It's been ages, TFI friends! I'm sorry. There's been a lot on. But today I am pleased because this week has seen some absolute banger games released into the wild. Aside from what I've gathered into a little ball here, I'm excited to try Mosaic Chronicles over the weekend, am stoked about the existence of Strange Horticulture.
But this column isn't about games that I haven't played! It's about those I have, and this week the ones I've got for you are proper fun. They're all chilled puzzle games, I suppose, although the form of their puzzles are very different. But they're also all about art (kinda; you'll need to trust me on the third one) and emotions, and are perfect for a bank holiday weekend.
Who's it by? Somnium Games, Pixmain
Where can I get it? Steam
How much is it? $10
Inked is a slightly weird one because it came out once already, like, a bunch of years ago. Developers Somnium Games wanted to improve the story, puzzles and controls, and though I never played the first version of Inked to compare, I like this new one just fine. You play a little samurai hero, armed with a sort of magic pen, and solve platforming puzzles with some physics bits thrown in. Alongside this is the story of you and your wife Aiko, as well as the artist's own story. Meta meta.
I didn't find the actual love story bit as compelling as playing it. Inked is set in a world that's drawn entirely in ballpoint pen, and it realises this extremely well. It looks absolutely lovely, using only a few colours. Because you don't have a jump, the puzzles involve you moving different platforms or blocks around to reach switches and levers, and the pacing of the puzzles is satisfying - they're not so tough you can't figure them out, but you definitely have to engage your brain.
The meta layer is cool, too. The hero and Aiko are aware they're in a world drawn by an artist (I mean, I'd make demands for a mansion, personally, but whatever). Occasionally the artist's hands, all giant and 3D, will intrude on the scene, and are seemingly... hostile? If you haven't played it the first time, today's re-release is well worth a go.
Behind The Frame is a beautiful game - seriously, some lovely Ghibli-adjacent stuff - where you play a young artist, living in a small apartment and working on breaking big on the art scene. Your daily routine is simple: you put on some inspirational music, you have your breakfast (egg and toast, and fresh coffee), you work on your CV, and you sit by the window to paint.
You're working on quite a big, bold piece, and you get to splodge your paint everywhere (though the game helpfullly puts up some invisible lines so you don't ruin your work). And you also look at your neighbour across the way, an old man who is a much more accomplished artist than you and who has a large ginger cat. But almost immediately you spot some weird coincidences, start finding notes from someone you can't remember, and have odd dreams about the past.
It's a short and very sweet experience that is incredibly relaxed, at the same time as being a very bright, sunshine-filled thing that really inspired me to go out and create something myself. In this case it was some cheesey pasta but, you know. One day: art!
Ambition was one of my top demos from a Steam fest not that long ago, not only because it has a great pun in the name, but also because it promised to be a delicious and weird social game with many layers. And it is! Set in 18th century Paris (famously an unintersting time in French history) you, a country gal, move to the city to find your aristocratic fiancee has disappeared! You're left to navigate high society by yourself, a decidedly complex affair that's more art than science. See, there you go. Told you I'd get there.
There are just so many fun things in play here. By attending parties you can curry favour or win disapproval with different powerful people and factions (including the royal family, the church and the revolutionaries). You have to keep an eye on your credibility and your risk levels, because both are important and can give you different options. You can gain and lose them for different things, not all your choices are obviously marked with what will happen. A witty retort to a powerful heiress might be flagged as risky, but you could get a bunch of cred for calling her out, too. Drinking tea at breakfast? Credible. Wine? Less so.
You also have to dress for your busy social calendar. Gowns can be purchased and your sartorial choices will gain and lose you favour depending on the hosts of the party. You also need to keep your wardrobe fresh, but new dresses are expensive. Luckily, you can sell gossip to the paper, getting more for how fresh and dangerous it is. But asking around for gossip about the revolution can itself be a risky move. Well played if you manage to survive it all at the end.