“Spring is here, a-sapa-ring is here – life is skittles and life is beer.” No argument with the beer part, and I suppose you could play skittles indoors by yourself, but Tom Lehrer’s greatest hit was about whiling away sunny spring afternoons by poisoning fowl in public spaces.
Sadly lockdown has got in the way of that innocent pleasure for most of us. The Resident Evil 3 remake is out today but, if you only follow triple-A news, you may be wondering how else to keep entertained during the rest of April – even more so if a city left deserted by a deadly virus seems a little too close to the bone right now.
But now that all our traditional start-of-the-month japery is dispensed with, I’m happy to say there are some real gems in the latest of our monthly roundups of less exposed games. These include two innovative games that take WWII and two long-established gaming genres to offer a fresh spin on both; a couple of brilliant-looking narrative adventures, one a cyberpunk yarn and one an unflinchingly honest look at real life drama; a Pythonesque comedy and a chaotic couch co-op game that should provide plenty of laughter, and many more.
Read on and we hope you discover plenty of wishlist material or your next surprise love affair in our list of PC games you won’t want to miss this month.
April 2 – Sometimes Always Monsters
2014’s Always Sometimes Monsters was a worldly wise – or perhaps world-weary – look at life, love, and creative ambitions all struggling in the teeth of adversity. Like Disco Elysium, it was a hard-boiled, story-driven RPG about people and relationships rather than combat and adventuring, and this month, its sequel finally lands.
In Sometimes Always Monsters, you’re recently married and promoting your forthcoming novel on a cross-country bus tour. It seems you’ve got everything you ever wanted – but vicious rumours circulate that you’ve built your career on lies. You can import your character from the first game or start fresh, with vast freedom to roleplay your character as a workaholic, a slacker, and everything in-between – or, indeed, nothing, as all the game’s content, even the entirety of the primary narrative, is optional. Check it out on Steam here (or don’t).
April 3 – In Other Waters
Marine biology is a dream career for many, probably because they picture scuba diving into turquoise seas, copping off with athletic surfer guys/girls, and drinking tea with dolphins. In Other Waters strikes a more thoughtful tone than such frippery: you play an artificial intelligence guiding a stranded xenobiologist through a mysterious alien ocean.
Rendered in lovely hues of navy, gold, and aquamarine, it looks stylish and peaceful, and promises a non-violent sci-fi story in a world of “wonder, fear, and vulnerability,” as you and your squishy organic companion unravel the history and ecology of an “impossible planet”. Steam me up, Scotty.
April 9 – The Procession to Calvary
The Procession to Calvary is weird. We like weird. A point-and-click adventure game built from Renaissance art and packed with classical music and surreal Pythonesque humour, we can pretty much guarantee you haven’t played anything like it.
“It’s kind of like if Monkey Island 2 had been made in 17th century Florence by a time-traveling Terry Gilliam wannabe,” developer Joe Richardson says. If we were sold any harder we’d be a hotcake. Apparently there’s a story involving God and a hunt for Heavenly Peter, but – look, if you’re not interested after watching the trailer above, you have my sympathy. And now for something completely Steam page.
April 9 – Radio General
Radio General is one of the most inventive twists on the strategy genre we can remember seeing. Forget clicking to order units around a map from a position of ill-explained top-down omniscience; you take the first-person perspective of a WWII general sitting in a tent.
Your job is to review maps and intelligence reports, and give orders to your troops over the radio – just like a real general would. Speech recognition then translates your orders to commands that your men can follow. It’s less a strategy game than a strategy sim – you can even relive famous battles, such as the D-Day landings. Report for duty on Steam here.
April 12 – Kards
Keeping with our theme of inventive presentations of World War Two, Kards is a free-to-play card game from brothers Guðmundur and Ivar Kristjánsson – Eve Online players may know Ivar as the co-founder and CEO of CCP Games. Familiar CCG gameplay makes it easy to pick up, while innovative mechanics enable a range of new tactics inspired by WWII, such as Blitzkrieg and air superiority. Decks are based on each of the five major powers of the war, with lovely card art inspired by the 1940s aesthetic. Draw from the Steam page.
April 16 – Main Assembly
Some of the most exciting games on the market are the ones that let players unleash their creativity. Minecraft is the most obvious example, but Main Assembly goes further in teaching concrete skills. You’ll design machines and then program them with powerful visual scripting tools, much as engineers and coders do in real life. The game will then challenge you to apply your inventions in solving particular problems, such as transporting goods across a crowded bridge.
These are useful tricks to know, given that our jobs will all be replaced by robots one day eventually. Better to be the one controlling them. Main Assembly will assemble via Steam Early Access here.
April 22 – ITTA
Having woken up surrounded by her dead family, and guided by a spirit who takes the form of the family cat and gifts her a glowing revolver, a young girl named Itta must seek out and battle the powerful beings sealed beneath a seemingly peaceful world.
I mean, what a setup. In case you really need to hear more: the 18 daunting bosses draw on twin-stick bullet hell mechanics to provide a hectic challenge, but you’ve a wide arsenal of spirit weapons, each with its own fighting style, to draw upon – and if you get really stuck, you can turn on bonus damage or invincibility at any time. Think Binding of Isaac by way of Shadow of the Colossus. Meet your ghost kitty on Steam here.
April 23 – Cloudpunk
The sprawling cyberpunk city of Nivalis is the star of this story-driven neon-noir adventure. As delivery driver Rania, you’ll explore its every nook and cranny, from the Marrow below to the spires that scrape the troposphere high above, by way of electric blue roads and aerial traffic lanes. You’ll meet androids, hackers, and ruthless corporate agents, and unravel a world of mystery and conspiracy. Just the thing to tide you over until Cyberpunk 2077. Pick up your package on Steam here.
April 23 – Filament
The premise of being adrift on a spaceship whose crew mysteriously vanishes is a common enough setup for sci-fi mystery horror stories, because if you think about it, it’s utterly terrifying. Yet Filament somehow makes this setup feel cosy, with its warm art style and the endearing relationship at its centre. It’s up to you to save Juniper, the ship’s pilot, sole remaining crew member, and only voice of guidance as you solve Filament’s 300 fiendish puzzles and discover what happened to her crew. Embark via Steam here.
April 28 – Moving Out
From Team 17, the publisher who brought you Overcooked, comes another simulation of ostensibly simple busywork that aims to get you shouting at and laughing with your friends on a sofa by adding plenty of chaos.
This time the work is moving furniture, and the chaos comes via physics simulation – expect to overcome obstacles such as conveyor belts, swimming pools, and common doors by just throwing that precious Ming vase. You can play solo, but obviously the most fun will come in local or online co-op. First of your mates to yell “PIVOT” like Ross from Friends takes a shot for being a massive cliche. Pick it up on Steam here.
And that’s your lot! These are some of the most promising new games that we noticed releasing during April. If you like what you see and missed our previous roundups, you can catch up on other exciting new releases in March and February – and of course we’ll see you again in May. Take care of yourselves and stay indoors – you’ve got a lot of great games to get through now.