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Monday, January 18, 2021

Interesting games on itch.io: January 18


List by Matt S
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I'm a big fan of itch.io for the freedom and open platform that it allows for developers to be creative, experimental, and directly canvas the audience for feedback for games that are not yet ready for primetime on Steam and its ilk. In addition, itch.io allows you to be transgressive, subversive, and downright dangerous. It's a true "art gallery" for game ideas and creative developers, and it should be celebrated for that.

What makes itch.io a little difficult at times is finding things that are interesting to play. Discovery is a real issue when great ideas are buried among high school projects and nasty little efforts to scam a quick buck from players. With that in mind, I thought what might be helpful to readers would be if I did a brief write-up of interesting games that I've come across on itch.io each week. In many cases these games will be unfinished or "in development," but I'm highlighting them because they promise something special and are well worth keeping on the radar.

Note: I also haven't played these games. I highlight them as interesting based on the itch.io description and concept. Where I find the time to do actual reviews or other coverage, I will compose separate articles on the game in question. These aren't so much an endorsement (or piece of criticism) as they are a head's up.

Naturally, if you want to pick up a couple of the Dee Dee visual novels while you're there on itch.io to support our work here, I would be eternally grateful!

Bit Bamboo

It's the aesthetics of Bit Bamboo that first caught my eye. As a fan of retro gaming, the simple, early-era art is resonant and appealing. The game itself seems to back that up, being focused on a single task: You've got to grow bamboo. 


This is a simple simulator, where you need to research new strains of bamboo, take care of the plants by looking after the soil and making sure that there's enough moisture around, and dealing with the occasional rainstorm. It doesn't look like this game is aiming to be a complex or challenging experience, but rather get you into a zen-like state of contemplation and taking joy from simply watching your work (the bamboo) grow. 

Paper Boats

Speaking of contemplative games, look at this delight of an experience. Paper Boats bills itself as a "small, experimental game about sharing and contemplating. There's not much to do, no enemies to kill or puzzles to solve. You just look around, interact with the things around you, and take screenshots."


It's the next part where the real appeal of the game rests, though. Every so often, a little paper boat will come sailing by with a message to you that has been written by a stranger. Then, you can also send on your own messages; communicating without actually knowing who you're talking to. I like these artsy little games, and the developer isn't even asking for any money from players - you can name your own price if you want to support it. Based on the comments on the game's page, there are a fair few people that are connecting to the real world and one another through this highly impersonal but relaxing and meditative virtual world.

Sometimes you're just in the mood for pure nonsense, and Chick 'n Sword is exactly that kind of game, with a silly premise that's played to its maximum value. You play as a chicken that has a sword and has skeletons to kill. That's it. That's the whole game. You pick up come powerups along the way, but it's an endless slaughter at the hands of a chicken, and really that's all a game needs to be sometimes.


Chick 'n Sword was produced in around 20 hours for a game jam, apparently. Don't expect it to be overly refined - as you can see in the video above it's not exactly offering challenging AI or the precision of a Dynasty Warriors game. But it does look like people are having a lot of fun with it, and for the grand price of free, you're almost guaranteed to get a good laugh out of spending a bit of time with it. If it gets enough attention and support the developer might even work on it further, and I genuinely believe there's something deeply entertaining about this concept, so I'd love to see a commercial project for it down the track.


And last, but certainly not last this week, we have Penguin Pub, a game that is, for some reason, totally free, but I would pay a good deal of money to support it, because it looks like a highly refined and very entertaining little game - and that's especially impressive since it was made in seven days for a game jam.


In Penguin Pub, you're running a tavern, and your primary goal is to recruit adventuring parties of hero penguins to send out on quests. If they survive, you profit. At the same time, you'll need to keep upgrading your tavern to keep the patrons coming in. With a hugely charming art style and a fun concept, this is another game that I would love to see the developers explore with more depth and spin out into a full commercial project. We've seen games with this kind of concept do well in the past... but never with penguins.

- Matt S. 
Editor-in-Chief
Find me on Twitter: @mattsainsb


Interesting games on itch.io: January 18
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