Welcome, welcome one and all to Week 44 of 52 this year.
Bringing you your weekly dose of IndieGems pulled from the forge that have caught my eye.
Below you will find my Top 3 IndieGame releases this week, no surprise that they are mostly... actually all... horror related. Even though they are all horror games, they have different styles and ways of doing it. From messing with your mind, bringing slow dread or finding the beauty in whats monstrous.
Some weeks (such as this one) there will be an extra review for a game that I had high hopes for, but has fallen short of my expectations. That review can be found at the end of the article.
Top 3 IndieGames
Developer/Publisher: Shadow Knights Studio
Genre: Investigative Thriller, Horror
"Uniquely crafted thriller with glimpses into psychotic and alternate dimensions."
For a game that is still in Early Access, I am massively impressed. The environment design is amazing with going as far as little details like cobwebs and door stoppers. Framing the environment is cinematic lighting, giving you an experience that is both beautiful and terrifying. Genuine tingles ran up my spine at times as I was truly immersed.
Enough gushing about the visuals, I'm sure if you watch the trailer yourself, it'll be clear. What you really want to know is how terrifying of a horror it is.
To start, this is one of my favourite types of horror themes. It is purely a psychological driven horror. No blood or gore, no jump scares. What you get instead is slow spine-tingling dread and surreal sprints through corridors that mess with your mind. In a way, it reminds me a little of Layers of Fear... if Layers of Fear had a huge graphical face lift.
Puzzles are hit and miss for me. Some are well designed but a lot of them rely on you having a very keen eye for details rather than a sharp mind. Eventually, after searching every nook and cranny I would find what I need, but the time spent searching takes you out of the immersion and story. There it is, my only complaint. Oh, and it was much too short of a game, but... then I guess it is still in Early Access and not finished, so will hold my breath on that till future updates.
Sound design is brilliant and atmospheric, music is lovely and eerie. I do recommend this game to any horror fans, especially those who love the twists and turns you get from psychological thrillers, just a word of warning that for its price, it is quite short... it's worth it because of the amazing work that has gone into it, but just fair warning. I still loved it.
Genre: Survival Horror, Adventure
Price: (Each Episode) £6.99 PC (Steam), Consoles (TBA)
"Face the manifestations of the Presence, an unpredictable, eldritch AI that reacts to your way of playing"
Our second horror of the article is different from the first in many ways, but it does not hold back the scares in the least. An episodic horror game living up to its name by bringing its excellent sound design to the front and making us all paranoid with fear.
I believe that the best horrors are not the ones that make you jump, but the ones that fill you with slow dread, making you second guess your every action. Your greatest enemy is yourself after all, and your biggest fears live within the realms of your imagination.
Song of Horror takes advantage of this brilliantly.
Highly recommend you wear headphones for this game. As you travel room to room, or down dark corridors, the sound of creaking floorboards and shoes scuffing in a hurry... but not your feet, these sounds come from upstairs. Or there is crying to be heard on the other side of a door. You can't trust your senses, but at the same time, you must rely on them to survive. Building this paranoia within you is fantastic and very Lovecraftian at its purest without relying on monsters and scares. Very few games make you doubt your choices like this one.
There are two unique features in this game I have no seen very often. The first is a mysterious one, I have read that the 'Presence' is a clever AI that remembers what you do and changes their scare tactics based on it. Hard for me to judge or experiment to see quite how that works, but on paper, it sounds really interesting and cool. The second feature I can talk more on, instead of giving you lives or health bars, you are given a cast of characters. Each of these characters has a different personality in how they interact with objects and clues and also different stats. I played my first playthrough as Etienne (it goes without saying that he did not survive until the end). What is cool is that when you die, that character is gone for good. You then pick another character to enter the haunted house with and once you find the body you can pick up your old inventory. This is excellent and adds to how tense the game can become when you know it could be your characters last breath.
