Two months into 2023, and there have already been a fair number of major hits, from Hi-Fi Rush to Atomic Heart to Sons of the Forest. But amidst all of the high-profile releases, let’s make sure to take some and appreciate the humble indie games that February 2023 had to offer.
Developer: Casus Ludi Publisher: Gearbox Publishing Platform(s): PC, Switch For Fans Of: It Takes Two, Gris, Bambi
A wolf cub and a fawn are stranded in a snowy forest, completely alone. Together, they must brave the wilderness and find a way to safer territory.
Blanc puts you and a friend in control of these poor animals, as you cooperate to solve environmental puzzles and bring the critters to safety. The mandatory co-op means you do need a co-pilot, either locally or remotely, and while that may frustrate solitary gamers, there’s a clear reason behind the gimmick as the cub and fawn must collaborate, as you and your fellow player must work together, to navigate the harsh world around you.
Blanc’s monochromatic art style is worth the price of admission alone, as its artful contrast of white and black conjures some truly awe-inspiring vistas and dynamic environments. Its short-and-sweet runtime will also ensure that Blanc doesn’t overstay its welcome, leaving you and your playing partner with a brief but beautiful shared experience that neither of you will forget.
2. Rhythm Sprout
Developer: SURT Publisher: tinyBuild Platform(s): PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X & S, Xbox One For Fans Of:Hi-Fi Rush, Sayonara Wil Hearts, Trombone Champ
Rhythm games are having a bit of a moment right now, with recent standouts like Metal: Hellsinger and Hi-Fi Rush redefining what a rhythm-based game can do with the simple gimmick of pressing buttons on beat.
Playing as a little sprout on a big adventure, you’ll battle your way through 30 toe-tapping stages, battling enemies to a surprisingly wide array of music, with K-Pop, hip-hop, and EDM tracks making every new level a fresh experience. Candy-colored visuals and memorably weird character designs, like floating cupcake guys and monsters made from candy, also ensure that Rhythm Sprout is as stunning visually as it is musically.
Beyond the basic campaign mode, Rhythm Sprout also has other modes to truly test your mettle, like hyper-fast turbo mode, mirror mode that flips the notes you have to hit, or shuffle mode for an unpredictable experience. Difficulty sliders can adjust the timing window for the notes, so you can ease up the experience if you’re having trouble, or just go for true mastery and perfect rhythm. This sprout is sure to grow on you.
3. My Dream Setup
Developer: Campfire Studio Publisher: Campfire Studio Platform(s): PC, Mac For Fans Of: Unpacking, Tetris, A Little To The Left
The recent trend of “Relaxing Puzzle Game To Chill Out While Playing” gets a new highlight in My Dream Setup, which builds its entire premise around the zen-like joy of redecorating a gamer’s playing space. Rearrange furniture, change the color and style of pieces to suit your taste, and even change the time of day outside to craft a perfect slice of gaming heaven.
While there isn’t a long list of objectives to complete in My Dream Setup, its core premise is elegant in its simplicity. You may nail your perfect setup on the first try, but it’s more likely that you’ll want to keep tinkering away with the robust customization tools and see just how many different dream setups you can create. You might even use it to visualize redecorating rooms in your actual house.
My Dream Setup is a canvas on which you can make your interior design masterpieces, and how many different visions you can craft is determined only by your own imagination.
4. The Last Starship
Developer: Introversion Software Publisher: Introversion Software Platform(s): PC, Mac For Fans Of: FTL, Fallout Shelter, Sunless Skies
When you imagine space travel, what’s the most exciting part? Is it discovering new worlds, seeing new places in the universe, or feeling like James T. Kirk? Or, is it the resource management, ship maintenance, and minute control of all the myriad details necessary for interstellar travel? If you favor the latter, then The Last Starship is a sure bet.
Taking control of your starship literally begins with building it from the ground up, as you must first design the layout of your space-faring vessel, paying attention to storage space, work spaces, and breathable oxygen levels for your intrepid crew.
Beyond the base management aspects, The Last Starship also offers robust exploration and interstellar combat mechanics. You’re not just building a galactic party yacht, so you’ll need to keep all of these different functions and jobs in mind as you design and redesign that vessel. Offering a wealth of customization options and means of getting newer and better materials, The Last Starship looks primed to zoom into the stratosphere and take your free time with it.
5. Your Only Move Is Hustle
Developer: Ivy Sly Publisher: Ivy Sly Platform(s): PC For Fans Of: Guilty Gear, Marvel’s Midnight Suns, any game with anime-style fights
Watching clips of Your Only Move Is Hustle’s dizzying, hyper-action gameplay makes it look like a head-spinningly complex 2D fighting game, full of impossible combos and impenetrable systems that might leave you on your digital butt. The twist is, it’s not actually a standard fighting game, but instead a turn-based spin on the genre.
Gameplay involves taking turns selecting tactical moves from a list of options, blending fighting game mechanics with card game-like strategy and foresight. While the characters on display all just look like stick figures, this simplistic design means you can fully understand how your stick fighter’s body moves as you meticulously move every limb to create incredible ornate-looking brawls that, when sped up, would make John Wick second-guess himself.
It’s tricky to wrap your head around at first, but after a few sessions, you’ll be connecting moves together in no time, and maybe even leaving with a better understanding of regular fighting games as well. All you need to do is slow it down and see how the machinery works, and Your Only Move Is Hustle presents that exact opportunity.
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