Boy, what a trip this one happened to be. What started as a passion project by someone living in his car became a Kickstarter success that spawned a community of its own. I followed Indie Pogo as soon as I heard whispers about it a couple of years ago. After all, indie crossover games have an obvious appeal.

Having characters from all sorts of indie games is a sound concept on its own. Putting them in a Super Smash Bros.-style battle game takes things up a notch in the hype meter. However, what matters most about something like this is a way to execute it properly. I would know; I was once part of an indie crossover whose momentum died in a miserable fire for good reason.

Indie Pogo, on the other hand, seemed like it was destined to avoid those mistakes. I played the demo that was released to the press during its Kickstarter campaign’s duration, and I thought it was pretty neat. While it was early by that point, I thought there was some real potential that the Lowe Bros. could get out of the title. Now that the full game has been out and about, what do I think of the game? Well…

Graphics

Man, does this game look good. Indie Pogo goes for a crisp 2D pixel art style, and there’s a lot to love about it. With a silky-smooth 60 FPS framerate and a variety of colorful locales, the game is a sight for sore eyes. And if you’ve seen any of the indie games represented here, you may inevitably go “Oh yeah, I remember that!” when a familiar character or environment shows up. It’s hard for me to not smile when seeing Lilac from Freedom Planet battle Shovel Knight in an area from VVVVVV.

I love the little touches as well. The characters stay true to their roots in a remarkable fashion; it’s almost as if they were lifted from their respective games (as far as I can tell, anyway). Shovel Knight even loses his bags of money when he dies! Details like that show how far the Lowes have gone to make the characters feel like themselves. Best of all, the game as a whole just feels alive. Everything is animated in a lively manner, including the menus. Well, almost everything anyway. The battle menu was kind of jarring because the only object that was moving was this pseudo-3D dancing cube person. I feel like if everyone else was given an extra frame or two and if that guy was removed, the menu would generally look better.

Audio

Indie Pogo boots up with a super-catchy title theme, and it continues throughout with a barrage of tunes from the indies it highlights. There are other pieces exclusively in this game, but they are either jingles or calmer background tracks. The sound design is nevertheless punchy and effective. Just as the characters’ individual presentations are visually representative of their origins, they also incorporate plenty of the same sound design to make them that much more authentic.

Gameplay

While I was already familiar with how the game played by this point, the clarification the full game provides is rather helpful. It walks you through the motions before you get into the meat of the game. The mechanics are simple enough to grasp, too. There are buttons for attacking, dodging, and using a special move. Similarly to Nintendo’s fighting behemoth, pressing a direction and the attack button allows for different kinds of moves to be pulled off. The dodge can also be used as an extra jump thanks the ability to aim it mid-air. However, in case the Pogo part of Indie Pogo‘s title didn’t ring any bells already, characters jump by themselves without player input.

The key idea is that you don’t knock people off the stage as you normally think you would. Instead, you have to jump on their heads. Attacks can deal some damage, but unless you don’t capitalize on your opponent’s vulnerability by bopping his or her head, you won’t get too far in the battle. It’s actually surprising how much mileage the Lowes have gotten out of having the characters work with these conditions. Each character has an arsenal of powers to use against each other, but they also have ways to maneuver around them. As different as the game would play compared to Smash Bros., matches would still come off as fun and intense.

Nothing drives this home more than the multiplayer. Specifically, online multiplayer. Yep, you can play with up to three other people over the Internet at once! On day one of release, no less! While you may have to tinker with the in-game delay settings in order to make sure the matches run without any performance issues, it’s a small hurdle to hop over before getting to play nearly seamless matches with online opponents.

There’s also a fair amount of single-player stuff to do. You get the classic Arcade Mode, which is always a little treat to romp through. A Challenge Mode is also present for battles with their own conditions in mind. Should you want to spend the coins you’ve earned, you can go to the Shop and unlock new stages, characters, and trophies containing info about indie game characters.

Verdict

You may have noticed I didn’t really talk about the characters themselves all too much in this indie crossover game review. The reason why is because Indie Pogo doesn’t exactly focus on them as the sole reason why you should play the game. Its playable roster is actually light compared to what anybody would expect, consisting of some popular entries and a few that are relatively less so.

However, what’s important to note about that is that – as I said when I played the demo – it’s clear the Lowe Bros. went for a quality-over-quantity approach with the game. This is less about stuffing as many characters into the game as possible, and more about making a finely tuned game that happens to star a batch of beloved indie icons. While it’s great to see what games have been recognized, it’s even better to know they’re recognized in a game people would love to keep playing.

Indie Pogo fits that bill to a tee. It’s a love letter to this portion of the industry, and it shows through its level of detail, polish, and playability. Although it is intended to be updated with more characters, stages, and other changes as time goes on, I didn’t feel like this was an incomplete game. I have had a lot of fun with it, whether it’s through the online matches with people that celebrated the game’s release or through the AI challenges that I face in the Arcade Mode.¬†Simply put: Play this game. It’s great.

Review copy provided by Lowe Bros.