While the rest of Kotaku are all in their nearest Walmart, fighting strangers to death over the last discounted toaster, I have restored proper British control to the site. With a stiff upper lip and neatly ironed pair of trousers, I’m using my unchallenged authority to write about as many un(der)known indie projects as is humanly possible.
I stress from the start, these are games I have not played, so I don’t vouch for their individual quality. Instead, I’m just excited they exist, and hope you will be too. If you are, an amazing thing you can do for teeny indie developers is wishlist their games on Steam (or elsewhere), which helps the Evil Algorithms give them more deserved attention. You can find links to such pages via the game titles below. So, let’s go.
From first-time solo developer, Stutter Fox Studios, Falling Frontier looks like something created by a huge team. It’s a science fiction intel-driven RTS, set in procgen star systems, with details as huge as conquering space, and as specific as managing your crew, designing your own ships, and what creator Todd D’Arcy describes as, “simulated search and rescue operations and physicalized combat.” The trailer above is narrated by D’Arcy, and explains the game’s systems, while showing off its absolutely breathtaking visual design.
At the complete other end of history, The Way Of Wrath is an open-world RPG set in the Stone Age. Citing Gothic, Baldur’s Gate and Zelda as its inspirations, what intrigues here is the idea that alongside mastering hunting, ruling your home base, and diplomacy, it also tells a tale of people living within a world of sun worship and human sacrifice who are starting to have doubts about their faith.
I first heard that Trombone Champ was in development when I reviewed Holy Wow’s extraordinary typing game, Icarus Proudbottom’s Typing Party. A Guitar Hero-style game, but for the trombone, made by a person who can’t play the trombone. The first thing I thought of was this t-shirt. The second thing was how very much I want to play it, because it’s going to be idiotic. Holy Wow’s Dan Vecchitto now informs me that it’s nearly finished, and...I swear I’m not making this up, has “a hidden storyline inspired by the Dark Souls series.” GOTY 2022, no question.
Oh look! It’s a game about catching tadpoles, looking at the scenery, and finding lost poems, all with the goal of restoring fallen stars to their homes in the sky. Of course yes. This looks like the natural evolution of Proteus, so calm and splendid, and made even more appealing by music from Disasterpeace! It describes itself as “a short contemplative game about exploring a peaceful wetland.” Straight on my wishlist.
Feb 3, 2022
Acolyte has bold ambitions. It’s a Steam-released game that plays as an ARG (alternative reality game), but comes with a natural language AI assistant. The premise is you’re working in QA, testing out this new AI, played by chatting away with her. And then, of course, the mystery will unfold—and being an ARG, it’ll unfold outside of the game and into the real world. There’s already a demo you can play, which I just have, and wow. I’ve been pushing at the natural language stuff, and it’s damned good, although can’t quite cope when you don’t answer a question properly. And brilliantly, the developers have recently brought in Olivia Wood and George Lockett as writers, both of whom wrote for Where The Water Tastes Like Wine, while Wood was a writer for Sunless Skies.
LoneWolf’s Fragments Of A Mind looks to be an impressive mix of top-down action-RPG, puzzle game, and narrative adventure. It’s about a woman called Cassandra, trapped in her own dreams, trying to discover the “dark secret hidden deep in her mind.”
A boot camp sim? That sounds terrifying. Fortunately, CarloC’s game is presented in some very appealing pixel graphics, and from the trailer appears to have a sense of humor. You build your boot camp, you boss about your poor soldiers, and seemingly at night you have disturbing stress-based dreams about meatballs with guns.
Don’t fancy a management sim about an army boot camp? Then what about a laboratory to cure zombies? Aah, that’s the magic of indie gaming. Thera Bytes’ game is about attempting to find a cure for the zombie virus, while developing your own laboratory, all while, you know, not getting eaten by zombies.
I really love the aesthetic here. Blood Impact is from solo French developer Edalbung, who has a background in QA, and is now turning to development. It’s a 3D platformer, with Metroidvania elements, and soulsish combat. Apparently you use your own blood as your weapon, which is impressively gross. It’ll be entering Early Access early next year.
Well, honestly, it was the word “mootroidvania” that compelled me to ensure I included this one. And then they threw in that it was about cosmic milk and mighty space cows, adding, “Don’t be galactose intolerant,” I was done for. This looks absolutely bonkers, but also rather lovely, and will even include 4-player “cow-op”. Ow.
I’m a sucker for an “X crossed with Y” pitch, when both games mentioned are all-time classics that deserve to be combined. Riftbound promises the meeting point between Pokémon and Plants Vs Zombies. YES. Seriously, check out that trailer above—it’s precisely that. You can evolve your characters during the battles, as well as use spells and combos. This is the work of a husband and wife team from Australia called Barrel Smash Studios.
