The best games at Japan’s biggest indie game convention.
Fed on a diet consisting of canned coffee, 7-Eleven snacks and sleepless nights, it’s safe to say I was a very busy bee during BitSummit vol. 6. Inbetween frantically running from appointment-to-appointment, I would try my best to take pit stops to check out games on the show floor.
It’s a true testament to the growth of the Japanese indie scene that there were not only ten incredibly promising games to take away from the event – but countless more that I’m devastated I couldn’t find the time for. So, props to everyone showing off their games at the show – there were so many great games and even more attendees having a blast playing them.
So without further ado, let’s talk games!
10. The Good Life (PS4, PC)
While nothing new was shown off in the build that was at BitSummit, I don’t mind at all; honestly, I’m fine not hearing any new details about the Good Life until launch. The Good Life seems like the perfect game to get lost in for a good month or so – I trust it’s director and writer SWERY implicitly with creating a world both vibrant and mysterious, and I’m sure I’ll relish every moment I spend exploring the quaint town of Rainy Woods.
By the way, if this has piqued your interest – there is an interview with SWERY on the site where we discuss all things the Good Life!
9. Oyasumi Rooney (iOS)
Oyasumi Rooney (which roughly translates to “Bedtime with Rooney” or “Goodnight Rooney”) is an iOS game made for kids to help them get to sleep at night. Stay with me, here – Oyasumi Rooney’s execution is too adorable to ignore.
Wrapped in a gentle storybook presentation, Oyasumi Rooney has players swiping across the screen to move Rooney through their forest home. Movement was simple yet fluid and very enjoyable – with a simple swipe up Rooney can fly through the air – and even I, a 23-year old adult(?) was smiling like a dope as I made Rooney flip through the sky.
Speaking with Kenichi Nishi (designer of Chibi-Robo, a personal favourite of mine), I was told parents can set a bedtime in the game. When that time comes, Rooney heads home and goes to bed – presumably in tandem with the child that’s playing.
It’s very easy to mess up making games for children: especially if the game has a practical use. Thankfully, Rooney doesn’t forget to be fun to play. Though there were many games that stood out at BitSummit, Rooney was one that quietly stuck with me. I commend any game that tries to push the form in interesting new directions.
8: BATTLLOON (Switch, PC, Mac)
Playing like a chaotically fleshed-out version of the Bumper Balls mini-game from Mario Party, BATTLLOON is a couch competitive game where each player controls a balloon. You hold one button to build up the air in your balloon and then another button to exhale it, wildly propelling you across the screen. The objective is to try to use your momentum to bump your competitors into the spikes that surround the arena, thus popping them.
It’s a simple premise, and that’s absolutely perfect for a couch competitive game. Every time I walked passed the booth, all four players would be shrieking in delight as they did battle, which is a surefire sign you’re doing something right with your game. I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot more about BATTLLOON upon release.
7: Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon (Switch, 3DS, Xbox One, PS4, Vita, PC)
As promising as Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night looks, I am infinitely more excited about Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon. Unfortunately for Ritual of the Night, metroidvanias have become all-too-common in the indie space since the 2015 Kickstarter. In comparison, it’s been far too long since we’ve seen a game in the more traditional NES Castlevania style; the infuriating difficulty, snappy movement and tight, knuckle-whitening level design are all qualities of those games I hold near-and-dear to my heart.
Inti Creates have made a business out of making rock-solid action platformers that feel like welcome remnants of an era forgotten – and Curse of the Moon looks to be much the same way.
Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon is due out very soon on May 24th – here is the Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon Steam page. In the meantime, if you’d like to know more details about the upcoming Curse of the Moon, you can check out my interview with Inti Creates’ Takuya Aizu!
6: Carto (PC)
At BitSummit, Sunhead Games’ Carto won the Visual Excellence Award, and for good reason – it’s gorgeous! But Carto isn’t just a pretty face: behind those looks hides some very intriguing design. Not much is yet known about the story, but judging from the demo I played it seems players will be following the adventures of two young girls as they set out to explore the seas beyond their home. By zooming out onto the map screen, you can pick up and place tiles on the map, sort of like a cartographic version of Pipe Mania. As a result, you can completely rearrange the game world to your liking.
With a unique hook like this, the possibilities for puzzle design are countless – a puzzle I came across required me to find a character that was hiding in a forest. So I put together all the tiles that had a bunch of trees on them in order to make a forest on the map, zoomed back into the action, and voila – there she was! Discovering new areas through manipulating the world around you rather than solely ambulating your character is a stroke of genius, and I can’t wait to immerse myself in Carto when it releases.
5: Semblance (Switch, PC, Mac)
In the final moments of BitSummit, artist, programmer and co-founder of South African indie studio Nyamakop, Sugar, was chatting with me as I played through the press demo for Semblance. As I was playing, the award ceremony was taking place over by the stage – and that’s when Semblance was announced as the winner of the Excellence in Game Design award. Just before he sprinted from the booth to the stage, I recall that Sugar’s exact words were “Holy shit”. It was a wonderful moment, and, as it turns out, one completely deserved – Semblance plays excellently.
