While the Summer Game Fest kick off showcase lured many gaming fans in with promises of the hottest AAA titles, indie enthusiasts sat through the show anticipating its grand finale. This year’s Day of The Devs summer celebration directly followed Geoff Keighley’s E3 competitor and the amount of games I now need to play makes my head spin.
This year, the Double Fine-hosted event boasts more new game announcements than any previous years — using Keighley’s well-known “World Premiere” wording to introduce more than a few of them. It looks like that phrase is here to stay in showcase lexicon and there’s nothing we can do about it.
But you’re here for a breakdown, so let’s get to breaking.
So, it doesn’t have the kangaroo I was looking for, but Wishes Unlimited unveiled its debut project. Beastieball is an alluring mix of concepts, bearing a strong resemblance to recently released Cassette Beasts and Dodgeball Academia. In brief, it’s a Pokémon-like sports game. But the small differences really what draw me in. Instead of mercilessly beating down then ensnaring my team’s beasties, it seems like I’m going to *checks notes* treat them with respect? Beasties will only join my team if I can convince them to, and while playing they can form bonds — for good or ill — with their teammates. It looks like a crowdfunding campaign is on the horizon with the game set to release in 2024.
This title actually has a story as interesting as the game. The original release came out a decade ago, catching the eyes of indie fans and critics alike. However, its developer quickly pulled the game from Steam and vanished from the industry. And it looked like that would be the end of the story until AdHoc reached out to see if he’d be interested in reintroducing it. This updated edition of the hard game about hard lives promises new story elements, art, and other content. Can you help three struggling people reach their retail dreams?
Though not giving a more detailed release window than “later this year,” I’m pumped for Cocoon after this showing. I had the great fortune of covering its reveal last year, and it was hard then to get a sense of the moment-to-moment gameplay. This year’s trailer was certainly illuminating, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have trouble wrapping my mind around the galaxy-brain concept. I love it. The basic idea is to use orbs to solve puzzles. However, each orb contains its own world. And the world you’re in is also contained in an orb. You can jump further in or out of these endlessly stacked universes to overcome challenges. But not everyone wants you to do that. Players will run afoul of intimidating “guardians,” triggering boss fights. The name of these foes has me wondering whether or not we are doing something wrong by jumping between realms.
Seeing this game in motion makes my heart want to burst. It’s so visually stunning I just want to get my hands on it right now. And the gameplay looks like it will highlight the art perfectly. Playing as a painter, players will explore a city, uncovering each leaf and stone by splashing paint onto the unfinished world. As the blank canvas transforms into a neighborhood, the player will grow their ability to reveal the environment. Walking through the newly enlivened streets allows you to meet new characters, some of whom may have commissions for you to work on. I’m all-in for this concept and I’m awaiting its release in 2024 with bated breath.
Eternights is an apocalyptic dating sim, because why not? Obviously anime-inspired, this action-meets-romance RPG will have you dashing through dungeons and looking dashing for your dates. This is what the team has to say about the title: “One day, something, or someone, has turned humans into dangerous monsters. All that interests them now is violence and power. They are what stand between you, a cure, and the world you want. Most importantly? You’re fighting for more than just your own survival – you are fighting for those you love.” If that sounds like your jam, the game is coming this September.
It’s Hauntii y’all! I might have done a fist pump in the air when I saw the title’s unbelievable, hand-drawn looks fill the screen. I’ve had this one on my watch-list for some time and it feels good to see it get some love. You’ll play as the titular character making its way through the afterlife. You can haunt almost everything around you, including sentient beings, to solve puzzles and resolve combat. Interestingly, the game controls like a twin-stick shooter, though the team insists the mechanic will be put to unusually creative purposes. This is another title we’ll have to wait until next year for, but I’ll wait however long I have to.
Not at all shying away from Tony Hawk comparisons, this skateboarding action roguelike asks players to “grind, perform tricks, and chain combos to power up your attacks and slay the monsters of Vertheim.” Its neon looks and strong attitude make up one of the showcases World Premieres, so there’s not much info on Helskate just yet. But the game is set yo go into Early Access in 2024, which will give players a better understanding of what the game has to offer.
