After half an hour with Forager, I can already feel its compulsion loops getting their hooks into my brain. Developed by HopFrog and released today, it's a cute single-player game about a little pixel-person mining and crafting and looting in perpetuity, continually escalating spirals of numbers, equipment and levels. There's land to buy (full of resources), dungeons to delve (full of gold to buy land) and monsters to blat (full of components to craft into other things to make things faster). If the launch trailer (and free demo) below is any indication, those loops stretch on a long way.
From the little I've played so far, Forager feels like an unholy combination of idler, clicker and action-RPG, with some notes cribbed from Vlambeer on satisfying screen-shake and other 'juicy' UI effects. Initially, it's slow and simple - mine stone, make furnace, mine ore, make metal, use metal to make forge to make tools. Simple enough, but judging by the screenshots and trailer, it steadily escalates into hyper-capitalist hell, reminding me in equal parts of Cookie Clicker and Factorio. Row after row of furnaces churning out items seems to be how you fund your adventures.
The game feels a little self-aware, too. One of the first NPCs I met grumbled about "jerks with pickaxes" despoiling all the natural resources, which endlessly respawn around you, keeping you constantly buzzing around to gather stuff. There seems to be a lot to do, with more varied biomes appearing as you purchase more islands around you, dungeons to find, some big bosses to fight and a magic system I've not even glimpsed at yet. It's low-intensity (so far), but I feel I could lose days to this. There's a lot it, and there's going to be even more in the future, interestingly.
Originally developed during a two-week dev jam (the original prototype-turned-demo is here on Itch), HopFrog's tiny team of one designer/coder, three artists and one musician still have plans to expand Forager. The in-game roadmap says the next two updates are 'Farm Life' and 'Combat Update', with slots for another six additions. It looks like if this one gets its hooks into you, there'll be new reasons to return to its little procedurally generated pixel world in future. Personally, I'm tapping out now - I've got enough on my plate for the weekend without this devouring my mind.