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Cutting Room Critique #3: Top Indie Game Trailers of Mar-April 2014

Every two months I'm rounding up some of the best indie game trailers and discussing what I think makes them good or bad, and effective or ineffective in marketing their respective game.

Kert Gartner

April 15, 2014

7 Min Read

I make indie game trailers, and as a result I watch A TON of online video. I try and digest as many movie, book, and game trailers as possible to see what other studios are up to and make sure that my work keeps up with the latest and greatest.

Every two months or so, I've be rounding up some of the best game trailers I've found online and discuss what I think makes them good/bad, and effective or ineffective in marketing their respective game. You can check out some of the past roundups here: Jan-Feb 2014, Dec 2013, October 2013

If you all find this discussion useful, please let me know and if you want to get the jump on these posts and follow which trailers I think are cool, you can subscribe to my "Awesome Game Trailers" playlist on Youtube.

FRACT: OSC - GeoLayer Trailers...

This is one of the more interesting ideas I've seen in a while. Phosfiend Systems released three trailers labeled: Bass, Pad, Lead, over the course of a few weeks. On their own they're cool to watch and look at, but their full glory is revealed when they're all played TOGETHER! There's also two "Moment Layer" trailers that work together to tease the release date.

This is a super cool idea, and is a perfect parallel to the game. When you're making music, as you do at certain points in this game in this game, it's divided up into different tracks, and those tracks are layered together to create the full song. So why not do the same thing with the trailers? Tease out a different aspect of the game in each and when they're all combined together it creates a new expereince for the viewer. I love it!!

Like: For a musical puzzle/exploration game, I can't think of a cooler way to tease the game than to release three different 'layers' as trailers that have to be combined to reveal the full music track. Very cool!

Things I'd do differently: I would have tried to make the individual trailers a bit more engaging in some way. Maybe actually showing the creation of the part of the track that's playing or some other aspect of the game besides the environments. Don't get me wrong, the game is beautiful to look at, but I'm not sure how many people will actually figure out that all three trailers are meant to be watched together, so offering a little more in each piece could have been cool.

Hack 'n' Slash Early Access Launch Trailer

This trailer might not be everyone's cup of tea, but it totally jabs my nostalgia nerve in the best way possible. 

Hack 'n' Slash is a puzzle action game about cheating, hacking, and reverse engineering your way to victory. The game, at least visually and superficially, is clearly inspired by the old 8/16bit NES/SNES Zelda games, so creating a trailer in a similar style to the older style 90's video game commercials is a great place to start from.

This trailer is obviously inspired by the old NES Legend of Zelda Rap commercial from the 80's, but it also takes it's own spin on the idea and injects some new life into which is exactly what Hack N' Slash does from a gameplay standpoint as well.

Like: The rap is super cheesy but it's also endearing in the best way possible. That's a fine line to walk and it's really easy to go too far and making something really bad, but DoubleFine pulled it off perfectly.

Things I'd do differently: Maybe running the trailer through a VHS once or twice would have helped solidify the vibe they're going for, but like with the Offspring Fling trailer, we decided against that since we didn't want the visuals to be too low quality.

Robot Roller-Derby Disco Dodgeball: Steam Early Access Launch Trailer!

Ridiculous game? Make a ridiculous trailer! You could have made a pretty decent trailer out of the intense action in Robot Roller-Derby Disco Dodgeball, but framing the whole thing as a Monster Truck style commercial complete with over the top voice over takes this to the next level. The script is spot-on perfect in its execution. 

Though this trailer is feels a bit cheesy and it's pretty low on production value, I still think it's super effective. It immediately captures your attention and holds it through the entire trailer. It's funny and short enough to show off the gameplay, and communicate it in a funny and engaging way that makes you want to hit that share button right after watching.

Like: It's funny, it's self aware, it hits home the message that this game is about having fun, and you're not supposed to take it too seriously.

Things I'd do differently: More starwipes (and other video toaster effects). :D

BattleBlock Theater Steam Announcement Trailer

The core message they're trying to get across here is that BattleBlock Theater is on Steam. This could have been a simple trailer re-purposing their launch trailer showing off review scores, and maybe tacking on "NOW ON STEAM" to the end card, but that wouldn't have been very engaging or entertaining.

The Behemoth wrote a killer script that gets the point across in the first 20 seconds, then continues to get more and more ridiculous over the next minute and a half rewarding anyone that sticks around for the whole thing. There's a joke practically every 5 seconds and it keeps the viewer engaged the whole way through (if you find it funny). It also pokes fun at a lot of other trailers that list off a bunch of new features by taking it way over the top in the last few jokes.

Like: Like the previous Disco Dodgeball trailer, the script is really tight, funny, and very engaging the whole way through. The editing, timing, and delivery of the jokes is bang on keeping the viewer engaged the whole way through. 

Things I'd do differently: It's a little light on the actual details of the game and what the gameplay is, but that's not the core message of this trailer so it's probably ok. If this is the first time you're being exposed to the game, it might be a bit confusing and you'll have to either watch the launch trailer or read more about the game to figure out what the heck you just watched. 

Kert Gartner makes indie game trailers in his home in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. In his previous life, he spent 8 years working in the visual effects industry as a lead 2D compositor on over 26 Hollywood feature films. In the past two and a half years, Kert has been working with Indie game developers and publishers such as Devolver Digital, Vlambeer, Mossmouth, Semi-Secret Software and Gaijin Games to create exciting and engaging trailers for their games. You can reach him on Twitter, on Tumblr, or through his site at kertgartner.com

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