Thousands took to the streets this week to protest the injustice people of colour face every day in America and around the world. Their anger, passion and calls for equality echoed in the games industry; event cancellations and messages of solidarity have been the theme of the week.
For our part, ceasing posts for 24 hours and donating to relevant charities was only the beginning; there’s more that we felt could be done on the video game side of things. This week, we’re dedicating our hidden indie gems feature to highlighting games primarily made by Black people.
People of colour obviously contribute to many of the games we play, but we wanted to signal boost some of the smaller teams struggling to get noticed. As ever, we’ll kick things off with new announcements and end with games and demos you can play this weekend.
Hot indie games week of June 1
Samurai Zero is the debut project from indie studio Neo Interactive. The game is pitched as a multiplayer third-person arena fighter with RPG elements. The entire cast of characters is made up of samurai warriors at opposite ends of personal and public conflicts.
The game is aiming for distinct characters in both their combat abilities and personalities. So far, two have been revealed in Wraith, and Ryder. Though only early development footage of combat exists, Neo Interactive says the action is mainly inspired by Jedi Academy. The developer wants to allow players greater control over movement and combat. Basic attacks, for instance, will change depending on the direction and character momentum.
Samurai Zero doesn’t have a stamina bar, but it balances things out with a Resolve meter, which is depleted the more attacks you block, similar to Sekiro’s Posture mechanic. It looks ambitious, and it’s supposed to be getting a beta test sometime this year.
The developer has been posting fairly regular updates on the official blog, but the game does not yet have a release target. There’s also a Patreon page where you can more directly support development.
Before I Forget
3-Fold Games chose to tackle the heavy subject of dementia with its first game. Before I Forget is a narrative-based, first-person adventure about a woman who tries to remember who she is through the things around her.
Much of the gameplay revolves around examining everyday objects in her home; photographs, notes, postcards and the like. The deeper you look, the more things come into focus – both figuratively and literally.
Before I Forget comes from a two-person team in South West England, who made sure to hire a native actress to bring the game’s protagonist – an Indian-British – to life.
This is a short experience, at just around an hour-long, according to 3-Fold. It’s coming to Steam on July 16. Wishlist it now.
Swimsanity is a 2D co-op shooter that takes place entirely underwater. Up to four players can team up to take on AI-driven sea monsters, or fight each other in a selection of PvP modes.
Swimsanity’s heroes are called Moobas, and they look a bit like Power Rangers. They don’t have signature vehicles as in the series, and I didn’t spot any Megazords, but the presentation evokes 80s and 90s Tokusatsu shows. Each hero has access to an ultimate ability the game simply refers to as an Unleash. These typically come in the form of buffs for the team, and a cool animation plays when they’re activated.
There are over ten Unleashes to pick from, which you unlock over the course of the game. Outside of the standard co-op and versus modes, you can also deck out your Mooba to see how long they can last in survival. For those looking for a narrative to follow, there’s the adventure mode.
Games you can play this weekend
She Dreams Elsewhere
She Dreams Elsewhere is the story of Thalia, a comatose woman who must navigate her nightmares, confront her demons and escape her coma. She Dreams Elsewhere has a very Undertale look, with top-down 8-bit environments and JPRG-like turn-based combat.
Its style, however, is more sombre; presented through dream-like vignettes with sharp character portraits and psychedelic environment design. Where it gets interesting is how it uses character traits and emotions as mechanics.
For instance, an insult or a comeback can be used as a weapon, and your character’s “charm” dictates how you fight in combat. Thalia is not alone, of course, she’ll come across different characters that can join her fight. You’ll be able to shape your relationships with them through dialogue and by learning their stories.
She Dreams Elsewhere is coming to Steam sometime this year. There’s a demo on the Steam page at the link. Give it a try.
Treachery in Beatdown City
Treachery in Beatdown City has the wrapper of any good beat ‘em up throwback; a pixelated art style, and a story about a kidnapped president in need of saving. How it gets there, however, is what makes it entirely unique.
Treachery in Beatdown City’s combat is its more interesting asset. Standing apart from the button-mashy nature of its contemporaries, the game relies on a combat system that borrows from turn-based tactics and JRPGs. You have an AP pool which essentially dictates the rhythm of the fight. The things you typically do in a beat ‘em up all have costs that tap into that pool. Attacking, using items and even blocking all consume AP.
Longer combos use up more AP, but the decision of how to utilise the AP you have is left up to you. This essentially creates a pace that’s not unlike what you may be familiar with from classic Final Fantasy games, but maintains the real-time feel of punching and grappling thugs in a brawler.