Tucked away on the tallest floor of GDC’s tallest building was a place of magic. Here, any attendee wandering by could find a seat on a small, round stool, pick up a controller, and play some of the indie scene’s most anticipated titles. This was the Day of the Devs.
And though I had my share of planned demos, I still managed to carve out some time to check out the show’s treasure trove. From turn-based pixel delights to hand-drawn adventures, here are my hands-on highlights.
One of the first chances for anyone to get their hands on the doomed dino drama, Goodbye Volcano High sang with potential. Its intro threw me into a choice I didn’t have context for, asking me to pick between letting go or holding on while a group of my adolescent circle crowded around. Flashing to eight months earlier, the main character, Fang, is dealing with slightly less pressure.
I was introduced to the game’s surprisingly challenging, multifaceted rhythm mechanics while writing a new song for my band. I also got to see the main thrust of the dialogue-deciding gameplay as I chatted up my bestie and learned everything I could ever want about the fabulous velvet worm, Mango. (If anything happens to Mango, I will riot.) The emotional beats already had me invested and the artwork is divine.
The upcoming title from Shovel Knight creators Yacht Club Games starts off with a stylish bang. Looking like a de-made Yarnham, a gothic city splits the night sky with its towering structures. Boney creatures reanimate with gleaming eyes, looking for prey. And a dashing, mousey figure prepares to take them all on.
I get to pick my weapon of choice at the start and go for the nimble-looking pair of blades. Movement and combat feel smooth. I had a lot of fun figuring out where I could use my character’s tunneling abilities to discover secret areas or slide past enemies. The isometric view could be a little tricky as I tried to aim my movements, but the title’s personality and design are excellent.
I was excited to unravel some of the mysteries behind Animal Well. Every time I’d seen the action platformer, it puzzled and intrigued me more and more. And I’d love to say I walked away from this preview ready to share my insights into its secrets, but I’m just as mystified post-demo as a was before getting my hands on it.
What I can tell players looking into this title is it’s as clever as it is inscrutable. I begin by blooming out of a giant flower and following a frantic squirrel. Unfortunately, before long, a ghost impedes my progress, causing me to head down another of this cave-like level’s twisting paths. Growing in the belly of the cave are firecracker flowers that scare ways the incorporeal hurdles, but they don’t seem to do much for the nightmarish wolf spirit I encounter afterward.
Sea of Stars’ preview dropped me in media res into a human-sized sphere being caught by a golem. From the party’s comments, I gather this is a method of travel rather than a dire punishment. Before all this, the game offered me a choice between two protagonists: The sun-infused male character or moon-touched heroine. I picked the silver-haired warrior, but my more radiant half wasn’t left behind. He made up the second of the three-membered group. Rounding out my posse was a more mundane-seeming character.
I didn’t have much time between appointments to explore the world, so I forced an encounter as soon as possible. While the typical turn-based staples were there for fans of the genre, Sea of Stars played around with the formula. My favorite instance of this came with my boomerang ability. Instead of launching it and watching the health tick off my target, I could — if I hit the designated button at just the right time — deflect the weapon as it returned. This let me cast it back at different enemies several times, devastating the opposing party.