Gamescom 2022: Indie Arena Booth Round-Up
Gamescom is one of the highlights of the gaming calendar – with a host of celebrities breaking news galore and announcing all manner of exciting games. The flagship event held in Cologne, Germany, is a Mecca for developers and publishers to get their games seen – and that goes for AAA and indie teams alike.
Sadly, our little team couldn’t make it out to get boots on the ground this year, but that isn’t going to stop us from using our contacts to bring you news on the low-down from on the continent.
As always at VGamingNews, we’re going to focus on those indie teams who don’t always get the recognition that they deserve, and so we’ve spent much of our time scouring the Indie Arena Booth to bring you news of the best indie titles currently being exhibited at the show.
Click on any of the links below to jump straight to the relevant game, or keep scrolling to check out all of our coverage:
|Aka||Fall of Porcupine||Super Catboy|
|Animal Well||Inkulinati||The Fabulous Fear Machine|
|Back to the Dawn||M. S. Salmon||The Siege and the Sandfox|
|Batora: Lost Haven||Oddada||You Suck at Parking|
|Desta: The Memories Between||Paper Trail||ZERO Sievert|
Aka is a cute, wholesome open world game that stars a fat red panda who is invited to a peaceful island after a long war in an effort to rebuild what has been destroyed. Developed by Cosmo Gatto and published by Neowiz, Aka sees you helping the residents of the island by working on the local fauna, constructing buildings and helping NPCs with quests. If you don’t feel like helping, you can always take a nap wherever and whenever you feel like it.
Aka is due for a release on Nintendo Switch and PC by the end of the year and we’re already big fans of the art direction as well as the different number of environments we’ll be setting off to explore. With its option to build and farm the land as well as the cute nature of the animals, the game does feel inspired by the likes of Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing. Although we suspect that aforementioned war will play a rather large part of the game, especially when talking to NPCs. We’re excited to see how Aka turns out. Along with world building and adventuring, mini-games will also be included. Quite what these are remains to be seen but it looks as if Cosmo Gatto is throwing everything and the kitchen sink into Aka. Did I mention you play as a red panda in a suit?
Pristine HD graphics might grab all of the headlines, but tight gameplay and an intriguing concept will put smiles on faces for a lot longer than a simple spit and polish, and that’s what tense metroidvania, Animal Well is hoping to achieve. Developed by Shared Memory from the USA, Animal Well uses a throwback pixel-art aesthetic that allows for the creation of a sprawling, labyrinthine world that focuses on atmosphere rather than action.
Explore the depths of the maze as a defenceless little explorer, lighting candles to fend off what lurks in the shadows, and using your items to navigate to previously unreachable areas. There’s a deep level of interactivity too, with items, enemies and the environments working together in unexpected ways, leading to a level of intricacy that the developers claim could take years to fully uncover.
In a refreshing twist for the genre, Animal Well is non-linear and allows you to choose your own route through the game, offering each player a truly unique experience. In a surreal world filled with beautiful and unsettling creatures, and riddled with innumerable mysteries, Animal Well could become a cult classic among adventure and metroidvania fans alike. There’s no official release date just yet, but it feels like a title that could drop at any moment – we’ll be watching this one closely.
Back to the Dawn
|Game||Back to the Dawn|
|Developer||Metal Head Games|
|Publisher||Metal Head Games|
|Release Date||2023 (Demo out now)|
Back to the Dawn is the debut title from Metal Head Games that sees you play as an anthropomorphic fox who’s trying to escape from prison for a crime you didn’t commit. You’ll have to use your brains, your charm and your brawn to survive in the big house, stay sweet with the guards, and do jobs and favours to earn much-needed cash while planning your escape.
Since prisons are all pretty samey, many of the activities and themes are reminiscent of Mouldy Toof Studios’ popular The Escapists, but Back to the Dawn has a much less throwaway feel and boasts a well-written plot underpinning some simple, yet fantastic mechanics. Each of your fellow inmates has a unique backstory that can be unlocked by befriending them, but beware – not all of the animals in lock-up are keen to be your pal, and you should choose your allies wisely.
