It was a whirlwind of a day at Summer Game Fest, but let’s slow things down just a bit and take a look at a full hour of amazing indie game footage. In case you missed any of it, Day Of The Devs marked its 10th year by showcasing dozens of upcoming titles from smaller, indie studios. Double Fine Productions and iam8bit partnered once again to bring the sometimes quieter games from around the world to the forefront. If you’ve read any of my reviews in the last several months you’ll know indies are the heartbeat of my gaming life, so I’m excited to dig into what was featured.
This was the first of many to pop up on Day of the Devs. Before the game was even shown, we were welcomed by a quiet Swiss developer. After a brief handmade slide show, Michael Frei goes on to show you Playables take on our limited time here on earth, through the lens of a house fly. It looks like a paper and pencil sketch come to life, with a bucket list you (the fly) can complete in a limited amount of time. It’s quiet, charming, and very unique.
Planet of Lana
The Swedish-based studio Wishfully was up next at Day Of The Devs, showing off a 2-D platformer where you’re on a mission to save your sister. With a movement reminiscent of some indies that have come before it, the look and feel of Planet of Lana looks refreshing and bright, despite the impeding robot army. With your mystical creature at your side, you’ll traverse and uncover environments that range from colourful forests, to lakes, dark caves lit with bright mushrooms, and even a dry desert.
Choo Choo Charles
Indie games are often very unique, and this is the prime example. Two Star Games has previously, but briefly, shown off their idea of an open-world horror game, but on Day Of The Devs, we got a bigger, darker taste of the evil Thomas The Tank Engine-spider-like mashup. It’s up to you to find materials and help the locals before what the devs say is a one-on-one battle with the evil locomotive, Charles. He’s not the only one to look out for, as cultists roam as free as you do. You do have your own trusty choo choo train, but who’s to say that’s enough?
Initially shown at [email protected] a couple of months back, Escape Academy was show off by Coin Crew games. Created by a group of people who actually used to design escape rooms, this one looks like it could be a real blast. You’re a student looking to create mind-bending puzzles, as other students and school staff help you along the way. It’s also available in co-op. Look for it July 14th on Steam and Xbox Game Pass.
A Little to the Left
Talk about cozy! If you’re looking for anything similar to Unpacking, one of my favourite games of 2021, Day Of The Devs may have found it for you. Featured initially as a demo for Steam Next Fest, the game has a series of small, somewhat simple puzzles presented in a soft and quiet tone and presentation. The devs promise to have daily and weekly updates and challenges in order to keep things fresh.
Bear and Breakfast
A perfect foray into the forest as the summer months arrive, Bear and Breakfast puts you in the shoes (paws?) of a B&B-owning bear. Yes, one of those again… just kidding! This charming title has Hank the bear creating a lovely new place for guests as humans return to the forest. The game will have you building upon each room in a sim management style, followed by some mini-game fun in between. Look for this one on Steam on July 28th.
I mentioned previously that indie games can be unique, Animal Well is another prefect example. Not only does it use pixel art, it paints it in dynamic lighting. Solo developer Billy Basso says it’s not just pandering to the good’ol days, the style is being used in a way that’s never been seen before. Also, you’re a blob that can unlock abilities while traversing through a dark well filled with giant animals like cats. So there’s also that!
Over 40 minutes into the Day Of The Devs stream, and I continued to be impressed by the indie games that were shown. Naiad was revealed months ago, but somehow I missed it. Thankfully here it was, swimming onto my computer screen with delightful music and presentation. Starting off as a water nymph, you learn to swim and make friends along the way. As you progress though, use dreadful humans are disrupting what was once an untouched, peaceful world. With bright colours and beautiful sound, Naiad will be available later this year.
Roots of Pacha
This is a game that has been in development for some time, complete with an Alpha that went live last year. Think of a farming sim with a little bit more Flinstones, that’s what it feels like Roots of Pacha has in store for players. What’s great about the setting of the game though, is you’re not just planting strawberries of tending to your sheep, you can invent technologies that didn’t exist at that time in history. Sure, Stardew Valley is a indie powerhouse at this point, but this game could give it a stone aged run for its money.
Desta: The Memories Between
Speaking of indie gems, the team at Us Two Games has created likely two of the most recognizable puzzlers on mobile with the Monument Valley series. Now, the team is taking its talents to what the describe at a hint of rogue-like, tactics games, and a touch of sports. As Desta, you return home after what appears to be a not-so-simple return as you mourn the passing of your father. As with their previous games, Us Two is using a friendly and personably style to explore deeper, meaningful themes. They assure gamers that despite not having a release date just yet, Desta will feature deeper game mechanics than any game they’ve made before.
I need this game. There were alot of interesting titles during the Day Of The Devs stream, but somehow Schim is what I think I’ll be clamouring for until I can get my hands on it. I don’t know if it’s just simple idea of working and traversing within the shadows of the game, the stylized world it takes place in, or the sweet and friendly music and sound that surrounds it. It’s likely all of the above. There’s no set release date yet, but I assure you this was on my Steam wish list before I even began writing this article.
Fox And Frog Travelers: The Demon Of Adashino Island
This is one of the indie games that is a ways off, but its style is striking. Created by a Japanese studio, Fox and Frog Travelers has you (the fox) and your friend (the frog), escaping demons on Adashino Island. There wasn’t much to go off of, but it’s clear that there’s a concept artist behind the game, it looks great.
The title sounds dark and twisted, but this indie title shown at Day Of The Devs is actually about games themselves. The devs say it’s a 13 chapter story that explores the hard work and struggles that come along with game creation. Rendered in a style reminicent of the early to mid-90’s, this SNES and Game Boy inspired story will be released later this year.
Madison Karrh is solo-developing an eerie, weird, yet interesting game about loneliness. She says it’s about living alone in a big, unfamiliar city. So what does one do in these scenarios? They collect bones to create a new friend of course! Sure, it sounds creepy but it also looks and appears to be a deep, meaningful experience. Puzzles will be littered throughout as you uncover new items, treasures, and locations. Look for it this August on Steam.
How To say Goodbye
A children’s story book come to life. How to Say Goodbye is what the developers call a narrative puzzle game inspired by illustrated books. With evil sprits lurking, you need to manipulate the world around you to get the “the other side.” The elaborate stages are sure to bring some very interesting perspectives not only on puzzles, but the themes put forth by the dev team. A demo of game can be played right now on Steam.
Little Nemo and the Guardians of Slumberland
You may not instantly know the name, but odds are there’s a friend or family member that recalls the original Nemo game on the NES. I learned about it just last year. Now, there’s a Kickstarter for a new game 30 years later. The character and game are based on cartoonist Windsor McCay’s comics of the same name, with the latest game entry being developed by one developer. Keep an eye out on this friendly platformer as it’s already eclipsed $$27,000 in funding as I write this article.