Day of the Devs might be fans of The Indie Informer because Henry Halfhead is another game I got to cover recently. My preview resulted from GDC’s edition of The MIX, and it was mostly a chance encounter. From off my radar to one of my most anticipated game, this lighthearted puzzle adventure follows, as you might have guessed, Henry Halfhead. While being only half a head (the upper half to be exact) Henry goes about their day through strategic possession. That’s right, they take control of objects around them to complete tasks. In today’s trailer, those tasks revolve around getting for work. Turning off the morning alarm can be tough without hands, and slicing apples for a healthy start to the day both seem equally difficult. But it’s up to you to figure out how to get everything done.
Indie fans around the world have been waiting to see more of Heart Machine’s Hyper Light Drifter follow-up. The glimpses have been few and far between, so today’s gameplay-filled trailer was a real treat. The world is wonderfully colorful, the action smooth, and the traversal fluid. The creators described their upcoming title as both bleak and vivid, comparing it to Breath of the Wild and Hades. The two game choices were influenced by Hyper Light Breaker’s main genres. The open-world roguelike seeks to offer unrestricted replayability. It seems like an Herculean task, but you’ll find me trying out the game’s Early Access release later this year.
The game’s first sentence on Steam is really all you need to know if you’re in on Mars First Logistics or not. It reads: “Build physically simulated rovers and transport awkwardly shaped cargo across the surface of Mars.” And that’s it. That’s the whole pitch. I know many gamers personally for whom that sentence is guaranteed to set them salivating. For me, the beauty of the game is… its beauty. It’s simplistic but stunning graphics put me in mind of Sable, one of my favorite adventure games of the past few years. This delivery-building sim in outer space is set to launch on Steam Early Access June 22.
Another engineer’s dream game, Retro Gadgets sets players up with their own workshop to tinker as they see fit. Already in Early Access, it looks like the positively reviewed game — which I shared last year — is gearing up for something. Though the show didn’t mention a release date, developers don’t typically show off games for no reason. I suspect we will hear more from Retro Gadgets soon.
The end of the world never looked so cheery. This game’s paper cutout art style serves as the foundation for a story-driven adventure featuring a small community is crisis. The first problem is the world has suffered a catastrophic flood. But that’s old news to the game’s crew. The more pressing issue seems to be that their captain has gone missing. Now on a quest to find their fearless leader — whose mysterious departure could have been foul-play or voluntary — the gaggle of misfits have to work together to navigate a world of conflict and community.
Simpler Times is an adventure game through-and-through. As such, if contemplative, introspective, and self-contained indies are your thing, get this on your radar. You’ll play as Tiana who is in the process of moving out of her childhood home. For anyone who has ever moved, you’ll know how unexpectedly touching going through all your earthly possessions can be. Finding that trophy you won and reliving the winning shot before letting the memento go, spotting that concert T-shirt you thought you’d lost years ago under the bed, reading through old notes you passed in class with friends — experiencing the memories is always bitter-sweet. And for a game to capture that feeling? I’m ready to start packing up my life when Simpler Times releases next year.
Sun-drenched hillsides shelter a grazing herd of sheep, looking out over the pastoral horizon. After the first vista shot, I knew this game had me. A World Premiere, there’s not much substance in this reveal trailer. Though, the hint of supernatural as the shepherd passes through a shimming gate with their flock is eye-catching. Another intriguing detail is the game is being made by the creators of the Alto series, games known for their pleasing aesthetics. The sheep aren’t the only thing being driven, as the team promises a story-driven adventure with puzzles to keep players engaged in the world.
This may be one of the most creative games I’ve ever played and waiting patiently for its 2023 release is getting harder by the day. Sadly, the show’s trailer didn’t give us any targeted release information. However, it did show off something I definitely didn’t get to see in my earlier hands-on experience. What the heck is going on with the talking Cheshire cat? The puzzles are wild, the solutions more so. But seriously, despite the game’s amazing concept and astounding visuals, I could only focus on the new feline companion. At first, I thought I was seeing things. But whatever is going on with the story here might be just as bizarre as its mechanics, and that’s magnificent.