Interesting games on itch.io: February 21

8 mins read

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!

Indiepocalypse Presents: Indie Tsushin

Hang on! There was an Indiepocalypse just a few weeks ago! Aren’t these meant to be monthly? They are indeed, dear reader, but this one here is a bonus. Indie Tsushin is just like the other Indiepocalypse packages, in that it features 10 hyper-indie games that you would never have played or even hear of otherwise. It is a virtual experimental art gallery, just like it has been every other time. The difference with this one is that is has a singular focus… Japanese indie games!

 

In Indie Tsushin there is the minimalist “network building game”, Tonets, a game about fish kissing, a pine tree climber game, a point-and-click adventure sharing the story of a fox and tanuki, a dice-rolling action game where Red Riding Hood takes the fight to the wolf, and a game called “Everything Is Your Enemy,” where the description is, simply, “including you.” I am so intrigued by this one.
I would imagine that some level of Japanese would help make the most out of these games, but most of them do seem to be quite playable with minimal language. And with this pack, you get to see the very most creative end of Japanese development. That’s worth a look all in itself.

World Empire 2027

It takes some real gonads to give developing a grand strategy title a go. This genre is dense, requiring massive and complex systems, some exceptional AI to challenge players, and extreme balance over lengthy, protracted campaigns. It’s not a genre you’ll see often on itch.io, in other words, but World Empire 2027 looks like a genuine attempt to get all of this right. It looks a little basic, aesthetically, but the game promises all the depth of the greats of the genre, and with 180 nations to play as, no less.

 

 

World Empire 2027 features spying and diplomacy, an economy system, the United Nations, technology developments, and a dynamic news system. There is both single-player and hotseat multiplayer for up to eight players. The developers are also promising to bring more to the game based on feedback and player’s responses, so be sure to let them know what you think of World Empire 2027 if you do give it a go!

Saint Spell’s Love Guide To The Magical Student’s Handbook

I must admit that I don’t really understand the background of Saint Spell, but it seems like a Deviant Art artist and community, which would make this a tie-in game of sorts. This is a dating simulator for the various characters of Saint Spell, and is massive in scope – it features 155,000 words, 140 pieces of art, and 29 (is that a record for a dating simulator?) characters.

 

The game also has a really neat lo-fi aesthetic, which makes it look a little reminiscent of VA-11 Hall-A, and that’s not a bad thing at all. I certainly wouldn’t expect this Saint Spell to be as intense or narratively deep as the cyberpunk classic, but the visuals lend the game a warm and nostalgic charm, and are quite the delight to look at. Within the game you’ll also get to practice magic, brew love potions and more, on the way to what you have to assume would be a monstrous number of endings and potential love scenes.
There is a lot of adult-only stuff on itch.io, and a lot of it is smutty trash (not that there’s anything wrong with that for people that are looking for it, but it is what it is). Love Cypher promises to be different. It is a very adult-only game (or a least will be, the demo bit that is currently available doesn’t have any such scenes), but it also promises to be genuinely smart and thoughtful. Come for the pretty anime girls getting their kit off, stay for the thought-provoking narrative.

 

According to the game’s description, Love Cypher was inspired by Alan Watts, Buddhism, Hinduism, theories of the mind and self, and the works of Isaac Asimov. If it can even approach doing those things justice, then this really is going to be a stand-out example of a thinking adult’s VN. For now, you can only play the first half-hour, which represents the “alpha demo.” It would be good to send the developer some feedback!

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