Indie Game Roundup (Jan. 26, 2024)

Aren’t games great? So many exciting ones came out this week too! I sure hope a civil war doesn’t break out in the United States this weekend! If you recently released something that you want included, always feel free to send me an email, message me on social media (see About page), or just reply to this post with a link to your thing to let me know it’s out. Or even if you didn’t make it and you just think it’s neat, let me know!

a pixelated photo of walter becker

Look at a Picture of Walter Becker for 1 Hour
In this Game Boy and browser game you must look at a photo of Walter Becker of Steely Dan fame for one hour without doing anything else? Can you do it?

cassette tape for the game An Outcry

PIZZA PRANKS Videogame Tape Club
The creator of indie game compilation zine Indiepocalypse has started a program for distributing games on USB drives inside tape cassettes. There’s already a few games for sale and it seems like it’s pretty easy to get your game distributed through it, and he’s also been very open about helping you start your own tape club if you want.

creepy hallway with windows giving an orange glow

The Pony Factory
The Pony Factory was originally a game in the first Dread X compilation created by the same designer as the retro looking FPS Dusk. This is a standalone release that adds a tiny bit more to the game as well as some additional polish. I enjoyed the original release of the game, as well as the rest of the Dread X compilations.

Until the Last Bullet
Does this game look “good?” No, but it is a FMV rail shooter now available on Steam so I am required by law to include it on this list.

a grid of objects and pirates on the left and right sides of the grid

Sunken Stones
A game that does look “good” is Sunken Stones, which has just released a new demo on Itch. It’s a puzzle strategy game with roguelike elements where you are a pirate captain and fight foes.

Other random things
There’s also been a lot of Pokemon related discourse I have no interesting in but I did enjoy this post on Cohost recommending indie games inspired by Pokemon. This free Pokemon coloring book that was uploaded to Itch is also fun.

I don’t know if it qualifies as an indie game since it’s licensing a huge franchise, but I think the release of Stargate: Timekeepers is interesting. I never watched the show but we now have a stealth tactics game based on a show that ended over a decade ago. Reviews on Steam are mixed but most of the complaints seem to be that it’s a stealth game and not something else, which seems pretty silly. FWIW, IGN seemed to like it.

top down view of someone walking

The first Megami Tensei just received an English translation. The article on Time Extension goes into a lot more detail about the history of the games and where you can download it.

NeoHabitat Meetup

A few weeks ago I posted about how there was a meetup in the game Habitat hosted by the streamer BogusMeatFactory. After getting pushed back a week due to illness, the meetup happened and we had a really good time. Here are a couple screenshots that I took.

I’ll post about it when it’s much closer to the date, but I think we’re going to do another Habitat meetup on Feb. 9th at 7pm EST. Of course, people can play anytime they want since it’s a free game that’s playable in the browser

Habitat has also come up on the YouTube channel Conversations with Curtis, in their series of interviews. Here are the links to the interviews, with it at the timestamp where the game comes up:
Aric Wilmunder
Gary Winnick
Ken Macklin

Indie Game Roundup (Jan. 19, 2024)

Despite losing my power one day this week and my internet going in and out over the weekend, I still had time to play video games. If you recently released something that you want included, always feel free to send me an email, message me on social media (see About page), or just reply to this post with a link to your thing to let me know it’s out. Or even if you didn’t make it and you just think it’s neat, let me know!

little person on a platformer

Sylvie Miniature
Sylvie Miniature is a short challenging platformer that is playable in the browser. The source code is available too if you wanted to see how it was made.

Pinochio inside a castle

The New Secret of Pinocchio
For the 30th anniversary of the Russian ZX Spectrum game “The Adventures of Buratino” its creator released a Windows remake of it and extended it with new material. It’s available for free on Itch.

Music Maker 95
Music Maker 95 is a little synth playable in the browser on Itch where you play with some retro sounds in an interface resembling a program from the 90s.

robocop flying and shooting at the Predator

Robocop Vs Predator
Robocop Vs Predator is a free game inspired by Game Boy games that were weird crossovers like Robocop Vs Terminator or Iron Man And X-O Manowar. It’s a very silly and challenging action platformer.

view outside of clouds and a giant tower

Slave Zero X: Episode Enyo
Slave Zero X: Episode Enyo is a free prequel to Slave Zero X, which was a recent 2D action game which itself was a prequel to Slave Zero, a 3rd person action game from 1999. I have played neither of those games but I’m excited about people making free Quake episodes to promote their game, which is what this is. It’s a lot of effort too. The 6 level episode features new guns, enemies, and soundtrack.

