So it’s May 1st, time for another one of these articles where I give you the rundown on some cool games that may have flown under your radar the past month. I have eight of them this time, so thanks to the publishers who sent them to me in order to make this list possible. That said, let’s go ahead and get started.
I am all about interesting genre combinations and this time we got one that combines 2D action platforming with top-down strategy resource management. It’s called Smelter and you take up the role of Eve (of Adam and Eve fame). Eve is equipped with a living suit of armor and the 2D segments have you jumping around, using the armor’s abilities to dispose of foes and navigate the levels, and clear spots on the map that you can then manage on the strategy side.
The strategy elements are a bit more laidback. You build up resource production, workers, and defenses and basically expand on that as you tackle these 2D levels. I personally enjoyed the platforming more than the strategy stuff, but it was cool to see a game designed around swapping between the two – and with a light story on top of that. If that sounds like your thing, do give it a look.
Steam page. Smelter retails for $20 USD and is available on both Steam and GOG as well as PS4, Switch, and Xbox One.
8Doors: Arum’s Afterlife Adventure
So, my first thought upon seeing this game was: “oh, Hollow Knight!” And yeah, it’s kinda close. It’s called 8Doors and it bills itself as a story-driven metroidvania action platformer with a heavy emphasis on Korean folktales. Now, I don’t know about you, but I love such settings and action platformers, so this was right up my alley. And I gotta say I wasn’t disappointed. Although the gameplay is simple, it is pretty fun, with challenging combat, a bunch of abilities to unlock for map exploration, and a story that isn’t just tacked-on.
In fact, the story plays a larger role than what I would have expected from a game like this and I am definitely not complaining – as a fan of story-heavy games and all. It is a dark, yet fitting story for the setting, bringing a bit of emotion, but packing it together with that Korean folktale setting and it’s actually kinda unique for the genre. I enjoyed my time with it and if you’re a fan of action platformers, you probably will too.
Steam page. 8Doors: Arum’s Afterlife Adventure retails for $20 USD and is available on both Steam and GOG.
Emily is Away <3
Emily is Away <3 is definitely one of the more unique games I’ve played this year. Having not played the previous two, I went into this blind and was really drawn in by how creative it was. The game basically recreates late 2000s Facebook and the gameplay consists entirely of you interacting with this relic of the past. Posting on others’ walls, replying to a bunch of messages, poking others – it’s all there and perfectly captures the Facebook experience at that time.
It is a very story heavy game and although there is a lot of interaction, the game is effectively a visual novel in disguise – not that I’m complaining though. It actually kinda hurt me at times because it made me reflect on how I used Facebook back during this time and how cringy it all was. Extending words with unnecessary letters, using tons of abbreviations, and dealing with all of the teenage drama are just a few things you’ll encounter here. It’s a very cool experience though and probably the easiest recommendation in this list.
Steam page. Emily is Away <3 retails for $10 USD and is available on both Steam and itch.io.
Now I won’t lie, Tanuki Justice is about as straightforward as an arcade action-platformer can be. You just make your way to the end of each level, dispatching enemies along the way, doing some platforming, and taking out a boss at the end. Just a sequence of that until the end. This isn’t even a bad thing though, the gameplay – while simple – is pretty fun and reminiscent of the arcade action-platformers of old. Your only weapon is a shuriken, but you can aim it in all eight directions, so you’re not locked into just forward like a lot of the older arcade games liked to do.
And just like those games, it is incredibly difficult. The entire experience is roughly an hour long, but can take much longer depending on how much you die. Running out of lives resets you to the start of the level and the last few levels really made that apparent. It was a good time though – neat bosses, fun platforming, a nice arcade experience I would recommend for those that like them.
Steam page. Tanuki Justice retails for $15 USD and is available on Steam as well as Switch.
If you liked The House in Fata Morgana, Pale Cachexia is 100% worth a look. It’s a kinetic visual novel with that same gothic, dark fantasy setting to it – it even takes place in a manor in the woods. The story follows Esther, who arrives at this mansion with the goal of finding something to potentially cure her life-leeching illness – the Pale Cachexia. However, upon arriving at this manor, she meets Seina, who has been living there for years all by herself.
The two form a connection and the game explores themes like friendship, loneliness, and grief while tackling this darker mystery surrounding it all. The manor is not all that it seems and the protagonist is constantly haunted by dreams hinting at something within. It’s a really cool setup and the game doesn’t waste any time getting right into it, providing a 4-5 hour experience without ever losing itself in its pacing. That coupled with the excellent art and music and you got the makings for a solid visual novel, one I would recommend.
Steam page. Pale Cachexia retails for $6 USD and is available on Steam, itch.io, and on Android.
If you like blowing stuff up, then Blocksplode might be for you. It’s a puzzle game where the goal is to blow up structures in such a way as to get as much of it under the waterline as possible. A simple goal, but one that is expanded on as you progress. You’ll eventually have certain blocks that are required to be under the water line and even one that has to remain above the water – often in combination with the other goals. So yeah, it can get difficult fairly quick and within the first thirty minutes, I was already struggling with a few of the levels.
Despite that though, it is a fun time, balancing out that challenge with some creative puzzle designs that capitalize on the seemingly simple gameplay. It honestly reminded me a lot of the 2008 Wii game Boom Blox, which I played A LOT of back in the day. Fans of physics-based puzzle games, do give it a look.
Steam page. Blocksplode retails for $15 USD and is available on Steam.
Rain on Your Parade
This is another one with an interesting setup. You play as a cardboard cloud with the goal of ruining everyone’s day. Whether that be soaking them with rain or zapping them with lightning, Rain on Your Parade is a casual puzzle game with over 50 levels of such gameplay. It too has some very simplistic gameplay, but the puzzle design really emphasizes its strengths. Combining liquids to cause a chemistry set to explode, picking up acid to ruin a bunch of crops, guiding a sheep towards a hungry bear – it’s more than just “rain on all of these people”.
There are also some references thrown in there, like the level where I had to sneak into an enemy compound Metal Gear style or another level where I straight-up had to defend the bomb plant on A site on Dust 2. It honestly gave me some big What the Golf? vibes with how creative its gameplay could be. Not a game for everyone for sure, but one I would recommend if you like these more casual, comedic experiences.
Steam page. Rain on Your Parade retails for $15 USD and is available on Steam and on Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and Switch.
I have been playing so many roguelikes lately that The Slormancer was a bit of a breath of fresh air. It’s got the look and feel of a roguelike, but nope, it’s just your standard action RPG dungeon crawler with a MOUNTAIN of stuff to unlock. Like, there’s pages upon pages of different weapons, abilities, and skill trees to go through – honestly, a bit overwhelming. However, it is also polished and fun to play despite being an Early Access title.
The combat flows well, the pixel art is clean, the hub world has a bunch of stuff going on, and it’s really just a nice foundation for what is likely to become an even better game upon full release. It’s a bit light in terms of enemy and map variety – Early Access only allows us to play the first out of five story acts – but the foundation is solid and I’m looking forward to what the full product shapes up to be.
Steam page. The Slormancer retails for $15 USD and is available on Steam and GOG as an Early Access title.
And that’s it for my list. A bunch of neat games, hopefully at least one caught your interest and as usual, I have included links for all of them in the article. So, check them out if you are interested and thanks again for reading. I’ll be back around this time next month with a new list, so do look forward to that.