Ain’t no party like a BitSummit river party ’cause a BitSummit river party ends in tears.
So, another BitSummit has come and gone and I saw some games and I have some thoughts. Thoughts and games. That is what we do here. Fresh games and Burpy thoughts.
I didn’t really detect any distinct trends this year but here are some main take aways:
1. The Indie bread-and-butter remains retro re-imaginings. Still a whole lot of pixel art and 2D platformers. Which is fine. There were some really illustrations of how this is not an aesthetic that has been completely mined out yet. See Olija or Unpacking for some good examples. As much as I love the art style, I try to check my own nostalgia when evaluating it. Nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake isn’t really healthy, in my opinion. But I think most of these Indie games make the case for retro being something that can still create vibrant art all these many years after Cave Story and it’s like. At least we’re not seeing a wave of PS1 / N64 block-ass polygons. A few of those exist among the Indies, but I think it for the best that those particular looks aren’t really making a come back.
2. I was all prepared to do a whine about “story games” taking over the scene. I’ve been streaming a lot of games that are story heavy to the point where they are essentially video novels or art pieces. And, if you watch the stream (as you should at 10:00 PM Korean Time on Tuesdays) you know I can get salty at the lack of “game-play.” I was all ready to complain about the influx of these games at BitSummit but:
a. There really weren’t so many of them that they amounted to a “take over.”
b. Some of them were very good. See Here and There for an example.
c. Also, to hell with me for doing this sort of gate-keeping nonsense.
People should make what they want to make and play what they want to play with out having me whine about them not be “real” games. Seriously, I do try to check my own assumptions about what games are “proper games” in my own thoughts and musings.
3. VR still remains a bit of a novelty on the Indie Scene. There were some VR games (with long lines, mostly, I think, because the demos take more time), but nothing game changing yet. My cranky opinion is that VR is a gimmick that, despite the money put into hardware and software development, will remain a niche novelty in the gaming world. A rant that will no doubt age well may be posted on Burpy Fresh at some point.
Before I list the games I liked I want to say that I legitimately appreciate all the work that all the devs put into all these games. Games are the new everything in art and people who aren’t checking out the Indie Scene are missing all the future of art.
Now, on to a list of games I thought were cool or good or both:
Atomicrops – I did not know I needed a mash up Stardew Valley and Nuclear Throne, but I did. I did need this.
Chrono Sword – From the good folks at 21c.Ducks. The Ducks are a Korean outfit and have a whole lot of talent. I think they have hopes for this to be their breakout game. It’s early in development, but the combat mechanics are smooth and enjoyable, and the abstract pixel art looks real good.
Coffee Talk – From the good people from Toge Productions makers of MagiCat and She and the Light Bearer. I didn’t get to play this one much, but Toge means quality and this is a game where you can drink cappuccinos with like demon wizards, so I’m intrigued.
Creature Keeper – An early in development Zelda-esque adventure game from the one-man-band Fevir. Also early in development, but this is totally right up my alley. The gimmick is that you can tame creatures and use them to fight for you. Dreams of a Nethack style pacifist run swim through my head.
Firegirl – Full disclosure that the artist on this is a good friend of Burpy Fresh, but I feel like this merits a mention. The art is good. The game-play unique. This is a game that could get really good over the next year or two before it’s released. Burn it all, Firegirl. Burn. It. All.
Here and There – One of the most beautiful art-games to come out of BitSummit this year. Has lovely hand-drawn artwork with surrealistic animations. This is out on the iPad and worth the time to check out next time you have a long train ride or something.
Jack Axe – Cute puzzle plat-former that is way harder than it looks. It’s like Celeste but you’re an ax wielding viking girl. I’m definitely going to be playing this when it comes out.
Legal Dungeon – A new jam from South Korea’s Somi this is a political text based puzzle game in the vein of Papers Please. Depending on how you choose to fill out police paperwork you can influence whether or not innocent people are found guilty or guilty people walk. You can ruin lives and bring points to your precinct. It’s like The Wire: The Game! Extremely clever if a bit depressing.
Lost Ember – YOU CAN BE A WOMBAT IN THIS GAME! I mean… what else do you need. Do you need good graphics, creative exploration, and a whole lot of polish? Well, fine, you have that too. Really looking forward to full release of this one.
Me and (My) Cat’s Castle – I’m not really sure what’s going on in this difficult plat-former, but I like it. It’s the type of wack small-scale game that I like seeing at these things. Hopefully, I can figure out how to get a copy so I can play it but the site is in the Japanese…
Neon Tail – “We were tiered of waiting for a new Jet Grind Radio so we decided to make our own.” SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY! I am the hype about this one.
No Straight Roads – One of the most promising games at BitSummit. This game gives out a very big Double Fine vibe. The premise is that your stylish rockers need to band together to defeat and evil businessman that is made of only EDM. I’m curious to see the final product here, and this is definitely one to keep an eye on.
Olija – Easily one of the best games at BitSummit. Polished retro-plat-former with Another World / Out of This World inspired graphics. You get to throw a trident at pirates! That’s pretty much all I ask re: pirates. It’s almost ready for release, and I plan to play a bunch of it.
Phogs – We say this a BICFest last year. It’s still good. A lot of surreal touches and giant bugs have been added since I last saw it. One of the more professional and polished games in the mix this year.
Shores Unknown – This is being created by a team that knows that Planescape: Torment in the best RPG of all time. They understand the truth and are working on their own game. That is an important part of indie games. Knowing what you like and trying to make more games like it. Set for release next year, I’m excited to see the final product and visit some alternate realities.
Super Retro Maker – This could be a huge thing. I spend a lot of time watching Mario Maker streamers, and I really think this game could break big if things go well. I’m half considering devoting myself to streaming SRM when it comes out next year, that’s how excited I am.
Tales of the Neon Sea – I streamed this last week, and will probably stream it tomorrow. It’s a styling and profiling adventure game with elements of Beneath a Steel Sky and Police Quest. I’ll get around to a full review of it in… checks watch… 2023… damn…
Unpacking – Unpacking things after moving is the worst thing in the world. How does this game make it so fun? It is dark magic. This is a unique puzzle game with some gorgeous pixel art.
World of Horror – So you take the retro-Macintosh graphics from Return of the Obra Din and add some of that H.P. Lovecraft special sauce to the mix? Yes. This please.