When it comes to choosing your next game, it’s not just the big studio release schedule you should be keeping an eye on.
Smaller, indie developers have a lot to offer gamers as well.
From hidden gems on the PS4 and Xbox One to incredible indie experiences tucked away on the Nintendo eShop, there is something for everyone.
This weekly round-up will highlight some of 2019’s best indie games we’ve been playing and help you decide which ones deserve not just your money, but more importantly, your time.
INDIE GAME OF THE WEEK – Close To The Sun
– Developed by Storm in a Teacup
Close to the Sun is set in an alternate version the early 20th century, with Niko Tesla and Thomas Edison battling for supremacy. Our protagonist is a journalist named Rose who boards Tesla’s giant ship (the Helios) to try and find her missing sister.
The Helios is a hub of scientific experiments and Tesla-inspired machinery but, as Rose soon finds out, it’s harbouring dark secrets as well. It’s the perfect premise for a first-person horror adventure game.
With regards to graphical-style, Close to the Sun bears a striking similarity to the BioShock games in its design. In fact, those who enjoyed exploring the underwater city of Rapture will feel right at home inside the Helios. Like BioShock, Close to the Sun also employs atmospheric horror to build tension, and while combat is not a component, the game still has strong moments of terror.
Close to the Sun delivers an experience that works by providing players with a handful of puzzles and chase scenes to break up the exploration aspect of the game. But it’s actually exploration that is the best part, with the ship looking gorgeous (the Unreal Engine really is used to striking effect) and every nook and cranny providing some clue or interesting insight into what’s really going on.
Overall, Close to the Sun is an intriguing tale with strong story hooks, a beautifully crafted setting and some good scares.
Keep reading to see out other favourite games of 2019!
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The Stillness of The Wind
– Developed by Fellow Traveller
The Stillness of the Wind is a simple game, one which focuses on an old woman named Talma and the farm she lives on. Whilst maintaining her modest homestead, a narrative will slowly reveal itself, shedding light on Talma’s story and the importance of appreciating every aspect of life.
The first thing you notice while playing is that Talma is very much alone. It’s been years since she’s seen her relatives and, with an unwillingness to leave her farm behind, she lives a peaceful yet repetitive life tending to her goats, chickens and crops. All in a tiny yet beautifully drawn setting.
The player’s role is to manage the farm sim-style so that, when a travelling salesman passes by each day, Talma can trade for supplies to feed her animals and receive letters from the world beyond.
It’s these letters that provide most of the story in The Stillness of the Wind. Sent from family and friends who’ve long since left the farm behind, these daily letters are the only link Talma has to her loved ones.
Talma’s life is a lonely and regimented one, wherein she works day and night on the farm. It’s a simple tale but one which becomes incredibly deep and meaningful very quickly. While Talma’s routine never really changes, her story and struggles seep into the forefront of the game in an inspired way.
The Stillness of the Wind is a beautiful journey, one which invites players to consider the more meaningful aspects of life and take a moment to appreciate the little things.
– Developed by Altered Matter
Etherborn is all about gravity. The game follows your character (a voiceless white humanoid born into a strange world) as you negotiate gravitational pull and a lot of puzzles.
There is a story that runs through Etherborn, but it’s relatively abstract and it’s really the puzzles which take centre stage. In a situation not a million miles away from Super Mario Galaxy, gravity affects how you move through the 3D world, and how you work through each area.
Walking over slopes will gently change the pull of gravity in your favour, but step off sharp ledges and you may well fall to your death. This means that you’ll have to carefully tread each environment whilst you figure out every unique puzzle. As you solve these puzzles you’ll also need to collect orbs of light which are the key to helping you advance in your adventure.
Character movement could be smoother, and this does lead to several delicate puzzles being harder than they should be. But beautifully relaxing sound design, charming graphical style and the core puzzle-solving gameplay all work really well.
On top of this, a new game plus mode allows players to pit themselves against the game with harder to find orbs. As the entire point of Etherborn seems to be creating a relaxing and soothing gaming experience, this difficulty spike might not be necessary, but it’s notable as another layer in what is a well-polished indie puzzler.
