Indie Insights Vol. 32 – Northern Space Farm

This fortnight, I played an eclectic mix of adorable and weird games to see out for the month. A mix of titles that harken back to the past and look forward to the future seemed appropriate to see out my birth month. I’ve farmed with bots (just like Twitter replies, am I right?), played intergalactic rock concerts, fought aliens as an old man, and been a spoiled cat in a whimsical throwback. Oh, what lives we lead.

Onto the games!

Rusty’s Retirement

Rusty's Retirement animals
Image Credit: Mister Morris Games.

This idle farming sim from Mister Morris Games is like a more productive desktop pet. Sitting happily along the bottom or down the side of your screen, Rusty the retired robot will busily farm his crops and create biofuel. At the same time, you get on with your important business, like being a middling games journalist.

As resources, biofuel, and currency increase, so can the size and automation of the farm. Initially, you will have to pay a bit more attention to crops. Each has a different number of growth cycles, and unlocking more seeds requires harvesting a certain number of previous crops. Rusty won’t replant empty plots himself, so once a plant is all set, you will have to go in and do the planting. As you gather more resources, Rusty can build houses for his friends who can come and help him. The first available friend is Haiku the Robot, from Mister Morris Games’ previous outing Haiku the Robot. Rusty and Haiku can have task priorities like harvesting and watering set to create an efficient workflow.

There are also various small bots you can build to help out. Water bots, harvest bots, biofuel bots, and more are unlockable. Each has a range in which it can operate. These little bots are upgradeable by one of the larger robot friends you will unlock later in the farm’s lifespan. Overall, Rusty’s Retirement is adorable, filled with cute decorations, and has excellent automation. It also acts as a great companion for the working day.

Rusty’s Retirement is out now on Steam.

Reigns: Beyond

Reigns Beyond the Long Sleep
Image Credit: Nerial.

Originally an Apple Arcade exclusive, the space-faring Reigns adventure from Nerial is finally available on Steam and Nintendo Switch. Instead of the ruler of a kingdom, you are the spaceship’s Captain. Well, sort of. No one really listens to you most of the time. As well as being the crew of a spaceship, you’re also an intergalactic indie band, which adds an element of basic rhythm mini-games to the proceedings. Also, your spaceship is like HAL 9000 but crazier. A normal adventure awaits!

Your goal as a crew and a band is to explore as much of the galaxy as possible. You’ll play gigs, collect new guitars, and occasionally pick up various unhinged passengers. For example, there is Eman Desrever, a permanently upside-down passenger whose choices require swiping in the opposite direction. There’s also Um, a misty creature who hates decisiveness. Strumbo is a shellfish guy working on his thesis. These are only some of the passengers you’ll encounter. Then there’s the question of your ship, which is extremely advanced, a little bit insane, prone to drugging the crew and clearly hiding something.

As with the rest of the games in the Reigns series, your choices can kill you, but you will resurrect. This time, your character is resurrected by the ship, which clones you and everyone else. There’s the usual balancing of systems and needs; if any meters fill or fail, you die. There are over 1400 decision cards, 60 characters, and multiple instruments and songs to unlock. Beyond keeps the trademark humor of the series and manages to add a really fun new mechanic with the addition of rhythm games.

Reigns: Beyond is out now on iOS, Steam, and Nintendo Switch.

It’s Grim up North – Demo

It's Grim Up North killer toilet
Image credit: Bad Reaction Games.

This point-and-click adventure game from Bad Reaction Games will have a specific appeal to those familiar with British culture. The action takes place in Yorkshire, the home of The Dales, coal mining, tea, and literal senior detective Terry. Unfortunately for the geriatric copper, it seems that his incredibly boring small-town existence is about to become considerably less boring. Aliens have crash-landed and are busying themselves, impersonating the locals and toilets.

This short demo introduces the alien threat and the unexpected turn-based combat. I was genuinely surprised when an old Yorkshire farmer started battling a freshly cloned, purple-goop alien version of himself. During combat, you can choose between attack, heal, or buff. Choosing to attack will offer you multiple light and heavy attacks, requiring a timed key press to be carried out. Following this initial fight, it’s time to flash forward a week and meet Terry. It’s time for Terry to start investigating after being told that people have been disappearing over the last week.

In typical point-and-click fashion, it’s time to look at, pick up, and use everything you can to defeat chavs and aliens. I could explain chavs, but I don’t think anyone wants a lesson on the socio-economic dynamics of the UK. Are there references in It’s Grim Up North that will only appeal to a specific audience? Yes, but it also resembles a solid homage to classic point-and-click silliness like Grim Fandango and the Monkey Island series. There are a few simple puzzles to work out before the end of the demo, where pub landlord Barry tells Terry that there’s nothing else to do unless you buy the game. The game is out now, and I will buy it immediately.

It’s Grim Up North, which is out now on Steam.

Stars in the Trash – Demo

Stars in the Trash Moka and Trasto
Image Credit: Valhalla Cats.

Harkening back to the animated films of the late 1980s and early 1990s, Stars in the Trash is a hand-drawn adventure game from developer Valhalla Cats. Play as Moka, a spoiled housecat who is bored of always being inside. Moka’s goals in life are to steal food and escape the house. These efforts are often foiled by his best friend, Trasto, the family dog. Even though his back legs don’t work and he has a makeshift doggy wheelchair, he isn’t letting Moka slip out of any ajar doors easily.

The demo is a short proof of concept that displays the beautiful artwork while introducing the simplest mechanics you will encounter. Solve environmental puzzles, sneak away from the tyranny of the family child, and fight the evil vacuum cleaner before finally tasting freedom. As a side note, this family absolutely sucks at closing doors. What are you people playing at? As the demo ends, the scope of the full tale is revealed as Trasto is carted off by “The Kennelman,” and Moka steps out into the wider world. It’s a beautiful project that has captured the feel of films like All Dogs Go to Heaven and The Brave Little Toaster. It shows great promise and is already able to tug on the heartstrings.

Stars in the Trash has a free demo available on Steam with a release date TBA.

For more indie games, check out our weekly round-up of new indie game releases


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Written by Emma Oakman

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