I wish my desktop had wheels.
For the frequent flyer that prefers their entertainment in video games, finding a quality PC game that will run on what might be a low-spec laptop can be difficult. Work laptops or the typical work-processor machine a gamer with a dedicated desktop at home is likely to carry can leave you pulling hair out in the hotel room.
If your laptop isn’t quite the same powerhouse a home rig can be, indie titles are very often a saving grace. Bootstrapped developers with interesting concepts and limited resources are constantly pushing out games that run great on an average laptop. An estimated 7,672 games were released in 2017, a number that’s been on a steep rise since Valve implemented Steam Greenlight back in 2012. With Steam Direct facilitating self-publishing a good chunk of those releases are lightweight games that can scratch an absentee itch.
Unfortunately, great indie titles are too often buried in that intimidating release pile so it’s easy to just go back to familiar gems, like the incredible FTL: Faster Than Light, instead of discovering something new with your time away. Here, we’ll help put some great indie titles that will run on a low-spec laptop on your radar.
To make this list the best it can be we’ve put a few standards in place. All the titles listed below can run on a low-spec laptop (2 gigs of RAM, integrated graphics and a Core 2 Duo processor or lower), don’t require a mouse for optimal play, and have short levels or instant saves.
1. Light Fantastik
Light Fantastik, by Hayali, was included in our very first Bounty Hunt! It’s a platform game with arrow key controls. Easy, traditional platform controls make it super easy to pick back up no matter how long it’s been. Even so, these simple controls are a core part of the game. In Light Fantastik you play as a person-turned-block by a sudden sickness that’s plagued your world. Only you venture out in your blocky form to find a cure. During this adventure, the player travels constantly between the normal and “inverted” worlds reach their goals.
In the inverted world the controls are – surprise – inverted. In this dark half of the screen on every level the left and right directional keys swap and can be surprisingly tricky to get the hang of. The need to constantly switch between the two can often keep your muscle memory guessing. To top it off levels are timed at one minute. But there’s a few time bonuses scattered throughout levels.
The game’s level design forces players to weigh the gains and losses from each side and decide how to proceed – often based on personal strengths as much as the level design it. After getting used to the inverted controls, I often found it easier to play on that side but in crucial moments would often accidentally revert to traditional controls and have to start from the bottom. Since each level’s two worlds have subtle design differences, the game left me weighing which side I should use.
The art-style is simple but fun, with blocky assets keeping the demands low but the visuals unique.
2. Coin Crypt
Coin Crypt, a relaxing, accessible roguelike by Greg Lobanov, is a great replacement for slightly more demanding roguelike titles. It uses blocky, Minecraft-esque graphics in a top down view. Movement uses WASD and a trackpad is more than suitable for any mouse work.
Rather than traditional roguelike combat mechanics, Coin Crypt players collect coins around the map with varying effects by challenging enemies or opening chests. Chests open and give the player an untimed choice between coins, showing which haven’t been seen yet on the current run and presenting effect descriptions. Enemies will chase the player down, starting a battle sequence when they catch up. Here coins can be used, once, to hurt enemies, buff the player, or whatever other affects they might have. Health and buffs carry on throughout the game, slowly draining outside of combat.
The unique combat invites some of the game’s more innovative mechanics. You can kill and die by draining a coin purse, deepening the implications of some coin effects that steal or force enemies to drop coins. Haggling for items in the shops is done completely with the essential loot, so balance is incredibly important.
Coin Crypt is an easy game to grasp with item effects readily displayed, so it’s not difficult to come back after a while. It has a desirable save feature, so it can be put down at a whim if you need to stop quickly.
There’s no clear story here, aside from a brief setup on launch, but the game is certainly addictive. I’ve even found myself regularly playing it at home.
3. Fortix 2
Fortix 2, a simple concept implemented well, is defined by Nemesys Games as a “reverse turret defense game.” Players must capture each level’s castle by conquering territory, thereby capturing the resources inside it. Catapults are turned on a level’s own defenses while prowling dragons and other enemies are defeated with a *poof!*
Territory is captured in Fortix 2 by drawing boxes in unowned space. If a level’s defenses hit a box before it’s been completed the player loses a life and doesn’t capture any territory at all. Power ups in the form of stars appear at random around each level, quickly fading if the player doesn’t capture them in time. They provide generous boosts like increased player speed and freezing all enemies in place, but their random nature can make them elusive. As the game progresses enemies and obstacles increase as impassible walls and map features like lakes and swamps – which slow the character down – are increasingly introduced. It’s largely a game about timing and strategically deciding where each hostile takeover should begin. A certain catapult might be especially convenient but whether you can conquer it before defenses reach your lines, or whether that’s the best strategy to earn a time bonus, remains a question.
Fortix 2 allows use of a mouse to path the character but keyboard controls are far superior here, the arrow keys are all that’s needed. The game is bright but not graphically demanding in the slightest, making for an excellent light-weight strategic game for the road.
4. On Rusty Trails
Another platformer from our first Bounty Hunt, On Rusty Trails by Black Pants Studio follows the adventure of Elvis, a robot, as he ventures to redeem the warranty on his crushed house. The controls are simple and stay within the keyboard but manage to transcend a traditional platform feel. The game’s world is filled with cubes the player can move around entirely with gravity-defying feet. The only way to leave a platform is jumping with the space key and you’ll need to actually use the up and down keys since left and right don’t become an intuitive clockwise and counter-clockwise. It’s a bit of a design flaw, since the game is clearly made for a controller, but the more difficult controls only introduce a mild touch of challenge, making timing slightly more difficult to nail down in important moments.
There’s an amazing implied story about the social struggles between robots and “haries” who are at odds with each other and the very world around them. As a robot, rain short-circuits the poor ‘lil guy and hairy blocks recede into the level’s background upon Elvis’ approach. Early in the game you’ll find a “hairy suit” that lets you fool haries and the surrounding world about your species. It introduces a mechanic that lets you instantly swap which level-tiles can be used and makes Elvis impervious to environmental hazards like rain.
The graphics are a familiar Black Pants style that runs easily. Still, it’s impossible to ignore the attention to detail in each level. The world of On Rusty Trails is as unique as the experience and will keep players effortlessly engrossed throughout their travels.
What have you been playing on the go? Let us know in the comments section below!