Archives — January-February 2017:
February 19 - February 25 2017:
Hollow Knight is a 2D action-platformer full of items to find, abilities to customize, and unique bosses to fight. It's similar to a metroidvania style game, set in a series of interconnected caves with a gloomy but adorable insect theme to it all. The art is mostly hand-drawn 2D animation and looks downright gorgeous, especially given the wide variety of creatures and environments shown in the trailer above. Hollow Knight is a game I've been looking forward to for a long time, and it looks like there's a massive amount of game to dig into now that it's finally here.
Blackwake is a PvP pirate FPS where you hop on a ship and have to fight against other players on the high seas. It looks a lot like a grittier version of Rare's upcoming , but stripping away treasure hunting in favor of a more traditional deathmatch format. And as the trailer above makes clear, grittier doesn't necessarily mean Blackwake is taking itself seriously, as pirate-y shenanigans with friends is still a large appeal here. The Steam page says it expects to be in Early Access until fall, but that "the main gameplay loop" is already here.
Four Last Things is a traditional point-and-click adventure game, but all of the art is made from bits and pieces of actual Renaissance-era paintings. It's a style inspired by the , and the writing and humor of the game draws from that source as well. It looks like a very silly game, but with a genuinely good adventure game beneath it all. Four Last Things is getting positive Steam reviews, saying it's not very long but what's there is worth it.
Northgard is a Norse strategy game where you control a viking clan fighting for control of a new continent. Made by the developers behind (a bit of a switch in terms of genre), you assign your viking villagers to specific roles as you build out settlements to expand your territory and upgrade your armies. It's a very pretty game already, and the developers say the Early Access period is really to hear what the players would like to see more of. Northgard is estimated to be in Early Access for two to six months, and will eventually have a story driven campaign and full multiplayer.
Night in the Woods is a sidescrolling adventure game about a character coming back to their hometown. It's story-driven with clever writing and adorable characters, but also let's you explore the game's world at your own pace. There are little minigames scattered throughout it, like a Guitar Hero-style rhythm game during band practice, but those are mainly just garnish as you unfold the story. It's a bit of an oddball, but Night in the Woods is an engaging and fun adventure game.
February 12 - February 18 2017:
This article is usually Tom Marks' beat, but he's away this week, so I (Tyler) have taken over. I just didn't want you to think Tom was being a weirdo and speaking about himself in the third-person when I mentioned that he wrote some impressions of Dropzone a few days ago, and likes it quite a bit. It's not a MOBA as we've come to know them—matches are 1v1 and each player controls three characters—rather a modern take on the RTS, according to Tom. Dropzone will be free-to-play when it launches, but for now it's $20 in Early Access.
Hidden People is an interactive, lineart version of Where's Waldo, basically. There are people, and they're hidden, and you have to find them by scouring the art and interacting with the environment—opening doors, trimming bushes, and so on. My favorite thing about it is the mouth-made sound effects, which I always find charming for how dumb they are.
Sumer is a singleplayer or local multiplayer board game. Up to four players hop around a vertical board placing workers to collect offerings for godess Inanna—I couldn't tell you exactly how that works just from watching the trailer, but it looks like it mixes strategy with a little frantic platforming. There's also an auction element that sounds fun:
"Whoever is willing to sacrifice the most goats gets Inanna's blessing! The auction is simple — just move left or right to change your bid in real time. Each auction is a mind game of bluffing and bravado, and you never know an item’s real price until time is up! Trick your opponents into overpaying for their bids while you snag good bargains for your own!"
I love to trick people and then laugh at their misfortune—it's the point of board games, in my opinion—so this seems right up my alley.
| Humble Store
Released: February 14
Developer: Vivid Helix
Publisher: Vivid Helix
Price: $10/£7 (10% off at launch)
This game would break me. Just watching the trailer makes me anxious, even though it's billed as "meditative." It's one of those puzzle games that makes you control two characters simultaneously, and I'm awful at focusing on two things at once. If I see a fly in my office I'll write "fly" instead of whatever I was trying to fly.
Semispheres does have a relaxing tone, though, and I could see it being engrossing. One note: the developer highly recommends using a controller. A controlled I bet it'd make me break.
The Mooseman is a stylish adventure puzzle game that is not, after some quick research, about a man who turns into a moose. The art reflects the Permian animal style, and the story draws from Finno-Ugric culture and folklore—things I know little about, which makes me instantly curious. As the Mooseman, you can move between our world and the spirit realm, which by all accounts is your main puzzle-solving tool. And it's not entirely about atmosphere and storytelling: From the sound of it, there are some challenging parts, but nothing exasperating. I want to play it just for the art.
