I love doing this column because it means a) it is the end of a working week (working hard or hardly working, amiright?) and b) I get to play something nice and (often) small, and usually a bit weird. I am also, as it turns out, really smug about the theme I discovered for this week. Last night I had a bath, so am ideally positioned to extoll the benefits of dunking things in water. May I present to you three brand new indie games: a frog's tea party, a potion workshop and a rainy walk.
Who's it by? niceplay games, tinyBuild
Where can I get it? Steam (Early Access)
How much is it? £11/€12/$15
Potion Craft is another best Steam Fest demos alum now gracing the annals of this column. Out now in early access, it's improved upon the demo a lot (although does still have some kinks that I hope will be worked out before full release). In it, you are a potion seller, who moves into an abandoned shop building and opens it up to start making and selling your wares. People come into the front of house and ask for things. They might need a healing potion for their bad back, a frost potion to freeze a river, or poison - a lot of people ask for poison, actually...
You then nip out the back and whip something up in your cauldron using the plants you've harvested from your garden, or bought from passing traders. In an unusual application of design genius, brewing and discovering recipes is played out on a kind of map, and different ingredients will let you travel in different directions. One kind of flower zig zags you to the left, while a funny looking mushroom sends you in loops to the right. You need to avoid hazards, which will fail your potion, and make it to the recipe spot. Getting bang onto it will make a stronger potion. Grinding your ingredients up first will increase their potency - and change or increase how far they travel on the map.
You can save recipes so you can instantly brew something you have the ingredients for, but if you've run out then you can do the equivalent of saying, "Let me see what I can do!" and bodge getting to the same potion using different ingredients. At this stage, I have a lovely time plotting moves on the potion chart and combining effects, but I think the haggling system and the cost of things needs a bit of a rebalance. It's quite hard to make money in decent time right now, and everything feels a bit to expensive to make experimentation worth it. But aside from that, I really enjoy the kind of wood-cut art style, and meditatively smashing things up with my pestle and mortar.
Who's it by? Smarto Club, Whitethorn Digital
Where can I get it? Steam
How much is it? £7/€8/$10
Teacup is a frog who really likes tea, which is some bang on nominative determinism. And also: hard same, Teacup. Tea is the best. But on this day, horror of horrors, Teacup awakens to discover she has run out of tea. Even worse, she is having an actual tea party tomorrow! So your quest is to go on a gentle little 2D puzzle adventure to get all the types of herbs and ingredients Teacup needs.
Teacup's world is populated entirely by animals, who have little rivalries over the best fruit and veg market, and picnics on the shore of their pond. You walk around at a leisurely pace (even the sprint button is just a speed walk, really) and ask your peers for help. They offer it in exchange for mini-games. An otter challenges you to a swimming race, in which you must press the arrow keys in the right order to overtake him. For this, you get mint! The postman gets you to rearrange stamps. The aforementioned fruit and veg stall needs rearranging.
These puzzles aren't taxing, but are nice and delightful. In fact, Teacup as a whole feels like a bedtime story. The art is simple but lovely and cosy, and going on an adventure to get supplies for a tea party is Cbeebies Bedtime Stories down to the hilt.
Who's it by? Three Eyed Games
Where can I get it? Steam
How much is it? £6/€7/$8
A Winding Path says it's for fans of games like A Short Hike, and I can believe that, although this pretty little adventure is in 2D and black and white. You go on a walk through a series of different places - starting at a farm at the bottom of a mountain, and going on to explore other places including a fishing village and a more bustling town. Who you are is a little stick figure, and it almost reminds me of the xkcd comics in terms of the detail that's rendered just with black lines. The little whisps coming up from chimneys, or the stubby grass, or the geese that sometimes fly overhead.
As you venture out into the world, you solve little puzzles, sometimes just by being observant and asking around, other times with the ability to summon a very localised rain cloud by strumming a lyre. I like that you have to strum the strings with 1, 2, 3 and 4, so it's always a manual little delight to make it rain. And so much of A Winding Path is about exploration and seeing what will happen, so there's joy in the details. I summoned a cloud above a significant-looking tree and an outraged cat leapt out of it. I went, "Ah! Ah-haha!" out loud in an empty office.