Presented in stunning pixel-art graphics and lighting that brings the detailed areas to life, Back to the Dawk is a survival game with a difference. The playful animal characters put a fluffy face on what is a complex and well-thought out prison-break sim that I frankly cannot wait to play more of. A demo of Back to the Dawn is available to play now on Steam.
Batora: Lost Haven
|Game||Batora: Lost Haven|
|Platforms||PC, PlayStation, Switch, Xbox|
|Release Date||Autumn 2022|
Batora: Lost Haven caught my eye as the space romp RPG not only promises a deep and choice-driven story, but takes multiple sci-fi tropes and flips it on its head. The story starts with Avril, a moody teenager who was settling into a life of angst and trips to hang out at Afflecks Palace, or equivalent place where the alt kids and punks go. Life seemed OK until a cataclysmic event destroys half of the planet and thrusts her through space.
This is where Avril discovers she has gifted extraordinary powers and will have to journey across the universe to uncover ancient secrets and reckon with a series of life-changing decisions, which will come in handy as she has drawn the attention of a God that is hellbent on absorbing her new gifts and destroying every planet they touch.
While the story seems like a cross between The Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy and Star Trek, the vast worlds appear to be begging for exploration. From the early builds and various demos that have made their way online, Batora is shaping up to be a great expansive RPG full of puzzles that utilise all of Avril’s new powers. The soundtrack and visuals don’t look too shabby as the developers have based them on 1950s sci-fi era movie posters and comics.
Desta: The Memories Between
|Game||Desta: The Memories Between|
|Platforms||PC, Nintendo Switch, Netflix|
Being from rainy old England ourselves, we love a home-grown game, and Desta: The Memories Between from London-based developers ustwo games looks to be a doozy. You play the role of Desta, a young person returning home after a difficult parting and the recent death of their father. Thinking back on their past and their relationships with those around them, Desta’s dreams become a way for them to unravel their emotions and put things into perspective.
As Desta falls asleep each night, they awaken in an ethereal world filled with representations of people and places from their past. In this dreamscape Desta must play a ball game, taking on characters and bosses in order to make sense of their memories. There’s introspective themes running through the game like loss and self-discovery, and it’s this character-driven narrative that makes Desta: The Memories Between so enticing to us.
With stunning hand-drawn backdrops framing the strategic turn-based action, Desta offers deeper and more replayability than ustwo’s previous titles, like Alba: A Wildlife Adventure and Monument Valley I & II. The final release date is yet to be confirmed, but in time Desta: The Memories Between will be released on PC, Nintendo Switch, Android and iOS, allowing you to experience Desta’s unique story on the go.
Fall of Porcupine
|Game||Fall of Porcupine|
|Platforms||PC, Playstation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch|
|Release Date||2023 (Prologue coming on 30 August 2022)|
While it’s never an easy job, it’s been a particularly difficult couple of years for people who work in healthcare – as an NHS worker, I can certainly vouch for that. Looking to shine a spotlight on some of the hardships faced by healthcare workers, German developers Buntspecht.Games are releasing Fall of Porcupine, a sweet platformer that tells the tale of Finley, a medical intern serving the quaint town of Porcupine.
While the visuals are warm and fuzzy, filled with cute animals and storybook environments, the story isn’t always so lovely – Finley will have to help diagnose his patients while navigating his way through the tricky relationships of the small town, all the while reporting to the less-than-supportive head doctor and trying to find some time for himself.
There’s some serious topics beneath the saccharine sweet visuals that address mental health, burn out, and the unhealthy work/life balance that has become so prevalent in the healthcare sector. This is a story close to my heart, and one I’m looking forward to experiencing. Currently pencilled in for a 2023 release date, Assemble Entertainment recently announced that a playable prologue is available now… get yourselves over to your nearest eShop to try it – STAT!
|Platforms||Switch, PC, Xbox, PlayStation|
|Release Date||Winter 2022|
Inkulinati is a 2D strategy game that pits players against the titular Inkulinati, a force that brings animals, knights and all manner of strange creatures to life. The turn based battles take place within a mediaeval manuscript that has definitely taken inspiration from the Magna Carta.The hand drawn characters might look over the top but they are certainly able to utilise whatever they have to hand in an effort to win the ongoing war. These can range from the standard shield and pike attacks to a rabbit which secrets gaseous odours coming from their bums.
