The Independent Gamer: Visual Novel, Office Puzzler, Minimalist Multiplayer

If Found - PAX West 2019 - H - 2020
Dreamfeel/Annapurna Interactive

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

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

With video games front and center amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, there are more titles than ever to pick and choose from as players hunker down at home and escape into another world. 

A number of indie creators are imminently releasing or have recently released titles that stray from everyday games to fill that demand, which is coming both from experienced gamers and those new to the leisure activity. That includes an emotionally challenging coming-of-age visual novel from game developers in Ireland, an office-puzzler from the Netherlands and a minimalist strategy game from Taiwan. 

The first game is calm and meditative — yet robust in its subject matter — allowing the player to consider their own path toward self-acceptance. Meanwhile, the second is somewhat hilarious, both in its visual style and play on a typical office setting. The third, a multiplayer experience that asks players to claim their territory, capitalizes on a simple concept with hidden complexity.

Drift Toward Melancholic Meaning in If Found …

If Found … is an interactive coming-of-age visual novel from Dublin-based studio dreamfeel, headed up by Irish artist Llaura Ash McGee. The game is published by Annapurna Interactive, known for the heartwrenching story of first love, Florence.

Set in Ireland in the 1990s, If Found … follows a young trans character named Kasio in her quest to explore her identity and connect meaningfully with others, which includes confronting family conflict. The "game" aspect involves players wiping the screen with their fingertips, which moves the story forward. 

Featuring hand-drawn art from illustrator and comic artist Liadh Young, players get to know Kasio by her diary entries on lined notepaper, which offer both her inner thoughts as well as views of her travels, like the living space where old habits were repeated.

Throughout, a gentle electronic soundtrack by composers 2mello and Eli Rainsberry provides the sounds to accompany Kasio's personal journey.

The game, written by McGee and Eve Golden-Woods, launches May 19 on online storefront Steam (for Windows PC) and iOs. Explore dreamfeel's catalogue here, which includes Curtain, an interactive first-person narrative that looks at the complexities of an abusive relationship.

Solve Office-Themed Puzzles in Good Job!

Strikingly different from If Found …, Good Job! is an action-puzzler from Paladin Studios based in The Hague, The Netherlands. The game invites players to climb the corporate ladder, which in this case involves solving office-themed puzzles. 

Like in a normal office, these duties — for an employee low on the totem pole — can include mopping, dealing with precarious internet connections, operating heavy equipment and delivering packages. The goal? To get the job done, of course.

Good Job! is easier on the eyes than a normal office, featuring a colorful palette that compliments the all-black, anonymous looking employees.

Paladin Studios features a team of 35, and its games include arcade adventure Momonga Pinball Adventures and city-building sustainability game EnerCities.

Good Job! is available on Nintendo Switch for $19.99. 

Get Your Territory in Minimalistic Strategy Game Gerritory

Gerritory, from Taiwanese developer Digital Crafter and emerging outfit Party Goose Studio, is a four-player action party experience where users control cube characters and compete to color tiles and score points in match sets.

The simple goal is to get your territory as each level progresses, which involves coloring as many tiles as possible with the cube and staying away from the forceful path of other players. 

The game, which won a design award at the Taipei Game Show this year, features minimalist visuals that resemble a classic board game. It offers several different environment modes including one that blacks out a portion of the screen and makes the emerging tiles pop. 

Gerritory is available on the Nintendo Switch for $7.99. Digital Crafter's other games include the Gothic horror mystery Lamia's Game Room