Moonlighter

A game by Digital Sun for PC, Mac, PS4, Xbox One, and Switch, originally released in 2018.
In Moonlighter, a strange set dungeons is discovered, eventually prompting the construction of a small town called Rynoka, which becomes home to adventurers and merchants. But the four dungeons soon claim many lives and they are sealed off to prevent further calamity. You take on the role of Will, a merchant working in a shop called the Moonlighter, which has been hit hard by the sudden lack of trade. Will takes it upon himself to venture into the ever-changing dungeons in search of fortune and glory… and the chance at unlocking a sealed fifth door that has yet to be opened.


The game is an action-adventure that mixes in equal parts shopkeeping and inventory management. By day, Will runs the Moonlighter, and by night, he moonlights (see what they did there?) as an adventurer, diving into dungeons and recovering mysterious artifacts that he can sell in his store. What’s more, these artifacts are the key to upgrading his weapons and equipment, allowing him to dive into more dangerous areas of the dungeons, take on more powerful enemies, and recover better materials.

Lament

A game by RadCroc for PC, originally released in 2017.
Lament is a retro-style action platformer inspired by the NES renditions of Castlevania and Ninja Gaiden. The game stars a wolfman with a gigantic cursed sword, venturing through five themed areas, completing platforming challenges, slashing enemies, and earning powerups to increase his combat skills. The world is made up of chunky low-rez visuals like the 8-bit games that inspired it, along with a minimal color palette, 4-color sprites, and a chiptune soundtrack.


The wolf man’s sprite is at a low enough resolution that it’s not readily apparent that he is indeed a wolf, but if you look closely, you can see that he has an elongated snout, a pair of ears poking up on top of his head, and a tail. The wolf man has a limited moveset, with a 2x variable jump and the ability to slash his huge sword to the left or right while standing or jumping. He can also wall jump and wall slide, and he is capable of jumping up along vertical surfaces, although some tight quarters occasionally make vertical navigation difficult.

Skelly Selest

A game by Caiysware for PC, originally released in 2018.
Skelly Selest stars a skeletal fellow known as a Heavenly Keeper who has been sent by the Selestial Order to destroy the hell-beasts that are spilling out onto the Earth on account of Hell being full up. It is up to him to purify the land of this plague lest Earth be overrun. The game is a top-down hack-and-slasher with a dose of projectile combat. There are numerous game modes, including arena combat against waves of enemies, roguelike dungeon crawling, special hardcore challenges with unusual restrictions, and even a demonic card game inspired by Final Fantasy VIII’s Triple Triad.


Most of the game modes are locked at the outset, offering only the option to try the tutorial or dive into the first combat arena. Like many roguelikes, the game is not friendly to newcomers, so players can expect to die repeatedly until they master the basic combat, understand enemy behaviors, and figure out what all of the powerups do. As such, despite the simple controls, a run through the tutorial is highly recommended.

Fox n Forests

A game by Bonus Level Entertainment for PC, Mac, Linux, Switch, PS4, and Xbox One, originally released in 2018.
Fox n Forests is a platformer starring a Rick, a fox who is granted the power to change the seasons. While this premise may sound suspiciously similar to that of Seasons After Fall – which also starred a season-changing fox – the games are quite different. Where Seasons After Fall was a metroidvania focusing on puzzle-platforming, Fox n Forests is a more straightforward level-based platformer with light puzzle elements and short branching paths. Here, players must face off against a variety of enemies using a crossbow and bayonet, with new attacks purchased along the way.


The opening cutscene reveals Rick sneaking up on a singing partridge in hopes of making the bird his dinner. The text states that Rick is going to “commit a little crime”, although given the anthropomorphized characters, it seems like his intended crime is murder. The partridge – named Patty – manages to convince Rick that she tastes terrible, and then proceeds to inform her would-be killer that she would like his help to fight off a bunch of bad guys in exchange for copious amounts of treasure. The plan works, and Rick agrees to take on the quest while still hoping to kill and eat Patty later.