The sheer ridiculousness of a realistic giant glove coming in to draw such eccentric creatures makes me feel that Monty Python, and more specifically, the drawings created by the wondrous Terry Gilliam, have inspired Inkulinati, but whatever the inspiration,Yaza Games have us chomping at the bit to get our hands on the finished product when it releases at the end of the year.
M. S. Salmon
We’ve told you before that the VGamingNews staff are suckers for a crime story, and you can’t do any better than a smoky film noir like M. S. Salmon from animation studios, SoybloQ. Set in the late 1960s and filled with an anthropomorphic cast, you take on the role of Ben Hearden, a penguin detective, as he tries to solve a murder on board the titular cruise ship.
In true film noir tradition, Ben will not only have to contend with the killer, but also himself, as the case on the M. S. Salmon shines a light on his own dark past. With their animation chops clearly on show even in the short trailer, it’s a story that’s bound to play out in dramatic fashion.
As their first foray into gaming, SoybloQ are looking to bring a blend of play styles to the table with M. S. Salmon, combining the more traditional point-and-click detective work with some on-rails shooting and even some gastro-sim elements too. It’s an ambitious project but one that looks incredibly fun, where premise, form and function seem to be aligning wonderfully. This is certainly one to keep an eye on as the project continues to develop.
|Developers||Mathilde Hoffmann, Sven Ahlgrimm|
|Release Date||None yet|
Joe: One of my favourite memories in gaming is getting a few beers with Ian and playing Chime Super Deluxe on the PS3 until dawn broke. It was a simple premise that had you building blocks and creating a lo-fi chillout track as you attempted to complete a tricky puzzle. Oddada from co-developers Mathilde Hoffmann and Sven Ahlgrimm appears to be in a similar vein. By utilising a toy train, complete with a metronome and tuning fork, players have to build blocks to create a toy town. Each block has a different tune and as pieces are placed onto the board the track builds, a musical symphony will come to life.
The developers have said that there is no real challenge to the game, instead it is down to the players to focus on the types of music they want to create. Once you’re happy with the track you’ve created, you can save it to a cassette tape (ask your mum). Hopefully the game allows sharing of your creations and to whet your appetite, a few samples are available to listen to on Oddada’s official website to give you a taste of what to expect but we’re excited to jump in as it is certainly looking at a change of pace from all of the violent and action heavy games players are used to.
|Platforms||Xbox, Switch, PlayStation, and PC|
|Release Date||Q1 2023|
Paper Trail is a game we’ve had our eyes on for what feels like an absolute age. Newfangled Games are creating a unique top-down puzzle game that is set out like a picture book. The main character, who is obviously called Paige, sets off from home to explore a vast world and pursue her studies.
In order to complete her quest, players have to take the pages of the book and fold them in ways that open new paths that allow progression to be made. From the opening few levels this seems straightforward enough but the game quickly toughens up and the environments turn more dark and foreboding.
The comic book art style really draws us to Paper Trail which looks like a continental comic from the 1920s or 30s so we are eager to get our hands on the game when it releases next year.
Sometimes you want something new, but not something new-new, amirite? When only a bout of nostalgia will do, never fear because German developers Pixelpogo are scheduled to bring you arcade side-scroller run-and-gun Super Catboy in the early part of 2023.
With chunky pixel-art sprites and simple button-mashing gameplay, it’s clear that Super Catboy was inspired by 16-bit stalwarts like Castle of Illusion, Earthworm Jim and Mr Nutz, and is looking to bring 1990’s platforming to a new audience in the 2020s. This isn’t a high-brow, self-indulgent title that’s asking you to take a long hard look at yourself – this is an unashamed look back at the past, with a shredding title theme, throwback graphics and a funky soundtrack.
Want to try it out for yourself? Sharpen your claws, throw on your supersuit and head on over to Steam, where there’s a playable demo available now.
The Fabulous Fear Machine
|Game||The Fabulous Fear Machine|
|Release Date||Coming Soon (Demo out now)|
Perhaps one of the most eye-catching games in recent memory, strategy game The Fabulous Fear Machine from Spanish developers Fictiorama Studios is absolutely dripping with style. It’s certain to gather a *ahem* cult following upon its release – and deservedly so.
