Indie Insights Vol. 31 – An Experiment in Relaxation

indie insights 31

Welcome to April and Indie Insights! This fortnight mostly focuses on games with a chilled-out vibe and relaxing atmosphere, apart from Reveil, which is the exact opposite. I’ve been plagued with migraines for the best part of the last two weeks, so of course, I did not cease playing video games; I merely shifted gears. Then, the Triple-i Initiative showcase happened on April 10, and I simply had to immediately jump on the What the Car? demo. 

On to the games!


Reveil circus scape
Image Credit: Pixelsplit GmbH & Co. KG.

Psychological horror meets walking sim in this atmospheric offering from Pixelsplit GmbH & Co. KG. You play as Walter Thompson, who has woken up to find his wife and daughter have disappeared. Taking a few simple steps outside sets Walter on a journey to recover his recent memories and find his missing family. What begins as a walk in the countryside is immediately worse when a circus tent looms into view. No good comes from an opening that starts with missing family members and a rundown circus. That’s just science.

Reveil shares similarities with Layers of Fear – a male protagonist works through his past and present in a nightmare world of his psyche. What starts as a pleasant wander around the deserted circus quickly becomes a psychedelic hell filled with blacklight and monsters. Visually stunning, with excellent voice acting, a smattering of puzzles, and a disturbing clown motif, Reveil is a twisty-turny stroll down memory lane.

Reveil is out now on PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, and PS5.


Panorama town center
Image Credit: Chicken Launcher.

What is it about hexagonal tile placing games that are so addictive? Pan’Orama from developer Chicken Launcher is a city-building sim set up like the board game Catan. Place tiles to expand your burgeoning township and use strategy to maximize your points and structure building. It’s no secret that I love city-building games, and Panorama is an excellent addition to my ever-expanding rotation of games.

With six different tile types to place, farm, house, forest, flower, water, and rock, you officially win the game when you have discovered and built all 73 structures. Placing tiles of the same kind next to each other yields more points and upgrades existing tiles in the area. After scoring a certain number of points, the option to place the framework for a structure appears. You can choose between three each time; each has different tile requirements to create and different bonuses to the game.

Expanding and upgrading areas will also bring the board more to life. Tractors will appear to plow the fields, airships will circle the map, and boats will take to the waterways. When you zoom in, there are also animals around your creation, and clicking on them will give you extra points. It’s a very cute and chill game featuring a sandbox mode to create in perpetuity for six hours without realizing it and forgetting to eat or drink.

Panorama is out now on Steam.

What the Car?

what the car big legs
Image Credit: Triband.

Announced during the Triple-i Initiative showcase on April 10, along with a demo drop, What the Car? Is a spiritual successor to developer Triband’s previous game, What the Golf? While What the Golf? is an absurdist take on physics-based golf games, What the Car? is a completely normal racing game. Just kidding! It’s weird as heck, and I love it.

At the mercy of momentum and bizarre inCARnations, you have to speed, jump, jetpack, and use your powerful car legs to navigate different courses tailored to whatever nightmarish car creature you are piloting. Cars you will experience in this demo are Car with Legs, Car with Too Many Legs, Car with Big Legs, Car-ry Poppins, and several more of Stephen King’s scrapped Christine prototypes. Driving too fast will lead to flying off the track, which, while enjoyable, is not as enjoyable as staying on the track and plowing into all the spectators/office workers/giant radioactive seagulls.

The demo is a fantastic showcase of some of the mechanics that will play in the full version. It’s silly, tricky, fun, and full of energy and secrets.

What the Car? will be released on September 5, 2024. A free demo is available now on Steam.

Spirit City: Lofi Sessions

Spirit city lofi sessions bay window scene
Image Credit: Mooncube Games.

Developers Mooncube Games have expanded on the “lofi beats to study to” playlists and videos with their new game. The game is part idle atmosphere creator, part interior decorator, and part creature collector, as well as features like a to-do list and Pomodoro timer that you can utilize to get things done. It also features multiple lofi music playlists that you can switch between or you can use your playlists. The atmosphere can be changed by changing which area of your apartment you are hanging out in, the time of day, and the weather.

When you begin, you can customize your character and choose which spirit will hang out with you. Oh, that’s right, there’s also a bunch of spirits to find and collect. At your disposal is a spirit guide that will give you hints on where and how to find spirits. Some spirits are tied to times of day, some to weather, and some to locations. Some have multiple conditions to meet before you can collect them.

Having the game run in the background is the equivalent of an interactive version of the prevalent YouTube videos, but not in a bad way. You can craft your mood and your avatar’s look, customize your house, and collect little weirdos all at once. If you are looking for a low-maintenance but ultimately vibey experience this is for you.

Spirit City: Lofi Sessions is out now on Steam.

Don’t miss our roundup of weekly indie releases


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Written by Emma Oakman

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