Day Of The Devs is probably my favourite part of the summer games jamboree every year because it does wonders for the visibility of indie games and their developers. Slotting in snugly right after Geoff regaled us with the Summer Game Fest stream, this year’s Day Of The Devs showcase marked the tenth anniversary. Tim Schafer and friends revealed more about some stonking looking indies from places as far apart as the Netherlands, Japan and Argentina. It was lovely to see some solo devs featured too, such as Madison Karrh with Birth, a point-and-click puzzler about loneliness, and Billy Basso’s beautiful pixel-art Metroidvania Animal Well.
Each year’s Day Of The Devs is jointly organised by Double Fine Productions and iam8bit. The curatorial board of five includes Tim Schafer and James Spafford from Double Fine, iam8bit’s Jon Gibson and Amanda White, and PlayStation’s indie champion Greg Rice. Most of the games shown have already been announced, but there were a few new surprises too, from Playables’ insectoid bucket-list sim Time Flies to Ustwo Games’ intriguing Desta: The Memories Between. Read on for the full breakdown of what was shown.
Remember time-looping adventure Minit? Time Flies from two-person Swiss development team Playables riffs on the minute-long lifespan idea, by letting you buzz around a room trying to complete as many items on a bucket list as possible before your fly snuffs it. You’ll have to select the country that you live in to be given as many seconds for your fly to live as there are years in the average lifespan there. The black-and-white, hand-drawn look reminds me of happy days mucking about playing little tutorial games on my dad’s old Mac PowerBook. Time Flies is releasing on Steam and console sometime in 2023. You can sign up for more info at timeflies.buzz.
Planet Of Lana
Swedish devs Wishfully showed off Planet Of Lana, about a young lass forced to try to save her sister after she’s been kidnapped by invading robots. Wishfully call it an “off-Earth odyssey”. There’s apparently time-travelling and intergalactic travel involved. To me, Planet Of Lana just seems like a sweet platforming puzzle game, with a lovely art style that summons thoughts of Delphine Software’s Another World. You’ve also got a little monkey butler companion who helps solve puzzles. It’s out on Steam and Xbox during 2022.
Ah, Choo-Choo Charles. Taking the inspiration behind a thousand Resident Evil 2 Remake mods and turning it into an entire game, Gavin Eisenbeisz a.k.a. Two Star Games has managed to warp Thomas The Tank Engine into the very spawn of Satan himself. Charles is a spider-legged locomotive what scuttles around after yonder protagonist, who has to search the cursed island to deck out their own teeny yellow puffing billy with as much buffed weaponry and armour as possible. The goal is to pimp your iron horse enough to rid aforesaid island of preternatural menace Charles, while avoiding “shotgun-wielding cultists”. It’s due out on Steam this year.
Coin Crew Games used to make real-life escape rooms, so you’d hope they’d know what they’re doing when translating the experience into a game. Escape Academy puts you into the role of a student training to best puzzles, hence the academy part, and other students and staff will aid you in a visual-novel manner. You can choose to stay single-player or buddy up for co-op runs through multiple escape rooms, while a daft computer chats with you. Coin Crew say there’ll be a “huge amount of puzzles” and that they’ll never repeat. Escape Academy has been delayed from June 28th to July 14th. It'll be on Steam and is a day-one addition to Game Pass for PC.
A Little To The Left
A Little To The Left’s development duo Max Inferno were inspired by their own tidying tendencies at home, and they’ve styled this one as a “cosy puzzle game”. It most definitely is that. You might have caught the demo for A Little To The Left in the last Steam Next Fest and been as absorbed as Alice Bee was in it. Max Inferno say the logic of the puzzles will get “a little more surreal” the further you get, and are promising daily challenges to keep things interesting. Just watch out for the cheeky feline who keeps swiping its paws at your delightful tidying efforts. Bad moggie. A Little To The Left is coming to Steam and Nintendo Switch later in 2022.
Bear And Breakfast
Romanian devs Gummy Cat are big management sim fans, and that really shows in Bear And Breakfast. You play as a bear, natch, called Hank who lives with his mam and two best mates. Humans are moving back to the woods so Hank decides to set up a B&B, and it does indeed appear you can serve breakfast and other meals to guests as a minigame. Gummy Cat say they’re departing from other management sims by telling a linear story through the game, which progresses by constructing furniture for rooms and scoring higher with guests. Each type of room has challenges in the form of innocent minigames, but Gummy Cat warn that there’s “definitely no creepy subplot hidden in the forest”... You can check for yourself when Bear And Breakfast ventures forth on Steam on July 28th.
Solo dev Shared Memories, a.k.a. Billy Basso, is fiddling with pixel art in Animal Well but not just out of a sense of nostalgia. Basso says the dynamic lighting and fluid sims in this labyrinthine Metroidvania “haven’t really been used in a pixel-art game before”. They certainly look very pretty in action. You control what can only be described as a smol gloop being who needs to avoid some creepy monstrosities including grinning, floating cats as you explore the, erm, well full of animals. Basso says there are layers of puzzles to solve, from the obvious to some that’ll only be solvable by collaborating with other players. No release date for this one, but you can keep tabs on it on Steam.
Imagine being a water nymph, free to splosh about in rivers and tributaries. How grand! Anyway, Spanish solo developer Hiwarp has put together something quite charming judging from the footage of Naiad shown at today’s showcase. You start out by being born as a nymph and learning to swim, making friends with animals in the water. Humans, of course, are polluting things with their stinky cars and roads nearby, so you have to sing to regenerate nature. Just make sure you look after your locks, because hair represents your nymph’s vitality. Hiwarp says “you are the guardian of this river”. If only nature was so simple to fix in real life, eh? Naiad is expected to be ready and on Steam by the end of the year.