Lords of Strife

A game by Revolutionary Interactive for PC, Mac, and Linux, originally released in 2018.
Lords of Strife falls into the “rage platformer” subgenre of platforming games that require professionally-executed jumping, flawless timing, and pixel-perfect precision movement through environments fraught with danger around every corner, with even the slightest mistake spelling instant death. You take on the role of a simple peasant whose village is invaded by one of the Dark Lords, along with a number of nearby villages. You take it upon yourself to set out across the land and rid the world of their evil, and destroy each of the Dark Lords along the way.


Unfortunately, the world is not a very safe place, and even reaching a Dark Lord is no easy feat. Practically every surface is lined with spikes, and there are narrow opportunities to jump between them and reach safe ground… only to be confronted by yet more dangers.

The Swords of Ditto

A game by One Bit Beyond for PC, Mac, Linux, and PS4, originally released in 2018.
The Swords of Ditto begins with a familiar premise, but offers a unique take on the time-tested formula. Every 100 years, a great evil named Mormo rises, and every 100 years a young hero from the nearby peaceful village rises to face her. The hero collects the Sword of Ditto from the gravesite of a legendary hero, and with it, she marches to Mormo’s evil lair to put a stop to her nefarious deeds… but this time, the hero loses the fight, and the world is plunged into 100 years of darkness and despair.


The game begins with a girl lying on a beach, and a strange flying creature appears out of thin air and hovers next to her. The creature is a dung beetle named Puku, who informs the nameless protagonist of her quest and guides her into the colorful idyllic village to collect the sword. For some reason, Puku has decided to bring the hero to Mormo’s lair a few days early, and she is unprepared for the fight and quickly killed.

Light Fall

A game by Bishop Games for PC, Mac, Switch, PS4, and Xbox One, originally released in 2018.
Light Fall takes place in the world of Numbra, a shadowy land with a mysterious past. You take on the role of Nox, the shadow trixter, and one of five beings who once ruled over the land… but time has passed and a mysterious force has overrun the place, imprisoning the people and growing deadly pink crystals across the landscape. You are accompanied by Stryx, a cantankerous old night owl who narrates the tale and offers insight into the events preceding the game. Together, you venture through the Lunar Plain, the Marshlands of Sorrows, Vipera's Forest, and the Unknown Depths in an attempt to discover what has happened to the land and how to restore it.


The game is a platformer with a heavy focus on retaining momentum. Players are free to take things slowly if they like, but there are lots of opportunities to speed through the environment, and some challenges require players to move at a high speed while dodging obstacles and enemies. The game also includes a dedicated mode for speedrunners, complete with online leaderboards. The focus on speed is emphasized by curved landscapes that dovetail into one another, silhouetted parallax background and foreground layers that relay a sense of speed, and a strange object called the Shadow Core, which lets players create platforms in midair.

Devil's Dare / Streets of Red: Devil’s Dare Deluxe

A game by Secret Base for PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, and Switch, originally released in 2014, with the Streets of Red Deluxe version released in 2018.
Devil's Dare (悪魔の挑戦), and its updated re-release Streets of Red: Devil’s Dare Deluxe, is a beat ‘em up that offers numerous throwback references to movies, television, video games, and even to the video game industry itself, including a faux “Winners don’t use drugs” splash screen. Some of these references were updated in the Streets of Red Deluxe release, such as the xenomorph from Alien being replaced by the demigorgon from Stranger Things. The story begins with Bitejacker filming an episode on a rooftop at the Benny Arcade Expo, a.k.a. BAX East (get it?), which suddenly becomes overrun by flesh-eating zombies. Four survivors are holed up on a stage, marveling at the wondrous undead cosplayers before realizing that they’re actually eating people.

Suddenly a red fairy named Ivan shows up. Referencing Navi with a shout of “Hey, listen!”, Ivan explains that he is able to give the survivors incredible powers so that they can fight the undead horde, and all he asks in exchange are the souls of the zombies they kill… and they decide to take him up on his offer. (Hey, what could go wrong?) The player is free to select from one of four playable characters, or team up for 4P co-op, and two additional characters are unlocked upon completing the game.

