The Independent Gamer: 'Wide Ocean Big Jacket' Gets New Story Chapters, 'We Should Talk' Navigates Conversations

Wide Ocean Big Jacket- Publicity - H 2020
Tender Claws

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.

Welcome to August, which is bursting with enthusiasm for video games.

In the beginning of the month from Aug. 4-6, the Game Developer's Conference (GDC) took place in an all-digital format, featuring top game developers and publishers engaging in panel discussions, demos and showcases of games in all styles and genres.

New York City's Play NYC is up next, running from Aug. 10-16 and featuring a host of exhibitors and educational panels aimed toward encouraging more people to develop and play video games. Germany's Gamescom trade fair caps off the end of the month, running from Aug. 27-30. 

This week, the relaxing camping adventure game Wide Ocean Big Jacket received new story chapters, while PlayStation's State of Play gave an updated look at some gameplay in The Pathless, the next game from the devs who brought Abzu into the world. Elsewhere, We Should Talk offers a different kind of relationship game, where the choices are the focus of the gameplay. 

Wide Ocean Big Jacket Receives New Story Chapters

Narrative game Wide Ocean Big Jacket, from Carter Lodwick and Ian Endsley at Los Angeles-based game studio Turnfollow and developer Tender Claws, originally released in February on the Nintendo Switch and PC/Mac. This week, the game received three new story chapters, available to players in the main game for free. 

If you haven't played it, Wide Ocean Big Jacket follows an aunt and uncle who take their middle school niece Mord and her boyfriend Ben on a camping trip.

The whole game only takes about an hour and a half to complete, but players can control both the teens and the adults as they explore the campground, sit by the fire and lounge on the beach. Dialogue appears as text on screen, and exploration is easily achieved by toggling the joystick and landing on prompts to check out the glowing skeleton that the adults have tied around a tree to locate the tent in the dark, or retrieve the hot dogs to cook on the fire.

Things become heavier in the middle of the game when Mord asks her aunt if sex is "cool," which leads to a very amusing and heartfelt conversation. Elsewhere, the aunt is having a conversation with her husband about not wanting children. The game is bookended by unloading and packing up the car, just like a real camping trip. 

The new story chapters focus on Meryl and Alan, who appear as side characters in the main game. Meryl is a park ranger who spends his time ridding the beach of beer bottles and gently helping flustered teens who lose their phones and freak out that they'll never be able to text anyone again and that their parents are going to "kill" them. 

Wide Ocean Big Jacket was nominated for excellence in narrative at the 2020 Independent Games Festival, also gaining an honorable mention in the grand prize category. The game can be accessed on Switch, Steam and Itch.io. 

New Gameplay for The Pathless

During PlayStation's State of Play on Thursday, new gameplay was revealed for The Pathless from Giant Squid (the studio who made the ocean adventure game Abzu) and publisher Annapurna Interactive, which launches on consoles later this year.

In the briefing, Giant Squid creative director Matt Nava described the game as an "open world, mythic adventure game set in a vast forest." Players take on the role of the Hunter — an archery master whose loyalty lies with an eagle companion — who seeks "to lift a curse of darkness that plagues the world."

Some of the mechanics of flying were shown during the gameplay demo, along with the bond between the Hunter and the Eagle, which must be healthily maintained, like a real friendship. Secrets can be found all over the island, which players must locate without the use of a map. "Instead, a hunter can use her mask to peer into the spirit world and discover distant landmarks," explained Nava. "It even shows you where you've been."

Giant cursed spirits — the source of the darkness — will act as a threat in the game and try to separate the hunter from the eagle. In order to beat the game, the cursed spirits must be defeated. 

Navigate the Nuances in We Should Talk

Short-form narrative game We Should Talk was conceived in NYU's game studio course and incubator by Insatiable Cycle developers Kat Aguiar, Nobonita Bhowmik, Francesca Carletto-Leon, Jordan Jones-Brewster, Carol Mertz and Jack Schlesinger. The game was published Pennsylvania-based company Whitethorn Digital

The dialogue-based game challenges the way traditional romances usually play out in game narratives by focusing not on what is said, but how it is said and how subtle differences in sentences can elicit different responses in the conversation.

Players choose from several different variations of what to say, for example, when asked by their in-game partner when they're coming home, a response can be: "I'm actually at the bar tonight," but all three parts of the sentence can be changed to become "Oh, damn, I'm out drinking tonight" or "I'm sorry, I'm hanging out already." With each sentence, the relationship is tested to see if it's going to survive.

We Should Talk was given an honorable mention at the 2019 Independent Games Festival for best student game. It is available on Nintendo Switch. 

Grindstone Welcomes Host of New Cave Levels

Toronto-based developer Capybara Games released an update to its latest puzzle game Grindstone, including 50 new cave levels and a new Daily Grind mode with leaderboards, as well as new items to help players locate gold nuggets.