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 14th, if you missed it!
As with last week, these games are picked from the most recent roundup on the #ScreenshotSaturday tag, but if there’s a better trailer available than the latest animated GIF shown, we may use that.
Any or all of these games could be the next big thing. Here’s some of the best indie hits of recent years.
By Easy Trigger Games, no due date
It used to be that run-and-gun shooters like this were ten a penny. The likes of E-SWAT, Contra, Gunstar Heroes, Metal Slug and more left a grand legacy and plenty of sequels, but as sprite art fell out of vogue through the first two Playstation eras, the genre just kinda faded away. Thankfully, new studio Easy Trigger Games remember the good old days, and seem to have the skills to bring them back, too.
Huntdown looks like a strong return to form, although thanks to some of the (excellent) sprite-art it reminds me of B-list Megadrive game Robocop Vs Terminator. While the music falls into the modern synthwave style, the aesthetic is far more true to 80s cheeseball sci-fi action movies than most other attempts to mine the decade for thematic touchstones, and so long as they manage to veer away from some of the less-cool aspects of the era, it should make for a fun, messy playground of destruction.
There’s no fixed release date on this one, sadly, but it’s looking pretty dang polished already, and shouldn’t be too far off if the developers (with publishing help from Goat Simulator outfit Coffee Stain Studios) are confident that they’re releasing on Switch, PS4, Xbox One and Steam. As usual, you can see a bit more of the game over on the official site and the developer’s Twitter feed.
By an as-yet-unnamed trio, no due date
Some games pose deep questions, such as ‘What is the meaning of life?’. Skychasers poses a more important one: ‘What if Luftrausers, but Extremely Anime?’. Piloting an ultra-powerful (but fragile) future jet-fighter capable of some physically improbable feats of maneuverability, you take to the skies and shoot a whole mess of other things, up to and including some really huge robotic bosses, one of which you can see in the development thread over on TIGSource.
It’s being developed by a very indie trio who haven’t come up with any kind of name for their development coalation yet, but so far the team consists of the holy trinity of a coder, and artist and a musician. These days, it seems that if you can get all three together and operating on the same wavelength, anything is possible given the quality of tools available these days.
Skychasers is an easy pick for me. It’s building on a formula that I already love to bits, and doing it in a style that makes me want to dust off my Macross Plus soundtrack. I’ve probably watched that little bit of gameplay above on loop about twenty times now, and you can see more like it over on the TIGSource thread linked above, or the developer’s Twitter feed. No date on this one, but I can’t wait to get my hands on it. I’m already making fwooshy jet noises just looking at it.
By Little Red Dog Games, due February 27th
I’m not sure exactly how this one flew under my radar, but this is extremely my jam. From the looks of it, take the concept of FTL, mash it up with old first-person space captain sims like the ancient Psi-5 Trading Company, and add a bit of procedural point-and-click puzzling for when your ship is on fire and you need to go elbows-deep in its guts to stop the whole thing from exploding.
Playing as an aspiring space cartographer, your job is to map out a strange and dense nebula, packed to the gills with strange space-borne lifeforms and horrible ship-wrecking anomalies. It’s just you out there, too, if you don’t count the on-board AI, meaning that you’ve no crew to delegate risky business to. Every dialogue choice, every monster shot at and every plasma conduit that you reverse the polarity on is down to you. No pressure, eh?
At the end of the day, my only two questions are ‘How did I only find out about this game a month before release?’ and ‘Why did it take so long to happen?’. You can read more about the game onthe official site (and peruse the manual for the game, which looks like it might be handy to print out once the game is released), and wishlist it on Steam here.
By Culture Attack, no due date
Another one relatively early in development, but the few loops I’ve seen of combat gameplay have me excited. It also helps that this is the latest from Culture Attack, creators of the hugely underrated zero-G brawler Aces Wild, so I can confirm that this is a developer who knows exactly how a stylish sword impact should feel. There’s nothing close to a release date on this one yet, but it’s well worth getting aboard this train; you might learn a thing or two.
Billed as a dungeon crawling hybrid of ‘character action’ and action-RPG styles, it’s currently being part-funded through Patreon, and the lone developer – Tyler Doak – has been posting some handy tutorial videos as he goes, teaching people how to do some fun and flashy things in Unity, including swooshy sword-arc effects like you see in the gameplay clip above.
You can follow the game on the developer’s Twitter feed, which is full of interesting details, clips, and candid displays of bugs discovered and (hopefully) fixed. It’s always nice to see a developer confident enough in their abilties to let us see how the sausage is made, so to speak. If nothing else, it’s educational – not too many people realize just how much time and effort goes into just minor details in a game. Sometimes, getting an impact effect looking just right might take the better part of a day.
Vigil: The Longest Night
By Glass Heart Games, no due date
It seems that everyone and their dog is taking at shot at the 2D Souls-like subgenre, and we’ve gotten some great things out of it so far, such as Salt & Sanctuary and Hollow Knight. Vigil: The Longest Night is a solid looking contender as well, altough it looks like it’s skipping over Souls and landing squarely in Bloodborne territory.
Developed by Taiwanese indie crew Glass Heart Games, it seems the they’ve nailed the pseudo-Lovecraftian aesthetic, mashing together horror genres much like Bloodborne did. There’s a little Bram Stoker in there before you even begin to touch on the Cthulhu’y bits. The sprites themselves are large and detailed, although perhaps a little stiffly animated, but the combat itself looks like it captures some famliar rhythms. Always good to shoot for a feel when you’re paying tribute so closely to the original.
One of the big gimmicks of The Longest Night is that the protagonist, Maye, has access to time-magic. This can not only be used in combat (as seen in the trailer above) but is also of some use collecting clues around the cursed village as you try to get to the bottom of whatever is happening to the town. As with Bloodborne, you might have to go a little ways off the beaten path in order to see the true ending. No release date on this one either, although updates are frequently posted to the dev’s Twitter feed, and the old Greenlight page for the game contains a few morsels of information too.
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.