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.
Gather around, folks, for yet another edition of Indiepocalypse. A collection of ten of the most indie of indie games, curated together into a lovely package so it becomes the kind of bundle that you want to support. This month’s incredibly eclectic mix includes a “short walking simulator inspired by the transgressive photography of Andres Serrano,” a dark visual novel by Ebi-hime, a boxing game with Game Boy aesthetics, and an actual Game Boy game about fighting back against gentrification.
The collection of games also comes with all the usual features in the bundle, including a zine magazine featuring interviews and features about the bundle, the Zine maker software that was used to produce it, and more good stuff. There are few projects that do a better job of taking the most niche and indie of all games and getting them in front of players, and Indiepocalypse remains something that is very much worth your support.
Duskreach initially grabbed my attention for its black-and-white, lo-fi aesthetics (I do love my stickmen art and other such things), but it also looks like a game that plays in a way that I’d absolutely love too. It’s a survival game, where you play as a small creature that with the simple goal of seeing how long it can survive in a hostile environment. You need to keep the darkness away at night, while also harvesting rocks, trees, and fruits to cover the necessities.
The game was made in just a month, so expect it to be fairly slim in terms of its depth, but it’s also designed to be highly replayable, with the real goal being to survive for more time with each play-through. While it might have been a personal project, with any luck the developer will keep at it, because it does show a lot of promise.
I do like sokoban puzzle games. They’re the ones where you need to push objects across a grid, with the goal being of getting each item into its proper place, thus clearing the level. A good Sokoban title is a good test of logic and ordering, and it’s one of those things that is so easy to learn how to play, while the harder levels will really tickle the brain muscles.
Food Maze features 50 levels, and each level offers a secondary goal, so there is replay value for those that want to really test themselves. The developer seems to have really thought about how frustrating it can be if you get stuck in a puzzle game too, and has built several paths through the game so that if you do get stuck in one, you can always move on and come back to it later. And the game has a cute frog mascot! Frogs are great!
Finally for this week, we have the latest effort from Winter Wolves, the visual novel and/or RPG indie specialist that has been around for many years at this point, but the team doesn’t seem to have lost a beat in terms of its creative ideas or commitment to its genres. In The Beastmaster Princess, you play as the daughter of a village chief, who can form a band of allies and go on adventures while also finding the perfect love interest. If you’ve played a Winter Wolves game in the past you know what to expect. They’re pretty consistent in structure and theme.
There is optional adult content with this one (so if it gets a port to console as has happened in the past, expect some edits), and the developer is making a big deal of the hand-painted art for the CGs (rather than the usual cel-shaded effect). They do look nicely detailed. Winter Wolves titles generally have some good writing in them too, so if this can deliver that, it will be well worth your time to give it a spin.