Itch n’ Bitch #2: An Itch.io Roundup

Every so often, we do a roundup of the best games that you can play on Itch.io. Here are three games that I think are worth your time.

Toripon

I have a deep love and respect for birds. I browse YouTube and find clips of birds making noises when I feel sad. Toripon feels tailor-made for me.

In Toripon, you explore your apartment and take pictures of birds to complete your photography collection. It’s Pokémon Snap mixed with the first-person segments of Silent Hill 4: The Room, but with birds. As you fill out your collection, more rare birds start to appear in your apartment doing cute things. There are a lot of birds, with more than 40 types to find. It’s a treat.

The game has a 3D-pixelated aesthetic that works well when paired with the minimal animations of the birds. Torpipon’s attractive but straightforward art style reminds me of Proteus. While the birds move on set animation loops, it is still adorable every time they do something, such as riding a Roomba or getting angry at a cup. Additionally, the camera overlay that appears when you go into picture mode is charming. Everything about the art style and graphics are made for my sensibilities.

Music is another standout part of this game. The menu theme is a jam, and there are several radios throughout the environment playing soothing tracks to aid you in your bird journey. You can also hear the birds chirping and quacking all around you. The music and bird chirps are a calming cacophony.

If you want to feel better about your life when everything feels like it’s falling apart, let the birds of Toripon be your wings.

Release date: 12/06/2019
Time to finish: About an hour to get all the birds
Game Dev: Victoria Smith
Itch.io: https://theladyvictoria.itch.io/toripon
Twitter: https://twitter.com/theladyvictoria

Adiasis

When I was younger, I spent so much time on JRPGs. As a jaded adult, I could not imagine spending more than 100 hours completing the sphere grid in Final Fantasy X or finding all of the endings in Chrono Cross. Even with my adult responsibilities, I can find time to play an extremely polished JRPG that can be completed in less than half an hour.

Adiasis is a style-infused JRPG with an exciting combat style and beautiful art direction. The game pitches itself as an “active battle system that allows the player to avoid enemy attacks.” This inversion of the button timing systems of series like the Super Mario RPG and Shadow Hearts works surprisingly well because it makes the time spent watching an enemy into a rhythm game. Every attack against your characters becomes a tense moment of trying to respond in time. This dodge feature should be standard in every JRPG.

The UI is another standout feature of Adiasis. The combat interface takes massive inspiration from Persona 5 and translates that styyyyyyyle into a 2D interface. The level up screen is in your face, and a satisfying onomatopoeia accompanies every attack. It is a shameless rip-off, but it works so well at conveying an emotion. 

The game is short, clocking in at less than 20 minutes if you are good at combat. There is barely a story or motivation for the characters beyond “destroying evil.” But, even with these limitations, the game knows to focus on its strengths. It does not overstay its welcome, and every encounter is unique. If you have a little bit of free time, you should give Adiasis a try.

Release date: 12/04/19
Time to finish: About 25 minutes (depending on how good you are at combat)
Game Dev: Albin Dahlheim
Itch.io: https://crepecroop.itch.io/adiasis
Twitter: https://twitter.com/CrepeCroop

Yarntown

As a recent Bloodborne convert, I will take any excuse to go back to Yharnam. I was addicted to grinding blood echoes and spent so much time running around the first few areas of Yharnam. That knowledge was put to good use when playing Yarntown.

Yarntown reimagines the first few areas of Bloodborne as a 2D action game. The game converts streets and alleys of Yharnam into a flat overworld, similar to The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past. The enemies, bosses, and key locales are well-represented by beautiful 2D art.

Even with the change in perspective, I was able to apply my previous knowledge to find the critical path and secrets. I loved the secrets that Yarntown carried over from the original game, including a certain “hoonter.”

One of the most beloved aspects of Soulsborne games are the bosses and the combat system. In Yarntown, the much loved Cleric Beast and Father Gascoigne both show up to kill your character and end your runs. I’m happy to report that the strategy of rolling behind them and “punching the butt” is still useful. The rally mechanic, which allows you to attack enemies and regain health, is also in the game.