Caydence of Hyrule
• Developed by Brace Yourself Games
Featuring beloved characters from the Zelda franchise, Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer is an indie rhythm game with a big spoonful of combat thrown in for good measure.
Cadence of Hyrule is both a crossover and spin-off of the original Crypt of the NecroDancer game and keeps the core mechanic of rhythm-based gameplay. The game is set in a familiar Zelda-inspired world (amazing to see Nintendo lending out their IP to an indie studio like this), with key Hyrule landmarks and classic Zelda tunes and remixes.
Essentially, you’ll be dancing your way through a 2D Hyrule fighting enemies in time with music, and playing as either Link, Zelda or Cadence (the protagonist of Crypt of the NecroDancer). As you visit new areas you’ll come face to face with new enemies and earn bonuses for keeping the beat and attacking enemies in time with the music.
The visual aesthetic is akin to Link to the Past, but there is music and nods to many more Zelda games than that. The difficulty and learning curve is quite steep (especially if you didn’t play the original) but it should ‘click’ eventually for most players.
With amazing music and bold, iconic settings, Cadence of Hyrule is an enjoyable and fascinating game. With Zelda fitting so well into the Crypt of the NecroDancer world it also begs the question, what other big franchises could Nintendo lend out to exciting indie studios?
• Developed by Epitasis Games
Epitasis begins with you stepping through a portal into a strange alien world. The game delivers a beautiful visual experience in an otherworldly setting, centred around 3D puzzles and a peaceful vibe.
After heading through an alien portal, the playable character finds themselves in a world covered with alien artefacts, ruins and puzzles to solve that will shed light on the history of this strange place.
Epitasis works as a free to roam game and, thanks to the beautiful scenery, it’s easy to lose yourself on the planet. The graphical style is stunning, and a range of interesting colours and alien biology means that you’re likely to frequently forgo puzzle-solving to simply explore.
The puzzles themselves are simplistic and don’t require too much thought to solve, which makes Epitasis a perfect game for those seeking a relaxing, easy-going experience. The soundtrack also ebbs and flows along with what you’re doing and helps with creating a soothing atmosphere.
The narrative itself is vague and leaves the player to connect the dots and piece together their own story within the game. For some players, there may not be enough structure or challenge to keep them invested, but for gamers who play games in order to chill out, this is the perfect title to pick up.
What Remains of Edith Finch
• Developed by Giant Sparrow Games
What Remains of Edith Finch is a storytelling masterclass, and it’s finally available for Nintendo Switch. The game opens with titular character Edith Finch returning to her childhood home, determined to uncover the secrets hidden behind each locked door and the truth of the famous Finch family curse.
Edith’s house is truly a spectacle. Endless improvised extensions turn it into a crooked, one-of-a-kind building in the middle of a wild forest. Inside are the sealed abodes of Edith’s relatives, all of whom fell victim to the mysterious Finch family curse and the premature, bizarre deaths it seems to bring.
Once inside, Edith discovers the stories of each family member in turn. Making her way down the family tree, Edith pieces together their last moments and legacies. Each room has been sealed off following the resident’s death, but once Edith finds her way inside she’ll be faced with their final moments.
These gameplay sections transport the player into the POV of each deceased Finch. Their stories are told in vastly different styles, from vivid imaginations filled with metaphor to a story unravelling through the pages of a comic book. Each story is as compelling and as moving as the last, especially considering the tragically young ages of some of the lost Finches.
Giant Sparrow has taken great care to treat each Finch tale with respect, all while delivering an engaging and memorable story that tackles a plethora of issues such as neglect, depression and anxiety. What Remains of Edith Finch is honestly a marvel, and is right up there with the finest video game stories ever told. If you haven’t played it yet, please do yourself a massive favour and download it immediately.
• Developed by Studio MDHR
Cuphead brings the animation style of the 1930’s to the video game world in the form of a whimsical run-and-gun platformer. It’s deviously difficult, but once you start playing it you’ll struggle to stay away.
