The weekend of May 13 saw The MIX hold its two-day Game Dev Direct event.
Over 11 hours of content stretched across two streams showcasing indie games across a wide range of genres. Additionally, it was a host to special conversational sections including a Black Voices in Gaming segment, and some publisher-specific segments looking more in-depth at announced titles.
Each day started with a more traditional ‘Direct’ style presentation, that showcased over 80 games across both days. Some were previously seen titles, but there were also a ton of brand new exclusive titles shown. There was absolutely something for everybody during both days of the event, and as much as we at Indie Ranger would love to talk a bit about all the titles on show, we would be here all day.
So instead let us share with you our top highlights from both days. Think of these as our “Indie Games to Watch for 2021 and beyond.”
Definitely the first game that stood out to us when watching the Indie Direct was this arcadey skate/boat vaporwave mash-up.
Wave Break seems to be taking the classic and addictive gameplay of the old PlayStation-era Tony Hawk games, and just adding all sorts of things that we never knew we needed. Boats, pretty environments, a gun. Add on that you can customize your cute animal characters, as well as both play against and build levels with your friends, and we’re already excited for what looks an aggressively fun game.
Wave Break is slated for a late Spring release on both Nintendo Switch and Steam.
Management sim? Check. Cute hand animation? Check. Takes place entirely on the back of some giant lizard thing? Check.
You are tasked with guiding a small, slowly growing village of simple human survivors, attempting to hold back and escape from a mysterious sickness that is slowly devouring the land. The twist being that your villagers have taken to a symbiotic lifestyle, living and building upon the back of a mountainous beast that slowly roams the world. The game has a mix of 2D and 3D visuals and a lovely hand-drawn style for its little humans.
We can fully admit that we’re very partial to cute or chill-looking games. The Wandering Village looks like both of those things, and it’s added in a fun twist with it all being set on top of a sentient creature which, on top of just being cool, definitely feels like it could add some fun gameplay aspects. It was mentioned that ‘symbiosis’ was a key theme of the game, and with apparent inspiration drawn from Studio Ghibli’s animated classic Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, we would definitely expect a bit of social commentary in that regard as well as possible messages about humanity and our relationship with nature.
The Wandering Village will be available on PC via Steam at some point this year.
We were split between adding this over the other survival horror-themed title Expedition Zero, which was also featured. We are fans of The Long Dark and that title looked to scratch that very familiar itch.
Yet it was Lust From Beyond’s interesting mix of horror influences and mature sensibilities that left us more than a little curious. Opening with nods to H.R.Giger before moving to what felt reminiscent of the writing and film directing career of Clive Barker, Lust From Beyond trailer left us curious to see more.
You’ll be forgiven for feeling a little reminded of Undertale when you see this RPG title’s art style. Once it had our attention, She Dreams Elsewhere stuck itself in our memory through its description of combat encounters as rewarding “efficiency and quickness;” something that we feel a lot of turn-based combat games can struggle a little bit with sometimes. She Dreams Elsewhere features battle mechanics that are influenced by Earthbound and Phantasy Star, and the previously mentioned Undertale, its turn-based battle system features a charm mechanic that creates tactical possibilities for encounters.
Trapped in a dream, (this feels very familiar) you take on the role of Thalia, traversing a surreal landscape as she attempts to find out what is preventing her from waking up. The game seems to deal with anxiety, self-identity and acceptance, and features some sort of dialogue option system, so there seems to be a lot more to it than just killing nightmare creatures.
The game will be coming to Steam, Xbox One (and Game Pass). Nintendo Switch later in 2021.
Look, we’re pretty easy to please here sometimes. We see a game that’s all about goofing around and causing trouble, and you’ve got us hooked. This is probably why we, like many others, adore games like Untitled Goose Game, Goat Simulator and basically anything from Landfall’s catalog of games. Just Die Already falls into the same category. You’re just a helpless elder whose only goal in life is to make everyone as miserable as you. Miserable to the point to where they hope you’ll just die already. It also helps that this game has a team that consists of designers who worked on Goat Simulator.
Just Die Already is set to release on Steam in 2021
When we saw the trailer for Expedition Zero, it reminded us of Alien: Isolation if it were set in an environment reminiscent of The Thing. Brought to us from the folks at Enigmatic Games and tinyBuild, Expedition Zero puts you into the snow boots of a soviet engineer in the middle of the Siberian forest. Sent to investigate a meteor crash, your research trip turns into a fight for your life as you run, hide and use your engineering smarts to survive against the vicious aliens that are on the hunt for you.
Expedition Zero is slated for a 2021 release.
Aesthetics are very important to us when it comes to the games we choose to play. You may think that means breathtaking environments and realistic scenery. Well, not exactly. Chasing Static brings a favorite aesthetic to the forefront — low poly, PS1 style graphics. The game poises itself as a short, surreal story following a man on his way to attend his father’s funeral. However, he stumbles upon an abandoned government conspiracy that somehow caused time to freeze. To guide the journey, you are equipped with a unique camera that finds hidden echoes of conversations. It’s up to you to find the mystery surrounding the small town.
Chasing Static is set to release in 2021
Along with our personal picks at the MIX Dev Direct 2021, these are a handful of titles that we think you should be keeping an eye out for…
“Grind on bendy straws, kickflip over staplers, and carve killer lines through cardboard and sticky tape parks, in SKATEBIRD®!”
“KeyWe is a chaotic postal puzzler starring Jeff and Debra, two small kiwi birds working in a fun and frantic mailroom.”
Blizzard warning! 🚨 Jeff and Debra take flight to ship emergency supplies to the residents of Bungalow Basin. Through wind and rain and sleet and snow, the Telepost gets it where it needs to go! 🌨️ #MadeWithUnity #IndieGame #IndieGameDev pic.twitter.com/yMQPmLTqsZ
— KeyWe (@KeyWeGame) March 23, 2021
“A narrative puzzle game about two people trying to find their way back together in a city on fire.”