Tunic received its Switch port on 27th September, and it’s already making waves in with the Nintendo crowd. Its charming visuals and familiar gameplay loop might not break new ground, but the strange learning mechanics and bubbling darkness underneath the veneer of cuteness make it stand out from the rest.
Tunic is fantastic at telling not just its story, but also its gameplay through visuals alone. Players have to dig deep and figure out the game’s complexities by themselves. For fans of games like these, it’s thankfully far from the only one.
10/10 Return of the Obra Dinn
In 1802, a ship known as the Obra Dinn set sail for the Orient. Sixty people crewed it, and everybody felt it was just like any other voyage. For five years, nothing is heard from the ship. No contact was ever responded to. It was declared lost at sea until it mysteriously returned in 1807. It’s up to the player to find out what happened to them in The Return of the Obra Dinn.
The game’s core mechanic is a pocket watch called the “Memento Mortem” that recreates an image of a person on their death. It’s through this unique mechanic that the game forces the player to really sleuth it out. This is a detective game that expects the player to act like one, all with the stark black-and-white aesthetic that further unsettles the player. It also has an engaging story told in an unorthodox non-linear way. Every player will see the story unfold in whatever manner they chose to investigate, ensuring no two experiences are exactly the same. Of course, all the answers will be, once the players reach it.
9/10 The Sexy Brutale
Every year, the casino mansion known as “The Sexy Brutale” throws a masquerade ball that only invites a select few into its halls. On one fateful night, however, the event takes a dark turn, as the staff brutally murders the ten guests present at the ball. With the help of a strange woman, the player travels back in time to indirectly save all ten guests and solve this mystery.
The Sexy Brutale essentially has the player act as a guardian angel. Though they cannot intervene directly due to the nature of time travel, they can find other ways to change history. Something as simple as moving a chair to the left could change the course of people’s lives forever, mimicking Tunic’s feel of gameplay through its visuals. It’s up to the player to figure out the solution to this tantalizing mystery amidst the charmingly cartoony-style gameplay.
At the tail-end of a grueling war between androids and humans, the androids are practically running on fumes. Anima, the energy that gives robots life, is quickly running out. The player takes the role of Alma, an android with amnesia who must traverse the ruins of Arcadia before time runs out for all of her kind.
The game takes notes from the Metroidvania style of gameplay, and the game lets the player run wild with creativity. The player’s style for traversing the castle or combatting their foes is entirely up to them. Puzzles have more than one solution, and skill sets can be changed as more of Arcadia is explored. It’s an action-packed adventure with a lot of replayability, and takes a bit more planning to play than the usual action-oriented affair of other Metroidvanias.
7/10 Nobody Saves the World
The world needs saving and there’s no better person to step up to the plate than Nobody. Pale, androgynous, and inexplicably naked, they stumble upon a mysterious magic wand that lets them change into all manner of forms. Now, they must go forth and save the world, in their own confusing way.
Nobody Saves The World’s main mechanic is centered around gaining new forms and abilities to better save the world. The game encourages the player to experiment with different forms to solve the puzzles and beat the monsters that are scattered throughout the world. It also helps that the game is absolutely adorable with its animated art style, similar to mid-2000s cartoons. For fans of the developers’ previous game, Guacamelee, this will scratch that itch as well.
6/10 Rain World
The surface has become inhabitable. Heavy rains intensely batter the Earth, making it all but inhospitable during the wet seasons. The dry seasons aren’t much better, as creatures from all over fight for food in the barren wasteland. The player is a nomadic slugcat looking for their family, whose adorableness is the only respite in this brutal post-apocalyptic platformer.
The game’s most unique feature is its ecosystem. There are few, if any, scripted events throughout the whole game. Everything that happens is a result of other creatures, the same as you, trying to survive. Sometimes, they are the predator, chasing down smaller creatures to regain health. Other times, they are prey, slinking away from much bigger predators. The puzzle is figuring out how to balance these two sides. It’s a brutal game but the challenge is its own reward for more determined players.
5/10 Inscryption (do not correct spelling)
Inscryption is not an easy game to pin down. In fact, talking about anything spoils the fun. From the developers behind the cursed Pony Island, it’s to be expected that the story embarks on so many twists and turns that would make any casual player’s head spin. The game keeps throwing new things at the player from a gameplay standpoint too, but that’s best experienced blind.
The premise of the game, at least, is fine enough to spoil. The player is trapped in a mysterious cabin, where a murderous creature asks them to play a card game. If they win, they get to play another game. If they lose, there’s not going to be a lot of “game” left to play after. They also get to explore the cabin to find a way out, but going further than this spoils the surprise. All that’s left to know is that the game will mess with players’ heads in ways they wouldn’t expect other games to do.
4/10 Outer Wilds
The player is an astronaut who is tasked with finding out the secrets of the Nomai, an ancient alien race that mysteriously vanished long ago. Just as the player starts their journey, the sun explodes. Suddenly, they find themselves back on their home planet, the morning before this catastrophe. Now, with limited time, the player is thrown into the solar system to find a way to save their solar system, by uncovering more secrets of the Nomai.
Yet another video game best experienced blind, Outer Wilds is at least far less terrifying than Inscryption. The gameplay is also very focused on exploration and visual storytelling where you explore each planet, all with their weird quirks and mechanics, to find answers to the anomaly. It’s a beautiful yet melancholy experience, because much like Majora’s Mask, all the characters and places the player visits are doomed to die over and over again.
3/10 Baba Is You
Baba Is You is quite unlike any Block Puzzle game that gamers are familiar with. At first, it seems like any other block puzzle, until they realize the level’s “rules” are also blocks. The game is all about breaking and bending the rules to win and challenges the player’s logical thinking skills to the extreme.
In essence, Baba Is You turns the player into a programmer. By taking apart blocks and words, then merging them into new ones, they find a solution to a problem. In essence, it’s a fancy way to learn the fundamentals of actual block programming. The game also has a great sense of humor, with non-sequiturs and even puns being solutions to different levels. Plus, as is indie game tradition, something darker lies beneath the charming exterior.
2/10 Hyper Light Drifter
The player is simply known as “The Drifter”, a nomad with a laser blade and a mysterious drone that can activate old-world artifacts. They set out to the world to find a cure for the disease that’s plaguing their every step. The disease also acts as a ticking clock narratively and gameplay-wise, because dashing too much means The Drifter’s heart gives out entirely, leading to a game over.
Hyper Light Drifter is an unforgiving frantic game that nevertheless looks beautiful thanks to its vivid neon aesthetic. While Tunic is known for its puzzling mechanics, it’s still an action-adventure and in between the perfectly paced puzzles is skill-based combat against different types of enemies. This aspect is what Hyper Light Drifter excels at, although with far more emphasis on combat. As cool as The Drifter is, they are still vulnerable to their own hubris, and that’s what balances the entire experience.
Fez is a seemingly traditional 2D platformer that follows Gomez, a cute little humanoid thing who is gifted a fez by an old man. To his surprise, the fez allows him to perceive the 3D world, and with it, he can shift across dimensions, though still only moving in 2D planes. With this power, he sets off to collect the magical MacGuffin cube that is tearing the land apart.
Fez is a game that was clearly in the minds of Tunic’s devs as they were creating the perspective puzzles. In fact, a secret room in Tunic is a direct reference to Fez, as it temporarily changes the perspective from isometric to Fez’s unique perspective. Along with Hyper Light Drifter, this game should be thanked for inspiring Tunic’s unique identity. Fezinspired an entire generation of indie games that would break the mold and really push the medium of video games. With games like Tunic still getting a lot of love, that inspiration still rings true to this day.