The Independent Gamer: Explore New Ground in 'The Great Perhaps,' 'Little Orpheus,' 'Neversong'

Daedalic Entertainment
'The Great Perhaps'

This recurring roundup explores indie titles, developers and studios from around the world that are combining powerful stories and distinctive gameplay.

The Independent Gamer is a curated roundup of news from indie gaming, landing here every other Friday.

Indie games entered the mainstream spotlight this month, so our return from a brief hiatus feels all the more celebratory.

On July 1, Shuhei Yoshida unveiled the PlayStation Indies initiative to showcase a brand new slate of games. His goal is to "make PlayStation the best place to develop, find and play great indie games," starting with the announcement of nine games coming to PS4 and the next-gen console, PS5 in the near future.

From Annapurna Interactive's magical first-person puzzle game Maquette to Armature Studio's narrative adventure Where the Heart Is, the lineup is varied for all tastes.

This week, The Hollywood Reporter spoke with Philipp Zybkovets and Eli Mikeladze from Caligari Games about their debut title The Great Perhaps, which just released on consoles.

In keeping with the theme of curiosity and epic exploration, we also look at the colorful adventure Little Orpheus and the heavier narrative of Neversong. 

Travel Through Time in The Great Perhaps

Puzzle-based adventure game The Great Perhaps is the debut title from Russian developer Caligari Games, which was founded in 2018 to explore narrative-driven experiences "for players who enjoy good storytelling and peculiar gameplay."

German-based company Daedalic Entertainment published the game, with Polish-based Drageus Games taking the publishing lead for consoles such as the Nintendo Switch, in which the game releases on July 10.

Featuring a hand-drawn 2D art style, the single-player game is set on a post-apocalyptic Earth and centers around an astronaut caught between the dangers of the present and past. Along the way, there are puzzles and mini games themed with time travel. 

"The main character of the game is named simply as Kosmos," Philipp Zybkovets, creative director and co-founder of Caligari Games, tells The Hollywood Reporter. "He is a cosmonaut who woke up on an International space-station to find out that the Earth was destroyed by an unknown cataclysm, and now he is most likely to be the last person alive."

Zybkovets goes on to say, "We specifically designed him to be nameless and 'faceless,' so that the players could relate to him more. We also never say the names of the city or country where the events of the game take place for the same reason, even though the overall aesthetics are based on typical Eastern European cities."

Having previously worked as a director, producer and screenwriter for TV series broadcasted on Russian channels, this is the first major video game project from Zybkovets. 

Narrative designer Eli Mikeladze says that the AI character in the game, L9, was named after Lenina, from Aldous Huxley's dystopian novel Brave New World. "In turn, her name came from Vladimir Lenin," Mikeladze continues. "It fit together perfectly, given how much we were inspired by the Soviet aesthetics and overall atmosphere."

Mikeladze says that while she was initially drawn to "a more conventional career as a screenwriter," she has found that writing for games is fulfilling because of the creative variance it provides. "It is impossible to apply long-established screenwriting rules to games, so you have to constantly innovate," she says. 

The next game from Caligari is the hand-painted point-and-click adventure Whateverland, which features a branching dialogue system and non-linear gameplay.

Explore Lost Civilizations, Kingdoms and Jungles in Little Orpheus

Side-scrolling adventure game Little Orpheus hails from UK-based development studio The Chinese Room, well-known for first-person exploration game Dear Esther and adventure game Everybody's Gone to the Rapture. 

Little Orpheus is not the name of a person, but rather the exploration capsule of cosmonaut Ivan Ivanovich. Starting in the year 1962, his story unfolds in eight short episodes, which makes the game easy to pick up and play while waiting for friends at the bar — whoops, that was the old days — while socially distancing outside with a limited number of responsible friends.

The game is presented in full color, with night and day travel through ice caves, deserts, otherworldly planets and more. Developers took inspiration from the 1980 sci-fi adventure movie Flash Gordon and the 1975 British fantasy-adventure The Land That Time Forgot.

Uncover a Haunting, Jarring Past in Neversong

One might argue that, amid the coronavirus pandemic, people should be seeking out light-hearted games that offer an escape from daily stress. If you happen to fall into that category, I might recommend saving Neversong for another time. 

But in terms of this column, I chose not to save it because the game — in all its muted brown and beige colors, the odd orange and yellow strategically injected — does present a window into a dreamlike, relaxing experience.

The game, which released on Apple Arcade in May and is forthcoming on Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4, hails from developer Atmos Games, run by art director Thomas Brush (creator of puzzle-adventure Pinstripe).

"A strange journey through a coma" is how Brush describes Neversong, which follows the journey of a young boy who wakes from a coma to find his girlfriend missing. Players control Peet with gentle finger swipes as he interacts with his environment to learn about what happened — there might be a voice message, a locked door, an elevator shaft.

The game unfolds in six poetic levels with an audio track of atmospheric sounds and sometimes a hint of piano to emphasize certain points in Peet's unusual adventure. 

Sky: Children of the Light Welcomes New Season

Jenova Chen, co-founder and creative director of thatgamecompany, known for Journey, Flower and Flow, revealed in a blog post Wednesday that his latest game Sky: Children of the Light has been downloaded over 20 million times since its release date in July, 2019.

To mark the occasion, the game is getting a new summer adventure on July 13 called Season of Sanctuary. "From beginning to end, it has been designed to deliver a retreat-like experience for fans playing and staying safe at home," wrote Chen.

If you're not familiar with thatgamecompany, Chen was recently interviewed about his career by the Game Developer's Conference podcast. Listen here.

View the teaser for the new season in Sky: Children of the Light below.

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Any game developers interested in having THR look at their game, please reach out to trilby.beresford@thr.com.