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Monday, June 21, 2021

Interesting games on itch.io: June 21


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!

Overboard!

On the down-low here, Inkle, the developer behind Heaven's Vault, 80 Days and Pendragon, is one of the most under-appreciated narrative-focused game developers going. The team's ability to marry up taut mechanics, gorgeous art, and those pure narrative experiences, which really push the boundaries of interactive storytelling, is unparalleled. Overboard! is the first game that Inkle has released on itch.io, and the platform and developer are the perfect fit.


Overboard is Inkle's take on Cluedo, basically, only in reverse because you play as the villain. It's a "highly replayable detective game," in which you get to "Blackmail a spy. Fall in love. Murder a rival. Cheat at cards. Drug a witness" and other such wholesome activities. In the game you've got eight hours (of in-game time) to figure out a way to get away with what you're doing. You need to find people to trust, people to behave, and keep in mind that all the other characters in your little adventure have their own motivations and undertake their own actions. Sounds awesome, right? If you've ever played an Inkle game before, you know that this team delivers on its promises, too.

Osakabe

This game is a student project from Breda University of Applied Sciences (a Netherlands-based university), but it has plenty of potential to grow into something commercial. As the name suggests, the game features a Japanese setting, and it's a horror thing; it's a first-person stalker horror experience where you need to run and hide to escape the clutches of the game's titular evil.


It does look like the team has a strong sense of aesthetics and certainly the theme is both enduring and appealing. The game is, of course, totally free at this point, and you can expect some bugs and other issues, but hopefully the team can get the feedback that they need together to deliver something refined and interesting at the other end.

7 Days Origins

Next up this week we have a mystery game that plays out via a "casual gameplay in instant messaging" format. You play as an amnesiac protagonist who has just seven days to make a critical choice, and there are a lot of branching paths to get to one of the four different endings. Each character has their own secrets and storylines, and the game seems designed to deliberately befuddle and confuse, with revelations coming in via secondary or tertiary playthroughs. 


What is perhaps most appealing about this game, however, is that art style, which so effectively conveys a blend of gritty survival and a cartoonishness that should prevent the game from becoming too self-serious. This game released on Steam a month ago, and while it hasn't had too many user reviews (59 at time of writing) they have been overwhelmingly positive, which is always a good sign for something this niche.

EDDA Cafe

We'll finish this week up with another visual novel. EDDA Cafe is a very brief little work, at 8,000 words, and was developed for a Valentine VN Jam earlier this year. But this is just the first part of three (with the third still in development), so you'll be getting a slice of a much bigger piece by playing this, and it is absolutely gorgeous.


In EDDA Cafe, you follow the story of Mina, who lost someone close to her, and is struggling to move past it. But, then she is introduced to a cafe called EDDA, which is supposedly able to turn back time. "And when the coffee starts to drip, the magic begins..." And through that Mina gets a second chance to ease her burden and sense of guilt over what went down. Yes, it's a charming looking game, but it looks like it has a bit more emotional weight to it than you might first expect.

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


Interesting games on itch.io: June 21
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