It’s time for volume 17 of Indie Insights! My little column of nonsense can drive in my homeland now. I’m proud of you, little guy, be back by 9 pm and fill the car up. In the world outside of me anthropomorphizing my column, a lot is going on in gaming. Once again, most of it is not great.
As I write this, the biggest development that will take a considerable toll on indie devs has happened in the last few days. Unity, one of the most widely used game engines, announced that it would be charging developers a fee for every copy of their games that are installed. Not just new installs. All installs. If you have to re-install a game because you upgraded your machine, the devs will get charged a fee. Unity doesn’t collect end-user data, just aggregate data, meaning they don’t know who has installed what, just the total number of installs.
While this applies to games that have reached thresholds of revenue/units sold, that’s not much comfort for the small studios that utilize Unity. Many devs have taken to social media to express their outrage at not only the impending fees but the addition of tracking software, plan changes, and general breach of trust. The consensus seems to be, if they can do this out of the blue, what else could they potentially add?
Currently, there is a veritable deluge of third-party statements that all begin with “I spoke to someone who works at Unity…” followed by various speculative walkbacks and/or double-downing from the company. Right now, everything remains the same as in their statement. The current CEO of Unity is John Ricitiello, former loot box-loving CEO of EA, who out loud in front of people said that mobile developers that don’t prioritize monetization are “fucking idiots.” Whether or not any of this gets walked back remains to be seen.
To balance out this negativity, let’s shine a light on some indie games and focus on the sometimes bizarre things I have enjoyed this week.
The Many Pieces of Mr. COO – Nintendo Switch
Let’s begin with the most bizarre. I played the short demo of The Many Pieces of Mr. Coo way back at the beginning of the year. It’s a surrealist puzzle adventure following the titular Mr. Coo. Mr. Coo is a funny yellow fellow who looks like he has escaped from a 1970 episode of the Pink Panther cartoon. Created by artist Nacho Rodríguez, Mr. Coo has already appeared in several short animated films.
The game follows Mr. Coo as he initially searches for a runaway apple to munch on before segueing into an adventure featuring a giant chicken, a gigantic old man, a mysterious one-eyed woman, and many other strange denizens. The reason for the title may be philosophical in nature, but it is also literal. Mr. Coo gets split into three pieces thrown in different directions. He has to recover himself, meaning you have to solve puzzles while in pieces. Hop around as a head, try and coordinate head and legs as separate pieces, and navigate a bafflingly absurd world that mixes realism and animation beautifully.
It’s visually stunning, endearing, strange, and fascinating all at once. It’s a breath of fresh air in an occasionally stale and formulaic landscape.
The Many Pieces of Mr. Coo is out now on Nintendo Switch, PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.
Tenebris Somnia – Demo Steam
Currently making waves in the horror game community, the demo for Tenebris Somnia from Andrés Borghi, Tobías Rusjan, and Saibot Studios came out of nowhere. Combining FMV elements with 2D pixel animation, Tenebris Somnia is a puzzle horror game filled with horrible monsters, gore, and fright. You play as Julia, who has recently left her long-term boyfriend but has been plagued by nightmares of her ex-boyfriend Ivan being attacked by monsters. Adding fuel to her fear is that Ivan hasn’t been answering her attempts to contact him. To put her mind at rest, she returns to the apartment to check on him—a mistake to say the least.
The apartment is deserted and trashed. Long-time film fan and filmmaker Ivan is nowhere to be seen, and the fruits of his labors have been destroyed. His short film reels are destroyed, his awards are dumped in the toilet, windows are boarded up, oh and a hard red wax-like substance seals a room in the apartment and has a creepy symbol on the door. The question is, do you want to open it?
The game has huge Clock Tower vibes and emulates the retro point-and-click horror games that I grew up with expertly. The live-action cutscenes have an incredible production value and are genuinely scary, and the creatures have a great design. The game is currently listed as coming soon on Steam, and I hope soon means next week.
Tenebris Somnia has a free demo available on Steam with a full release date TBD.
This narrative adventure from Die Gute Fabrik takes place out on the open waters, chasing a mystery. The crew of the De Kelpie is hunting for their seemingly kidnapped Captain in a post-flooded world, and there are plenty of strange places and people to meet. If the developer’s name sounds familiar, they are also responsible for Mutazione, a game that shares the striking aesthetic style of Saltsea Chronicles.
The demo starts after Captain Maja has already disappeared and the crew is docked at Los Gatos, crew member Stew’s home island. And yes, it is an island of cats. The game is a point-and-click, heavily narrative and choice-driven experience. You can choose what to prioritize, whether it’s a specific crew member request, having deeper conversations with someone, or the next destination of your journey. This means that your game will not only be different from mine but also have replay value.
The promise of deep conspiracies and mysteries is enough for me to look out for the as-yet-TBD release of the full game.
Saltsea Chronicles has a free demo available on Steam, with a full release coming soon.
- Adorable-looking chaotic co-op Kallax comes to PC on September 18.
- Cute and cuddly co-op fighter Party Animals comes to PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X on September 20.
- Platforming adventure Paperman: Adventure Delivered comes to PC, PS4, PS5, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X on September 21.
- Made using real photographs of forest land in New Zealand, puzzle platformer Seedlings comes to PC on September 22.
- Long awaited cat-filled adventure Mineko’s Night Market comes to Mac, PC, and Nintendo Switch on September 26, with a wider console release coming in October.
- Become the food-stealing possum you’ve always wanted to be in Pizza Possum coming to PC, PS5, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox Series X on September 28.