Welcome to another edition of itchy tasty, a roundup of games worth playing on itch.io. My goal is to offer encouragement to other indie devs and also learn some stuff about game design along the way.
You can check out my games on itch at: builtinaday.itch.io/
I could have done a spooky theme for this month’s selection of games but you’ve probably seen that gimmick enough this month and, to be quite Francis with you, gimmicks are beneath me. Also, be sure to tune in next time for the November edition: “A Feast of Games!”
Profile: Candle (Mark Wonnacott — @ragzouken)
Game: “Contemplation” — a collection of five Bitsy games (“no destination” — “the last days of our castle” — “flotsam” — “forgotten depths” — “shoal”) — https://candle.itch.io/no-destination
There’s all sorts of great stuff to check out on this profile but I was immediately drawn to this series of Bitsy games. Some of the best Bitsy titles I’ve played have two things in common: they create a convincing gameworld within the minimalist restrictions of the format and they tell emotionally charged stories that are also open to interpretation.
And the same can be said for this series of games. The story seems to progress from decay to rebirth, while touching on themes like memory and loss along the way. The writing style shifts seamlessly from melancholy to hopefulness and it never struck me as pretentious or forced, which so hard to pull off in video game writing. The dialogue is beautifully descriptive without ever being expository or dull and there’s plenty of poignant moments along the way.
The visuals are charming and evocative, from the train and castle designs to the sort of ‘oceanic’ feel in general. The aesthetic reminded me of the contemplative moments and the general sense of longing I felt while playing “Illusions of Gaia”, which is a game I hold in very high regard.
Even though the narrative concerns are the priority in most Bitsy games, these manage to have some ‘game logic’ in them as well, but not in an obtrusive or unnecessary way. Things like how instead of following a fixed course it felt like you were actually exploring the gameworld or how talking to NPCs multiple times yields new dialogue. It’s not a big deal or anything, but they’re nice touches that make the experience feel more complete.
So check it out if you’re into walking sims, narrative games or if you’re just generally an introspective person.
Profile: yourykiki (@yourykiki, https://soundcloud.com/youry-kiki)
Game: Brutal Pico Race (https://yourykiki.itch.io/brutal-pico-race)
I’m continually impressed by the games coming out of the Pico-8 scene. The visuals are almost always vibrant and there are lots of cool concepts, too. This is no exception, a great arcade racer with nicely laid out tracks and well-tuned controls.
Instead of just giving you an accelerator and a boost meter to worry about, the game forces you to utilize curves/ramps in the track design to gain extra speed. It’s a nice bit of strategy and makes the races feel more alive. Plus, the penalty you get for collisions can make for some tight finishes.
The difficulty curve is well balanced, giving it a nice amount of replay value. I got the hang of normal difficulty but will go back to conquer hard mode. The AI racers are pretty good, too. They seem to have a few types, like one that thrashes back and forth at the start of each match while the others drive normally.
Also, I love how the cars can hit each other at the finish line. The only thing better than first place is getting fourth and smashing those other fools like bowling pins.
So, if you’re at all a fan of retro racers or just looking for more solid Pico-8 content then give this a whirl.
Profile: talhakaya (Talha Kaya — @taloketo)
Game: Garbage People (https://talhakaya.itch.io/garbage-people)
There have always been places to play offbeat games, but itch quickly became my favorite spot for finding strange stuff and experiences like this one are part of the reason why. And if you don’t like weird places with weird games then do something about it, I’m just sitting here with a mouthful of Laffy Taffy waiting for you to do something.
I first heard of Talha’s work because of “A Solitary Walk Down Windsor Street” and I’m glad I did. There’s a wide range of genres on the profile but this is a more narrative centric one, so check it out if that’s more your thing.
I love the visual style going on here. It’s sort of the same feeling I get watching the web series “Interface” by umami. Something feels nostalgic about it but also feels new, too. Some elements look like they came from a storybook but there’s a mildly sinister undertone, not in a threatening sense but in a haunting way.
The story has a message that is fairly explicitly stated but it also has enough ambiguity to be open to interpretation. You can look at it in a personal sense or take a more general view, but its message could apply to all sorts of worldviews.
Still, a strange journey with a worthy conclusion.
Thanks for reading, and until next time… stay itchy!
(ooof, that sign-off line needs work, like badly; I’m not quite on that John “Stay Retro” Linneman level when it comes to sign-offs, but I’ll keep trying)