Minit

A game by Kitty Calis, Jan Willem Nijman, Jukio Kallio, and Dominik Johann for PC, Mac, Linux, Switch, PS4, and Xbox One, originally released in 2018.
Minit is an open world action adventure that is played out in 60 second increments. You take on the role of a plucky duck-faced (or perhaps just big-lipped) fellow as he travels through a 1-bit black and white world. Early in his adventure… like a few seconds in, he discovers a sword lying on the beach. As it turns out, the sword is cursed, and picking it up causes a 60-second countdown timer to appear, which begins ticking downward. In the last few seconds, a countdown alarm sounds, and when time runs out, the player character lets out a gasp and drops dead.


Fortunately, this is not the end for our hero, as he awakens back in his home, but he still has the cursed sword in his possession, and he still has only 60 seconds to live. He sets out once more, and with sword in hand, he is now able to do things that he couldn’t do before, such as kill wandering crabs and cut through shrubberies that formerly blocked his path. He is able to attack in four directions.

Pig Eat Ball

A game by Mommy's Best Games for PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, and Xbox One, not yet released.
Mommy’s Best Games has traditionally been a purveyor of bloody explosionfests, with releases including run-and-gunner Weapon of Choice, multi-ship shmupper Shoot 1UP, and sidescrolling Serious Sammer Serious Sam: Double D XXL… and now they’ve returned with pigs, in space, eating tennis balls. While it’s certainly a tonal shift for the studio, their trademark zaniness is in place with overhead action involving a pig growing in size upon consuming tennis balls, barfing them out to get smaller, and eating them again to complete the level. The action takes place alongside numerous silly characters, notably the charismatic pill bugs who attempt to thwart the player’s efforts with a variety of weapons and machinery. And it’s all part of our mission.


Despite the unusual setting, the story is quite traditional… a king has declared that his daughter shall be wed, and whomever wins a series of games shall have her hand in marriage. The daughter, who has no interest in being married, dons a disguise and decides to enter the games herself. But this is no ordinary kingdom… The kingdom exists aboard a huge space station, and the aloof king – named King Cake – has a cake for a head, with a royal guard that have cake slices for heads, and a daughter who is a pig named Bow.

Spectrum Break

A game by Jason Hein for PC and Mac, originally released in 2018.
Spectrum Break is a physics-based platformer filled with floating neon blocks and backed by a synth-heavy soundtrack. The blocks come in a variety of shapes and sizes and are not affected by the pull of gravity, unlike the player character – a little red dude on a surf board – who is constantly pulled downward. The player surfs and jumps his way through dozens of levels, attempting to move every block in the environment without getting stuck or falling off the bottom of the screen.


When we sit around the fire pit roasting various animal parts while discussing game design (hey, it happens more than you might think), there’s one statement we like to shout up to the night sky, which is “physics makes nothing better.” Now, obviously this is hyperbole, because we need physics to… you know, exist and stuff. And in terms of game design, most games require physics of some kind.

Pyre

A game by Supergiant Games for PC, Mac, Linux, and PS4, originally released in 2017.
Pyre is set in a strange and colorful world known as the Downside, a purgatory where criminals are exiled for their crimes in the Commonwealth. Only by competing in a series of rites, which play out as 3-on-3 arena sports games, may those in exile earn the opportunity to be pardoned and returned to the Commonwealth. It may seem odd that the developers behind the successful action-RPG’s Bastion and Transistor would follow them up with a sports game… except that’s not at all what this is.


Pyre is a narrative-focused action-RPG where combat plays out in 3-on-3 arenas, but the bulk of the game is played by speaking with NPC’s, making decisions in dialogue and travel destinations, and discovering or purchasing items that grant stat boosts during the game’s combat segments. Throughout your journey, you interact with dozens of characters, and your interactions have consequences further down the line, leading to thousands of possible narrative combinations and endings.