There’s been some remarkably good stuff happening in the indie scene, folks.
Observation. The elevator pitch for this game – think 2001, but you play as HAL – is fantastic, and the gameplay is wonderfully unique and refreshing (even as it seems directly inspired from the video camera hacking sequences in Watch Dogs). Two things hold this game back from being a true GOTY contender: (1) some of the puzzle solutions are woefully obtuse, and (2) at a certain point in the story, it stops making any coherent sense. I suppose a minor (3) would be that you, as the onboard HAL (in this case, your name is SAM), would appear to be dreadfully stupid, since finishing a relatively straightforward task can take lots and lots and lots of trial and error. But at the end of the day, I was too entranced by the idea and the vibe to be too bothered by these criticisms; playing as the AI of a space station is just a really cool concept, and for the most part it’s executed quite well.
Void Bastards. I’m not generally one for rogue-likes, and if a first-person shooter is gonna hook me it needs to have a really good hook. So let me cut to the chase: I’m COMPLETELY HOOKED on this game. Rock Paper Shotgun describes it as “What if Bioshock, but without story?” and that’s not necessarily that far off the mark; I’m not even particularly sure what the story is, but I do know what my motivation is as a player, and I love the short-and-sweet loop of looking at the star map, picking a ship to board, planning my route through the ship, and then looting the hell out of everything. Given that my attention span these days is relatively short, this game is perfect – I can be in and out of that loop in 20-30 minutes and I’ll have accomplished something worthwhile. I’m not one of those people who needs everything to be ported to the Switch, but if there was ever an ideal case for a Switch port, it’s this game right here.
Outer Wilds. I read a preview of this game a while ago and it sounded amazing; more specifically, it sounded like the exact sort of game that I want to play right now, which is to say it’s a No Man’s Sky sort of exploration game but with a very carefully crafted universe and a story you gradually uncover as you explore each planet, instead of just mindlessly traipsing through zillions of algorithmic ejaculations. And then I completely forgot the game’s title, and I worried that I’d either imagined the whole thing or that it was a very real thing that I would completely miss because I’d forgotten the damn name. Thankfully, the game was released yesterday and all the glowing reviews immediately reminded me that this was, in fact, the game I’d been looking for. I’ve only been able to spend about 30-40 minutes with it, so I’m still a ways off from being able to talk about it in detail. I’ll say this, though: it makes a remarkable first impression. I imagine I’ll be switching between this and Void Bastards for the foreseeable future.
A Plague Tale: Innocence. Of all the games in this foursome, this is the one that came out first, and which, sadly, I’ve spent the least amount of time with. What I’ve seen of it is really rather stunning – the comparisons to the companionship of The Last of Us seem right on the money – and I do want to get back to this when there’s nothing else on my plate.