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!
Let’s start with the cutest thing you’ve ever seen on itch.io. No, it’s not a Hatsune Miku game (though that would certainly take the cake). Rather, it’s Bunbons! A virtual pet thing that seems to be as simple as Tamagotchi, just with much cutter, bunneh-inspired, critters.
From the cute to the nightmarish, here we have a horror game set at Christmas. I know that that might sound like mutually exclusive genres, but there has been something of a lift in horror-themed Christmas films (think Krampus), so why not bring that to games? Operation Polar Express is a free one, and it looks like a spot of spooky holiday fun.
The game’s concept is simple; the elves are packing the presents and Santa is going over the last of the paperwork before embarking on his busyist work day (or night), but something sinister is about to invade and turn the joy of the season into a complete nightmare and ruin Christmas for all. Accross a couple of short chapters you need to fight back against this vile threat, and save the holiday season for everyone. It is the most noble of all causes at this time of year, I think we can agree.
This game threw me down quite the rabbit hole. It’s play-acting as being a lost sequel to a forgotten classic NES game, and the description really sold me on it – it was just the right mix of the ridiculous and the believable to think that it was a quirky product write-up. So I went Google searching and realised quite quickly that Fire of Rebellion III was a submission for a game jam all about making fake sequels to fake long-lost games. Well done to this developer, because they sold the fantasy to me.
Finally for this week we have Sleepi Boi Can’t Sleep, a 3D puzzler that looks like it has been inspired by Fez, for the way that it situates its puzzles around a rotating 2D environment. The game is a short little thing where you need to help the titular character, Sleepi Boi, to fall asleep, exploring his house as you do that.
The game caught my eye thanks to its really lovely aesthetic, with the 1-bit-like environment and character models being brimming with life and detail. You’ll be playing this one entirely in-browser, and it’s a little too limited at the moment, but I do think there is a world of potential in there, and hopefully this is an idea that the developer continues to work on.
– Matt S.