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The best indies from the Summer Games Fest show floor in LA

Admin! Shadows! Making a friend out of spare bones and organs!

I was in LA for Summer Geoff Fest and I played a whole bunch of games. No, not lots of blockbusters – mainly because there weren't too many of those about - but lots of indies, instead. In fact, out of all the games I saw or played or glanced at while I dashed between appointments, it was the indies that really stood out.

Given the nature of appointments at events like Geoff Fest, a lot of my time with these games were speed dates: elevator pitches, a quick twiddle of the thumbsticks, a round of musical chairs as I shifted to another sofa and another game. So, in that same chaotic vein, I thought I'd round-up my faves from the show floor. Please don't get too comfortable, we don't have much time.

Vice NDRCVR

A screenshot from Vice NDRCVR which shows the Amigo OS' cluttered database and tabs.

It's early 1980's Miami and the drug trade is thriving. It employs Computer Operators who conduct business from their offices using the dark web and, as a cop, you go undercover as one of these operators and attempt to crack their drug trade from the inside. Vice NDRCVR a bit Papers Please in its presentation, but far more involved in its admin.

You pilot a computer that runs on Amigo OS, with all the limited memory and time constraints that 80s technology brings. It's brilliant. Cops and crooks call you to pilfer info or scan databases or reply to emails, which you must carry out within a time limit. The magic lies in how you carry it out.

Amigo OS can't support lots of tabs being open, so you need to manage what you're running. Apps and tools take time to buffer or complete transactions, so you've got to be speedy on the mouse clicks. Eventually, you'll be able to upgrade your PC to better support features like these and make your rummaging a little easier. The game makes admin a proper thrill, let me tell you. You can find it on Steam.


Schim

A blue and orange screenshot from Schim, which shows the player hopping between shadows.

A standout at The Day Of The Devs 2022 showcase, Schim sees you play a little creature that lives inside a person's shadow. Unfortunately, you get lost and need to reunite with your shadow person. So you must hop between shadows of people and benches and umbrellas to get back home.

The game is super fun! The music is bouncy and the colourblock aesthetics are gorgeous. Hopping between shadows is a neat environmental puzzle that makes mundane things a godsend. Never before have I been so grateful to runners or dudes pacing around as they talk on their phones. You get into this hitch-hopping rhythm sometimes too, which is glorious. It's due on Steam at some point in the future.


Birth

A screenshot from Birth which shows some ribs in a glass, a portrait of a bloke with antlers, and some animals in jars.

Birth is a point-and-click adventure from solo dev Madison Karrh about experiencing the loneliness of living in a large city. It's got this slightly unnerving bones and crispy, brown leaves thing going on. Again, I got hands-on with this one and found its physics-based puzzling a huge amount of fun. I'm normally someone who can't deal with puzzles and point-and-click games, but I genuinely got into a flow state with Birth's newts in jars and eyeball lollipops.

By "flow state", I mean to say that my progress didn't get snagged on anything. No matter what my eyes turned to and my fingers clicked on, each puzzle and environment only ever ended in a sense of triumph and discovery. Do make sure to keep an eye on this one when it launches on Steam in August.


Time Flies

Time Flies is a short game where you play as a fly with very little lifespan while trying to mark things off on a bucket list.

In Time Flies, you're a fly with a bucket list, hoping to tick off things like "Make friends" and "Get drunk" in some person's house before your time's up. And your life expectancy is dictated by the country you live in, so that's around 80 seconds if you're from the UK which is... generous.

From what I played, the game was okay! It's sense of humour was top-tier, with plodding music backing my buzzing about. Exploring the house was exciting the first few times, but after a while it got a bit tiresome. Maybe there's going to be more stages at release, or maybe I'm missing the metaphor on life, death, and stuff. Who knows. There's no release date yet, but it's on Steam for you to keep tabs on.


Animal Well

Creepy statues of a cat, lizard, ostrich (?), and seahorse from Animal Well.

Animal Well is a metroidvania from solo dev Shared Memories, a.k.a Billy Basso, where you control a pixellated spud with legs and steer them through a dangerous world filled with scary cats and the like. The demo I played featured some platforming, exploration, and evasion. The water effects were lovely and I kept bringing this up while Basso handled my gushing with tact and patience.

My main takeaway: you need to look very carefully at each stage. Buttons are hidden passageways lurk in plain sight, and I imagine future stages will have lots of layers to unravel. Just before the demo came to a close and I was told to move sofas, I had to run away from this spooky ghost by chucking a firecracker on the ground which startled it and bought me time. There's no release date set for this one, but you can watch out for it on Steam.


Desta: The Memories Between

Desta and her friends cage a boss and chuck balls at him in Desta: The Memories Between.

Desta: The Memories Between is a roguelite turn-based tactics game by Ustwo Games, the folks behind Alba: A Wildlife Adventure and mobile Monument Valley series. Loss is a major theme here, as Desta, who you play as, has recently lost her father. To deal with the grief, you delve into your dreams and play pseudo-dodgeball with a ball that her dad gifted her before he passed away.

I literally got 2 minutes of hands-on time with this one, but I can confirm that it seems super approachable for anyone - like me - who's a bit intimidated by turn-based tactics games. What's most interesting is the way you can chuck the ball between your allies to give them extra turns, or even bounce it off surfaces to better reach their grasp. There's definitely depth for strategy heads too, with throwing angles, abilities, and positioning all playing a key part in your team's success. No release date on this one, but make sure to follow it over on Steam.


A Little To The Left

A shelf of books from the rearranging game A Little To The Left. They are all out of height order and this needs to be addressed.

Both Alice Bee and Alice O have written about A Little To The Left and its cozy puzzling antics before. I hadn't played it until Summer Games Fest, but I was taken by the textures of the fruit I rotated and the delightful snap as I peeled away their supermarket labels. Otherwise, I made a fool of myself at the booth when I struggled to complete one of the earliest puzzles, which involved matching together scattered images of a twirly telephone cable - great times. The game is coming to Steam later this year.


Glitchbusters: Stuck On You!

Four Glitch Busters stand ready to bust some glitches.

I bang on about Glitchbusters: Stuck On You! in our vid embedded at the top of this article. It's a 4-player co-op third-person shooter where you and your colourful little Glitch Busters fight viruses with your guns and magnetic legs. It's colourful, playful, and oozes class. Like, seriously, you can snap on top of each other to reach new heights; latch onto surfaces to climb up them; whizz around platforms to rotate them, or use the momentum you've built up to smash into enemies and knock their protective helmets off. 2D sections see you extend or duck to avoid obstacles. Cor, what a time I had. Sadly, no release date yet for this one either, but you can follow it on Steam.


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.

About the Author

Ed Thorn avatar

Ed Thorn

Senior Staff Writer

When Ed's not cracking thugs with bicycles in Yakuza, he's likely swinging a badminton racket in real life. Any genre goes, but he's very into shooters and likes a weighty gun, particularly if they have a chainsaw attached to them. Adores orange and mango squash, unsure about olives.

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