I was originally planning to post this on Christmas Eve, or maybe Christmas Day but since my third AdventBoost post got delayed, so did this one. Oh well, at least I got it in this side of the new year! I’ve been playing more computer games this year than I usually do (at least in terms of number of titles tried, though I suspect also in terms of hours played), and for a good part of the year (I actually can’t remember when I started) I’ve been doing a weekly Twitch stream I call Thank Gods It’s Indie, where I spend a few hours on a Friday afternoon trying an indie game. So far, I’ve mostly tried puzzle games and narrative games, with a few exceptions, and I suspect it would continue in that vein in the new year (but who knows!). Here are 6 of the games I’ve played during TGII, in no particular order:
Have you ever done nonogram puzzle (also known as picross) and thought “yes, this – but more”? Then Voxelgram might be the perfect game for you, because it’s just like nonogram except in 3d. You start out with a big block made up of cubes. The cubes have numbers on the sides which tell you how many from each column and row to remove and how many to keep. At the end of it, if you do it right, you have a picture – except where regular nonogram would give a 2d image, Voxelgram gives you a little 3d figure of some kind.
The puzzles are grouped together thematically so that by the time you’ve solved a handful of them, you’ve unlocked a little scene – maybe a kitchen complete with a fridge, stove teapot and potted plant, or a small medieval siege! It’s very cute, very fun and just a bit too easy to say “just one more level” about. In fact, currently this game functions as my micro-reward game. When I’m having trouble focusing or getting things done I use a little system where for every X words I write or for every step of some boring but urgent task I complete, I get to play a certain number of levels, minutes or moves in a game as a reward. It sounds sort of silly, but it helps me to push through when I’m having trouble making progress on a track. When a game becomes my go-to micro-reward game, you know I’m really enjoying it. In fact, I have more than 40 levels left and I’m already crossing my fingers for new ones to be released soon. Voxelgram is made by Procedural Level. Check it out on Steam!
Rise up and Save the World was one of the first games I played for Thank Gods It’s Indie, and one of my favorite experiences so far. It’s a narrative game with an interesting premise – you’ve died and been given a chance to come back, all you have to do is save the world. It’s made by Naive Star and available here on itch.io.
The game is played with a normal die to determine some of the premise, and then an ordinary deck of cards from which you draw allies and enemies, plot twists and new exciting powers. Based on these cards, you determine how the story goes through four riveting seasons leading up to a grand finale! This is actually an entirely analogue game (unless you count the PDF with the rules), though I played it with a digital die and deck of cards since I was playing it on stream. I had a ton of fun playing it and took far too thorough notes of how the story went. I haven’t uploaded the VOD of me playing it yet on my YouTube (I don’t keep all the VODs but I keep some of them), but I intend to do so eventually because I really liked this game!
Wargroove is an adorable little murder-game, and I’m totally fine with that. It’s a turn-based strategy game in which you play an adorable little army trying to escape the army of the undead and find a magical weapon to help you beat them. You run across other adorable little armies that you have to fight, and recruit them to your side with about a 60% success rate. Different kinds of units have different capabilities, and it’s about moving units to the right place at the right time in order to beat the enemy army’s general or sack their stronghold before they do the same to you. Along with being really cute, it’s super fun and challenging (especially if, like me, you really want to get 3 stars on all the levels!). And since it’s turn-based, you have plenty of time to think through your moves and learn as you go.
I was playing this game a ton for a while! I’d play new levels on stream and then once I got stuck at a level I’d practice it over and over off-stream until I knew how to beat it, then play on stream again so that the story aspects of the game would unfold on stream but I wouldn’t have to wait until I streamed next to practice a level. When you don’t stream that much, you have to be a bit economical about what you do on stream! Right now, I haven’t played Wargroove in quite a bit, being busy with work and with other games, but really want to get back to it… I do have almost two more weeks off work, so maybe I will soon! Wargroove is made by Chucklefish, and available on Steam.
I don’t quite recall how I found out about this game, if I’m being honest. I just know that I saw a trailer or some art from it someplace, and it was so pretty that I ended up adding it to my Steam wishlist. Then I forgot about it for quite a while, until I got one of those random “a game on your wishlist is on discount” and decided to check it out for my stream.
It turns out that the game is every bit as gorgeous as the art that first drew me to it suggested, and also quite a lot of fun to play. I’ve never played a puzzle game of quite that sort before, and it hit just that sweet spot for me where it was challenging and I really had to think about my moves, but it wasn’t so challenging that it became frustrating. Just what I like for my Friday streams! My only complaint is that there wasn’t more of this game – one stream was enough to finish all the levels. An unusual but delightful bonus to the game is that it comes with a tool for making various geometric patterns! I had some fun playing around with that, too. Engare is made by Iranian game designer Mahdi Bahrami, and it’s won several rewards. It’s available on Steam.
One problem with being somewhat of a video game newb while also trying to do a weekly stream of indie games (and attempting not to play the same indie game two Fridays in a row too often) is that you often find yourself on a Friday morning flailing around the internet trying to decide what to play. I’ll admit that more than once I’ve been browsing lists of new indie games and waffling even just a few hours before the stream is scheduled to start. One week during the fall, a friend (thank you, Ether!) saved me from having to do just that by tweeting me to ask if I had played “the communist witch game”. Well, with a descriptor like that, how could I not give it a try?
The descriptor was quite accurate – in this fairly short game (I think it took me somewhere between two and two and a half hours, and that was including getting rather stuck in one spot for a while), you play a witch using magic and casual vandalism to help fuel on a revolt against a police state. It’s got a really nice design, with blocky figures and a (to me, anyway) quite pleasing color scheme of mostly greys with bright specks of happy green, pink and blue. I had a good bit of fun playing it and even though the political messaging wasn’t anything new to me, it was still a theme I enjoyed. The game is made by Colestia (who has a lot of other interesting-looking games!) and is available on itch.io and on Steam.
Dawnfall is a wonderful narrative game, or perhaps more accurately an interactive novel by spec fic author RoAnna Sylver, and one of my current faves. It’s a sci-fi fantasy story wherein you’re a person who works with opening portals between the worlds, and you get pulled into a big adventure involving, among other things, space pirates. The game is super queer and gives you the option of playing as any gender or sexual orientation, and in addition it lets you form strong bonds (whether platonic, romantic or otherwise) with a range of different characters at the same time (which my little polyamorous heart is very pleased about). I’m having a ton of fun so far, and really think you should check it out!
Unlike Wargroove, where I put a bulk of my playing time (repeating levels until I can beat them) in off-stream, since Dawnfall is a narrative game I’m playing it exclusively on stream – which means it’s taking me a while since I don’t stream too often. But as I said – I have some time off work now, so I’m planning to squeeze some extra streams in so I can make progress on this game. I really want to see where the rest of the story takes me (and who, if anyone, I’ll end up smooching). Dawnfall is available on Choice of Games and on Steam.
Well that’s all for today, and for AdventBoost this year! See you in 2020!