Happy new year~!
The end of another year – decade, technically – has come and gone. Here at The Geekly Grind, we’ve talked about what we enjoyed about the past year and decade, but 2020 has some fantastic-looking titles on the way, and I’m more than ready to look forward to a new year of adventure. Thanks to some incredible demos, we’ve got plenty to be ready for in the coming year. If you’re wondering what great indies to look forward to (or just want to get excited all over again with me), here are my five most anticipated upcoming releases!
LUNA: The Shadow Dust (Lantern Studio; Application Systems Heidelberg)
Point and click puzzle games can be absolutely stunning, and LUNA is probably one of the most beautiful I’ve seen so far. Boasting traditional frame by frame animation and a charming, hand-drawn style, each scene is more gorgeous than the next. It also boasts a beautiful soundtrack – the demo felt absolutely magical. It’s a little difficult to give a description of LUNA’s atmosphere, but the trailer is well worth checking out for an idea of what you’ll be getting. While making LUNA, Lantern focused less on reading and instructions, and more on telling a story through art. This visual focus is something I really love in puzzle games because it feels seamless while also making the game approachable to anyone regardless of language.
As far as gameplay, I really liked the visual clues and cues, as well as being able to switch perspectives between the main character and the companion he finds. It added an extra dimension of exploration to some stages, and really keeps the player thinking about how to best interact with the world around them. Interested? You can still catch the demo on Steam, and see a sneak-peak of this gorgeous work for yourself.
World of Horror (panstasz; Ysbryd Games)
Primarily inspired by H.P. Lovecraft and Junji Ito, this 1-bit horror title brings some strong, classic cosmic horror. In a small Japanese town, something is going wrong, and it’s up to you to figure out what’s going on and keep yourself alive. There are a handful of different stories to explore – the two I got to look at took me to a haunted school after dark, and a creepy mansion preparing to mourn the character’s deceased uncle. Both experiences featured some great spooky moments, and some horrific (and occasionally classic) monsters.
World of Horror lacks your typical horror game jump scares, and instead focuses on atmospheric horror and grisly events to keep you on edge. It’s an atmosphere that feels just like stepping into a Junji Ito manga, with the added stress of turn-based combat and uncertainty of exploration. I loved World of Horror’s atmosphere, nostalgic 1-bit graphics, and soundtrack, and it’s a game that any horror fan should look forward to checking out. Interested in seeing a little more? You can find World of Horror’s free demo on the official website.
Wave Break (Funktronic Labs)
Wave Break isn’t my normal type of game, so I almost passed up this gem on the Indie Megabooth floor. Fortunately I was with someone who has a deep love of Tony Hawk and vaporwave, and wanted to give it a try. Wave Break is so fun that it even made me – someone who’s awful at it – love playing.
The gorgeously bright aesthetics (for real -they’re beautiful!), catchy music, and fluid controls make it a blast, but it also comes with adorably ridiculous characters (that you’ll eventually be able to customize!) and plenty of shenanigans. Grind out tricks with your boat – or even get out and take to foot if you need to. Or up the ante by going after your co-players in cold blood.
If you’ve ever enjoyed a good skateboarding game, Wave Break will be a fun new addition to your old-school collection.
Spiritfarer (Thunder Lotus Games)
Spiritfarer bills itself as a “cozy management game about dying,” and while that might seem like a strange description, it’s surprisingly accurate. As a ferrymaster to the deceased, it’s your job to care for spirits and guide them to the afterlife. Along the way you’ll be able to explore the world, fish, build a boat to bring comfort to your wards, and build relationships with the spirits. Eventually, of course, you’ll have to learn to say goodbye as well.
Beyond the management portion, Spiritfarer’s exploration and platforming are pretty lovely and add a depth to the gameplay that I wasn’t expecting. Promising about 30 hours to complete the story and much, much more to engage with the full game, Spiritfarer looks like it will have quite a bit of gameplay, exploration, and story to offer. Presented alongside absolutely lovely graphics, I expect it to be a heartfelt and gorgeous journey worth undertaking.
Boyfriend Dungeon (Kitfox Games)
With catchphrases such as “date your weapons” and “sword-smoocher,” Boyfriend Dungeon is pretty unapologetic when it comes to its dating sim angle – your eligible partners are all weapons (of course in their human form). It’s fun and different, and made even better by the fact that it comes with male, female, and non-binary dates. Take your new lover(s) on dates, enjoy their stories, and create a stunning romance! Not feeling into the dating angle? That’s okay! You can buddy up to a platonic cat friend too. But while Boyfriend Dungeon’s dating sim angle is definitely important, focusing only on the dating portion does the game a disservice. Going beyond your average VN, the game also features some adventure and combat in the Dunj – a deep dungeon filled with a variety of monsters. In both demos I played, combat in the Dunj felt super-smooth, and I loved cute details such as cups of bubble tea which restore the player’s health.
A lot of times if you’ve played one dating sim, it feels like you’ve played… well… a lot of them. And sometimes it takes more than a fun set of potential partners to keep things fresh and new. Boyfriend Dungeon looks like it will be bringing plenty to the table, including some cross-genre appeal.
There’s plenty more to look forward to this year as well, from highly anticipated sequels such as Monster Prom 2, to turned-over horror tropes in Carrion. Have something you’re looking forward to in the new year? We want to take a look! Email me at [email protected], or reach out to me on Twitter @ArcanaChance.