This is a golden age of videogames. More than ever before, people from all backgrounds are making games using freely accessible tools that industry pioneers of the '80s and '90s could only dream of. The only problem now is information overload; with more games than anyone could ever process, what are you to do?
It's that time of the week again, and PCGamesN returns to help you cut through the noise, and tune your signal into some of the most intriguing experiments in the indie scene this week, one enticing image at a time. Check out the latest crop below, and check back next week for more. Plus check our our lineup from last week, January 7th, if you missed it!
Any or all of these games could be the next big thing. Here's some of the best indie hits of recent years.
Tesla Vs Lovecraft
By 10Tons Ltd, due January 26th
10tons are no strangers to the twin-stick shooter genre. Die-hard indie gamers from decades past might remember the freeware hit Crimsonland (now re-released and commercial on Steam and GOG), as well as their more recent titles such as the roguelike-ish Neon Chrome and the pleasingly anarchic JYDGE. In short, this is a studio that know how to make shooting lots of dumb things fun and satisfying.
Tesla vs Lovecraft is their latest take on the genre, pitting a mech-piloting Nikola Tesla against an army of extra-dimensional monsters and fish-men led by Olde Timey horror writer H.P. Lovecraft. It's very silly, very tongue-in-cheek, but it's hard to deny the appeal of 'Electric retro-mech vs fishmen'.
Unlike the majority of games in this column, this one is very, very close to launch now, and will be hitting Steam on the 26th of January, and you can wishlist it on the store now if this tickles your fancy. As an aside, if you want to read some genuinely great (and frequently hilarious) comics involving Tesla, Lovecraft, extra-dimensional weirdness and more, check out the fantastic Atomic Robo.
By Tristan Dahl, due August 2018
I've always wanted to learn a second language. Tried many times over the years, but somehow, it always just bounced off. Perhaps something like Lingotopia is the salve I need for my word-resistant brain? It's a game about being a stranger exploring a strange city, full of people speaking a language you don't recognize, forcing you to piece bits of information together by poking and prodding and observing; learning language the way a child might.
Lingotopia already supports a wide range of languages for English-speakers to try their hand at learning, and also includes a German-to-English mode, hopefully the first of many such options. It seems that so few language teaching packages work in reverse, and just assume that English is the default.
The game has recently started funding via Kickstarter, and seems fairly solidly on track to hitting at least its basic funding goal. One feature planned for if the game is fully funded is synthesized audio, so you can hear the proper pronounciation of each word in each language. If you're happy poking around without speech, though, a playable alpha build of the game is availalbe here on Itch.io, and the developer's twitter feed is full of interesting little details.
By Aloft Studio, early 2018
— Aloft Studio (@AloftStudio) January 13, 2018
The gameplay footage says it all, pretty much: Hazelnut Bastille is a gorgeous-looking Zelda-like action adventure, with pin-sharp pixel art, some interestingly projectile-heavy looking combat, and a whole mess o' inventory items and weapons to collect and use on a wide variety of monsters.
In short, it ticks all the boxes for me, putting it up there with the likes of Hyper Light Drifter and Crosscode. From the looks of the official site, Aloft Studio have got a lot of tilesets and monster graphics already worked out, which is backed up by its target release date of early 2018, so you shouldn't have to wait too much longer before getting your grubby mitts on it.
You can see a ton more of the game on its official site, and get immediate access to a playable demo by signing up for their official newsletter. You can see a good chunk of extra gameplay footage as well on their Twitter feed, as usual.
The Devil's Eight
By Second Step Studios, no due date
Music-synced boss fights in looping circular arenas is order of the day in The Devil's Eight. The end result is a bizarre hybrid that feels a little bit like Furi mixed up with the likes of early 3D Playstation-era platformers like Pandemonium, with a focus on parrying enemy attacks to the beat, giving it a real David-vs-Goliath feel.
It's a pure rhythm/action experience. No stats, no leveling up, no progression, just you against a procession of giant musical demons inspired by the deadly sins.
I've played an earlier build of this and found it a little on the stiff side and not as clear as it might have been instruction-wise, but there's still a good long ways until this finishes development, so there's a lot of room for improvement yet. The visuals are rock solid and the music is catchy too, so with just a bit of tuning, this could be something really special.
You can play that early build of the game here on Itch.io, and follow development on both the official site and developer's twitter feed. The demo build was originally used to promote a Kickstarter for the game, but it fell short of hitting their full funding target, but this thankfully doesn't seem to have stopped development.
By Fisholith, no due date
Originally created as part of a Game Boy themed dev-jam, Down Ward's development has continued long past the end of the competition, thanks to there clearly being the spark of something special there, just needing a little more time and love to really make it feel complete.
Rendered in lovely monochrome pixels (although if you find the Game Boy limitations restrictive, you can pull the camera way back further if you please, you play as Gable, an owl on a quest to explore a haunted forest, gather magical feathers and use them to power the wards that keep the lands safe.
Mechanically, we're looking at a 2D platformer here with simple controls, but a remarkable amount of technique required to truly master the game. Being an owl, Gable can fly freely, but only when moving forward or she'll drop helplessly to the ground, so you need to maintain motion through claustrophobic environments, and carefully use high-jumps to get you the requisite height to begin full flight.
There is a playable alpha build of the game available now on Game Jolt, and development on new features and content is ongoing. I'm unsure if this will be remaining free or ever going commercial, but either way I applaud developer Fisholith for their effort.
That's it for this week. Got any favorites you want to share? Post them in the comments below, and if you're a developer and want to see your game here? Tweet about it on #ScreenshotSaturday.