Boyfriend Dungeon: Life On the Edge
Boyfriend Dungeon: Life On the Edge is an official tabletop rpg based off Boyfriend Dungeon. I was a fan of the original game and also have a fascination with official tabletop rpg adaptations so I hope to play this soon. I’m also relieved that it’s not another 5E reskin and it’s a unique system based on Rhapsody of Blood and Powered By the Apocalypse.

cartoonish person in a kitchen

Day of the Sandwich
Day of the Sandwich is a cute little adventure game about making a sandwich, inspired by Day of the Tentacle and made in Adventure Game Studio and playable in the browser. I didn’t even know AGS games could be playable in the browser so that alone was exciting to me. It was made for a 14 day game jam and you can watch them develop it on their Twitch stream. If you would like to make a point-and-click adventure in the free and open source engine Adventure Game Studio, I highly recommend this tutorial by Julia Minamata, who is currently developing The Crimson Diamond.

Rise to the Commander of the Wolf Triad
Rise to the Commander of the Wolf Triad is a browser game made in PICO-8 where you climb a tower and throw bombs at Commander Keen? It’s a late entry to the Toy Box Jam, which is hosted by Tom Hall (Commander Keen, Wolfenstein 3D, Doom) every year on Itch where developers must make a game using the collection of assets that are provided to them.

Gex Jam 2024
Do you miss 90’s platformer mascot Gex? Well there’s a jam coming up in a month where you can make anything featuring the guy.

Posts About Puzzle Games
There were two recent posts about indie puzzle games that I really liked. Thinky Third Thursday is a monthly roundup of puzzle games by the designer of puzzle games like A Monster’s Expedition, Cosmic Express, and A Good Snowman is Hard to Build. There was also this post on Cohost highlighting A TON of puzzle games.

top down view of a knight fighting monsters in a dungeon

Rogue Declan
After posting about Amiga games last week, someone mentioned this very nice looking Amiga game that was released last year. It looks like its got a boxed copy available for pre-order too.

Lost Game: The Games of T.H.E.S.I.S.

While digging around for local software companies in Michigan a while ago, I stumbled across this ad in the first issue of the Atari magazine Analog for an educational software company called T.H.E.S.I.S. in Garden City.

ad for a software company called THESIS, which lists a variety products.

From looking at the ad, it seems like it’s mostly educational software but there’s a couple of games as well lie CON*PUTATION and TONAL ENCOUNTER. For a longer time than I’d like to admit, I thought there was basically nothing about this company and struggled to find anything. I don’t know what changed in those last two years, but it seems like I was just researching it poorly and it turns out that actually, most of their catalog is available for download.

First of all, this clipping from InfoWorld explains what T.H.E.S.I.S. is actually short for.

screenshot showing that THESIS is short for Timely Home Educational System and Informational Software

And then it looks like they were also referenced in this catalog of Atari educational software makers, which you can download here (link opens a pdf).

This was all I knew of for a while and assumed there was just nothing else, until a couple of years later when I decided to take another swing at looking up this company and it turned out I was just doing a poor job the first time. Searching for Tonal Encounter gave me a page on Atari Mania showing that the game is missing but the additional info that it was developed by Linda Schreiber.

It turns out, she has worked on a ton of games. This was a delight for me to find as someone who has an interesting in local game developers. It looks like most of the games that T.H.E.S.I.S. made have also been preserved as well. It’s really nice finding out that a company you figured was lost forever, was actually mostly preserved and you just didn’t do a good job researching them. IN MY DEFENSE I think it was made harder by the company’s name. It does look like a couple of the games by them are still missing but it is significantly less than I had assumed a few days ago. There’s still a few missing like Tonal Encounter, Math Facts, and Hidden Words, but most of them seem to be on that Atari Mania page.

screenshot from Spellbound showing a bunch of little blue guys and the word Necessary.
Screenshot of Spellbound, taken from Atari Mania

Not only did Linda make a ton of games, she also wrote a few books, with most of them focused on programming for Atari computers. She was an instructor for a long time but is mostly retired now, other than still writing and having a course on Udemy for making wine. While it’s not active now, she also had a blog where she wrote about her experiences as the co-founder of T.H.E.S.I.S. and in 2017 ANTIC: The Atari 8-Bit Podcast interviewed her.

Not really sure what the lesson learned from this whole experience was. I need to look harder when researching lost games? But I’m glad it has a happy ending.

