One year ago Wholesome Games set out to “bring attention to an emerging genre of games less concerned with how you play (shooter, platformer, etc.) and more concerned with how they made you feel.” Today’s Wholesome Direct accomplished the hell out of that mission statement.
The showcase gave us a peek at some of my top indie games to watch this year. I was looking forward to Spiritfarer and A Space for the Unbound, which turned up in the announcement trailer alongside highly anticipated titles Chicory, whose development is lead by Wandersong creator Greg Lobanov, and the controversy-taxed Ooblets. Throw in SkateBIRD, Garden Story, Little Witch in the Woods, Rainy Season, and hot-off-the-press intel and this show was the perfect recipe for a great, warm, comforting indie stew.
So, let’s chow down.
That Hits the Spot
I want to start at the end here because Hoa was absolutely my best in show. The Ghibli-inspired hand-drawn game first surfaced in 2018 but then went dark all of last year. Hoa made a fantastic splash as the Wholesome Direct’s “one last thing.” We got a totally new trailer in which our tiny protagonist drifts slowly across a tranquil ocean, under a clear, sunny sky toward a barren shore. You have to see how beautiful this really is, so watch the trailer here to be ready for it’s late 2020 release.
The Hoa trailer was a nice change of pace after the break-neck speed of the show’s final sizzle reel which presented around 30 games in about five minutes. Among those, Unpacking, A Monster’s Expedition, and To the Rescue! stuck out to me. With how quick these all went though, I’ll have to check back in on some of the titles to really get a sense of the games.
Seriously, this was a great showing by a lot of great indie titles. Especially exciting news for my personal watch list, A Space for the Unbound is aiming for a 2021 release date and Spiritfarer is on track to come out at the end of the year. Ooblets looked as great as ever and will be out on early access soon. Spiritfarer showed off what looked like boss battle gameplay. Chicory revealed more scenes to look forward to. Book of Travels is coming in October and still has that fairy-tale vibe shining through. Rainy Season is dropping sometime this summer and gave us a look at a pretty chill monster. Garden Story feels as nostalgic as ever. And those are just the games I already had on my radar.
Adding to the Shopping List
Fifty games was a lot to take in during the thirty-seven minute direct, but I — and probably the other ten thousand people watching the showcase — definitely have some new games to start following.
Kicking off the show with a bang, Button City was all about that youthful exuberance. Bright and vibrant, it follows the story of a group of animal friends fighting to save their local arcade.
Errand Boy followed soon after and has Wind Waker written all over it. Hitting the scene in 2021, this game’s hero, the titular errand boy, is an orphan on a mission. The combat and and overall feel were certainly Zelda-inspired, right down to the visual mechanic that felt just like a sort of “lens of truth.”
If you’re looking for a Stardew Valley-like game, you may want to check out Little Witch in the Woods and Snacko. Each have their own unique flavor with Snacko (out on Kickstarter now) hitting the Harvest Moon side hard, while Little Witch in the Woods will have you making potions and knuckling down to learn your craft over three years.
More to Chew On
Wholesome Games ended with a note that they would be holding another Wholesome Direct this time next year, to which, after today’s display, I’m very much looking forward. You can check out their website for more on all of the indies they showed today. However, there are games that we didn’t see at this show that hopefully will find a spot in another venue this summer.
Tunic, Sable, and Röki might have squeaked into the wholesome category, but were sadly absent. Games like 12 Minutes, Carrion, The Last Campfire, Hollow Knight: Silksong, and many others didn’t make an appearance simply because they aren’t all that wholesome. Some of these games, like Carrion with Devolver Digital, have tailor-made events where they are sure to turn up. Others, I’m betting, will be doled out between the various summer events which have growing more numerous and unwieldy every week.
It’s fantastic to see the promising beginning of such a strong indie stage which will continue serve these games up in the future, but it’s only the appetizer. There is still a ton of mouth-watering delights coming in the next few months.