PAX East 2020 saw impressive indie games of all genres. Here’s a guide to finding the right game for you no matter what you’re interested in.
PHOGS! has drawn crowds for the past two years with its charming and creative world full of family-friendly puzzles. Players explore as Red and Blue, a two-headed stretchy pup who use their unique body to solve puzzles as they sniff out treats in Food World, cozy up in Sleep World, and romp their way through the toy filled Play World. Each level features unique characters and interactive elements like hungry dinosaurs, sleepy owls, and giant popcorn, which showcase the thoughtful design that allows users to interact with their environment in ways that are sure to surprise and delight.
Comforting, funny, and engaging, players of all ages will enjoy playing this sweet and wholesome non-combat puzzle game. PHOGS! Is set for release on all platforms early this year and is available for single player or two player co-op.
In Coffee Talk, you are a barista serving up late-night drinks to a wide variety of magical and non-magical patrons alike in a fantasy version of modern day Seattle. Though players don’t get to choose their own dialogue options, the drinks they serve to customers open up different conversational branches. The writing can feel clunky and forced at times, and despite the fantasy element, the characters all face very human problems that don’t fully utilize the possibilities of the fantasy element. That said, the many possible endings and relaxing atmosphere are sure to appeal to those looking for low stakes visual novels. Coffee Talk is currently available on all platforms for $12.99.
Though technically a dating sim, Love Shore is arguably more of a noir thriller and choice-driven visual novel. While it’s possible to become involved with other characters, choosing not to enter relationships doesn’t negatively impact gameplay.
Players can choose to explore the cyberpunk dystopian future through the eyes of Sam or Farrah, two very different characters who each have separate, unique personalities and narratives. Featuring an entirely queer cast of characters, Love Shore adds beautiful graphics, intriguing intersecting storylines, and strong world building to its list of impressive qualities. With 25 different endings, players can continue to explore the mysteries of the world around them time and time again, discovering something new in every playthrough. Sci-fi and mystery fans will find what they’re looking for and more, as will those looking for queer friendly engaging visual novels with serious replay value.
Love Shore launches in fall 2021 and can be wishlisted on Steam.
Ambition: A Minuet in Power
Players experience 18th Century France through the eyes of Yvette, a poor Provençale newcomer making her entrance into high society shortly before the French Revolution. Abandoned by her duplicitous fiancé to navigate the deadly dance of the Parisian court on her own, Yvette must make her own fortune and survive where other players of the grand game have failed.
The social choices upon which the narrative rests are more challenging than one might expect; there often is no clear right answer, and the consequences for misreading a situation can be as swift and brutal as the setting suggests. Indeed, Ambition’s narrative is so heavily choice driven that with sufficient power and influence, players may even be able to quell the uprising before it begins and change history. Curry favor with the right people and Yvette may become a darling of the Revolution; too many faux pas, and her Parisian adventure may end at the guillotine. Low on physical combat but nevertheless deadly, anyone looking for drama and intrigue in a historical setting will enjoy this high-stakes social adventure.
Ambition: A Minuet in Power can be pre-ordered on BackerKit, wishlisted on Steam, and will be coming soon to Humble Bundle.
Freya Fellow has been murdered and it’s up to detective duo Sally and Grimoire to explore Freya’s expansive home and interview those around her to discover the fiend who did it in this murder mystery adventure.
The attention to detail in Tangle Tower is truly impressive and is the feature that sets it apart from similar games. While in other games there may only be four or five interactive items in any given scene, users are able to click on and remark upon almost everything they can see even if it’s not a clue that will solve the mystery. Given that, it’s no wonder that there are over ten thousand lines of dialogue— all of which are voiced and accompanied by appropriate character animations and reactions, of course.
The 13 puzzle mini-games are not only designed to engage the player and provide additional challenge, but also are well explained in the context of the world; there are no items hidden in boxes just for the sake of being found, they’re there for a reason. It’s a fun and well-designed contribution to the murder mystery genre that manages to provide intriguing gameplay without taking itself too seriously.
Tangle Tower is available now on Apple Arcade, as well as Steam, Switch, and itch.io for $19.99.