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16-bit indie platformer gives Hollow Knight a drill, and it rules

Combining Hollow Knight's mood with the visuals of the Game Boy, PCGamesN played and talked with the team behind Everdeep Aurora at GDC.

Everdeep Aurora Steam GDC: a cartoon black cat with a smile, holding a drill

If you take the atmosphere of Hollow Knight and give it Mr. Driller’s drill, alongside a healthy smattering of gorgeous 16-bit visuals, you get the upcoming Everdeep Aurora. We had a chance to play this delightful narrative puzzle platformer while at GDC, and got to hear from the source, Ysbyrd Games’ Rob Cocks, about what makes it so special.

Everdeep Aurora casts you the cute cat Shell, who like the rest of society has been forced to live underground as an ongoing apocalyptic meteor shower rains down from above. Shell quickly realizes their mom has gone missing, leaving them all but a note, so they set out to find her. A puzzle platform game at heart, Everdeep Aurora adopts old-school 16-bit visuals with gameplay not too dissimilar to the likes of Mr. Driller as you need to use your drill to explore, but with a Hollow Knight-adjacent dark fantasy world filled with extravagant characters and secrets to uncover.

“It’s a pixel art adventure exploration game, which has a very diminutive appearance. It’s basically a Game Boy Color palette with a purposely narrow aspect ratio,” Rob Cocks, production lead at Everdeep Aurora publisher Ysbyrd Games tells PCGamesN. “But the story that unfolds is surprisingly deep and involves a lot of history and emotion. There’s a lot of cute little animal characters, but they have very complex motivations and even guilt in some cases.”

I absolutely adore when indies take a classic visual style and modernize it, and Everdeep Aurora is no exception. $3 indie King of the Bridge did a great job taking the Game Boy’s green tones and making them feel modern, and Everdeep Aurora really makes those limited pixels feel expressive too.

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While a game like Hollow Knight very deliberately uses metroidvania layouts to help you explore though, Everdeep Aurora is leaning into the drilling mechanic by having parts of the world semi-randomized. “The natural cavities and tunnels that already exist, those are randomized. That means that the NPCs shifted around a little bit each time so if you start a new game, it’s not a case of speedrunning it,” Cocks explains.

This does mean that Everdeep Aurora needs to let you reset all the tiles you can drill, because otherwise you could get stuck. But new mobility options like a wall jump and drill upgrades can be found as you progress, with a helicopter blade eventually propelling you straight up, if you need to get back to where you were quickly.

You can wishlist Everdeep Aurora over on Steam right now, with around six to ten hours of underground adventures waiting for you.

If you’re looking for more we’ve also got all the best story games and indie games you’ll want to check out while waiting for Everdeep Aurora, which still has its release date to be announced.

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Additional reporting by Nat Smith for PCGamesN at GDC.