As a game developer and reviewer this is a damning confession but here goes;
I never knew about Itch.io
And the upsetting part is that you might not have either.
What is it then?
Itch.io is an indie marketplace for small teams/ solo devs to upload everything from print & play card games to HTML5 browser games to fully 3D Unity games. Not to mention the wonderful selection of interactive fiction and visual novels. But while all this is great what really draws me in is that Itch is a community that hosts frequent game jams (making a game in short time-frame with a specific theme or restrictions) and has a massive catalogue of free assets.
Why its important
The reason I’m so excited about this is that Itch allows indies to upload their game to the marketplace, build their own store page and have so much control over their content. The only requirement is that it meets the community guidelines.
This makes it so easy to build a community and an identity, to connect with developers and to stay updated with how a game is progressing.
After having trawled through many, many games I’ve decided to share some of my top picks. Some of these I’ve only played once, others I’ve had to be dragged away from.
Songbird Symphony – Joysteak Studios
Currently Songbird Symphony is just a single level demo proof of concept for a larger project but it is adorable. Players control Birb as he is taught how to sing and dance by his uncle Pea, who is a peacock. It describes itself as a “pixel art musical adventure” and I’m hooked.
The characters are cute and well characterised just from their motions and sound choices. The rhythm mechanics are solid, and challenging and the art is wonderfully done.
My only grievance is that I’d much rather play it on a controller as colours are easier than keys.
Check it out Here
Combo Pool – Nusan
The controls can be a bit finicky and at times it feels a bit easy but Combo Pool is such an interesting little challenge that I had to include it.
The challenge is to shoot pool balls at each other, if two same coloured balls hit they merge into the next in the sequence, otherwise they collide and bounce around. The goal is to combine two pink balls and score the highest score.
Made for the PICO-8, a “fantasy console” designed to emulate the old 8 bit days with some serious restrictions. Seriously, check it:
|Display||128×128 16 colours|
|Sound||4 channel chip blerps|
|Sprites||128 8×8 sprites|
|Controls||D-pad + 2 buttons|
(We’ll talk more about the Pico-8 in the future.)
Its relaxing, a little tactical, and a great example of working inside some tight confines.
Play it Here
The Uncle Who Works For Nintendo – Ztul
This is an interesting little Twine game in which you play as an 11 year old staying at your friend’s house. Your friend who has an uncle who works for Nintendo. Its an interesting open ended game in which you pass the time doing typical sleep-over things like playing games, eating pizza, going to the bathroom but has such a horrifying and oppressive atmosphere.
It makes great use of sound and visuals for a Twine game and is sure to make you uncomfortable.
The game does contain emotional abuse and a suicide warning, so be warned. You can play it Here.
The Idle Divination – Gigi d.g
The Idle Divination is more of a web comic than a game but as it is hosted on Itch and made me tear up, I’ve decided to include it.
The art is unique and attractive in its simplicity; only ever using shades of black, blue, and orange. Not much text accompanies each picture but manages to convey a lot in its succinct offerings. The story is beautiful, unique, and has a great message and it only takes a few minutes to read through it so I won’t say much more.
Play it in fullscreen for the best experience.
Play it Here
Mindustry – Anuke
For some reason I’ve never been interested in the Factorio/Infinfactory genre but after playing Mindustry I’m hooked.
Mindustry takes the gameplay of Factorio down to its core; gathering resources and moving them while waves of enemies attack your factory. Its easy to learn and the enemies are a bit restricted in their capabilities; charging along pre-determined paths, destroying everything in their way instead of finding an easier way around but it works well.
The developer, like quite a number on Itch, updates frequently and engages with the audience. In fact, at the time of writing the developer has announced that the largest update the game has had is expected to release in the next few days.
Play it Here.
Dungeon Janitor’s Apprentice – Anna Anthropy
A co-operative/competitive storytelling RPG in which one player plays a curmudgeonly dungeon janitor and the other players the workshy apprentice trying to make any excuse to get out of work. The janitor makes up a task, the apprentice makes up a reason why they can’t, the janitor comes up with a solution for that problem, to which the apprentice makes up a problem with that solution, continue until one of you takes too long or can’t think of a solution.
Its a wonderfully silly little game that will certainly help in everyday life, trust me.
The pdf is free and all you need are 9 chits (old coins, bits of paper, poker chips), a pen and somewhere to draw the dungeon as you make it up.
You can get it Here.
These were just some of my favourites and there are lots I’m failing to mention here. Check out Itch.io and I’m sure you’ll find something to scratch your gaming itch!