February 5 - February 11 2017:
Released: February 7
Developer: ION LANDS
Publisher: ION LANDS
Price: $20/£15 (10% off for launch)
Phoning Home is an open-world exploration game with singleplayer survival elements. You play as a pair of robots on an alien planet, trying to find a way to communicate with your home planet. There are items to find and craft as you try to progress through the story of the game. It's very pretty, and sports some quality voice acting for an indie game as well—the character animations themselves aren't too impressive, but the environments you explore look varied and interesting. And even if they do look a little bit too much like Wall-E, those robots are downright adorable.
Splasher is a fast paced 2D platformer where you have to paint the walls with different liquids to complete each level. I saw it described in its Steam reviews as a cross between Super Meat Boy and Splatoon, which seems pretty accurate from the trailer above. Another comparison would be the gel puzzle sections from the second half of Portal 2 with things like the bouncy paint, but obviously much quicker. But regardless of similarities, it's a unique game in the 2D platformer genre, and one that's already getting very positive reviews.
We Need to Go Deeper is a co-op submarine roguelike that just entered Early Access. Its setting is inspired by the works of Jules Verne, and the art has a sketchy, hand-drawn look to it. There have been a number of other roguelikes similar to this, but the idea of playing one with up to four people sharing a sub together is pretty enticing. We Need to Go Deeper already has online co-op and a good amount of starting content, but lots more needs to be added and the developer expects the game could be in Early Access for "a year or longer."
Released: February 8
Developer: Sombr Studio
Publisher: Sombr Studio
Invisigun Heroes is a competitive arena fighter that plays like a cross between Bomberman and Towerfall Ascension. The big twist, however, is that every player in invisible, and you only briefly reveal yourself when you fire your gun. It becomes a tense game of hide and seek, where you need to track your own movements in your head while also trying to predict where your enemies are going to be. Invisigun Heroes has local and online multiplayer, eight characters with different abilities, seven different game modes, and 50 maps, so it's got a whole lot of variety put on top of a relatively straightforward concept.
Released: February 8
Developer: Incandescent Games
Publisher: Incandescent Games
Price: $20/£15 (25% off for launch)
LogicBots is a robot building puzzle game where you have to assemble and then program machines to complete certain tasks. LogicBots just went into full launch today after nearly two and a half years in Early Access, and has a good reputation preceding it. The bots you have to make remind me of ones you see in real world robotics competitions instead of being fantastical and fake. The logic board screen is also super interesting, where you have to build out the logic your robot will follow while operating instead of just telling it exactly what to do.
January 29 - February 4 2017:
A House of Many Doors is a somewhat lovecraftian RPG where you explore a dark world in a train with mechanical legs. As you go, you'll recruit new people to your crew, uncover stories, and fight enemies with a combat system that reminds me a lot of FTL. Another clear inspiration here is Sunless Sea by Failbetter Games—but before you go shouting "clone" as loud as you can, the Steam page says Failbetter actually had a hand in funding Pixel Trickery's development of A House of Many Doors, which is about as close to giving the game its blessing as you can get.
Satellite Repairman is a wave based defense game, but you play the hapless repairman stuck in the middle of an interplanetary war. Missiles come raining in, and you have to make sure any damage they do if repaired before the next ones arrive. You can either play specific mission-based levels, an endless survival mode, or even make your own levels. Satellite Repairman looks like a simple and fun twist on defense games.
Tavern Tycoon - Dragon's Hangover is a sim/management game about building and operating one of the fantasy tavern's you've no doubt rushed through in RPGs before. Similar to some of the older Sim Theme Park or Theme Hospital games, you slowly build out new rooms and features for your pub and watch as patrons arrive. Tavern Tycoon just hit Early Access, so there's still a lot missing from its final version—which developer Terapoly expects to reach in six months to a year—but the Steam page says there are currently "four fully functional levels out of the planned twelve."
Poi is a 3D platformer that just reached its full release from Early Access. I'm just gonna cut to the chase here, it pretty much looks like an indie Mario or Banjo Kazooie game, but a good one at that. A lot of familiar N64-era mechanics are shown off in the trailer above, with cute characters and bright worlds to make that gameplay style feel right at home. I love that 3D platformers are making a comeback recently, and it's great to see indie options looking so good.
Linelight is a puzzle game where you guide a glowing dash along a series of lines, solving puzzles to progress. It's a brilliantly simple game, distilling its puzzle mechanics down to their absolute core while still managing to feel complex and challenging. It's not the flashiest looking game in the world, but Linelight is an absolute joy to play—with a soundtrack that I imagine will be one of my favorites all year.