Cuphead follows the story of titular Cuphead after he sells his soul to the devil. In order to get his freedom back, he has to take down a plethora of bosses who have wronged old red horns somehow. These boss fights are at the heart of the game and, with a variety of ingenious cartoony designs, every fight is just as insane and as enjoyable as the last.
Boss fights and the levels between them are purposefully tricky and the screen is often a maze of fast-moving projectiles for your character to dodge. Simply put, Cuphead is hard.
It’s one of the hardest games I’ve ever played but defeating each level and boss gives you a huge sense of achievement as a result. Additionally, the level of artistic detail is astounding, it’s just a shame you’ll miss so much of it because you have to concentrate on the action so hard!
The musical score is also incredible. The soundtrack is mainly composed of jazz and jaunty tones, emphasising the action on screen as you fire off your own projectiles and try to stop yourself from dying for the fiftieth time.
Cuphead has won a bucket-load of awards since its original release on Xbox and deservedly so. It’s a masterpiece, but it’s also incredibly difficult to master. Luckily, if you’re struggling on your own, you can always grab a friend and indulge in the superb co-op mode too.
You can read the full Daily Star Gaming review here.
• Developed by Inverge Studios
A colourful 3D action-adventure game, Effie sees a chosen hero attempt to overcome the darkness in an enjoyable adventure inspired by the action platformers of old.
The central protagonist and playable character is Galand, a man who was cursed by a witch and, as a result, now suffers from premature old age. In order to rid himself of the curse, Galand travels to the land of Oblena for a bit of puzzling, a dash of platforming and a lot of combat.
Galand is equipped with a magical shield that can be used as a weapon and a way to quickly traverse the red grasslands between cities, surfboard-style. Surfing on the shield lessens the time you’ll spend travelling between locations, plus it’s a seriously enjoyable aspect of the game.
Galand fights with his shield in a way akin to Captain America, bashing enemies and throwing and catching it a bit like a boomerang. As you spend more time with the game your shield will only become stronger, gaining in power and skills. Combat is simplistic and basic enemies take no time to dispatch. In mobs, you may have more problems, but focus your attacks on higher priority foes and battles still play out with relative ease.
It’s clear that classic 3D action-adventure games have greatly impacted Effie, but it does have its own soul and the game is certainly a fun if not particularly challenging addition to the genre.
• Developed by Cococucumber
Set in a colourful pixelated world, Riverbond is a dungeon crawler unlike another. With an entirely destructible voxel world, and the ability to play through the game on either a solo adventure or with other players in couch co-op, Riverbond has a lot to offer.
The narrative of Riverbond follows a group of young heroes who must travel across various lands and defeat the evil which has overrun the world. As a dungeon crawler, combat is key and players will come face to face with a number of enemies to take down as they explore the game.
Levels are playable in any order and will see you fighting off against increasingly aggressive enemies as you begin to clear the level. At the end of each adventure, you’ll come face to face with a boss, the variety of weapons here helps as you can decide whether you want to attack the foe head-on, or stay back and use your ranged weapon to wreak havoc instead.
A number of collectibles can be found in chests across each level containing items ranging from weapons to decals and skins. The skins can be kept for future adventures but the weapons are only for the use of that area, so don’t get too attached.
Riverbond uses enjoyable co-op features to keep the gameplay feeling fresh and exciting, but also knows how to deliver a powerful solo experience. It’s a relatively short game that packs a lot of fun, which makes picking up this indie game a no brainer.
• Developed by Fiddlesticks
Hue is a puzzle platformer that puts you in the shoes of titular character Hue as he embarks on a quest to find his mother and restore colour to a monotone world.
The world Hue once knew has been cast into shadow. Players must work through a series of puzzles utilising colours Hue can restore to his on-screen colour wheel, a kind of control panel for selecting the background colour of the world.
The gameplay is comprised of simple 2D elements, and using the colour wheel players can manipulate blocks and other aspects of the environment. Selecting the colour that matches the blocks or obstacles on the screen will cause them to disappear into the background, allowing Hue to move around them and get one step closer to solving a given puzzle.
