5 Indie Games to Help You Brave the Winter
Kentucky Route Zero: PC Edition
In Act II of Kentucky Route Zero, the player stumbles upon an office floor full of grizzly bears and overgrown greenery. It’s a moment that receives no context or explanation, yet it’s perfectly illustrative of the game’s tone and sense of wonder. In Kentucky Route Zero’s world, one can meet bears who work in offices, skeletons who operate underground distilleries, and touring Lithuanian musicians who play the theremin.
Kentucky Route Zero: PC Edition collects all five of the game’s main episodic acts (as well as the interludes released between them), which were published sequentially over the course of seven years. Collectively, they follow a group of travelers as they embark on a journey across Kentucky’s mysterious Route Zero, chronicling their surreal encounters along the way. A work of magical realism and Americana, Kentucky Route Zero has an uncanny way of making the familiar strange.
“Videogame boyband from the future.” So reads the Twitter bio of Sokpop Collective, a team of four game developers from the Netherlands. The collective is wildly prolific; they’ve released two games per month since the beginning of 2018, and each one is unique in its genre and scope. These have included a business management sims, a rhythm game, a Metroidvanias, and many other games with descriptions as eclectic as “capybara ice hockey.”
Uniseas, a pirate-themed RTS, is one of their latest. Four pirate commanders — the player and three AI opponents — vie for control over a collection of islands. Money is accrued via trade and a simple supply-and-demand economy, while island conquest is carried out by cannon-loaded ships. As with many RTS games, keeping a careful watch over the status of your islands and ships is paramount, as is maintaining stable relationships with the other pirates on the board.
For many of us, darkness evokes feelings of uncertainty, isolation, and dread. In Lightmatter, darkness conveys a more specific fear — specifically, a fear of dissolving to death in a pool of shadows.
After Lightmatter Technologies is subsumed by deadly shadows that swallow any organic matter that touches them, the player is tasked with finding a way to escape the facility without falling prey to the darkness. Lightmatter’s puzzles revolve around using light sources in clever ways to forge paths through the shadows. As you continue to illuminate the interiors of Lightmatter Technologies, the mystery behind the company and its eccentric CEO slowly begins to unfold
LUNA The Shadow Dust
A good point-and-click adventure puzzle invites the player to explore an unfamiliar environment, inspiring moments of discovery and awe with each solution. LUNA The Shadow Dust — a game about a boy who must restore balance to a mysterious, enchanted world — is full of puzzles that do just that.
Every art asset in LUNA is hand-drawn, granting the game a warm and dreamlike quality. Many solutions are greeted with pleasing environmental effects, revealing new depths of color and light to every level. Its puzzles rely on a logic that bridges that gap between surreality and reality, using familiar objects in fantastical ways.
Best Friend Forever
Though lovers may come and go, a bond with a dog is eternal. Such a truth is no more evident than it is in Best Friend Forever, an upcoming dog ownership sim-meets-human dating sim that pairs pet care with romance.
Once you adopt your dog in-game, you’ll have the opportunity to play with it, care for it, and min-max its stats, which include things like “sociability” and “smarts.” As the game progresses, you’ll become acquainted with Rainbow Bay’s diverse cast of romanceable NPCs, each of whom have their own pup for your furry friend to meet. If you prefer to keep the romance out of it, there’s also a sandbox mode exclusively for getting some quality dog time. Everybody wins!