Bonus free game: Heavy Metal Machines
Heavy Metal Machines just entered Early Access, and is a combination of a top-down arcade racer and a MOBA. You race in teams of four as unique characters—each with their own weapons, abilities, and classes—trying to blow up your opponents as you fight over a bomb that both teams want to deliver to their own side. In a world filled to the brim with MOBAs, Heavy Metal Machines puts a spin on the genre that's genuinely got me interested in it. It's free-to-play, and developer Hoplon specifically said on its steam page that it will only sell cosmetic items, never anything that changes how the game plays steering clear of pay-to-win.
January 22-28 2017:
Rocketbirds 2 Evolution is a sidescrolling shooter with up to four player local and online co-op. It has upgradeable weapons, boss fights, and some smaller puzzle elements to break up the run 'n gun shooting. This is the sequel to 2012's Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken, and buying Rocketbirds 2 will get you the first game for free. That's a very generous deal from the developer, and the second game is already getting similarly glowing reviews on Steam despite coming out on PS4 early last year.
Days of War is a competitive FPS set in World War 2 with 32 player servers. It appears to be going for a higher skill ceiling than a lot of other shooters, because anytime you see "Challenging Recoil" listed as a selling point in a trailer you know the game means business. It's a nice looking shooter, even if there are only three maps so far. Days of War just launched in Early Access, and plans to be there for a year, but developer Driven Arts has said they've gone for a "quality over quantity" approach so far.
Mainlining is a hacking cyber-security game that plays out on the fake desktop of your character's computer. You are tasked with taking out a group of cyber-criminals, and can use a rather invasive set of tools to do that. You dig into people's messages, track them through GPS, and retrace their steps through the internet, but who you choose to investigate out of a list of 500 is up to you. It's a very cool twist on a traditional narrative investigation game, and the pixel art style gives the whole thing a dated feel that contrasts nicely with its techie themes.
Warcube is an action game with a simplistic art style that just hit Early Access. Despite the appearance, Warcube's combat actually looks really interesting—every time you start to aim an attack, time slows down and gives you a chance to line up your move. This makes it really easy to chain together charges and bow shots against large groups of enemies. Developer Haven Made estimates Warcube will be in Early Access for about a year, so it's got a long way to go still, but it has impressively positive reviews already.
Gunman Taco Truck is an amalgamation of a sidescrolling shooter, Oregon Trail, and Cooking Mama. The game is set in a post-apocalyptic United States, and you play the owner of the last taco truck. You pick your route on a map and drive a taco truck from city to city, shooting mutants and monsters to collect meat along the way, then have to assemble and sell tacos for people at each stop, upgrading your truck as you go. Oddly enough, it's actually the first game from the new studio of legendary game designers Brenda and John Romero, and was designed by their nine year old son Donovan.
Full disclosure: I am friends with a guy who works at Romero Games. No, it is not John Romero (but I wish it was).
January 15-21 2017:
Warhammer 40,000: Sanctus Reach is a turn-based strategy game in the Warhammer universe, and is closer to the tabletop experience than many other Warhammer games nowadays. It's hilarious to me that a Warhammer game can even be on this list given how huge the series is overall, but there are so many different games being made for the franchise right now that this one truly seems to have slipped through the cracks. It's a very cool adaptation, and one that may appeal to fans of the tabletop games more than many others in the franchise.
She Remembered Caterpillars is a puzzle game with a fantastic hand drawn art style. You complete a series of increasingly complex levels where you have to guide little colored creatures to specific spots in each level. The creatures can only cross bridges of their own color and can only go through gates of other colors, and red, blue, and yellow creatures can be combined to make other colors. It's a very simple ruleset that produces some complex and interesting puzzle design. She Remembered Caterpillars is also just lovely to look at, and has quickly become one of my favorite puzzle games in a while.
I Am The Hero is a sidescrolling beat 'em up game that can be played singleplayer, or with both local and online co-op. The combos and hits in the game look powerful and satisfying, with enemies bouncing off walls and around the screen when hit hard enough. I Am The Hero's art style is really what stood out to me, with pixel art characters in a tilted, 2.5D perspective that results in a very unique look.
Red's Kingdom is a puzzle game put into an adventure game shell. You play as a little squirrel who can only move by rolling until he bumps into an object, and you have to navigate and change the world by flipping switches or hitting enemies to get through it. The puzzle style itself is an old one, but I've never seen a classic puzzle built out into an adventure game like this. You aren't completing individual levels, but instead finding your way through different rooms with branching paths. Red's Kingdom looks charming and well made, and early reviews indicate it's not short either.
