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Monday, April 19, 2021

Interesting games on itch.io: April 19


List by Matt S.
  
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! There's a new one that recently came out, Sade!

Kensei

GB Studio has proven to be a wonderful little thing. Game developers are able to download this little tool off itch.io itself, and in using it, they can create their own games using the limitations imposed on the Game Boy. They can do that so that people like me, who grew up loving the GB and everything that it offered, can get a dash of nostalgia from new games developed for the console. Kensei is the latest one to make a splash on itch.io.


Kensei is still in development, so what you can download, for now, is just a demo, but it is promising a lot. It's a turn-based roguelike that will offer a non-linear world to approach (complete the game's boss battles in whatever order you like), and it will feature multiple skills to learn, a crafting system, and all while looking like something in homage to the original Pokemon or Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening. What a delight this will be when it is finished!

Bad Moon Rising

From the Game Boy, we move to the Commodore 64 - it's a retro-em-up week this week! Bad Moon Rising is an authentic C64 title (there's even a physical edition being produced with a 5.25" floppy disk!) about a journey to defeat the Nazis on the moon. What looks like this game's most impressive feature is the range of gameplay styles it's going to offer - there's side-scrolling action, a shooting gallery level, and even a beat-em-up level across the seven different game styles that we're being promised.


Bad Moon Rising has all the hallmarks of a genuinely authentic product, from the very C64-era box art, though to the distinctive music and in-game animation and character design. The game will be compatible with the recent C64 Mini + Maxi devices, and if you are anything like me in that you grew up playing these kinds of games, then you're going to pay close attention to the ongoing development of this one.


Next up in our little retro indulgence this month, we have The Darkness Below, which is a homage to the old dungeon crawlers, such as Dungeon Master, Eye of the Beholder, Wizardry and Might & Magic. This is a grid-based, turn-based classical RPG with a forest, town and dungeon environment to explore, and recruitable companions and NPCs as you continue your quest. It's very no-frills at this stage, but then it's still a game very much in development.


As you can see from the video, authenticity is a big deal to this developer too. It's not enough to simply be inspired by those classic RPGs - The Darkness Below wants to be one. The music, especially, took me right back to the many, many hours I spend struggling my way through SSI Dungeons & Dragons RPGs as a kid. They just don't make games like this any more... except on itch.io, where they very much do.

Amy's Fantasies

Finally this week we've got a retro title that isn't so much a homage to the games of yesteryear as it is an example of one. Amy's Fantasies is a (very) explicit hentai visual novel that was originally released back in 1995. Unfortunately, while it was a PC game, a lot of these older visual novels are all-but incompatible with modern PCs and systems meaning that we are actually in danger of losing a lot of them - especially in the hentai space where appetite to preserve this kind of art isn't exactly mainstream. This brings us to the itch.io release, with the developer aiming to preserve Amy's Fantasies (as well as a number of other classic h-game visual novels) by porting it to a new, modern engine.


Older visual novels are a fascinating thing to experience now, because the art style that powered them is so wildly different to the art of modern VNs. So, just like early anime like the first series of Sailor Moon or Astro Boy is fascinating to track just how much taste in anime aesthetics has changed in such a short time, so too are VNs like Amy's Fantasies. Assuming you can put up with the R18+ stuff, of course. For now, this is just a preorder on itch.io, but it's worth bookmarking this developer, as they've got a couple of different projects underway (and they're actively looking for more), so they may well turn out to be pretty significant in preserving this stuff for future players.

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


Interesting games on itch.io: April 19
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