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Monday, August 16, 2021

Interesting games on itch.io: August 16


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!

Symphony of Seven Souls

Bet you've never played a horror game where your weapon is a violin, have you? Well, that's what Symphony of Seven Souls is, and it might just be one of the most interesting and creative horror games we've seen in quite some time. Billing itself as a "gothic horror tale," in Symphony of Seven Souls you need to use that violin and bow to find spirits to join your "unholy orchestra," and there's not a word in that sentence that doesn't sound just plain cool.


The game has a more serious subtext, too, in that you're playing as a music writer, who has hit a wall and is unable to break through it to continue writing their symphony. All this horror stems from the sleepless nights they spend staring at the blank score page. As a writer myself, my full sympathies go to this protagonist. We've all been there (though I haven't tried to raise an army of the dead... well, yet, anyway).

Sunrise on the Moon

I'm not sure "existentialism" is a content warning-worthy theme, but I am very interested in Sunrise on the Moon to see what this existentialist discourse is all about. I do like me a good bit of Sartre, after all. Couple that with a really lovely lo-fi aesthetic, and this could easily be a visual novel worthy of your attention.


The entire game is about a discussion between two characters - Maria (you), and Aeda. It takes place on the moon, in a future colony, with Maria being a bit of a recluse and closed off from everything around her. She does enjoy the sunrise, though, once every 30 days as is the case up there. On her way to enjoy the sunrise from this particular cycle's sunrise, she runs into Aeda - a curious young woman that she immediately finds to be intriguing. They strike up a conversation and Maria ends up learning a lot about herself.

National Park Girls - Episode 4

Now, you will need to have played the previous National Park Girls to enjoy this fourth chapter (they're all available here), but it very much looks like you'll want to spend the time to do that, because these all look wonderful, with incredibly pretty art (i.e girls), and a pretty good underlying message to boot. See in National Park Girls, most of the characters are girl versions of American national parks - Zion, Yellowstone, and Yosemite, and there's a strong sustainability and environmentalism message behind the series narratives.


As per the description of the fourth chapter: All Eve ever wanted was to protect and preserve the land, but after five years of being a ranger in Yosemite National Park, she’s just about ready to throw in the towel. The people are careless, her co-workers are annoying, and thanks to an increasingly tight budget she can hardly do her job. Fed up and burned out, Eve lashes out, but after being transferred to a remote cabin post in return, she only finds herself more uncertain of the value of being a ranger. Soon after arriving, three strange girls corner her in the cabin. Not only do they claim to live there, but they also say they’re the manifestations of Zion, Yellowstone, and Yosemite National Parks! So you can probably expect this to have a fair dose of humour and wit, but also a warmth and charm to it. With full voice acting, an original OST, and plenty of beautiful art from the same artist the fuelled Doki Doki Literature club, it looks like this one will be a keeper.

Hyper Dungeon Crawler

I love classic roguelikes (including Rogue itself). In fact, I might even prefer them, because there's something about those primitive visuals and simple interfaces that is appropriately nostalgic for one of the oldest RPG genres of all. With that in mind, Hyper Dungeon Crawler looks like it will be very much my thing. You'll be doing a bit more than in the most classic roguelikes (there's crafting in this one, for example), but otherwise, it's a genuinely vintage roguelike, with all the random levels and permadeath you can handle.


Most impressively of all, though, is that this game was originally a game jam project, crafted in just two weeks, and the final "commercial" version isn't so different to what we see in the Game Jam entry. It's going to be exciting to see where the developer can take this from here.

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


Interesting games on itch.io: August 16
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