Talking of husband and wife teams, Code Three Fifty One’s Project Haven is an X-COM-like tactical RPG, with graphics that really ought to have come from a 100-person studio. Instead of RNG-based combat, however, they say it will offer a “highly reactive, turn-based experience.” And, extraordinarily, the mocap used for the in-game characters was captured entirely on the Portuguese couple’s phones!
From three-person British team, Dream Harvest, Neuronet is a cyberpunk game inspired by Reigns. Fully voice acted, with 23 characters, a bunch of different endings, and apparently 5,000 story events, it also has a flavor of Phoenix Wright in there too. Oh, and you manage city resources too. I’m really intrigued by this one.
You know how sometimes you’re playing a golf game, and you think to yourself, “Sure, fine, but I wish the ball were a koala, and I could control it, and sometimes it would get eaten by a snake”? At long last, your pleas are being answered, by Koala Kids Golf. Doomster Entertainment’s golf-ish game will have you playing as said koala ball, qua-pinged about some extremely silly golf courses, gathering treasure as you go. This is the future of the sport.
Just look at these wobbly bots! Looking like a 2D platform version of Grow Home, this should be some physicsy fun, attempting to walk, jump, and kick with some lanky, precariously controlled two-armed robots. It looks lovely, and I hope it can find that sweet spot of being entertainingly tricky to control.
Oh my gosh, I love Project Gutenberg. 60,000 digitized books, all free of the spiteful clutches of U.S. copyright, preserved and available for everyone to read and enjoy. Prose & Codes by Hero Game Co takes text from those books, and casts it as substitution ciphers for players to solve. Then, should you wish, you can download the complete book to read. When the game comes out later this year, a portion of each sale will go to support Project Gutenberg.
I was intrigued enough seeing this was a “non-fiction interactive fiction” game. It threw me just how unusual a concept that was. But it gets even more interesting when you learn it’s about the experiences of marginalized people working within the audio industry. You can read an interview with creator Eliana Zebro on Indie Hell Zone, and the game will be out on Itch some time soon.
I don’t understand why all games aren’t top-down Alien Breed-alikes. Surely then everything would be better? Lumencraft gets it, with its destructible environments and giant gun turrets. The twist here is the addition of resource gathering and base building. This is from Star Drifters (Danger Scavenger) and first-timers 2Dynamic Games, and looks properly grimy and interesting.
My son and I have been watching Battle Bots on Netflix recently, which is what I was first reminded of watching the trailer for NeoFlux Drift. And for good reason, given this is a cagematch multiplayer battle between a collection of metallic creations. Up to four players will be able to locally battle (or use Steam’s Remote Play Together), and it looks appropriately neon and crunchy. I’ve linked to Itch above, since there’s an alpha version you can download, but you can wishlist it on Steam here.
TBA (though I suspect quite soon)
While a lot of history is well depicted in games, one war from the 1990s has too long been ignored. I’m talking of course about the invasion of Finland by giant towering aliens, who were bravely fought off by local townsfolk and their near-infinite supply of heavy weaponry. Finally, to put that right, comes Jounitus, with Arrival: Zero Earth. I mean, what else can I add? At last some proper respect is being shown to a forgotten group of heroes.
WATCH THIS TRAILER! Seriously, ignore that god-awful thumbnail, because bizarrely it looks nothing like the game. This looks utterly amazing. Buckshot Software’s sequel to 2017's Project Warlock, looking a hundred times faster, chunkier, splatterier and with a visual style I cannot put words to. There’s a demo on Steam already, and a newfound love in my heart.
I was going to pick one between Project Warlock II and BIOTA, because they’re from the same publisher (Retrovibe). But I can’t. Because look! It’s a four-color, 8-bit Metroidvania, but so busy and explodey. I’m such a sucker for a modern 8-bit platformer, and this looks just the ticket.
It would be crass to call this Firewatch with robots, but I’ve never let that sort of things top me before. Baetylus Games’ Autonima is to be a narrative-driven third-person adventure, about a robot called Ohm seeking to learn about his ancestry. It looks just lovely (although I’d love it if those walking animations gave him a bit more of a sense of weight), with a whimsical air that I’d love to get lost in.
Describing itself as a mix of Dark Souls, Zelda, and Brave Fencer Musashi, this is a 2D platform/combat/adventure in which your character steals runes from enemies, and uses them to make spells. Also, pet cats (yes! take that, dogs), cook food, and go fishing. I really like how its pixel art looks distinct, plus trailer hints at a game packed with all sorts of fun surprises.
I suspect, from reading R734's description for AbsTRace, that the trailer above is mostly a bluff. Because as neat as this minimalist line racing game looks, there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes. On its Itch page it explains, “While the racing simulation itself might seem rather bare bones, other aspects extend beyond the apparent function of the program that seems to be hosting a cast of distraught characters. The people inside don’t seem to know how or why they ended up in there and beyond racing to the first place at the finish line, it is unclear what the goals of it all are.” Which has me intrigued. There’s a demo on the Itch site.