Annapurna Interactive, the publisher of well-regarded sleeper hits like Sayonara Wild Hearts and Maquette, held its first showcase today. Historically, the mega-purveyor of indie darlings has shown off its games in buzzy pressers put on by far larger companies, hitching its wagon to the likes of Nintendo, Sony, and others of that scale. Today’s event marks a sea change. Here’s what went down.
Don’t expect precision platforming here, a la Ori, Celeste, and others of that ilk. The Artful Escape is narrative-focused and boasts some Hollywood star power: Lena Headey (Game of Thrones), Mark Strong (Kingsman: The Secret Service), Jason Schwartzmann (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World), and Carl Weathers (Arrested Development) make up an ensemble cast. It’s out September 9 for Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC and will be available on Game Pass.
It’s safe to say that Donut County is possibly one of the most wholesome hits of the past decade, so it came as a bit of a shock that the studio’s sophomore effort is a first-person shooter about slaying demons in the afterlife. First revealed during a February Nintendo Direct, Neon White sent Kotaku’s Slack into a tizzy about how freakin’ cool it looked...before everyone devolved into trying to figure out just what the heck the game actually was. Game director Ben Esposito showed off a gameplay trailer at today’s showcase, and earlier this week, Kotaku caught up with him over Zoom to learn more about how this enigmatic-looking game works:
- It’s not a roguelike, though it did initially have some of those elements earlier in development. “The game really found its personality once I started to remove the randomness,” Esposito said.
- Levels last anywhere from 10 seconds to two minutes. “Depends on how good you are,” says Esposito.
- There are around 100 levels, all of which are designed for replayability.
Neon White comes to Switch and PC some time in the winter, specific date TBA.
Developer Cloisters Interactive bills A Memoir Blue as “an interactive poem.” Given the sad, slow trailer music and subject matter (about the love between mother and daughter), yeah, guessing this one should come with a complimentary box of tissues. There’s no release date right now, but when it comes out, it’ll do so on all the platforms and will be part of the Game Pass library.
As its name implies, in Storyteller, you have to tell a story, which is done by arranging pieces, indicating characters and plot points, on panels. Let’s say you’re tasked with writing a tragedy. If you arrange characters and events that, say, end with Albert and Lenora kissing, you’ll fail. But if you put one of those folks under a gravestone, you get to proceed. Neat concept. No word yet on a release date, but it will be available on Switch and PC.
Solar Ash, the next game from the team behind Hyper Light Drifter, is coming to the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and PC (via Epic Game Store) on October 26. Solar Ash has been around the block for some time, but it recently gained attention following a splashy showing at Sony’s PS5 reveal event last year. Creative director Alx Preston told Kotaku over a Zoom call this week that Solar Ash, while still challenging, won’t be quite as brutal as Hyper Light.
“I don’t think it’s going to be an easy game. We still ask a lot of the player,” Preston said. “[But] we’re leaning more toward a little more accessible, for sure…It’s more about the feeling and the spectacle and less about the challenge this time around.”
Talking cats. Teleportation guns. Space pirates. Skin Deep is a sci-fi immersive sim pulling out all the stops to telegraph its apparent levity. Skin Deep will come to PC at an unspecified future date.
Stray casts you as a cat with a robot friend and sets you loose in a bombed-to-bits futuristic city occupied by emotive synths. An initial look last year gave the impression that Stray would be a meditative exploration game with some presumed platforming elements. Today’s gameplay trailer showed as much but also detailed how combat—yes, the cat apparently fights—works in the game. Stray is shaping up to be a lot more than outside observers expected. Still no word on a specific release date.
Kotaku favorite Outer Wilds is getting an expansion. It’s called Echoes of the Eye and comes out September 28. Developer Mobius Digital revealed the news in, no surprise here, a minute-long trailer with basically nothing to go by.
The following games have found success on other platforms but will see new audiences soon.
- The first-person puzzle game I Am Dead, previously available on Switch and PC, will come to PlayStation and Xbox on August 9.
- What Remains Of Edith Finch lands on the Apple App Store on August 16.
- The Pathless is already available on PC via the Epic Games Store, but it’ll head to Steam on November 16.
Throughout the event, Annapurna Interactive did that thing that all companies with indie sensibilities do: run brief documentaries with interspersed landscape B-roll, all set to tastefully twee music. Today, Annapurna used the device to showcase new “partnerships”—every publisher’s favorite word—with venerable developers. But the publisher didn’t reveal many hard details for games in the pipeline.
First, Outerloop Games, the folks behind Falcon Age, is making a new game that appears to feature skateboarding. Toronto-based solo developer Jessica Mak is working on a music game. The creative leads behind The Stanley Parable (Davey Wreden) and Gone Home (Karla Zimonja) have formed a new studio called Ivy Road but shared no details about what’s in the works. And No Code, the team that made 2019’s terrific Observation, is working on a full-fledged horror game.
And that’s a wrap! Personally, I’m a sucker for Annapurna’s particular brand of off-center games, so today hit the mark (me) with a bullseye. Plus, I’ll never turn down a look at Stray, a game that seems concocted in a lab to make me go awww.