There are hundreds of puzzles in the game with each new room revealing a novel stage for Hue to tackle. Some moving puzzles require quick thinking, and other rooms present riddles which require slow consideration and calculation.
The overarching story driving Hue’s adventure is told through voice messages which can be found throughout the world in the form of audio letters. This dialogue tells the main narrative of Hue, encouraging players to source all of the colours and return the world to normality.
Hue’s unique way of utilising colour as the main mechanism of puzzle solving sets this game apart. It’s an enjoyable, challenging concept and Hue is certainly a game that shouldn’t be missed.
Baba is You
• Developed by Hempuli Oy
Baba Is You is an incredibly unique puzzle experience, with the game presenting the solutions to puzzles in the form of text you can manipulate.
The player controls a little character known as Baba who explores various pixelated arenas containing a puzzle. To complete the world and advance to the next stage, Baba must reach a goal. To do this, Baba needs to push words around the screen to create new sentences that alter the state of the game.
As an example, you might be able to use Baba to change the sentence ‘Baba is you’ to ‘Key is you’. After doing so, you’ll find you’re now controlling the key instead of Baba and can access something. It’s an ingenious premise, almost like a simple version of coding.
Baba Is You has over 200 puzzles ranging from simplistic to painfully complex. The environments are always painted in a black world, but bright colours highlight potential strategies for completing the level and make each area feel individual.
It’s a seriously original game but one that finds great success in its quirkiness. Paired with the portable, pick up and play nature of the Switch particularly, Baba Is You is an essential purchase for any gamer who enjoys puzzlers.
Tales of the Neon Sea
• Developed by Palm Pioneer
Tales of the Neon Sea is a pixelated mystery adventure with a quirky neon colour scheme and a unique retro style.
Set in a futuristic cyberpunk city, both humans and robots live in a world where tensions are high and conflict frequently arises. Our protagonist is veteran detective Rex who becomes embroiled in a murder case (an old lady victim) that has wider implications than anyone could have expected.
A 2D pixilated experience, the game runs for multiple hours and provides an intriguing old school style detective mystery. The cyberpunk twist is enjoyable, but the underlying humans vs subservient robot thematic may feel a bit overdone to fans of the genre.
When it comes to gameplay, there are simple puzzles that test the skills of our hero, as well as the opportunity to deduct evidence from crime scenes and slowly unravel the conspiracy which has overtaken the city. There are even sections where you play as Rex’s cat, a capable crime stopper itself.
In the end, it’s the cyberpunk-sleuthing mashup which makes Tales of the Neon Sea so memorable. This is a game that’s fun to play, and a perfect demonstration of what creative indie developers can do when they decide to knit two genres together.
My Time At Portia
• Developed by Pathea
My Time At Portia is a post-apocalyptic game with a difference. A life-simulation experience, the game revolves around construction and interaction with the residents of Portia in a vibrant, colourful world. No gritty dystopian setting and drama here.
Gameplay revolves around taking over your father’s old workshop and using materials gathered from around the world to create new structures, furniture and buildings, both for the residents and for your own house.
You’ll also be encouraged to interact with the townsfolk, building friendships and eventually even a romantic relationship. To create a good repour, you’ll need to complete specific tasks the villagers set you, and present them with gifts suited to their particular taste. Get it wrong and they’ll take offence.
Underneath the new world of Portia are a number of interconnected caves and abandoned ruins. As well as providing ores and materials that are essential during the game, you’re likely to find old relics which piece together the story of Portia’s history.
Similar to the Animal Crossing franchise, you can pour weeks of your time into this game and never feel bored or as though the content is repetitive. Monster battles and farming mix things up, and discovering the truth about the post-apocalyptic event that drove everyone underground is another draw.
If you’re looking for a post-apocalyptic game unlike anything out there, or simply want a relaxing life-sim, My Time At Portia is well worth a look.
• Developed by Bedtime Digital Games
On the surface, Figment is just another colourful action adventure game. But delve deeper, and you’ll find an inventive and meaningful portrayal of mental trauma.