Highly recommend this game, it's inexpensive and to echo many other reviewers out there, it has an essence of classic Resident Evil and Silent Hill, but with some new twists.
Genre: Point'n'Click, Adventure
Price: £12.99 PC (Steam), TBA (IOS, Android, SWITCH)
"Play as the Creature, a wanderer without memory or past... A thousand miles from the horror stories"
Living poetry, a breathing painting that you experience.
From the moment you awaken and open your eyes, the world is painted before you as you explore and learn what life is. You may be this huge creature, but your mind is like a child, seeing for the first time a deer and the flowers blossoming. To me, it almost doesn't feel like a game, it is much more akin to an experience. There are game play mechanics and puzzles to solve sure, but you are so absorbed in the story and the character, you forget it's a game you're playing.
The art is a wonderful watercolour style and enhanced by the music that accompanies it. Even in the times of silence, it is filled with birds chirping or streams running, there is life in this enclosed world that you journey through. Headphones are a must when experiencing this story. Sound design is mastered perfectly, with silence being used to drive emotion when at times needed.
As is to be expected, some will compare it to the original story, as is done with many works of re-interpretation. What makes this very interesting is that you are given choice over matters. The story itself is different from the book but no less heartwrenching as you see through the eyes of the creature and hear his inner thoughts. You begin to empathise with him and as you decide how he reacts to certain situations, you begin to live through him, for better or worse.
Emotion is key to storytelling. It's a belief of mine that real art and a good story makes you feel and The Wanderer takes you through happiness, regret, sadness and anger.
I can not recommend this game enough. Some may turn away because of its length (3hrs), but I tell you it is worth it. I hope that the developers continue to tell beautiful stories that we can experience and learn from, I'll be there waiting for more.
Developer/Publisher: Night School Studio
Genre: Point'n'Click, Adventure
"But there’s a loophole: outdrink Satan and he’ll grant you re-entry to Earth."
I have included this game in the article because it is a game I have been looking forward to for a long time. Like many, I am a big fan of NightSchools previous game "Oxenfree". The free-flowing conversations that touched on heavy subjects and themes so effortlessly and provided us with emotion in the story and characters that we loved.
When I first heard the announcement of AfterParty and watched their first trailer, I was more than excited. It didn't look like it would be as deep of a story as Oxenfree was, definitely a more casual fun trip through hell with colours and plenty of humour and I was ok with that. What I didn't know at the time is that this casual trip would be a long walk with not much to say.
Oxenfree, for those unfamiliar, is famous for their free-flowing conversations and well-written dialogue. In AfterParty, it is instead held back by a heavy load of exposition that doesn't go anywhere. Like a joke with no punchline, this exposition is then repeated on those long walks, thinking maybe the conversation is going somewhere... but no.
Much of the game felt very flat to me, and if it wasn't for the conversations filling the void, I would not have made it to the end of the game. This is because a large portion of the game is walking from A to B and doing what you're told. There is very little choice to be made and what choice you do have is an illusion. Often this kind of railroading of a player can be forgiven in my eyes, many amazing games are extremely linear and make up for it in other aspects, usually story. Unfortunately, I have already mentioned how the story disappointed me, so combined with the very "go here do that" game style, it was a very slow crawl.
There are redeeming parts of the game. The voice acting is brilliant and you could tell the little inflexions and range of emotions performed making it enjoyable to listen to. The characters have thought out personalities that lend to the voices and they're likeable. I grew to like many of them, even if the story did let it down.
In conclusion, it's not a bad game, there were entertaining moments with some funny jokes, but I never felt like I needed to keep playing, I just felt... meh.
Catch me again every Monday for the weeks IndieGems that are fresh out the Forge. I brave the overwhelming out pour from Steam, so you don't have to.
If any devs want to get their freshly made gems- I mean games- fully reviewed, drop me a message on here or on my email [email protected]
I will check out your page and see what article or video I can make for you. Also can help with creating Presskits and Promotions for those that need it (whether being released soon or in the far future)