Zak Hughes reviews Immortal Redneck - a first-person-dungeon-clearing shoot-em-up with enough charm and enjoyment to at least peak your interestWritten by Zak Hughes on 21st March 2018
How To Scratch That Gaming Itch On A Budget
James Law trawls through popular indie games website, itch.io, to find the free gems to help you game on a budget
Gaming is an expensive hobby. An expensive lifestyle. So, when something comes along that lets us enjoy gaming, whilst not giving dozens of our hard-earned/loaned pounds to very rich companies, it is a bit of a relief. Steam sales, Humble Bundles and the like let us get that experience at a fraction of the usual cost. Just this month I got Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel for less than a tenner, along with a bunch of other games that’ll clog up my Steam library and never get played.
Something that I feel gets neglected, however, is free indie titles found through places like itch.io. There’s some absolute gems in here if you look hard enough. Games don’t need to be massive time sinks, that we drain hundreds of hours of our lives into (just don’t ever check my playing time on Football Manager over the last few years). I love short, concise experiences that explore a specific mechanic, joke, or theme. It’s kind of a barebones approach to gaming, investigating potential development avenues and seeing what sticks. Below is just a few examples of games like this, but half the fun is going and finding these for yourself, so I’d encourage you to scour your storefront of choice for hidden gems (and let me know so I can play them too… don’t be selfish).
One such example is Disorient on the Murder Express, the title being a reference to a book I’ve never read, written by someone called Agatha, who’s apparently sold a fair few copies. Anyway, it’s a very short but genuinely engaging take on the whole detective, whodunit, style of storytelling. The art style is incredibly basic – the developer had no prior experience – but I found this drove home the charm of the tiny little world the game created. The story was simple, the mystery hardly arduous to work out, but it still elicited that question in the back of my mind: “what’s really going on here?”, something I remember from the likes of the Professor Layton series and Life is Strange, amongst others. Go into this game expecting a mini-production of intrigue, mystery, denouement and a peek into future things to come from the developer, National Insecurities. It’s free and short – why wouldn’t you?
Just to show the wide variety of beautiful gems out there, I’d like to draw your attention to a little game called her tears were my light, a cosmic love story. Again, I found this one browsing through itch.io. It plays like a standard visual novel, with multiple endings to explore, some beautiful art, an encapsulating soundtrack, and engaging dialogue that got me captivated by the characters, as well as a little time-travel related quirk that puts a unique spin on the characters’ interactions. I don’t want to spoil too much, as this game is best experienced as blind as possible, but if you’re anything like me, you get somewhat sick of games that shove combat in when it doesn’t add a tremendous amount to the narrative. With her tears were my light, the dialogue system is used for the entire experience, allowing you to create your own little story and use the unique mechanics to tailor it to your own desires. It’s charming, it’s engrossing, and it caused me to question my philosophical and moral standpoints. No game has ever made me feel worse for restarting. Not even Undertale.
One final game I’d like to introduce you to is Robin. It’s one of the most moving gaming experiences I’ve had in quite some time. It utilises game systems to illustrate the experience of chronic fatigue syndrome, and is based on Christine Miserandino’s Spoon Theory ( https://butyoudontlooksick.com/articles/written-by-christine/the-spoon-theory/ ). It’s always incredibly challenging to make the player empathise with issues like this through gameplay, but the way Robin challenges you to go through simple, mundane tasks that you’d normally find easy and commonplace, and makes these issues challenging in a way that is hard to avoid facing up to head-on. As someone who has faced challenges regarding mental health throughout my life, it means a great deal to me personally seeing this represented by games, and it hit home on an intimate level. Robin is one of a great deal of titles, indie and otherwise, that deals with mental health in a nuanced and concise way. I could talk at length about this game, but I implore you to try it for yourself – again, it’s free on itch.io.
Gaming as a student hurts my wallet. I want many, many things that I can’t afford. However, it helps to remember that there are beautiful stories and fantastic experiences for far friendlier prices. The variety is astounding, so get out there and experience some new and independent good stuff, and do let me know if you have any personal favourites.
Written By James Law