Minit

A game by Kitty Calis, Jan Willem Nijman, Jukio Kallio, and Dominik Johann for PC, Mac, Linux, 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

This game can be pre-ordered on Fig, with various crowdfunding rewards.
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.


Now, 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 be 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.

Light Fantastik

A game by Hayali for PC, originally released in 2018.
Light Fantastik begins with the tale of a village that is suddenly stricken with a sickness, but instead of becoming ill, the people of the land are transformed into little squares with eyes. The introductory cutscene plays out with stylish 2D artwork in a pre-Renaissance style, showing people collapsed into square shapes in a somewhat disturbing manner, until the hero of the tale holds up a sword and a square chunk of his face pulls itself loose and scrolls off the side of the screen. The game is an unusual platformer with light puzzle-platforming elements, featuring a world split in two, with one side awash in light and the other covered in darkness, and players must pass from one side to the other to navigate the environment.


The game’s primary mechanic centers around passing between the two sides of the world. On the light side, the player has average platforming abilities and is able to hop about to mount platforms that are clearly visible around him. On the dark side, the player’s view is narrowed to his immediate surroundings, but he is able to jump incredibly high. The light side of the world appears on the left side of the screen, and the dark side is on the right, with wavy white lines sometimes appearing between the two worlds – and warp points later on – to indicate places where the player can cross over.

Treasure Adventure World

A game by Robit Games for PC, originally released in 2018.
Treasure Adventure World is an open world action adventure that acts as both a follow-up and an expanded remake of the developer’s previous work, Treasure Adventure Game, which was released as freeware in 2011. Treasure Adventure Game offered an astounding scale for a game that was created entirely by one person, and the developer has spent years giving that world new life in Treasure Adventure World. Gone are the pixelated visuals from the original game, which have been replaced with HD artwork, and the amnesiac boy who starred in the original is replaced with an amnesiac girl.


The game’s prologue shows the girl out on a seafaring adventure with two men, who are later revealed to be her father and her uncle. The trio set out to explore a series of islands on a quest to find 12 legendary treasures. Along the way, they meet with some of the islands' inhabitants, plumb underwater caverns, avoid ghosts, and occasionally flee from pesky pirates. In the final scene of the introduction, their boat comes across a giant sea serpent, and the girl’s father unsheathes his sword and dives toward the beast.

Snow Fall

A game by EHTechnology for PC and Linux, originally released in 2018.
The story of Snow Fall centers around a character clad in winter gear whose world has been attacked by the Destroyer of Worlds, a being capable of absorbing entire galaxies… although this premise isn’t apparent in the game itself, and is featured only in the product description. The player must make his way through 18 platforming environments in five themed areas (the earliest of which are covered in snow), blasting enemies along the way and collecting crafting materials that allow him to create more powerful weapons for an eventual showdown with the evil villain.


The protagonist has a 2x nonvariable jump and the ability to wall slide and wall jump, and he is capable of jumping up almost any vertical surface. At the start of the game, he is equipped with a shotgun that does heavy damage up close but is less effective at a distance due to its scattered shooting pattern. Even in the early going, the shotgun isn’t terribly effective at dispatching enemies, as only a few foes are killed with a single shot. Most enemies require between two and four blasts to destroy.

Wulverblade

A game by Fully Illustrated and Darkwind Media for PC, Switch, PS4, and Xbox One, originally released in 2017.
The story of Wulverblade centers around the Roman seizure of the south of Britannia in 120 A.D. with intentions toward taking the whole of the land in their northward march. But one family stands against the Roman advancement… Caradoc, Brennus, and Guinevere aren’t prepared to let their lands fall so easily. They fight their way through the Romans and their treasonous allies within Britannia, fighting for the northern clans and rallying them to action as they take blade to flesh from the northern encampments to the more fortified structures to the south.


Beat ‘em ups are notorious for their throwaway stories that act as an excuse for a handful of musclebound martial artists to take to the streets and beat the ass of every person they encounter. However, you’ll not find a more well-researched beat ‘em up than that of Wulverblade. While it’s not a historically accurate tale, insofar as three warriors laying waste to hundreds of Roman soldiers, it is inspired by historical events and locales of ancient Britain, researched over a period of five years by the game’s creative director. In fact, the game is positively loaded with supplemental material showcasing these inspirations, with written text, photographs, and even drone footage of ancient ruins and stone circles.

Death’s Hangover

A game by Retro Army Limited for PC, originally released in 2017.
There are very few entries in the fantasy-themed Arkanoidlike sub-subgenre, with Wizorb and Strikey Sisters standing as two of the finest examples. Death’s Hangover takes this already absurd premise and ratchets it up a notch by featuring Death – freshly awoken and nursing a terrible hangover – who has taken it upon himself to pick a fight with Bastard Dracula, who has stolen a number of souls. Death decides to resurrect a pair of dimwitted warriors to aid him in his cause, upon threat of a second death should they fail, and sends them off to Bastard Dracula’s castle… but before doing so, he transforms them into women, as there is apparently some prophecy about women being able to defeat the lord of bastard vampires.


The entirety of the game is filled with crass humor, mostly coming from between-level conversations between the men-turned-women, including boob jokes, several poop jokes, actual poop monsters, and a poop boss at the end of one of the levels. (Freud might have something to say about all of this.)

Heads Run

A game by kass-stwa for PC and Mac, originally released in 2018.
Heads Run is a precision platformer starring an unusual protagonist who is essentially just a little green head that bops quickly along the ground. The game is a follow-up and a refinement of the developer’s previous release, Porter, which starred the same platforming hero. As before, the game is displayed in multi-shade “greenscale” with a grainy CRT-style filter and curved edges.


Where the original game offered 20 short levels, Heads Run offers 50. Every level is designed to allow completion in a matter of seconds, with some of the opening areas offering completion times below 20 seconds. Later levels get longer – and more challenging – requiring that players make efficient use of their full moveset just to survive, let alone make it through quickly.

Ersatz

A game by Paris Stalker for PC, originally released in 2017.
Ersatz is a rhythm-based action platformer featuring a monochromatic protagonist jumping, dashing, and slamming his way through hazy musically-supported environments. The representative music genres – including house, trance, synthwave, DnB, and techno – tend to be beat-heavy, giving the player some insight into world around him, as each level features a bpm measurement, and enemies and objects move, act, and change in accordance with these beat patterns – and build upon the music with sounds of their own – allowing the player to use the timing to dash between waves of projectiles or escape a platform before it suddenly becomes electrified.


The player has a small array of moves with which to tackle a number of challenging environments. First off, he can move to the left or right, and his movement speed is quite slow compared to other platforming heroes. He can also jump, and when pressing DOWN in midair, he can slam downward, allowing him to attack enemies from above, activate switches, and break destructible objects (although playing with a game pad means occasionally pressing DOWN by accident). He can slide under low-hanging obstacles, and he can dash while ducking, standing, or jumping.