It’s Halloween month, the days are getting shorter, and the cold is just beginning to creep in. Over in the wonderful world of Bitsy, a development tool that focuses on creating small, explorable worlds, that means that the monthly game jam focused on the theme of Harvest. The result is something wholesome and heartwarming, like a good home-made soup. Grab some hot tea and take a look.
The Spirits of Bluebirch Forest is a very sweet game, which its developer Nic says was “harvested from an appreciation of nature.” In it, you take on the role of a forest spirit gathering various crops from a family farm. It’s a really good introduction to Bitsy, if you’ve never played a game made in the engine before, showing off how simple sprites and three colours can go a long way in evoking a specific mood. In this case, it’s cosiness, curiosity, and a sense of fulfilment.
For something a bit more melancholy, try Midnight Harvest. It follows the character of Death, inspired by Terry Pratchett's Mort, as they explore the human realm for a purpose beyond their job of escorting people to the Underworld. I really love the environment art in this one (see above), especially the way the round canopies of the trees are picked out in just a few pixels. The story is definitely seasonally appropriate, but in a "quiet falling of the leaves" way more than a "slasher film" way.
If you're looking for something more creepy, then I would recommend Their Share. At first it seems unassuming, though beautiful. Every area is illustrated in polished detail, and there are plenty of them. There’s even a mini-map to keep track of where you are, which is helpful if you want to make sure you’ve seen everything. And you should, because there are a lot of strange secrets hidden in this world, subtly adding up to something unsettling. There’s not much overt beyond descriptions of strange dreams and occasionally discordant music, but it’s definitely enough to get in the Halloween spirit. I'm also a huge fan of how the colour scheme changes as a day wears on, as though the sun is sinking below the horizon.
You can check out all of the jam entries on itch.io; all are playable in browser for pay what you want with no minimum.