If you have any fondness for Bloodborne, you owe it to yourself to check out Yarntown

Release date: 07/18/20
Time to finish: About 45 minutes
Game Dev: Max Mraz
Itch.io: https://maxatrillionator.itch.io/yarntown
Twitter: https://twitter.com/11mraz

Itch n’ Bitch #1: An Itch.io Roundup

Every week we do a roundup of the best games that you can play on Itch.io. Here are three games that I think are worth your time.

Au Fil De L’eau

If you’ve ever wanted to take a weekend trip to relax in a video game, look no further than Au Fil De L’eau (At the Water’s Edge). Au Fil De L’eau is described as “a short meditation game about kayaking” by its creator Samson Auroux. Similar to a visual novel, Au Fil De L’eau uses unique frames and panels for the player to move in and out of, which is reminiscent of a Wes Anderson film. This unusual narrative design let me explore beautifully painted landscapes while drinking in the surroundings as I drifted down a quiet river in my kayak. The soft bossa nova-like beats further set the tone, and a sense of leisure washed over me. 

What I like about this game the most is how it conveys a narrative through simplistic pictures and ideas without the use of words. There is no gamification, object, or goal to meet— simply explore and float your way down a river. And of course, the game is gorgeous; it’s like swimming through a watercolor world. Where I’d like to see this game improve is the control over movement. Nothing snaps you out of the moment quicker than getting caught on a rock or hitting a wall while traversing in your kayak or car. You should play this game for its beautiful scenery and the soothing daze it lulls you into, but also for its unique use of narrative framing. 

Release date: July 11, 2019
Time to finish: Under an hour
Game Dev: Samson Auroux
Itch.io: https://samson-auroux.itch.io/
Twitter:https://twitter.com/samson_auroux

Disposable

Short, minimal, and ominous are a few words to describe this next game. In Disposable, you play as a small robot whose goal is to unlock a door in this big room by “hacking” several terminals. The creator of this game is Martin Cohen, and while they list this one level, 2D side scroller as a prototype, what’s there is pure gold. Right away, the pixel art struck me as cold and industrial, dark and eerie. I was waiting for some mechanical monster to creep out of the shadows and chomp at me, almost like a 2D Ridley Scott’s Alien. I felt a deep sense of isolation from all the empty space, which is only amplified by the small size of the robot character. Honestly, it was almost like playing a lost level of Hyper Light Drifter, especially considering the dashing mechanics used to traverse within the level. Disposable nails the atmospheric design and for as small a prototype as it is, it’s incredibly successful. I’d like to see more levels, or at least what’s on the other side of that door. It’s worth every minute of your time to check out.

Release date: July 27, 2015
Time to finish: Under 20 minutes
Game Dev: Martin Cohen
Itch.io: https://martincohen.itch.io/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/martin_cohen

The Goodtime Garden

Buckle up because The Goodtime Garden is weird, y’all. Created by James Carbutt and Will Todd, The Goodtime Garden is a hand-drawn surreal experience where a naked manbaby gathers strangely sexual objects to feed its “friend.” I honestly would expect a game like this to be sponsored by Adult Swim, who is known for supporting unusual projects. The Goodtime Garden’s art style has a sense of soft and squishy, with no hard or sharp edges to be found anywhere. This softness is a good thing because everything in this world references genitalia, or is literally genitalia, and I love it. Phallic Mushrooms? It has them. Trees with scrotum leaves? Check. Breast rocks? Duh. Usually, nudity within games is often shocking or offensive, but in The Goodtime Garden, I found the nudity less lewd or vulgar and more fun and palatable— though disturbing at times. 

What took me by surprise were the characters. The first talking animal you come across is a small frog that wants water. When you finally water them (I won’t spoil how), the frog starts saying. “Mmm dripping!…. Moist! Mmmmm!… Ahhhhh...” in a quenched relief. This sexually charged moment is honestly tame compared to other characters who shout, “Ooo, I love that baby dick!” which is incredibly jarring but so absurd it’s hilarious. What I like most about this game is how similar it feels to Hohokum (2014) with Richard Hogg’s simplistic and weird art style. I’m not sure if James and Will were trying to recreate that experience, but they’ve done it either way. If you want an uncomfortably hilarious time with strange and disturbing creatures, The Goodtime Garden has you covered. 

Release date: October 19, 2019
Time to finish: Under an hour
Game Dev: James Carbutt and Will Todd
Itch.io: https://coal-supper.itch.io/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/carbuttpartyon, https://twitter.com/WontTodd