Hive Jump is a run 'n gun platformer for up to four players, either local or online, that just left Early Access. You fight through a series of procedurally generated levels on alien worlds, each with special modifiers that change how you go about completing them. An interesting mechanic is a backpack your characters carry along that acts as a mobile respawn point, which can be destroyed if you aren't careful. There's also an incredibly appealing strategic campaign, where each level you complete affects a war playing out on a galactic level, adding structure to an otherwise random repeatable experience.
January 8-14 2017:
Rise & Shine is a 2D platforming shooter that says it also mixes in elements of bullet hell and puzzle games. What that looks like is a bright, chaotic, and sometimes clever mix of moments put into an almost Metal Slug style core. The theme of being on "Gamearth" and having to "save video games" is a bit of an eye roll for me, but the cartoony art style that accompanies it is really charming. Rise & Shine is also being published by Adult Swim Games, who've been on quite a hot streak lately.
Detention is 2D sidescrolling atmospheric horror game set in the 1960s and based in Taiwanese and Chinese Mythology. The game is mostly story driven, but has puzzles you'll need to solve as that story reveals itself. I really like Detention's art as well, a hand-drawn look for the characters and certain environments, with higher fidelity art mixed in. And incredibly, it already has over 600 Steam reviews with a whopping 97% of them being positive.
Power Hover is an extremely attractive game about hoverboarding robots. You glide through a series of minimal but very pretty landscapes, moving left and right to avoid obstacles and collect power-ups and energy as you do. From the trailer above, I love that Power Hover changes the camera angle up between sections, at times being directly behind your character and then at other times pulled far out and above. It looks like a nice mix of challenging and zen.
Rising is a pixelated hack-n-slash about cutting through hordes of demons and monsters. The thing that really jumped out at me from Rising's trailer were the pixel art animations, which are top notch for game that otherwise has a rather simple style. If you have a few controllers, Rising also has up to four player local co-op. Its Steam page says this is only the first chapter of the game, and that buying it now will give you access to all future chapters, so it sounds like Rising is only going to get bigger.
Pit People is a turn-based strategy RPG from the makers of Castle Crashers and BattleBlock Theater. Despite being the hotly anticipated next game from developer The Behemoth, Pit People's relatively low-key Early Access launch has snuck past a huge portion of gamers. I did a preview earlier this week and I think it's already a . Some people may want to wait for it to have more story content after Early Access, which could be why it has a lower amount of Steam reviews than I expected it to, but the core game is already fantastic.
January 1-7 2017:
Milkmaid of the Milky Way is a classic point-and-click adventure game with a charming and bright pixel art style. The art actually looks like it's trying to emulate older adventure games like Monkey Island more than it's following the recent trend of pixelated indie games. Milkmaid is full of puzzles and exploration, and apparently its story is told entirely through rhyme. It's already received just over a dozen Steam reviews, all of which are positive, and looks like a nice option for point-and-click fans.
Celestial Breach is an arcade flight game with a focus on playing co-op against AI opponents that just released in Early Access. I really like the look of some of the weapons and ships shown in the trailer above, and the idea of flying around shooting aliens with friends is definitely appealing. Developer Dark Nebulae says it expects Celestial Breach to be in Early Access for around six months and that the main systems of the game are already in place, but it's working on adding content to extend playtime and replayability.
Pivot Pilot is 2D puzzle platformer where you control both a double-jumping boy and a giant robot arm that you use to help him navigate each level. It looks a whole lot like Super Meat Boy but slowed down a lot, with puzzles in place of twitch mechanics and speed. That's actually what appealed to me most about Pivot Pilot, it clearly took heavy inspiration from Super Meat Boy, but changed the pacing and obstacles to be a very different game.
Economic Conquest is a board game style Tycoon strategy game about building up a business, taking over territory, and making more money than your opponents. It just entered Early Access, but developer Frismos says it will likely only be there for six to ten weeks. Additionally, the Steam page says Economic Conquest is a fully playable, and the primary feature missing from the current build is multiplayer.
Try Hard Parking is a wacky driving game with a distinctly '80s aesthetic. As the name might imply, you have to drive your car to the parking spot, but obstacle courses full of jumps, turns, and narrow paths are in your way. Your car changes from level to level, and each stage has different rankings you can achieve by completing them faster—enticing for the speedrunner completionists out there.