Later Daters (Bloom Digital)
This isn’t your grandma’s dating sim! Oh wait, yes it is. Later Daters is a fun and uplifting dating sim about senior citizens looking for love. You play as a new member of the Ye OLDE (Oceanview Living Domicile for the Elderly) retirement community, ready to dive into the dating pool.
Whereas the traditional path of love is often very linear in the early stages of life, Later Daters highlights the ways in which dating in your golden years is much different than dating as a young or middle aged adult. Featuring a diverse cast of the nine most eligible senior citizens Ye OLDE has to offer, Later Daters includes openly queer and non-monogamous characters who will challenge your notions on what elder relationships looks like. These flirty and fun characters break the youth-oriented dating sim mold, and offer a reassuring glimpse into the future for young people like me who may feel unmoored and uncertain about what their lives may hold. With age comes experience, and if my playthrough experiences are anything to go by, there’s a lot to learn from the residents of Ye OLDE on life, love, and even death. It ain’t over ‘till it’s over, and these might just be the best years of your life.
Find Later Daters in fall 2019 on Steam (PC and Mac), Itch, and Switch for $12.99.
Sayonara Wild Hearts (Annapurna)
Described by its developers as “a euphoric music video dream about being awesome, riding motorcycles, skateboarding, dance battling, shooting lasers, wielding swords, and breaking hearts at 200 mph” Sayonara Wild Hearts by Annapurna and developer Simogo is a trippy purple-and-pink neon-saturated tron-meets-Mario-Kart-meets-ballet-DDR of a game.
The references incorporated into Wild Hearts are too numerous to name, but have created a beautiful, unique, and utterly addicting game. It’s single player but I can easily envision it being party-appropriate—and in fact, adding to the ambiance. The electropop soundtrack alone makes the game worth playing, and combined with the stunning visuals places this game solidly on the top five indie games at PAX East this year.
The one weakness that really stuck was the lack of direct player control. The character is able to perform some impressive stunts, but these are controlled like an oversimplified Telltale game in that players simply click a button at the correct time; and unlike other driving games, the player is always moving forward in the right direction. No need to toggle that joystick to stay on course, every rounded corner is done by the computer and not the player. That said, not having to struggle with complex gameplay allowed me more time to appreciate the beautiful and vibrant action sequences in front of me, and the truly exceptional music.
Sayonara Wild Hearts will be releasing on the Nintendo Switch.
Afterparty (Night School Studio)
Have you ever wanted to dance with the devil? How about flirt with him over a couple of drinks? From the makers of Oxenfree comes Afterparty, the game where you have to out-party the Prince of Darkness himself or face an eternity of torture at his hands.
You play as best friends Lola and Milo who find themselves in hell after an unfortunate bout of death. Luckily for you, it was true that work is hell, because the underworld functions on a 9-5 torture system just like life. Once you punch out, it’s time to party– the only thing is that neither Lola nor Milo can figure out why they’re in hell, so before the next workday begins they must figure out their past, find the big man himself, then squeeze through the loophole that says anyone who can out-party Satan is free to go.
Afterparty features regular party mini games that let you have a dance off with demons, and drinks each with a different effect that may open up new dialogue options. But choose your actions wisely, as the decisions you make change Lola and Milo’s relationship, and have consequences that affect other parts of the game; they may even open up or eliminate some possibilities. It’s a colorful and fun counterpart to on the more linear and subdued Oxenfree, with enough variables (and distinct endings) to make a second and third playthrough fresh and interesting.
Find Afterparty on the Epic store, Xbox, Switch, and PS4 in the second half of 2019.
The World Next Door (Rose City Games, VIZ Media)
Two worlds, one of monsters and one of humans, are connected via interdimensional gates which open once every generation, allowing a lucky few to pass through. Jun, a human teenager, is excited to leave her boring old dimension for Emrys, a land of monsters, magic, and exciting temple ruins. However, fun with her new friends is interrupted by powerful and angry temple guardians who prevent her from making it to the portal before it closes.
The World Next Door combines visual novel elements with real-time puzzle dungeons. Players develop Jun’s character through dialogue options and use their limited free time to build relationships with their choice of six companions; equally important, however, is figuring out how to defeat the powerful and angry temple guards blocking their way, and re-opening the closed portal. The matching tile puzzles are simple but fun, and each colored runes slings a different spell. Simultaneously avoiding the guardians and their counterspells adds an exciting dimension to what could easily become predictable. Though the characters can be a bit flat at times, the beautiful world, intriguing plot, and exciting gameplay certainly make this a game worthy of checking out.
The World Next Door is out now on Nintendo Switch, Steam (PC and Mac), Itch, GOG.com, and the Humble store for $14.99. The free prequel comic can be found here.
Get In The Car, Loser! (Love Conquers All Games)
You remember when the Machine Devil was sealed away for a thousand years with the Sword of Fate, don’t you? Of course! Well, the only problem is that cultists are trying to summon him again, and no one seems to care, so what better time for a lesbian roadtrip to save the world? Join protagonist Sam Anon, her friend Grace Morningstar (the new wielder of the definitely-not-stolen stolen Sword of Fate), her boyfriend Valentin, and literal angel Angela—they’re here, they’re queer, and they’re full of existential fear.
Battles are active timed and combat is largely equipment based, with each item having different properties depending on who is wielding it. This means balance and strategy is key, but party builds can change drastically very quickly. It’s a lighthearted end-of-the-world nostalgia-filled roadtrip, and if you’re a useless lesbian, disaster bi, you like visual novels, or you’re a fan of old school JRPGs, then this game is for you.
Get In The Car, Loser! will be available on steam in 2019 for PC and Mac.