E3 may be a thing of the past, but the summer explosion of gaming trailers and announcements seems to be here to stay. Geoff Keighley’s Summer Game Fest attempted to step in and fill the void, and a myriad of other gaming shows like Wholesome Direct and Future Game Show did their best to give us a taste of what gaming is going to be like in the not-so-distant future.
During the Xbox and Bethesda showcase there were 35 games shown in a 95-minute window, all of which are expected to be on your hard drive within the next 12 months. With so many games, it’s inevitable that some announcements will fall through the cracks. There’s been no shortage of thought pieces over the absence of a trailer for Avowed or detailed analysis on the potential procedural generation of Starfield’s 1,000 planets. These massive projects are exciting and generate a lot of interest, but smaller games do get lost in all the chatter that surrounds the big AAA trailers.
To be fair, not all indie games get glossed over. Hollow Knight has a robust fan base and the anticipation for the sequel, Hollow Knight: Silksong, has been at a fever pitch for quite some time now. Some of the best indies I’ve had the pleasure of checking out, however, never garner the same fanfare despite being beautifully crafted and/or narratively important. Here are just a few of those hidden gems from this past month’s numerous showcases — in no particular order — that you may have missed.
Cult of the Lamb
Cult of the Lamb has certainly managed to catch more attention than some of the other games that will be on this list, but it is one of the upcoming indie releases that I’m incredibly excited for and just want an excuse to talk about for a little bit. Scheduled to be released on Aug. 11 for PC and Xbox, Cult of the Lamb is developed by Massive Monster and published by Devolver Digital.
The game centers around an adorable little lamb who, upon being ritualistically sacrificed, is saved by a shackled god in another realm of existence. In exchange for salvation, the lamb must cultivate a following through the power of procedurally generated dungeon crawling and boss battles. Cult of the Lamb doubles down on the charming art direction seen in Massive Monster’s other games (including the previously released platformer Adventure Pals) while cranking the gore to 11.
Lemon Cake and Bunny Park
Created by solo developer Éloïse Laroche of Cozy Bee Games and published by SOEDESCO, Lemon Cake and Bunny Park were announced for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S consoles. Lemon Cake is a decidedly wholesome management simulator where players create their own character and then take over a rundown bakery that they must repair with the help of a little ghost. Grow your own ingredients in your greenhouse, care for plants and animals, bake sweet treats, and run your bakery’s storefront but watch out for that lunch hour rush.
Bunny Park, much like Lemon Cake, is a wholesome management simulator but this time you are caring for a nature park with the goal of attracting a variety of bunnies. There’s a collection of adorable toys and decorations to place in your ever-expanding park as you attempt to woo every rabbit variant. And yes, you can pet them. Lemon Cake and Bunny Park are both currently available on Steam and will be released to consoles in September 2022.
Coming from the developers behind This War of Mine and Frostpunk, The Alters was announced during the PC Gaming show and is currently available to wish list on Steam and Epic Games Store. The game embraces elements of classic science fiction with touches of psychological horror and survival. Players experience a life-or-death scenario as Jan Dolski, a simple laborer who must create alternative versions of himself and foster those alters in an attempt to survive. These aren’t simple clones; each alter has different skills and needs dependent on the life-altering choices made in the blink of an eye that changes their life’s course. The Alters does not yet have a release date.
Scathe is an intense first-person shooter that pits players against a cacophony of enemies hurtling bullets as you attempt to escape a maze all with a heavy metal soundtrack blaring in your ears. Sounds great, right? It gets better, as you can drag your friends along for the ride thanks to drop in/drop out multiplayer. It’s a little FPS, a little roguelike, a little bullet hell, and all very exciting. Scathe is expected to land on PC and Xbox on Aug. 31, 2022.
