Toni Oisin H.C. (QSO)
Support Charity AND Play Indie Games: 16 Choice Cuts from The "Bundle for Ukraine" on itch.io
The bundle has raised over six million dollars for International Medical Corps and Voices of Children so far.
If you haven't already, you need to grab Necrosoft Games' charity bundle for Ukraine ASAP. It's raised a whopping six million dollars so far for two incredible Ukrainian charities. With under a day left to go (16 hours at time of writing!), you just about have time to make a donation.
As well as it being for an exceptional cause - International Medical Corps give medical aid to those affected by war and Voices of Children help to set up shelters and provide support to children impacted by war - it also gives you access to nearly a thousand games, zines, loops, pixel art packs, GUIs, and more. It's a win/win situation: you do something good, and you get to discover your new favourite game all at once.
Maybe you've already bought the bundle (go you!) and now you're just looking to see what to dig into first. With so much to sift through, it's hard to know where to even start. That's where we can step in! While there's no doubt that everything in the bundle will be well worth taking a look at, here are some of our particular highlights.
But first, go buy the bundle. Go.
Baba Is You
The worthy winner of the 2017 Nordic Game Jam, Baba Is You is an innovative puzzle game that's well worth getting your teeth stuck into. You engage with the environment around you using wordy puzzles to guide Baba - a cute little white rabbit - to the finish line. All of the puzzles form interesting, simple little wordy puzzles (which obviously appeals to the linguistics nerd in me). What's not to love?
A Mortician's Tale
One of Polygon's best titles of 2017, this "death positive" game is a gentle, informative take on memento mori. Stringing together a sequence of morgue-related minigames to create a narrative experience, A Mortician's Tale is not one to be missed. Tackling death head-on in entertainment, although something done hundreds of times before, is something that's difficult to do in a tender and sensitive way without becoming mawkish. Laundry Bear Games don't shy away from the challenge, with absolutely perfect outcomes.
Rusty Lake Hotel
We love a mystery, we love a point-and-click, and we love creepy small towns. So, y'know, the Cube Escape series is basically pandering for us, which is great. If you aren't familiar, Rusty Lake is a small-town with a big secret - and it's up to your to uncover it. Pairing folk horror inspired visuals with atmospheric soundscapes and tricky puzzles, this little game is a dream. If you like Rusty Lake Hotel, you can dive into most of the rest of the Cube Escape series for free.
Catlateral Damage: Remeowstered
If you aren't familiar, the Catlateral Damage series is essentially "Bad Kitty Simulator". You play as a cute little fuzzball who's ready to fuck shit up in a number of different environments - houses, museums, Santa's Grotto... You name it, you can mess it up. It's a super cute and rewarding form of cat-harsis (sorry) and a must-play for any self-respecting cat fan.
Summer in Mara
Summer in Mara kind of feels like playing a story-mode of a game like Harvest Moon. To reduce the game to that alone would be a lazy comparison, though: the art style, mechanics, and worldbuilding of the narrative farming game is of an exceptional standard, creating a unique gaming experience overall. You can spend all your time exploring the bounty of fantastic islands available in Mara, or you can delve into a quest to help protect the fate of the peaceful island nation. This game has a little bit for everybody.
A Short Hike
A Short Hike has to be one of my favourite indie games from the last few years; if not one of my favourite recent releases overall. The Animal Crossing-inspired adventure-puzzle game is just so damn cute. It's more than that, too - the low-poly graphics are super aesthetically pleasing, and the use of gravity and steering mechanics when flying around the tiny island of Hawk Peak Provincial Park makes for a delightful, refreshing experience. Mark Sparling's soundtrack for the game is a real treat too.
It seems like it's difficult to find a way of refreshing a long-running, mega-popular genre or style of game. SUPERHOT manages to find a way of doing exactly that to the First-Person Shooter, though. In the game, time only moves when you do - meaning you have to meticulously pre-plan and redo your choices over and over to see the game through. It's a remarkable sci-fi action game that now includes a Virtual Reality port.
If you're a regular reader of ours, you'll already know how we feel about Celeste. I mean, even if you aren't, you can probably hazard a pretty good guess. Without spoiling it for you too much, Celeste is a puzzle-platformer where you try to overcome a series of hazards when climbing to the top of a treacherous mountain. The game has a cult following now, and for good reason - but you'll have to play it yourself to find out why.
Ok, so this one is a wild ride. It's a procedurally generated horror game, meaning that what happens is... Pretty much as good as random. Just give it a go. Trust me.
Another one for the cat lovers, inbento is an adorable puzzle game where you play as a cat-mum making lunchboxes for her kittens. Oh yes. The game is a narrative-light, textless, relaxing experience all about parenthood, love, food, and kitties. With more than 120 stages, you won't run out of gameplay anytime soon in this lovely, expertly-crafted game.
So, I know the state of higher education is already wild and everything, but imagine how much wilder it would be if your tutors were all built out of Artificial Intelligence? Imagine no more - that's the premise of ART SQOOL. This game looks like a bowling alley carpet brought to life, in the absolute best way possible. It's a pastel-neon, tongue-in-cheek, reference-laden love affair to the experiences of arts education, which is easy to enjoy regardless of your training. I might've gone to art school if it was more like this.
Picture this: you're a noir-y detective unpicking a tough case. You're also a cute little racoon in a really big coat. Sound good? Give Backbone a go. Taking a place in a dystopian, anthro-riddled version of Vancouver, Backbone is a gorgeous, complex, multi-sensory experience. Plus, if you play it now, you'll be up-to-speed by the time the prequel comes out.
Democratic Socialism Simulator
Oh hey, another game with animals! My tastes are predictable. Democratic Socialism Simulator is a fun, brief thought exercise. While strictly speaking the game doesn't have a co-operative mode, it makes for a fun collaborative experience when streamed or played in the company of another, as it acts as a good source of discussion points and food for thought. Plus, it's supplemented with cute 2D illustrations of all kinds of different beasties.
Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2!!
In case you missed it, the predecessor to this game is the highest selling cooking simulator out there - so the sequel has gotta be worth taking a look at. Like Cooking Mama's intense older sibling, Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2!! really puts your planning, time management, and memory skills to the test in this high-octane restaurant (or cafe, or bakery,) sim. With over 60 hours of gameplay across a variety of different modes and settings, the delicious looking virtual food isn't the only thing you're going to want to sink your teeth into.
Every puzzle in Minit takes - you guessed it - one minute to complete. The nibble-sized puzzle-adventure game is a unique experience. The 2D, black-and-white pixel art makes it feel like you're back desperately tilting your Gameboy into the sunlight to see the graphics a little better on a long car journey, in a welcome jolt of nostalgia. The game is a real treat to jump into, from the adorable graphics (look at that little guy!) to the tricky, minuet puzzles.
Still looking for the perfect (action) puzzler? Super Hexagon has you covered. Super Hexagon is an difficult, expertly made, difficult, stripped-back affair in which you play as a triangle moving through a hexagonal world. Did I mention it's pretty hard? To boot, the bumping, fully-chiptune soundtrack, composed by Chipzel, absolutely slaps.
Fancy the sound of any of these games? Well, there's still time to get the bundle, where you can access all sixteen of these titles - along with 981 other amazing games, zines, RPGs, tile packs... You name it, it's in there. Reading this after the bundle has gone off sale and really fancy trying the game? Why not go make a charitable donation and pick up an indie game today anyway.
Toni Oisin H.C. is the Head of Audio at QSO Media. Read more of his writing here.