Credit goes to Karen and BogusMeatFactory in the Michigan Games History Colletive discord for finding the InfoWorld clipping and educational catalog. It’s a little discord I started where I’ve been dumping Michigan game developer history research before writing about it somewhere more public facing. It’s not the busiest discord but you’re more than welcome to join here if you have an interest in Michigan game dev history.

Indie Game Roundup (Jan. 12, 2024)

It is the 90s and there is time for games. If you recently released something that you want included, always feel free to send me an email, message me on social media (see About page), or just reply to this post with a link to your thing to let me know it’s out. Or even if you didn’t make it and you just think it’s neat, let me know!

screenshot from Itch of various game covers

Solo But Not Alone 4
This is the fourth in a series of charity bundles on Itch that are made up of solo tabletop rpgs. The proceeds from these bundles go to mental health related charities and you can click on the bundle link for a description of who it’s going to this time. It’s an incredible bargain for a collection of great games and I’m proud to have my KLF-inspired game Chill Out in here.

XYZZY Awards
The winners of the 2022 XYZZY awards have been announced. If you want to see what people in the modern IF scene are up to, this is a great way to see some of the games coming from there. Since the page doesn’t link to where the winning games are available, hopefully no one minds too much if I basically copy the post but link to the games.

Best Game: According to Cain (Jim Nelson)
Best Writing: The Absence of Miriam Lane (Abigail Corfman)
Best Story: Fairest (Amanda Walker)
Best Setting: Prism (Eliot M.B. Howard)
Best Puzzles: The Bones of Rosalinda (Agnieszka Trzaska)
Best NPCs: Lady Thalia and the Rose of Rocroi (E. Joyce, N. Cormier)
Best Individual Puzzle: the escape room in The Little Match Girl 2: Annus Evertens (Ryan Veeder)
Best Individual NPC: Computerfriend in Computerfriend (Kit Riemer)
Best Individual PC: Bell Park in The Grown-Up Detective Agency (Brendan Patrick Hennessy)
Best Implementation: According to Cain (Jim Nelson)
Best Use of Innovation: The Bones of Rosalinda (Agnieszka Trzaska)
Best Technological Development: Inform 7 build 10.1.0
Best Use of Multimedia: Gent Stickman vs Evil Meat Hand (AZ / ParserCommander)

Independent Games Festival
The finalists for the 2024 IGF have also been announced. This is another great way of discovering games you may have previously missed.

New Games Everywhere
I enjoyed this video covering upcoming games that Dani Lavandula is looking forward to this year. It’s only 10 minutes long and has a lot of stuff I didn’t know about

view of a tram from the driver seat

This is a new game on Steam in Early Access where you are a driver for Hakodate, Hokkaido’s tram service. This cohost post does a better job explaining what the game is and the future plans for it, plus it has a link to the Steam page.

a girl in a robotic diner

Psycutlery is a platformer game that has been in development for a few years but has finally been released, and for free! It’s a beautiful looking game and I think it’s worth downloading off of Itch.

conversation between a player character and a jester

HalOPE is described on the Itch page as a surreal exploration/”puzzle-ish” RPGMaker game about breaking cycles and becoming whole. I haven’t played it yet but it looks lovely and is available for free.

person flipping through a horror game magazine

PC CURSED is an anthology of horror games as well as a magazine, all for free. The Itch page lists all 20+ games that are included in the anthology.

Thinky Games
If you’re looking for more puzzle games to play, has a good post covering games from two recent game jams.

DUSK is a new sci-fi rules-lite tabletop rpg from Gila RPGs. DUSK uses the LUMEN 2.0 system, and is a diceless RPG focused on resource management rather. The core rules for the game are available for free!

a little guy with a jetpack in a cave

Amiga Games
It also felt like a lot of new games for the Amiga were released this week, at least from looking at Indie Retro News. There was Ami-H.E.R.O, an update of Activision’s H.E.R.O., a port of the arcade version of Tetris, a news update about a top-down arcade game called Hyperborea Resurrected, and news about a dungeon crawler called Dungeonette.

If you enjoyed this post, you can find ones from previous weeks here

Voyage of the Mayflower

In an effort to cover more Michigan and game dev history on here, I thought I would mention the game Voyage of the Mayflower. This was a game designed by Ken Ludwig and published by Cadmean Corp. in Ann Arbor in 1984 for the Commodore 64. The game is actually playable in the browser on the Internet Archive.

screenshot showing a boat sailing across the ocean
Screenshot taken from MobyGames

The designer of the game also uploaded the design and marketing notes to the University of Michigan’s library, which anyone can read here. Ken is currently a lecturer at the University of Michigan and in 2021, Austin Yarger interviewed Ken for a WolverineSoft virtual meetup about the game and its history. They even play the game for a little bit.

