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10 January Indie Games Worth Checking Out

As we ease into 2020, the entire Half-Life franchise is on the house (thanks, Valve, but we actually wante- never mind), Commandos 2 is re-releasing in spiffied up HD, and there’s a new Kingdom Hearts game in the works. Not a bad start to the year. To make things even better, Exclusively Games has been on the prowl for some tasteful looking indies—some new, some old—for you to get lost in. And since you’re here, why not have a browse through our top indie picks for 2019?

#10—Skellboy

Most pop culture skeletons are bony, emaciated creeps. Think Skeletor, Jack Skellington, or the Dry Bones species. There are a few ossified characters who defy the trope, however. One of them is Skippy. He’s the flat, flexible star of Skellboy, a cute roleplaying adventure from German studio Umaiki Games. Immediately arresting is Skellboy‘s squashed pixel aesthetic, which hovers between Minecraft and Paper Mario, but the gameplay has a strange gimmick to it, too. You can swap your bones with enemy body parts to acquire abilities. Then you can use said newfound abilities to dismember more enemies. Awesome.

Pre-orders for Switch are now available. PC users will have to wait a little while longer for the Steam (Win, Mac, Linux) release.

#9—To the Moon

Freebird Games’ classic tearjerker To the Moon is almost a decade old, and yet, its arrival on Nintendo Switch provides the uninitiated with a wonderful opportunity to get acquainted with Drs. Watts and Rosalene. Visually, there’s nothing particularly striking about these sprites—even with a Unity remake. It’s their words that are. To the Moon‘s wish-fulfillment narrative is arguably one of the most intensely sentimental to be told in video games. Go in blind, and make sure you’ve got a box of tissues on standby.

Make Johnny’s dream come true on Switch. You can also purchase To the Moon via Steam (Win, Mac, Linux), GOG, the Humble store, and for Android or iOS platforms.

#8—Temtem

Temtem‘s massively multiplayer critter-catching action is an unabashed tribute to Pokémon. While games like Yo-kai Watch and Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth have helped to scratch the catch ’em all itch, it’s always nice to see a fresh contender succeed. Gameplay wise, Crema seems to be hitting all the right notes. There’s character customization, co-op, breeding, and 2v2 turn-based battles that rely solely on skill—none of that pesky randomization. It’s a little pricey, especially considering the server woes on launch day, but that hasn’t stopped Temtem from rocketing straight to the top of Steam’s best sellers.

Get in line on Steam or Humble. We’re obligated to mention the dev team has called out players for misspelling ten ten, so, please do not do that. ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

#7—Mythic Ocean

If, like The Beatles, you’ve ever wandered about what it’s like to live in an octopus’s garden, Mythic Ocean might be an underwater trip worth taking. It’s a serene, choices-matter adventure which challenges you to befriend deities, and convince them to alter the fate of the cosmos. In other words, you’re an advisor to the gods. A huge proportion of the game consists of pure, aquatic exploration and bumping into the local marine life for D&Ms. Austin-based trio Paralune has infused Mythic Ocean with a range of possible endings, which makes it a good choice for completionists.

Check it out via Steam or itch.io.

#6—Journey to the Savage Planet

The space survival niche isn’t as barren as it once was. Craft-heavy entries Astroneer and, eventually, No Man’s Sky have made the extraterrestrial cool, so it’s little wonder that Typhoon Studios is tapping into the same gold mine. Journey to the Savage Planet is a bold, colorful excursion through an unknown world. You work for Kindred Aerospace, who expects you to catalog every bit of flora and fauna thriving on AR-Y 26, but with rocket boots and a laser pistol up your sleeve, that sounds pretty exciting. Journey to the Savage Planet is a singleplayer game but does feature two-person online co-op if you prefer kicking alien butt in a team.

Pre-order through Epic, the PlayStation or Microsoft stores.

#5—Deeeer Simulator

Deeeer Simulator mimics the same blissful destruction that made Goat Simulator so infamous. Its roots wind back to a 2017 tweet. Solo developer Keisuke Abe posted a short clip of a deer with an elastic neck swinging across rocky platforms. The feedback was overwhelming and instant: fans wanted a full-fledged game with the physics-defiant deer on center stage. Abe took a gamble on kickstarter—scraping together roughly $5,300 (¥580,129)—and the rest was history. Deeeer Simulator is out now under Steam’s early access banner. And yes, if you really want to, it does let you saunter innofensively through unspoiled nature, but compared to chaos and carnage, where’s the fun in that?

#4—Lenna’s Inception

Lenna’s Inception is a glitched-up RPG with a long, winding past. It might be a fresh release on Steam (Win, Linux) and itch.io, however, if you dig through Bytten Studio’s blog, signs of life first manifest in January 2012. Probably the most conspicuous difference lies is the artistry, which has, over time, matured into a much more optimized version that looks good in both 8-bit and 32-bit. And, in a very thoughtful move that simultaneously capitalizes on retrogaming nostalgia, Bytten Studio lets you play in either of those styles. Lenna‘s Inception owes much of its existence to The Legend of Zelda. Switch-based puzzles, boss-fights, dungeons and trading sequences all make an appearance; even the protagonist’s name (Lenna) has a familiar fragrance. The local co-op mode is definitely new, though. Imagine that in Hyrule.

#3—Iconoclasts

Sort-of metroidvania Iconoclasts makes the jump to Xbox One at long last. It took Joakim Sandberg seven years to fulfil his childhood wish, and although it’s presented with a pixel art finish, that’s not what he wants players to focus on. Iconoclasts is about the story. It’s about character development. It’s also about tight platforming, a multitude of bosses, a holy substance, and a wrench. You play as Robin, a mechanic stuck inside a crazy world run by evil organizations, and as fate would have it, it’s up to her to save everyone from (potential) doom.

#2—Lightmatter

Tunnel Vision Games’ Lightmatter takes the fundamentals of the stealth genre and turns them inside out. In this 3D puzzle colosseum, it’s darkness that kills you. The only safe zones are patches of ground bathed in light, so you’ll need to use your wits to navigate past murky blooms. Like Portal, it’s a thinking man’s game. You can move platforms and reorient light beams, all while a slightly nefarious sounding CEO guides you through the deadly, puzzle-laden facility.

Lightmatter is currently available on Steam and Humble.

#1—Kentucky Route Zero: TV Edition

An interminable mount of time seems to have passed since Kentucky Route Zero first entangled us in its surreal, point ‘n’ click web, which makes the imminent release of the fifth and final chapter all the more sweet. A small, but important clarification: Kentucky Route Zero: TV Edition refers to the console version, where the game makes its debut on Switch, Xbox One and PS4. The PC Edition (available through Humble, Steam (Win, Mac, Linux), GOG and itch.io) is for the rest of us. Inside the tin, you receive all five chapters. So if you’re intrigued by atmospheric puzzle games with strange characters, or know somebody who is, this is the ideal version to purchase.