Indie gaming has changed a lot over the years, from web browser based flash games to Xbox Marketplace pushing titles like Super Meat-Boy. Indie games have become arguably the most innovative area in gaming. One of the best places to pick up these games, is on the website Itch.IO.
Itch carries a huge range of video games, spanning from ultra DIY games to bigger indie titles, and even visual novels. And with this already massive range constantly growing, I’ve taken up the task of making it easier for you to dip a toe in the water!
‘Las Vegas 2024. Vampires have stolen your blood. Play the card game of your life and win it all back.’ This is the simple premise of this tense but fun gambling game.
As you play the vampire’s game to try and win back your blood, the stakes get higher with each new foe you face. High Stakes has an almost rogue-like quality to it – when you get a game-over, you have to restart the game. You begin the game with 20ml of your blood, and as you win your blood back from the vampires you start to fall into a rhythm. By the time you get to the second or third vampire though? A few wrong moves or a really bad round could scupper you, as you don’t know where the vampire will be in this game of chance. And when you’re empty, you’re out, exsanguinated and back to the start of the game.
With only light exposition giving the player some idea of the setting, the gameplay becomes the sole focus for the player. It’s a solid card game with each card you flip bringing your closer to winning the round or losing it. On the occasions when your choice comes down to just two cards it’s a white knuckle click trying to decide which one you’re going to pick.
After a few rounds, and figuring out how to play the game, you will definitely find a hard time putting it down.
High Stakes is free to play in your browser, both on computers and on phones. Though it’s free, there is an option to support the game by donating.
Sokpop collective, a Dutch dev team, have been producing small games at a breakneck pace, releasing a new game every two weeks (2 GPW, if you will) – one of their most recent games is Fishy 3D. It’s a cute puzzle game, in which you play as a little fishy who has to grow, shrink, and eat it’s way through a polluted waterway.
Looking like an aquatic Untitled Goose Game, Fishy3D is filled with mechanically minded puzzles and little secrets – these secrets massively increase replayability and speed running value. This game is super polished, seeming like a concept that could easily be expanded into a longer title expanding on its purposeful, systemic gameplay, which sees objects in the world interact and clash – again, think Untitled Goose Game, or Grow Home. Fishy3D definitely uses the ideas in those games as a jumping off point.
While traversal, and the occasionally muddy objectives can take away from the experience, the sheer joy of discovering and experimenting is hugely rewarding. With complex puzzles which can really stump you if you’re not in the mind of a fish, this game is a fun way to pass an hour or two, and for only $3 it’s an absolute steal.
If you dig it, there’s a steady stream of excellent content coming from SokPop, you can peep their back catalogue on Itch.IO. If you like what you see you can also support the team via their Patreon.
HOPE, an Australian game, made in collaboration between developer Cecile Richard and punk band Cable Ties is about as indie as you can get. It features an ultra punchy narrative about moving out, anxiety, and working together to make things better. It only takes between 10 and 15 minutes to play the game from start to finish; that it packs a tiny wonderfully tangible world into such a short amount of time is really fantastic.
Quick heads up: an advance trigger warning should be noted for HOPE as there are depictions of anxiety attacks in the game. The game actually does point out that if you are struggling with any themes related to the game, it may be an idea to come back later – a consideration that is nice to see.
The way HOPE communicates the challenges of anxiety is particularly well executed, pushing the chaos and claustrophobia of a panic attack and doing so without any real graphical fidelity and almost entirely through its sound design. The music, story and gameplay work together beautifully. The game’s music is a song of the same name by the band Cable Ties. It’s layered throughout, turning a three minute song into the soundtrack for the 15 minute game.
Hope is playable for free in your browser, but you are able to support the developer if you would like to. This is definitely one to check out for fans of games like Firewatch or Gone Home. While HOPE is much shorter than either of these games, the punchiness and messaging are just as striking.