Set in ‘The Mind’ you play as Dusty, an old warrior who used to hold the title of Courage of The Mind. Joined by his sidekick Piper, the two friends pledge to fight against the evil that’s poisoned their home. The two share a lot of comedic banter, and depending on your particular brand of humour you may find this hilarious or grating.
Gameplay-wise, Figment is an isometric platformer with puzzle elements across a number of colourful and wacky worlds. Levels are decorated with giant pencils, toy instruments and other cutesy paraphernalia, all incorporated into The Mind as obstacles and the tools to get past them.
You quickly learn that the quirky world used to be bright and colourful, but that a brood of monsters has transformed The Mind into a darker, more toxic version of itself. Dusty must fight against these foes and solve a series of puzzles in order to return The Mind to its former glory.
Combat is simplistic but usually fun. Likewise, puzzle-solving is often repetitive, but at least the formula the game is repeating is an enjoyable one.
Whilst it has a few minor flaws, Figment is an entertaining and ultimately worthwhile experience. For a more in-depth game assessment, check out our 4/5 review here.
• Developed by Sectordub
It may sound like a new Pokémon, but Pikuniku is actually a charming and colourful indie game that revolves around a cast of barmy characters.
Gameplay mechanics are relatively simple, with protagonist Piku (a kind of blob with legs) interacting with doors, boxes and switches to gain entry to 2D rooms and levels. Piku can also twist his body into new shapes to reach areas that were previously inaccessible, meaning that there are several different ways to progress through each level.
The game runs around five hours long and, during most of it, you’ll find yourself helping the quirky characters in the game solve a handful of missions. As you complete these tasks you’ll uncover the narrative of Pikuniku which, despite its cutesy appearance, delves into revolution and deep-rooted dystopian conspiracy.
Pikuniku also has a two-player mode which allows a second player to engage in local co-op. This mode features nine distinct stages, with the second player controlling Niki alongside Piku. Teamwork is essential to get through each level and puzzles must be approached in a different way to the single-player campaign.
Whichever way you choose to play, Pikuniku is a bright, lively experience which is well worth picking up.
• Developed by BTF
A twist on the classic point and click adventure, Trüberbrook tells the story of young physicist Hans using a hand-crafted, 3D model world that is genuinely stunning.
As Hans arrives in the West German town of Trüberbrook, an alluring sci-fi mystery presents itself and, over the four chapters of the game, Hans must finely comb each area he visits for clues as to what’s going on.
Game environments range from snowy mountain tops to charming rural hotels, to gloomy caves. The world is meticulously put together via photogrammetry; a method that involves building the model set for a scene in real life before digitally scanning it into the game. The result really is exquisite, and this is one of the most uniquely beautiful indie games out there.
The game’s narrative is a little short, and Trüberbrook should only take you around eight hours to complete. But constant thrills, twists and turns make Trüberbrook engaging and exciting enough to warrant a second and even third playthrough.
Jupiter and Mars
• Developed by Tantalus/Wicked Witch
Jupiter & Mars is a futuristic underwater adventure game which follows two playful dolphins named Jupiter and Mars. There is a meaningful story here as well, with humanity having been wiped out by climate change and the toxic oceans they left behind only now beginning to regain their former natural glory.
The narrative sees an elite race of whales call for the help of Jupiter and Mars. The whales want to destroy the few remaining man-made structures which are still poisoning the ocean around them, preventing marine life from prospering as it otherwise would.
You’ll have to solve puzzles and find pathways by using echolocation to locate key objects or have Mars break through obstacles opening up the way forward. Jellyfish and electric impulse-firing fish will offer some level of threat, but they can easily be pacified by a dolphin sound pulse.
Though interactions with enemy fish and puzzle-solving make up a good proportion of the game, it’s exploring the depths of the sea that is much more rewarding. The game’s underwater world is an almost recognisable one, but you can really see the devastating impact of what we humans have done (and are still doing) to the planet.
Jupiter and Mars works best as a PSVR game. Playing in this format, you can truly appreciate the scale and detail of the ocean around you, but, however you play, Tantalus Media have certainly succeeded in creating a relaxing and worthwhile experience.
