familia serves as background in one of the levels!

BeautiFunGames from the nearby Sabadell is celebrating the anniversary of Nihilumbra in a big way. Featured by Apple as part of the best games of 2012 and earning top reviews over the year, the game is now in the middle of the Steam Greenlight process to launch on PC and Mac. And yes iOS gamer, it's also going free on the App Store!

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As a puzzle platformer of sorts, Nihilumbra builds on the strength of its story, strong art and silhouette style. Background text gives context to bite-sized levels, which are designed to put in use the special powers you learn as you progress, escaping the Void and its dark monsters. Once you complete the story mode, you can return to the levels with the skills gained and go for the Void mode. Definitely for the fans of games like Swordigo and moody with some back story like Waking Mars.

These are two exponents of what the Barcelona indie gaming scene is launching on iOS. Cartoony and casual, dark and deep. I'm really looking forward to discovering of more small studios finding their space in your iPhones and iPads.