This week has been relatively quiet, all things considered. Which gave us a bit of time to really dig through our inbox and find exciting indie games to tell you about in our weekly hidden indie gems feature.
As always, the first part is dedicated to showing off some of the best trailers and reveals of the week, before we get to games you can play this weekend. Although the Steam Game Festival is over, the Summer Sale kicked off yesterday. You won’t always find the games recommended here on sale, what with most of them being in-development or recent releases, but it’s worth checking up on your wishlist to see if anything we recommended before is worth getting at a discount.
Hot indie games week of June 22
Rogue Legacy 2
Cellar Door surprised everyone when it decided to follow up the popular Rogue Legacy not with a sequel, but with a new game in a different genre. Full Metal Furies was liked well enough, but it wasn’t what fans expected from the studio.
The developer has now returned with Rogue Legacy 2, a sequel that looks to be improving on nearly every facet of the original design. The main hook remains the same: you are but one of endless members of a big family. You dive into 2.5D, procedurally generated dungeons, upgrade your hero throughout, and eventually, probably, meet your demise.
But not all is lost, because you can use some of what you earned to upgrade the family manor, and make things slightly easier for the next heir to succeed you. Every hero is different, and you never know what inherent advantages or disabilities they’ll spawn with.
The game can technically be beaten by the first character you get, but that rarely happens. Rogue Legacy was one of the first rogue-lites to figure out a way of lessening the effect of repeated deaths typical in its contemporaries. By investing into a persistent skill tree, you ensure that every future run will have an ever so slightly higher chance of success.
All of this returns in Rogue Legacy 2, though not without a few changes. The art style is more colourful, and character designs pop compared to the relatively flat look of the original.
Another major change is that each class now has a unique weapon, which helps differentiate each heir further. This week’s surprise announcement also came with a date for Rogue Legacy 2’s Steam Early Access release. The game drops July 23 for $20, and you can wishlist it now on Steam.
The Artful Escape
The Artful Escape is the story of a young guitarist who, after the death of his folk legend uncle, sets out on a cosmic journey of self-discovery as he slowly creates his stage persona.
You’ve probably already guessed that there’s going to be a lot of psychedelic imagery and music just by reading that description. The Artful Escape starts out on a small town on Earth, but quickly moves on to alien worlds and other impossible dimensions, where our hero is on the search for a jazz club that never appears in the same place twice.
The Artful Escape is not a rhythm game, but it very much works music into its very fabric. The action platforming gameplay is aided by guitar jams which accompany the jumps, slides, and hovers. The cosmic beings in the game’s worlds harmonise with his shredding beats, creating some uplifting moments.
This week, developer Beethoven & Dinosaur dropped a fairly detailed gameplay walkthrough that explains the general conceit, and offers our best look yet at the game.
The Artful Escape is coming to PC and Xbox One, and there’s a Steam page where you can add it your wishlist.
Games you can play this weekend
Inertial Drift has a very interesting hook for a driving game. The anime-themed, 90s retro-future racer is almost entirely about drifting, but this isn't any drifting you've seen before.
Inertial Drift is – and I can’t believe I am saying this – a dual-stick racer. The left stick controls steering, and the right stick is dedicated to the drift. If you’ve ever drifted a car in a video game, you’ll know exactly how big of a deal this is.
This control scheme essentially makes you focus on the drift while you maintain your speed and heading into a corner, which is impossible to do in the real world, and in most games that simulate drifting. But what Inertial Drift trades in authenticity, it makes up for in feel. This dual-stick setup lets you initiate drifts at immense speed, and makes for a very flashy, anime-style look to your moves.
This week, developer Level 91 released a free demo titled Sunset Prologue. It lets you try out two very different cars across two tracks. It’s only a 700MB download, so give it a go on Steam and experience Inertial Drift’s unique mechanic.
The full game is coming to PC, PS4, Xbox One and Switch on August 7.
I don’t play many point-and-click adventure games, but every once in a while, along comes a new one that’s hard to ignore. Encodya is a cyberpunk adventure game very much in the classic style.
It follows Tina, a nine-year-old orphan who lives with her clumsy robot guardian. Tina is a scavenger of sorts, roaming the streets of Neo-Berlin looking for anything and everything to sustain her. Tina and SAM-53’s designs are what drew me to Encodya initially.
The game’s world is reminiscent of Blade Runner – only inhabited by Studio Ghibli characters. The protagonists are actually based on a short film by Chaosmonger (which is also the developer) called Robot Will Protect You.
Encodya is a 2D game, but characters are all 3D, which helps them really stand out, especially when they animate. The demo for Encodya recently came to Steam, and you can download it today. Keep in mind, however, that it’s based on an old build where everything was 2D, so it’s not quite representative of the look you see in trailers.
Children of Morta
Children of Morta is not a new game, but it’s one whose developers keep supporting with new content since its release last year. It’s a game I wanted to cover before because it does some really cool things with the genre of rogue-lites.
Morta is a top-down action game where you play as select members of the Bergsons family. They’re not randomly generated, so each of them is their own character and combat class. The roster keeps expanding as more family members show up. Though it is an action game, Morta’s strengths aren’t in its combat. What kept me coming back was how the game represents progression both narratively and mechanically.
Rogue-lites/likes can be frustrating because it often feels like you’re banging your head against a wall until you break through, and barely anything changes between runs. Morta advances the story of its world and characters after each run, regardless of your outcome. Sometimes certain events witnessed in the run, such as rescuing a wolf cub, or coming across a different family member in a bind, themselves become narrative threads that you get to see unfold when your return.
In gameplay, Morta lets you keep a currency earned in dungeons, which you use to boost stats for its heroes, and many apply to the entire family so you’re incentivised to switch things up. In other words, it gets easier over time.
It also has one of the warmest, most lovingly delivered narrations in games, which lends every story beat weight it wouldn’t otherwise have if you were to just read it off the screen. This week, the game got a new hero with new story content. It’s available on PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Switch. During the Steam Summer Sale, you’ll find it for just $13.19. It’s also available on PC and Xbox Game Pass.