Semblance is a puzzle-platformer that has you playing as a squishy little blob in a squishy little world. Movement felt so tight that I was surprised the platforming wasn’t more action-based – but as it turns out, the puzzles are the real star of the show. By dashing into certain platforms, you can dynamically morph and shift them to solve puzzles. While things started simple, with new areas new mechanics would gradually be introduced – it wasn’t long before I had to stop for a moment or two and put real thought into how I could manipulate a platform in a certain way to progress. When I would finally figure it out, the eureka moments were akin to the best the genre had to offer.
According to Sugar, the game is done and Nyamakop are biding their time for a good release date. You can bet I’ll be picking up Semblance as soon as it’s available.
4: Pan Galactic Railway (PC, TBA)
In Pan Galactic Railway, you pilot a space train, finding cargo and fighting space-pirates as you explore the galaxies.
If that doesn’t sell you, I don’t know what will.
Pan Galactic Railway’s developer Dave told me he elevator-pitches the game as “QWOP meets Elite Dangerous“, but I think that may be selling it short; while flying the train about is undoubtedly silly, there’s a true, crafted weight and friction to the way in which you move that’s difficult to understand until you get your hands on it. There is, of course, the space-trucking justification for navigating the cosmos, which I’m sure is excellent – but honestly, I could just flip around in that dang Space Train for hours on end. And I’m sure I will when it’s eventually released!
3: RPG Time: The Legend of Wright (iOS, Android, PC)
As a kid my family couldn’t afford many video games, so I spent a lot of time making my own by constructing levels, characters and enemies out of cardboard and paper. As such, RPG Time: The Legend of Wright really struck a chord with me. With a beautiful paper craft aesthetic, RPG Time harkens back to when you were a child having grand adventures with your friends using GI Joe’s, an assemblage of sticks and a little imagination.
The game itself plays more like an adventure game than a straight-up RPG – often, the solution to puzzles will test your brain moreso than your reflexes or stats. In a section where boulders fell from the ceiling, I was surprised that the solution was not to deftly avoid the falling rocks, but simply to wear a helmet for safety!
RPG Time: The Legend of Wright was such a joy to play, and I’m looking forward to getting creative with it in early 2019. There is currently no trailer for it up on YouTube, but you can look at many pretty GIFs on the RPG Time: The Legend of Wright website!
2: Black Bird (Switch, PC, Mac)
Following on from the zany Dandy Dungeon and the delightfully absurd Million Onion Hotel, Black Bird comes across as a bit of a tonal shift. With a more sombre, dulled palette, Black Bird begins with a frail little girl falling to the ground before she is transformed into an egg; the egg cracks, and the titular Black Bird emerges. From there, the game begins as a scrolling shooter. Black Bird reigns vengeful destruction upon the townspeople while the city guard tries to stop you with its forces, comprised of soldiers that float around with balloons on their heads.
Black Bird won two awards at BitSummit: the Excellence in Sound Design Award for Hirofumi Taniguchi’s twisted, operatic score, and the Vermillion Gate Award, which is only presented to the “most excellent works” at the show. To be sure, Black Bird is one to keep your eye on as it brings its special brand of chaos to Switch, PC and Mac this summer.
During BitSummit I got the chance to interview the director of Black Bird, Yoshiro Kimura – look out for that on the Indie Games Website soon!
1: Fight Crab (Switch, TBA)
Playing Fight Crab is the most fun I had at BitSummit. Indeed, playing Fight Crab might be some of the most fun I’ve had, ever.
From the creators of the similarly crustacean-themed Ace of Seafood, Fight Crab is exactly what it sounds like – a fighting game that pits two giant crabs against each other. The camera is presented from behind the back, and the player uses both left and right shoulder buttons to attack and block with their left and right claws respectively. There is a multitude of combinations of weapons that you can choose to dual-wield in your claws – my personal favourite loadout was a crowbar in one pincer, a shield in the other.
It’s exactly as much fun as it sounds.
Fight Crab has all the ridiculous charm of an Earth Defense Force game; if anything in-game goes wonky or breaks, it only adds to the enjoyment. In a Fight Crab bout I had with a complete stranger, as the minutes went by what started as a cute, crab-based tussle became an intense battle where all was on the line. Eventually, our fierce contest attracted a crowd, and suddenly dozens of people were invested in our struggle.
After many anxiety-inducing near falls across minutes which felt like eternities, I came out on top. Days later, I’m still over the moon. Next to me, my competitor’s hand was outstretched; I took it. For we were no longer strangers – we were brothers in arms.
Fight Crab made the world a better place. And so does BitSummit.
If you were at BitSummit this year, feel free to tell us some of your favourite games you played in the comments below!
Jace is a lover of games experimental and strange. He is always chasing after wholly new experiences.