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
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
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
Twitter: https://twitter.com/carbuttpartyon, https://twitter.com/WontTodd