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!
The game is authentic and has been written by a Filipina woman, and weaves a story about protecting your home, the complex dynamics of family, and relying on each other. Romance is integral to the story, and there are two bisexual love interests and a poly route, to give a broad range of players a story they can relate to. There are also multiple endings, and, as mentioned, it might well be the first time you’ve come across deities like Mayari and Apolaki, so you’ll learn something about a native peoples in playing this game.
Severen is also notable in that it is being built in the Alpha of the third iteration of Game Boy Studio – basically, the tool that all these modern Game Boy developers are using for their projects. What -IZMA- achieves with Severen might well highlight what this software is capable of, and it certainly seems to be ambitious. There will be 10 levels, along with an overworld filled with puzzles and NPC areas to explore, as well as action platforming. There are also many different endings to look forward to (much as Deadeus featured more endings than you can count).
As you play, you’ll be asked to interact with files that are inside the game’s directory. You’ll also need a device with a QR reader handy to make progress. We’ve seen games do some clever things with meta-puzzles in the past (think Doki Doki Literature Club), and when it works, it is really compelling. This one has the potential to be a really distinctive, original and interesting game. And that’s before you get to the combat side of things, which looks like it’s adorable (especially since you can unlock a bunch of costumes for Milton). Most impressively of all, though, is the fact that the game was all built in RPG Maker 2003… that’s some serious work that the developers have done to strongarm it into this shape.
The game itself is quite brief at 14,000 words (you’ll play it in an hour or so), and the one comment on the game’s itch.io page says it all, really: “Thank you for making this. I lost my dad 5 years ago so this feels really close to home. Just like Elle, he never knew I finish college either. Even though I loved him most, I buried my emotions, but after playing this, I remembered all the good times after all these years. What a beautiful game.” We could all do with more games being “beautiful” like this.
– Matt S.
Find me on Twitter: @mattsainsb