They say that variety is the spice of life, but sometimes just being really happy is actually the spice of life. In fact, if more people were happy, we’d wager that the world would be a better place. Even just a brief moment of escapism can allow for some catharsis.
Games are meant to be fun, but in our world of grimdark reboots and ultraviolence, finding games that revel in bright colors and shiny objects can be tough. Sure, the themes of such titles might not always be what you could describe as wholesome, but with bright colors and big characters, it’d be hard to play any of these games without a big ole smile on your face.
No matter what generation you hail from, Saturday morning cartoons are a staple that etch themselves into your developing mind — whether that was last week, last year, or last decade. There are a few games that try to capture that feeling, but few games do it as well as Dodgeball Academia.
In the game, you play as a kid who was initially sent to referee school but who knew they were destined for more proactive things and thus snuck themself into a prestigious dodgeball school. At the heart of the school lies a still spinning ball, wedged in a wall, from “the great dodgeball war” many years ago. Simply touching this artifact awakens great power in people. We know it sounds ridiculous, but doesn’t that make it kind of great?
In essence, this is an RPG that has you running around to live your best dodgeball-infused life. Battles aren't turn-based though, so you'll have to dodge, jump, throw, and use absurd special moves to win. It's all utterly preposterous in the best kind of way, and it's a joy to play. Also, one of your best friends has a balloon for a head and is called Balloony. Naturally, Balloony lives in fear of being popped. It's funny until you think about it for too long.
We all know that moving sucks, but there's also something to be said for the joy of having actually moved in. That feeling you get as you find a new place for everything you own is powerful, and Unpacking captures the sensation and turns it into a chilled out puzzle game. Well, it's chilled out mechanically, but it might beat your feelings up a bit — so prepare for that.
Unpacking has you playing as someone who's going through various stages of their life, each of which comes with a new home to unpack in. That means you'll be unpacking because you've moved to a new school, or unpacking because you've just met the love of your life, or unpacking because you've decided that you should unmeet the love of your life. Each moment carries a surprising amount of emotional weight given it is comprised of the simple act of moving things out of boxes.
The story is about life and how things keep moving forward, no matter what happens. For some people, that's going to be wonderfully reassuring, and for others, that'll have them weeping. We can't see which camp you'll end up in, but we do think that Unpacking is a great game.
Wildermyth tries to fuse incredible storytelling with the random nature of a good rogue-like, and it does so with aplomb. You play as a group of adventurers who make their way through a campaign filled with baddies, challenges to overcome, and the friends to make along the way.
Each of your group will feel like a living breathing person, with a complex backstory and their own preferences on how to do things. This is amplified by both the writing in general, but also by the personality system in place here. Every character has things they love or hate, and specific traits that will cause them to act in certain ways to different events. It means that you can easily go through the same story with different characters and still feel as though it's all fresh, because your group will be reacting in new ways.
You'll then guide them through battles as they gain levels and get stronger. However, the way the characters are, and the random relationships they can build with one another, also means that the way you'll fight can change dramatically. For example, if characters are incredibly close, they might gain extra damage when the other gets hurt. These unique core ideas ensure that Wildermyth always feels dynamic and fresh.
In a post-Sherlock-Holmes world, most detective stories have you playing as the mastermind who's aiming to uncover the dark secrets that lay behind whoever's killing everyone. It's standard stuff, at this point, so a good murder mystery needs to subvert things somehow. Overboard! does this by making you the murderer. It's a simple enough change, but it makes for an incredibly entertaining experience.
Set aboard the SS Hook in 1935, you play as Veronica Villensey, a woman who's decided to enjoy her cruise by pushing her husband overboard. The thing is, you're still a few hours away from shore and you're going to need to do everything you possibly can to avoid suspicion and make sure you reach land a free woman. Well, that's how things start out... but eventually you'll end up trying to not just escape with your freedom, but knowing full-well that you've planned everything perfectly.
While a single run of Overboard! doesn't take much time at all, mastering the game and fooling absolutely everyone takes a little bit more work. It's intensely satisfying to walk off of the ship with not only a sense of freedom, but of victory because you've played every card right and mastered the art of conversation. Lying in games is fun, but lying perfectly in Overboard! is euphoric.
Have you ever wanted to be a cat that can suspend time using a magic orb while shooting things with a tiny chameleon? We realize that's a very specific desire, but it's also one that Gunfire Reborn is going to fulfill for you with a thousand different variables. Gunfire Reborn is an FPS rogue-like that has you playing as one of multiple cute animals wreaking havoc using obscene weaponry.
Each character has a plethora of different builds you can customize — and each weapon can become a powerhouse of its own. The name of the game here, aside from Gunfire Reborn, is build variety. You can spend half of the game playing with one strategy in mind, only to have to pivot if you find a weapon that's good enough.
Gunfire Reborn has been in Early Access since last year, but it's been consistently updated nearly every month up until the final release. The ideas behind the game aren't special, but the execution is completely unparalleled. Plus, the ability to also play this in co-op, where you can then start trading passive buffs to work better as a team, is absolutely brilliant.