Roots Of Pacha
Stone Age Stardew is the aesthetic heavily emitted by Roots Of Pacha, and that’s no bad thing. US-Argentinian studio Soda Den’s palaeolithic slice-of-life sim riffs on ConcernedApe’s game in its graphics, UI and concept, but shifts proceedings back millennia to the dawn of farming. Your character can invent technologies and behaviours we take for granted, such as domesticating animals and specialist tools, and explore caves to investigate the “spiritual world”. Soda Den say they were inspired by Jean M. Auel’s 1980 novel The Clan Of The Cave Bear. Things that stood out to me: you can make Stone Age potato salad, that prehistoric family favourite the rhythm minigame is present, and there’s the romances you’d expect. Give the demo a whirl yourself on Steam. Out this year!
Desta: The Memories Between
Ustwo Games are based in South London and probably best known for their mobile Monument Valley series, although they’ve done some canny things on PC more recently with Assemble With Care and the delightful Alba: A Wildlife Adventure. Desta: The Memories Between is a roguelite turn-based tactics game that delves into the dreams of its titular protagonist, a twentysomething who’s left home for the first time and is mourning their father. Loss is a big theme, and Desta uses a ball their dad gave them to dream-walk to help them find ways to deal with the game’s other characters. Ustwo say there’s “more depth and game mechanics” to Desta than any game they’ve done before. No date attached to this one, but it looks like it’s still in the early stages.
Inspired by a childhood mucking about hopping between shadows, Ewoud van der Werf has enlisted indie studio Extra Nice to help him make Schim. The Netherlands-based dev says Schim is designed to be approachable for people who aren’t that into games usually. You play a creature that lives inside a person’s shadow, but manage to get lost and need to find your human again. Along the way you’ll help other shadow creatures back to their objects so you can escape each level. The game has a pleasantly colour-blocked isometric look to it. Schim will be grabbable on Steam at some point in the future, but no firm date as of yet. It’s also coming to consoles.
Fox And Frog Travelers: The Demon Of Adashino Island
Shown off together with Goodbye World as part of a preview for the Asobu Indie Showcase coming later this summer, Fox And Frog Travelers: The Demon Of Adashino Island is a 3D action adventure from Japanese developer Rias Coast. It’s a beautifully animated game with a distinctly Japanese theme, which is no surprise when you find out that the developer is a concept artist who based the whole thing on one of their drawings. You play as an anthropomorphic fox who carries around a frog, and you have to escape a demon on Adashino Island. Does exactly what it says on the tin. This was a really early look at this one, as Asobu say to expect it “in a few years”.
Things always sound worse than they are, and this slice of life set in Japan probably isn’t going to be as hard going as the name would suggest. Solo Japanese dev Yo FUJII is crafting a game that looks like something you’d discover on a lost Super Famicom cart. Goodbye World is about an ‘odd couple’ of indie game designers, shy Kanii and outgoing Kumad, struggling their way through 13 chapters of trying to make games. Daniel Clowes’ comic Ghost World is among its inspirations. Their story is interspersed with platforming segments on an old-school handheld, and it’s a very nice touch. It’s out on Steam later in 2022.
Birth is a slightly creepy puzzle point-and-click adventure about experiencing the loneliness of living in a large city. It’s from solo dev Madison Karrh, who’s made a game about creating an animal to keep you company out of spare parts you find laying around. Where do you find these body parts, I hear you ask? While rummaging around in other creatures’ things in their homes and businesses. As you do. It looks bizarre but, at the same time, weirdly compelling. You’ll need to solve physics puzzles to pilfer the pieces to build your new pal, and there are hidden tokens to unlock “secret buildings and treasures”. Keep an eye out for this one when it launches on Steam in August.
How To Say Goodbye
Ed first checked out the spectral puzzler How To Say Goodbye from developers Florian Veltman and Baptiste Portefaix back in October last year, and thought the art was “a feast for the eyes”. He’s right, it really is – the visuals are inspired by illustrated children’s books by artists such as creator of the Moomins Tove Jansson and Where The Wild Things Are’s Maurice Sendak. Like Time Flies and Desta: The Memories Between, it deals with the consequences of death. You’ll need to slide elements of the environment around to help ghosts escape a dodgy wizard and pass on to the ‘other side’. Mind how you go though, because some lost spirits called spleens are trying to scupper your efforts. How To Say Goodbye is on target for release on Steam sometime this year.
Little Nemo And The Guardians Of Slumberland
Launching on Kickstarter immediately following the Day Of The Devs presentation, DIE SOFT’s Little Nemo And The Guardians Of Slumberland is both a mouthful to say and a side-on platformer that reminds me a little of Braid, or even Commander Keen In Keen Dreams. The work of lone dev David Mauro, it’s soundtracked by the NES-influenced music of Peter Berkman, of Anamanaguchi renown. Little Nemo is based on legendary cartoonist Windsor McCay’s comics of the same name, and Mauro has hand-drawn the game’s animation frame by frame. You play as a lad called Nemo who journeys through a Metroidvania patchwork of different zones, called things like Gumdrop Gardens and Dreamswept Plains, to save Slumberland from ‘Oblivion’ using your collection of toys and stuffies. Expect to see Little Nemo And The Guardians Of Slumberland at the end of 2023.
As seems to be a burgeoning tradition, Annapurna Interactive used the end of the Day Of The Devs stream to announce their own showcase for summer. This is the second year Annapurna is hosting their own event, which they’ve lined up for July 28th at 12pm PST/8pm BST/9pm CEST.
Not E3 2022 is in full-swing - see everything in our E3 2022 hub, as well as our complete round-up of everything announced at Summer Game Fest 2022. Many more big game showcases and streams are still to come this summer, so make sure you stay up to date with our summer games stream schedule.