Inside: Beholder, Wuppo, OVIVO, Refunct
Beholder is an excellent game that you should definitely check out. The premise is that you live in a totalitarian dictatorship and work for the government, who have made you the landlord of an apartment complex and tasked you with spying on the residents. Just how much you abuse your power and how much you decide to care about the people is up to you, and I though it did an excellent job of forcing you into ends-justify-the-means choices and was incredibly well-written when it came to showing that when people are constantly under duress, sometimes all they can do is hurt as few people as possible, and trying to figure out what ‘right’ is under those circumstances is just not easy.
Beholder is ultimately a satire, and quite a funny one, for something that deals with murder and torture as major themes. It’s notable that the entire game takes place on one screen, in one setting — this is a hugely difficult thing to accomplish in storytelling, no matter the medium, and Beholder is compelling not just from start to finish, but across multiple playthroughs. Every single choice you make matters, and none of them feel frivolous. It’s a great game. I also can’t understate how effective the music and art style were.
Wuppo was an adorable, original, and fun adventure game that is a strong rec. It reminded me a lot of Yoshi’s Island and other great SNES games. It’s story-heavy and character-heavy, with a super-cute art style and I really just loved it. It’s genuinely one of the most heartfelt games of its type I’ve encountered in these sales — when so many games feel like exercises in bland, emotionless mediocrity, Wuppo clearly was made with a lot of love, and it shows. I also thought it hit that sweet spot of being challenging and requiring quick thinking, but never getting frustrating. It also (also) feels finished, while a lot of these games feel like they rush to wrap up because the dev ran out of time/resources, Wuppo is very much complete, and even has an extra area that’s totally optional but has some lore. Spill the ice cream, save the world!
Providing empirical evidence that I am not simply a curmudgeon who hates artsy puzzle games, OVIVO! Its bold, minimalist, black-and-white visual style was really evocative, its music was just right, and the level design was excellent. Its simple premise — switch the gravity of the black-and-white world by pressing the spacebar — evolved in such interesting ways, skillfully building on itself as time went on. I liked that it was flush with checkpoints, letting me do crazy things with the gravity without having to worry about being sent back to the start, and the symbols were cleverly hidden but findable. It’s almost miraculous to have a game where I can find everything without a walkthrough that explains you have to hold your computer out a window while counting backward from 10 and sacrificing a chicken to get the last gem, but here we are: actual competent game design. OVIVO definitely isn’t for everyone, but if visual interest and clever mechanics are up your alley, and you don’t mind the artsiness of it, this is one to check out.
Refunct is a nice entry into the “relaxing simple games” indie subgenre. It’s incredibly short, but I got it for less than a dollar and found it to indeed be very pleasant and relaxing, so no complaints here. Basically, you make your way across platforms hitting switches which unlock more platforms, while trying to make sure you touch all the platforms at least once. I would love to see some expansions for this with new courses, since the basic premise has so much room for growth — I liked the way it introduced new ways of using the course, but there was so much more you could do with them, plus so many more potential ideas. What about an ice level where you can get up speed to jump further, but also slide where you land? What about a course that’s all uphill, getting progressively higher and making falling a bigger risk? So much potential! (This is also the type of game that’s ripe for community-sourced courses.) If you’ve got an hour to kill and want to listen to pleasant music and just kind of chill, this is totally worth picking up.