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Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Interesting games on itch.io: October 28


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... we just released a demo for the next VN, too! Totally free!

Terra Nil

Terra Nil pitches itself as a "relaxing city builder about ecosystem reconstruction." It's perhaps poignant, given the way that climate change is driving us, but in this game, your goal is to turn a barren wasteland into something that you can then call a paradise, and you do that by restoring the environment, rather than exploiting it. It does that with a combination of city builder and puzzler, with an exquisite pixel art design that shows some gorgeous production values. 


Simulation games are a favourite of mine, but one thing we don't get all that often is simulations that present a vision for the future in terms of living in harmony with nature. Sure you can go "pollution-free" in your standard city builder, but examples of the genre that focuses specifically on the environmental angle? That's something that's downright valuable right now. Terra Nil on itch.io is not the full version (at least, not right now), but it's already been a bit of a darling on itch, with a 5-star rating from 313 reviews. Here's your chance to get in early with something that's probably going to prove itself to be pretty special.

Crimson Spires

Visual novels are dime-a-dozen on itch.io, but so many of them are junk and it can be difficult to dig through them to find something of the standard of Crimson Spires - a full-scale otome VN about vampires and a small mining town where they play. You play as Sheriff Erika Wright, as she attempts to understand why the little town has been shut off from the outside world, while also dealing with a serial killer and conspiracy theories that are running unchecked through the town... sounds like a tough gig (and then some).


This one has really lovely art direction, in that blend of western and anime art which is increasingly popular for VNs. The men are hunks, the women are pretty, and there's a solid sense of danger right from the outset - sounds like more than a few otome games we've played in recent years. Clearly, this one comes from students of the genre.

I'm not the world's biggest fan of stealth action games - I tend to lack the patience for them, but one that I did have a lot of time for was the Thief series. The blend of dark medieval setting and tight stealth-action really caught and held my imagination, and transcended the genre as far as I'm concerned. Shadowy Contacts is still in a very early stage (that is what itch.io is for, remember), but it looks promising for recapturing that aesthetic and theme.


It's already got quite a lovely art style, and while a lot of the interfaces look only functional, the bits of action that you can see from the trailer shows a lot of promise. Of course, this is a prickly genre to work with, since the AI needs to be precisely balanced, and Shadow Contracts is ambitious since it is aiming to layer an RPG system over the top of this... AAA developers struggle to get those kinds of genre blends together. Still, fingers crossed for the developer, because this really does show a great deal of potential.

King Pins

My final pick for this week is the one that interests me most of all this week, and that's because it's so cute and charming. King Pins is a single-screen cutsey strategy game that the developer claims was inspired by Age Of Empires. The only difference is that it condenses it all down to the most streamlined set of mechanics. 


A short, 1-hour campaign will get you up to speed with how to play, and then you're off to play multiplayer, either 4-player local deathmatch or against the AI. It's pretty clear that the multiplayer will be where this one is going to be its most entertaining, with short, furious little battles between the cutsey little sprites. With four different factions, each with their own play-style, King Pins is a rare thing indeed, since we don't actually get that many strategy games that are focused on the multiplayer party experience. I hope this one ends up being a big success and making its way to consoles. I think it'll do well there.


That's it for this week! If there are any new itch.io games that you'd like to bring to my attention, don't hesitate to drop me a note! I'm very keen on celebrating the creativity and energy of this truly wonderful platform for games-as-art.

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



Interesting games on itch.io: October 28
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