On the opposite end of the rhythm spectrum, we have Half Asleep Games’ freshman release: Melatonin. Melatonin is a cozy rhythm game that allows players to explore the place where dreams and reality blend together through music and a calm pastel color palette. Animations and sound cues are used to guide you through the rhythmic storytelling, with levels rewarding stars that can be used to proceed through more levels. Dreaming of going shopping? Swipe your credit card and bag your items to the beat to move on. If you find you’re not musically inclined or just want to relax and enjoy the music with the visual storytelling, there are assist options to help you out. Melatonin is scheduled to release on Steam on Sept. 16, 2022.
Earning its place as a happy medium between the sleepy vibes of Melatonin and the metal thrashing of Scathe is Spirit Swap. Developed by Soft Not Weak, this lo-fi match 3 dating simulator is a celebration of the LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC communities complete with spell casting and sweet, sweet demon romance. Thanks to absolutely crushing its Kickstarter goal, Spirit Swap will feature a complex Hades-like narrative for its main character, Samar. The developers are targeting a 2023 release on Steam and possibly consoles.
Ooblets is a delightfully colorful and charming game about farming, strange creatures, and card-based dance battles. The game has been out in Game Preview for quite some time, with the most recent update putting it at version .99 — right on the cusp of a full release which is expected sometime later this summer. Ooblets has undergone an impressive amount of content bulk up, with new areas having been added for players to explore complete with new quest lines and Ooblet types to collect along. There was even the release of a shop update where players can make and sell their own goods. All the more impressive is that this has been done by a two-person dev team, the husband-and-wife duo that make up Glumberland.
You may remember the name Chucklefish as the publishers behind the console release of Stardew Valley. While they’ve certainly built a steady catalogue of titles in their name, the up-and-coming Witchbrook will inevitably draw back in Stardew fans with its adorable pixel art and witchy slice-of-life RPG gameplay. Players will become a witch in training at the darling Witchbrook College where they will master spells, uncover secrets, make friends and possibly even find love on their journey. You don’t have to forgo your studies alone, either, as Witchbrook is expected to offer multiplayer.
Unfortunately, there’s no official release date for Witchbrook just yet, and Steam is currently the only confirmed platform.
Gori: Cuddly Carnage
Have you ever wanted to maim an adorable army of unicorns and creepy toys as a wisecracking cat on a hoverboard? If so, Wired Productions has you covered with Gori: Cuddly Carnage. Despite its cutesy overtones, Gori is overflowing with buckets of gruesome blood, gore, mutilation, and just adult content in general. It’s a brilliant juxtaposition of two very different types of content wrapped up in a frenetic hack and slash. Between the foul mouthed, fuzzy murder kitty and the slaughter of creepy toys, there’s plenty to look forward to from Gori: Cuddly Carnage. Unfortunately, it does not yet have a release date. Curse those unicorns.
Gori leans heavily into its cyberneon aesthetic, and there is an excess of bright flashing lights to be mindful of before clicking on the trailer.
Honorable mention: Cozy Grove 2
If this is your first-time hearing about Cozy Grove, allow me to quickly clue you in on why this game has been one of my favorite experiences on Xbox this past year. This beautifully artistic world revolves around a watercolor painted island that you, a young Spirit Scout, have been sent to on accident. Luckily, however, the island is really — REALLY — haunted with a plethora of bears who are not yet ready to cross over to the other side, and helping troubled spirits is your specialty. In this Animal Crossing-esque life sim players are tasked with a variety of mini games that include crafting, fishing, and finding things scattered around the island’s constantly changing clutter.
Cozy Grove is a humorous and charming blend of the adorable the macabre, with players catching critters like the Collapsed Lungfish while helping the lovable ghost bears to overcome their tragic lives and deaths. In a tweet on the official Cozy Grove Twitter account, however, developers Spry Fox detailed that the recent release of the New Neighbears DLC for Cozy Grove unveiled some problems if they wanted to continue adding more stories and characters. Instead, they felt it would be better to allow Cozy Grove to remain as it currently is and move on to developing Cozy Grove 2 to tell more ghostly stories.
While there was no trailer or big showcase announcement, Spirit Scouts can look forward to continuing their adventures in late 2023.