Having recently inherited the mantle ‘Master of the Machine’, it’s your job to use your influence to spread misinformation and fear across the globe, increasing your power over the populace and crushing anyone whose agenda differs from yours. With a heavy emphasis on both storytelling and strategic gameplay, the game is portrayed in 1960s comic book style, with loud colours and phenomenal pop art imagery that leaps off the screen. Whilst jaw-droppingly beautiful, The Fabulous Fear Machine is more than just a pretty face – it has the depth of gameplay to back up the stunning visuals.
Plant rumours and nurture them into terrifying legends to quell the man in the street, and send out your agents to spy on your rivals and sabotage their attempts to spread their own messages. You’ll have to manage your time and resources however, lest someone beat you to the punch and claim a key location for themselves, stifling the spread of your fear across the region. Slated for release in Summer 2022, we can’t be far away from the feeling the icy fingers of fear creeping across the land…
The Siege and the Sandfox
Despite only recently reviewing Souldiers, I simply can’t get enough of 2D metroidvanias, and stealth-platformer The Siege and the Sandfox from the UK’s own Cardboard Sword might just be the next hit that I’m jonesing for.
Taking on the role of the legendary Sandfox, you’ll need to explore a beautiful palace and the ruins beneath it while the surrounding city is under siege. You can use stealth to sneak up on your enemies and incapacitate them or simply glide past without them even realising. With a plethora of parkour moves at your disposal you’ll be able explore every inch of the gigantic palace, upgrading your skills and your equipment as you go. Just what is more deadly – the besieging soldiers, the palace guards, or an ancient evil lurking in the sands?
The environments are rich, detailed and overflowing with charm; the colour palette cleverly plays with the light, emphasising that this is a mission to be undertaken beneath the cloak of darkness. Currently scheduled for a 2023 release, we’ll be keeping a sharp eye on the development – it won’t be sneaking up on us – that’s for certain!
You Suck at Parking
|Game||You Suck at Parking|
|Platforms||PC, Playstation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch|
|Release Date||2022 (Demo out now)|
We actually covered You Suck at Parking in our favourite indie games at Gamescom 2021, and with Belgium developers Happy Volcano still putting the finishing touches on their wacky parking extravaganza, we thought we’d highlight it again.
In a game where your two options are “go” or “stop” (there’s no reverse!), the object is to barrel your way around a crazy course and bring a series of tiny cars to a halt inside the parking spaces dotted around the level. You’re working against the clock and once you’ve set off you can’t stop to catch your breath either, as stopping counts as your parking attempt!
There’s speed boosts, magnets, fans and all sorts of other obstacles to make your parking even more tricky, as well as the ruinous husks of your failed attempts litting the track too. Despite the tight gameplay being very much the emphasis, the environments are incredibly eye-catching and the sedate music does its best to keep you from throwing your controller through the screen – really, this game is a wonderful package.
Blasting around the tracks is both hilarious and swear-word inducing, and the short levels make the gameplay incredibly addictive. While their Steam page gives a vague “2022” as their release date, we think that You Suck at Parking will be entertaining (and infuriating) gamers everywhere very soon.
|Release Date||Coming Soon (Demo out now)|
The top-down shooter is a genre as old as time, but one that continues to inspire a multitude of great ideas and awesome games. The next big hit for the genre might be ZERO Sievert, the post-apocalyptic pixel-art offering from Cabo Studios.
In a wasteland ravaged by terrifying monsters you’ll have to scavenge to survive, collecting food, gear and weapons to help on your travels across procedurally generated maps. The game boasts some incredibly deep weapon customisation too, offering you endless opportunities to build your perfect load-out to take on the atrocities of the fallen world with.
With sharp line of sight mechanics, gritty environments and a definite moody feel, ZERO Sievert looks to be a game whose atmosphere will keep you on the edge of your seat between showdowns with huge beasts and bloodthirsty survivors. Despite there being no concrete release date at the present, there is a playable demo on Steam – we’re hoping that ‘Coming Soon’ means ‘sooner, rather than later’…