• Developed by Ninja Theory
After enjoying success on PS4, Xbox and PC, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice has finally arrived on the Nintendo Switch.
Hellblade is a dark fantasy action game with strong psychological components reflecting the mental illness central character Senua struggles with as she attempts to save her lover’s lost soul.
While Senua physically travels alone to Helheim (Norse for Hell), she is accompanied by the anxious voices which whisper in her ears. These harrowing voices (even more inhibiting when Hellblade is played with headphones as the game suggests) replicate those experienced by sufferers of psychosis, the condition Senua is afflicted with but believes to be a curse.
Hellblade looks incredible. The graphics are AAA standard and it’s a huge achievement to get something that looks this good to run on Switch, even if it does take a hefty 18 gig game file to do so.
The gameplay is relatively simple with sword combat and rune-based puzzles the main challenges on offer. However, it’s the narrative that’s the real core of the game with Senua’s journey punctuated by enlightening glimpses into her tragic backstory.
The game’s voice acting is incredible and only strengthens the power of the writing, especially with Melina Juergens delivering an incredibly emotional mo-cap performance. Ultimately, Hellblade is an experience you will think about long after the final credits have rolled.
• Developed by Coldwood Interactive
A local co-op game at its heart, Unravel Two is a charming, imaginative and incredibly fun 2D platform-puzzler.
Unravel Two sees Yarney (a lovable red creature made of wool) return from the first game, now accompanied by a blue yarn creature who works with Yarney to progress through a series of ingenious, macro-inspired levels.
The Yarneys can be controlled by two people in local co-op or by one person in single player mode, with the ability to switch between either Yarney at any time or intertwine them into one.
The Yarneys have the ability to tie strands of yarn to platforms, or to lasso hooks dotted around the stages. They can also create yarn bridges and swing each other from one platform to the next. It’s a seriously enjoyable gameplay dynamic added to the fact that the macro-scale levels are gorgeous to look at.
As the Yarneys press forwards through the game’s seven chapters a ghostly tale unfolds in the backgrounds of the levels. While it’s shrouded in mystery and often open to interpretation, it eludes to a deeper, darker narrative hiding beneath the game’s cutesy surface.
When it comes to difficulty, the game’s puzzles quickly become tricky and a Challenge Mode ramps this up to extremely tough. But with unique mechanics every moment of this game is enjoyable and, as a co-op puzzle-platformer, it’s right up there with the very best the genre has to offer.
Where the Beeds Make Honey
• Developed by Wakefield Interactive
Where The Bees Make Honey is a story about memory, reflection and nostalgia. Playing as Sunny, an overworked woman at a crossroads in her life, you look back on childhood memories, all whilst yearning for simpler times gone by.
The game employs multiple styles of gameplay to convey its message, from sandbox puzzle sections to first-person exploration segments.
But, whatever style the game chooses, the graphics are constantly delightful and always artfully done.
The most enjoyable of the game’s mechanics are the sandbox puzzles which are similar to those featured in Captain Toad Treasure Tracker.
These pint-sized worlds are populated by cartoony trees, structures and creatures, but they also contain devious puzzles which can only be solved by rotating the world and examining the landscape from different viewpoints.
There are more realistic first-person sections too, and each unique perspective and art style says something meaningful about different parts of Sunny’s life.
The game isn’t very long, but it manages to pack a lot of content into its short running time. However, with such varied mechanics, a couple of technical issues taint the experience slightly, including a rabbit that is frustratingly difficult to control.
Overall, though, Where The Bee’s Make Honey is a beautifully-crafted, touching story about reflecting on the good times and moving forward in life.
• Developed by Sleepless Clinic
Set on the surface of an unknown planet, Symmetry is a game about survival, trail and error and collecting the resources necessary to return home to Planet Earth.
Gameplay involves managing the lives of crash survivors, tending to vitals such as hunger, thirst and even mental health. Once these stats are stabilised, you can turn your attention to fixing the survivors’ broken spaceship, utilising materials from the cold planet they find themselves marooned upon.
