Digging up independent games to discuss and summarise for Ones to Watch is difficult. On the one hand you have the major high-profile indie devs and projects, the kinds of game that get to borrow the spotlight during Microsoft and Sony press conferences, but then you also have numerous smaller projects, the diamonds that can be difficult to pick out from the noise of AAA games.
One thing that you’ll find in common with all of these games is that they’ve either had successful Kickstarter campaigns, or they have the backing of a publisher like Team17, Devolver Digital, Curve Digital or Rising Star Games, all of whom have become well known for championing the little guys. Each of these publishers has many more games on their books than the ones below.
Also, come back later today for a look at some of the more PlayStation-centric indie titles on the way, but for now, it’s time to scare yourself silly.
The last few years have seen a revival of the horror genre, with some excellent jumps and scares to be found in everything from AAA blockbusters to more modest indie efforts. Outlast was one of the pleasant surprises – or unpleasant, depending on your disposition – from that, and Red Barrels have seen fit to work on a sequel.
They’re remaining rather tight lipped about the game for now, as you’d expect for a game based around giving you a bit of a shock, but revealed long ago that it will feature different characters and a different setting to the original, though it will exist in the same universe. Beyond that, all we have to go on is the rather cryptic trailer above.
Outlast 2 is planned for PS4, Xbox One and PC with a release pencilled in for Autumn 2016.
Devolver Digital really rocketed to success on the back of publishing Hotline Miami, and Mother Russia Bleeds looks like it’s going to give that game a run for its money in terms of the sheer, unfettered brutality on screen. The rest of Devolver’s 2016 catalogue is a lot less gruesome!
Set in an alternate history version of the USSR, you take part in four player co-op brawling between the imprisoned gangs. It harkens back to classics like Streets of Rage, but brings with it a seemingly unlimited amount of violence, brutality and gore. Heads are punched off, eyeballs get squished, and blood spatters everywhere…
If it were a retail game, it would be tucked away on the top shelf, but it’s coming digitally to PC and PS4 next year.
In stark contrast, Lumo is a take on retro classics like Head Over Heels and Equinox, with nary a hint of blood spatter. Created by one of the co-founders of Ruffian Games, it features a little wizard who you must guide past the puzzles and traps in each room, all viewed from an isometric angle. It looks to go beyond those games with ideas and concepts from more modern games, so that the world map sees you tracking back and forth in a manner not too dissimilar to Legend of Zelda dungeons, and with other ideas added to the mix along the way.
It’s a game which will be full of nostalgia for those old hands with fond memories of the Spectrum era, but even without that, it is quite a charming puzzle platformer. It’s releasing on much more modern hardware, as well, with an early 2016 release planned for PS4, Xbox One, PS Vita, PC, Mac and Linux.
The Banner Saga was another big hit with its roots in Kickstarter, leading to a great deal of acclaim for its gorgeous Viking-theme setting, its tactical role playing and a story which forces you to make tough decisions both on and off the battlefield.
The sequel will naturally look to build upon all of those strengths, binding the strategic combat even closer with the difficult decisions in the story, while letting you pick up your prior save and carry on. However, Stoic Studios have had a slightly difficult year, which has meant that The Banner Saga 2 has all but disappeared from view of late.
As it stands, it’s still intended for 2016, but even if it misses this target, console gamers will be able to look forward to the original’s release on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 on January 12th – A PS Vita release is also planned.
If you have fond memories of Banjo-Kazooie, Rare’s classic collect-athon platformer, then Yooka-Laylee will be right up your street, as former Rare alumni have embarked on creating a spiritual successor to the popular bear and bird. This time around it’s a chameleon and bat.
You can expect plenty of dual-character attacks and abilities off the back of this, with Playtonic borrowing a lot from the classic games, with a boss character in each level, preceded by quiz show challenges, mine cart sequences and even secret arcade games.
After its hugely popular Kickstarter campaign, Playtonic Games have partnered with Team17 as their publisher – just one of several interesting indie projects on their label – with an October 2016 release date planned across PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Wii U, Windows, OS X and Linux.
Double Fine are spinning an awful lot of plates right now, with remasters of Day of the Tentacle and Full Throttle alongside two sequels to Psychonauts – one for VR, no less. Headlander doesn’t have such heritage, but is a Double Fine game through and through, teaming up with the similarly unconventional Adult Swim as the publisher.
It borrows heavily from the visual style of 70s sci-fi, set in a sidescrolling world where your head is all that’s left of humankind. It’s a good thing that you can fly around the world on rockets and take control of a variety of robotic host bodies, both in human and animal forms, in a rather unique looking Metroidvania game.
Headlander is jetting off to PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC some time next year.
Hue’s puzzle platforming adventure is certainly visually striking, with bright and vibrant coloured backgrounds contrasting strongly with the inky black stencilled foreground and characters. However, the world wasn’t always like this, and before Anne created her magical colour controlling ring, everything was viewed in grayscale.
However, not all is well with this discovery and Anne disappears into a coloured void, leaving the ring to her son, the eponymous Hue, to set off on an adventure that uses the colour wheel to bend the world around him to his will. Simply matching the background colour to an object in the front, and it all but disappears, lending the game some intriguing puzzling potential.
With Curve Digital assisting with development and publishing, the game’s heading to PS4, PS3, PS Vita, Xbox One, Wii U and PC next year.
And finally, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Membrain, a game being developed by Mystic Penguin Games, half of which is our former editor and writer Blair Inglis. It’s a puzzle platformer that brings a more creative slant to its obstacles, as you have to build your solution using an in-game level editor in a world that’s both vibrantly colourful and strikingly minimalistic, as you can see from its reveal trailer.
Membrain is out on PC some time next year, but you can expect to hear more about this and all of the games in the first of today’s Ones to Watch articles in the near future.