TFI Friday: three independent puzzle games with a slightly melancholy atmosphere


The year has finally turned, reader. I’m having discussions at home to turn on the heat. When I leave the office, it’s not dark, but it’s blurry around the edges. My fingers are cold. This is the time of year, before the Skeleton War memes start in earnest, to lounge around feeling a little melancholy. It’s healthy to feel sad sometimes, you know. Haven’t you watched Inside Out? I did, and during my screening at the cinema, a child shouted “Where’s Bing Bong?” »When the heroic Bing Bong disappeared …

This week I put together three different puzzle games with very different vibes. I know I’m more into puzzle games than the regular reader, but these are pretty good and worth checking out, and at least one should pique the old interest. And they all gave me that happy-sad feeling. Like, I want to wrap myself in a blanket and play these games and maybe think about my grandma a little bit. That kind of feeling.


By whom? 2054
Where can I receive it? To smoke
How much does it cost? £ 11 / € 12 / $ 15

If I were a cyborg I would 100% despise robots, and that’s what Anna Isobe does a lot in The Sundew, a point-and-click cyberpunk adventure that (naturally) takes place in a future dystopia. There’s a classic vibe to the click and point you’re doing, though there’s no nine-verb menu to tackle. The items you collect fit into a nice drop-down inventory at the top and you can move anything you want around to make it interact with something else. There are some other cool stuff too, like how your phone is, uh, your eye, combined with a head implant, so the corresponding button icon on the screen is an eye. Every time you get a new item on your to-do list, it wiggles around and makes a noise that you can’t miss.

The story (at least as far as I’ve played it) is interesting. Anna is fun and has a hangover. She’s a cop who spends more time than usual calling robots idiots and talking about how much better she is or could easily break them, and I’m more into that than she feels a little stale (the future version of auto-checkout replacement) that I’m not the standard global conspiracy she gets drawn into.

But more importantly, The Sundew looks fantastic. It’s dark, damp and a little depressing but in a beautiful way. You want to stand in Anna’s apartment and run your hand out the window to catch the falling raindrops.

A juggler’s story

By whom? kaleidoscube, Mixtvision
Where can I receive it? Steam, GOG, Humble, Epic Games Store
How much does it cost? £ 13 / € 15 / $ 18

A Juggler’s Tale was one of the games featured on our Indies Uncovered livestream at EGX last weekend. You are Abby. Abby is a puppet, but that’s okay because she’s soft enough and far enough away from the screen that she doesn’t terrify me. She is a juggler in a circus and one day she makes an offer for freedom, escaping to run along a side-scrolling path in a 3D world full of dangers and obstacles. One of the things I liked the most about it was that the world is very big and Abby is very small. She cannot fight enemies, but rather must hide and flee. And there is a really good stormy section where rain and lightning even turn trees into menacing monsters.

Every animal or person in the world has strings to help them move, and that’s often what gets in the way of your progress. Abby can’t crawl or walk under things, for example. She has to climb over it, or find some other way around. If the sails of a windmill are blocking your path, find a way to spin the windmill. But that’s also where it gets interesting, because the narrator of the story can act on you, ultimately. He begins by reading rhyming verses describing the action, but soon he is giving you clues, or making you jump over big gaps with the help of your strings. And if you don’t do as he says, he starts to get mad …

Night reverie

By whom? Dark pixel, Indianova
Where can I receive it? To smoke
How much does it cost? £ 7 / € 8 / $ 10

Maybe it’s unfair to say that I found Night Reverie as melancholy as the other two games. In fact, it’s really very playful and bright. You play as a little boy who wakes up in what appears to be a dreamlike version of his own home – but the kind of dream that’s almost, but not quite, a nightmare. Many rooms are locked. The basement is full of boxes. There is a sad bunny hanging out in the living room.

Like The Sundew, Night Reverie uses an inventory system. At any time you can open your bag to equip an item (so when you interact with something in the world it will be with that item) or combine them with others. For example, combining a baked carrot with sliced ​​bread will make a carrot sandwich. Then you can equip the sandwich to give it to the rabbit, which will be a little less sad. But he will always discuss with you the fear of home and the lack of his best friend.

You have a little living flame companion, which is probably a metaphor for something. It got me thinking a lot about how things change as you grow older and how scary your own home can be if it feels a little bad or strange to you. Who put this cauldron in the kitchen? Why is my cat so huge and why can’t he remember my name?

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