It’s 2024, and I’ve somehow managed to coordinate it so that the first one of the year is volume 24 of Indie Insights! I meant to do this, and you simply cannot prove otherwise. I hope you all had an, at minimum, acceptable December and New Year. If you are like me, you probably got video games for Christmas. I finally re-joined the world of current consoles by getting an Xbox Series S and have been continuing my mission to play Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch on every single platform it is available. Thank you, Game Pass. I was also gifted Alan Wake Remastered and Alan Wake 2, which I am very excited to get because I haven’t played the remaster of the original yet.
Have no fear; I have also played several indie games I’ve meant to get to over the last few weeks. Look – down there!
Reigns and Reigns: Her Majesty – Steam
With the announcement that a third entry in the Reigns series is on the way, I finally got around to playing both over the break. From developer Nerial, these simple story-driven games consist of making choices to keep your kingdom in balance. You swipe left or right to make these choices, like a medieval Tinder, but with fewer consequences. You have four sections of the kingdom to keep happy: the Church, the people, the army, and your bank balance. Each decision you make will either increase or decrease the meter for each, and you need to prevent them from getting too low or too high, as both will result in your reign ending.
In the first game, you are the King of the realm, and as the title suggests, in the second, you are the Queen. In both, you are a single soul destined to reincarnate and rule forever unless you can break the curse through your choices. There are multiple deaths to experience, many characters to meet, cards to unlock, and a devil to trick. In the second game, there’s more of a meta-approach with frequent references to being in an app, a mechanical owl throwing stats from other players at you, and glitches. Both games are addictive, funny, and stylized, and I can’t stop playing them. Bring on Reigns: Three Kingdoms, which comes to Steam and Nintendo Switch on January 11.
Reigns and Reigns: Her Majesty are available now on Steam.
Cosmic DJ – Steam
How did I spend my New Year’s Eve, you ask? Why, playing Cosmic DJ, creating terrible electronic jams, and sending them to my editor. You’re welcome, boss man!
This game is ten years old, I had never heard of it, and it popped up in my recommendations during the Steam Winter Sale. If I hadn’t looked at it before playing, I wouldn’t have guessed it was 10 years old. The objective of the game is to create sweet electronic jams and keep the party going, as well as repair transmitters and banish the terrible DJ Steve that has taken over the network. Steve sucks, and I will not stand for these shenanigans!
Developer Gl33k created a music sequencer with a plot and included some of my favorite visuals—8-bit nonsense interspersed with puppets. Once your track is at full jam capacity the screen will get busier, and puppets just appear. I am a big fan of appearing puppets. You can add stems and samples of different instruments to create a layered track by either tapping out the rhythm or using the grid-style sequencer. I much preferred the grid sequencer, it was easier to place and remove a beat as well as plan out a track. Gl33k only made this game, and I am sad about it, come back to me with beats and puppets.
Cosmic DJ is available on Steam.
Alchemy Garden – Itch.IO
In this little alchemist sim from Mad Sushi Games, you play an alchemist just starting in their practice. You run a little shop where you can create new potions from materials found out in the world and then sell them to the locals. The goal is just to keep making potions, keep making money, and expand your shop. It’s a simple enough little game. Every day different plants will spawn in the world, and you run off to gather as many as you can. Once you have a bushel full of freshly harvested flora, head on back to your shop and start smashing things together in the mortar and pestle to see what happens.
It’s a pretty cute game, all the people are very round and cartoony, with the plants offering a nice pop of color in the world. However, it is a little unpolished, with rough-looking landscapes, hard-to-spot harvests, and a floaty movement cycle that feels like a step is missing. It’s a solid shopkeep sim; it just needs a little more alchemy.
Alchemy Garden is available now on Itch.io and Steam.
Conjury – Steam
A new rogue-like deck builder from Super Punch Games, Conjury, sees you take on the mantle of a hero venturing into the forest to banish the darkness within. As with other deck builders of its kind, like Wildfrost and Inscryption, you choose your path through the map leading you to a random enemy encounter or event. During battles, there will be multiple bad guys to face down, all of which will leave behind a loot bag or chest from which you can pick one thing. There could be a weapon, card, or item in there, all with various boosts and boons. Each card costs mana points to use. Once you are out of mana, you have to end your turn.
The interesting thing about Conjury is the ability to equip weapons that you can use instead of cards. Each one has different durability and mana cost. You can use them to attack as many times as their durability allows. Once the durability runs out, the card disappears. Some unlockable protagonists have different abilities, and there are also ways to upgrade your weapons and cards. I love the art style and variety of little ghouls you have to face down, and it keeps you wanting to play longer.
Conjury is out now on Steam.
- The third installment in the Reigns series, Reigns: Three Kingdoms, comes to Steam and Nintendo Switch on January 11.
- Motorvania Laika: Aged Through Blood comes to Nintendo Switch on January 12.
- Retro-style RPG Crystal Story: Dawn of Dusk comes to PC on January 12.
- Turn-based strategy game Rising Lords comes out of early access and on to PC and Nintendo Switch on January 18.
- Horror sequel DreadOut 2 comes to Nintendo Switch on January 18.
- Turnip Boy Robs a Bank comes to PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S on January 18.