Symmetry teaches you through your mistakes, but you need to learn quickly. Unlike long-term survival games such as Subnautica or The Long Dark, you only have a specific amount of time to save your survivors as temperatures plummet and alien, or perhaps even supernatural phenomena, become more frequent.
The game’s colour scheme radiates a sense of hopelessness. Dominated by pale yellows and greys, the surface of the planet is bare and desolate.
But when you finally do come across plentiful areas, a sense of optimism is all the more powerful because of the muted colour pallet.
Overall, Symmetry is an excellent sci-fi indie game, one which is addictive and provides ample challenge, all whilst making you care immensely for your little band of cosmic survivors.
Airheart: Tales of Broken Wings
• Developed by Blindflug Studios
Airheart: Tales of Broken Wings released for PlayStation and Xbox last year, so it was perhaps only a matter of time before this twin-stick shooter appeared on Switch.
Blindflug Studio’s mesmerising looking indie tells the story of Amelia, a young woman living on the floating island of Granaria, high above the clouds.
Amelia scrapes a living as a lowly sky fisherman but dreams of hunting the elusive Sky Whale in hope of achieving fame and everlasting glory.
Gameplay sees you control Amelia’s plane and your main objective is to catch as many sky fish as possible.
Each haul of fish can be traded for money which in turn can be used to upgrade Amelia’s plane, allowing her to explore ever loftier heights and protect herself from the ruthless pirates that plague the skies.
The actual stages you’ll be traversing are always built on top of the one below giving a wonderful depth of field aesthetic, as well as the ability to put your plane into a nosedive and barrel downwards.
Whilst the story is simplistic and the gameplay is a little repetitive, Airheart is an indie game that’s ideal for quick fixes of gameplay, and therefore perfect for Switch.
If you have a busy lifestyle then Airheart may just be the game for you.
• Developed by Henchman & Goon
Pode’s story revolves around themes of friendship, co-operation and selflessness. Our playable characters are Glo (a fallen star) and Bulder (a small rock). Together, they must find a way to return Glo back to the sky where she belongs.
Standing between Glo and Bulder are a collection of devious puzzles, ranging from simplistic to brain-teasingly intricate.
The game can be tackled in single player, but it’s local co-op that matches the thematic core of the game best, and this mode provides some serious fun.
Even so, it is perhaps the visual style which is the stand out aspect of the game.
Inspired by Norwegian nature and art, Pode’s graphics are delightfully pleasing and the cheerful score will leave any gamer with a smile on their face. Two smiles if you play with a friend.
The King’s Bird
• Developed by Serenity Forge
Indie games often prioritise story and soundtrack over graphics and dialogue and The Kings Bird is a good example of this. Gameplay centres around a young girl and her ability to leave the shackles of gravity behind and glide through the skies.
Once she builds up momentum and jumps, the girl can sail from platform to platform, effortlessly dancing through the air as you progress across a set of 2D levels.
The controls are fluid and enjoyable, and each section utilises unique colouration to set it apart from the blacked-out platforms in the foreground. These colours softly ombre into nothing, creating a stunning depth of field effect.
Colour is also used to convey emotion in the game and, in place of dialogue, characters are each assigned a particular musical instrument to represent their inner feelings and personality.
However, The Kings Bird isn’t without its flaws. Sequences with the need for incredibly precise jumps and glides are a little too frequent, dispelling the carefree feeling of the earlier levels. But, for the most part, The Kings Bird is a welcome addition to the 2D platforming genre.
• Developed by Friend & Foe
VANE – Made by developers Friend & Foe
Set throughout a vast, sandy plane, Vane’s playable character shape-shifts between boy and bird as you hunt down desolate structures and solve the puzzles housed within them.
Although built with simple graphics and soft colouration, the world and the art style are stunning.
Vane’s narrative is also incredibly simple, with the focus instead being on a free, open experience and the joy of exploration. In fact, soaring over the open world and basking in the atmospheric musical score is when Vane is at its best.
It’s a perfect example of how games don’t need to be overly complicated to create a relaxing and compelling experience.
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