Doctor Who Rewatch (Jan. 9, 2024)

Only watched and listened to a little bit of Doctor Who this week

The Sensorites
The only serial I watched this week was this 6 parter that suffers from some huge pacing issues. It probably should have been 4 episodes. It still has some fun bits like like Gallifrey being described for the first time, Susan being psychic, and it has a strong start. I also enjoyed that there’s a little more complexity to it in who is considered good and bad in this story. Also lol, so much line flubbing. I don’t blame the actors since they were only allowed one take for the first few years but it comes up quite a bit here.

Here There Be Monsters
I also listened to a couple Big Finish audio stories. It turns out one of the apps my local library uses for digital lending, Hoopla, has a ton of Big Finish stuff on there so consider checking that out if you live in the US. Here There Be Monsters is a perfectly ok but maybe kinda forgettable companion chronicles and the middle is kinda dull. It has some really interesting ideas like the plant ship that tears holes in reality to travel. This part is very good and well produced but then it’s mostly dropped to introduce a man from another dimension who kinda doesn’t do anything? Carole Ann Ford is good in it. It probably should have been either shorter and cut some things out, or longer so it could have more time for the concepts in introduced. Still, it was fun enough and I can’t complain about it being free at the library. It’s not too expensive either on the Big Finish site if you’re looking for more 1st Doctor adventures.

The Transit of Venus
The other Big Finish story I listened to was The Transit of Venus, a story set right after The Sensorites and before The Reign of Terror. I didn’t plan this at all so that was a nice surprise. This was another story I checked out from my library. Apparently this was the first audio story William Russell did as Ian, back in 2009. It’s fun and I enjoy the pure historical stories since they don’t happen in Doctor Who anymore. Without spoiling anything, it does have a fun plot element that carries over from The Sensorites which does mean that serial is required watching before listening to this, but I thought it worked very well. Both of these stories are only an hour too.

Lost Game: When Oranges Attack

Being involved with the Michigan game dev scene means that I’m aware of plenty of smaller games that may not be at the top of every games preservation list. One of these is When Oranges Attack.  When Oranges Attack was a game developed by PixoFactor (now known as Pixo VR) and playable on Facebook to promote Minute Maid orange juice. Players created Rube Goldberg-style contraptions, similar to The Incredible Machine series, to help oranges tip over Minute Maid orange juice so actor Ty Burrell cannot drink it. FMV of the actor would play while you were trying to solve puzzles and whenever you completed one successfully. There were five levels, each with a different theme. Between levels there was an orange juice themed clone of the game Pipe Dream. Players could also enter a UPC code from Minute Maid orange juice to unlock a bonus 6th level.

The game was only online for a short period of time before being taken down and no one has dumped the game so it can be preserved. My understanding is that the code for the game was hosted on Minute Maid servers so I couldn’t just ask someone from Pixo to anonymously dump the game to the Internet Archive. That said, if you do happen to have access to the game, could you uhhhhhhh dump the game to the Internet Archive?

There’s not much proof the game even exists online except for a couple of websites that mention it along with a handful of screenshots. This first website is a blog that had a paid post to advertise the game and features a few screenshots and a description of the game.

There is also this website from someone who has worked in various advertising campaigns that also has a handful of screenshots.

Once again, if you have any additional knowledge about this game or if the game mysteriously ends up online, let me know!

New Year’s Resolution Mechanic

Prismatic Wasteland has issued a challenge to blogs to create a new resolution mechanic for tabletop rpgs.

My challenge is thus: In January 2024, come up with a new resolution mechanic for a TTRPG and give it a name. It doesn’t need to be good (in fact, most the good ones have probably already been taken). It just needs to be new! You don’t need to plan to use it in your games; it can be absolute detritus for you. But one blogger’s trash is another designer’s treasure. You never know how great an impact one throwaway idea on a blog might have.

There’s already a nice list of mechanics on the page and I thought it would fun to come up with my own. This one requires a children’s basketball hoop for kids ages 18 months and up.

a photo of a little tykes basketball hoop for kids

You could probably use a basketball hoop for adults I GUESS but this is more likely to be inside a house next to your table where you’re playing a ttrpg. Anytime you have to take an action that is risky, take a shot on the basket. Making a basket means the shot was a success, hitting the rim but not having it go in means it was a success but there was a complication, and missing completely means it was a failure. You could have them make the shot from 8 feet away but feel free to adjust the distance based on the player’s basketball ability. If the character has a skill modifier bonus, the player can take additional steps towards the hoop, or steps away if they have a penalty.