At PAX East, I had the opportunity to swing by the Sold Out booth and familiarize myself with a publisher and a slate of games that I had no prior knowledge of. During my appointment, I previewed a trio of titles headed to Nintendo Switch that all service different genres and audiences but are all equally deserving of your time and attention. Without further ado, here are three under the radar indie titles that you should keep an eye on.
Gestalt: Steam & Cinder (Metamorphosis Games)
The first game I went hands on with was Gestalt: Steam & Cinder. Essentially, this game is an action-RPG with a hybrid aesthetic which fuses cyberpunk and western inspiration. Speaking first to that presentation, Gestalt is a gorgeous game with some of the most detailed pixel art and fluid animation that I’ve seen in some time. As such, before I had even begun playing I was engaged, but when I actually went hands on, the game really got its hooks in me. I took control of the protagonist Alethia, who was in the midst of drinking in a local tavern. I began by chatting with the others in the bar, getting a sense for the game’s sharp writing and dialog options. After a brief conversation, I was given a quest, and was off to the races. This opening sequence really highlighted the game’s RPG underpinnings, with the aforementioned dialog options and quest structure. The moment to moment gameplay is far more akin to a Metroidvania, however.
As I descended into the depts of the game’s interconnected world, I began to fall in love with the traversal and combat. Equipped with both a precise jump and a momentum-building roll, I found myself quickly falling into a rhythm as I pushed the game’s fluid movement systems as far as they’d go. While I was playing without many of the game’s Metroidvania-like upgrades, meaning that many of the game’s tantalizing alternate paths remained just out of reach, I still felt incredibly empowered by the traversal. The combat is just as elegant. With the ability to either deal direct damage with Alethia’s sword or stun damage with her gun and melee attacks, there is a lot of flexibility in how the player approaches the enemy. Each slash of Alethia’s sword felt hugely empowering and I cannot wait to dive deeper into the game’s systems at release.
Disjunction (Ape Tribe Games)
The second game I previewed was Disjunction. The game pulls both mechanical and thematic inspiration from a lot of sources, but for my money, the game is essentially the lovechild of Hotline Miami, Metal Gear Solid, and Blade Runner. So, yes, Disjunction is right up my alley. It is a top-down, cyberpunk stealth adventure that has plenty of twin-stick shooting elements for when things (inevitably) go wrong. During my demo, I played as a freelancing criminal, begrudgingly hired to sneak into a facility and stealing a data pad. I left my moody, ambient apartment and entered the facility, thrust into a stealth heist.
Luckily, Disjunction’s stealth isn’t rigid, allowing for the gameplay to shift suddenly to action combat should things go wrong. In my case, considering I’m notoriously terrible at stealth games, it did. Disjunction does an excellent job of empowering the player both in the player’s toolset and in clarity of enemy movement, so stealth feels manageable and fair. By extension, when stealth breaks down, it the buck stops with the player. As such, I busted out my pistol and rectified my error. I didn’t think much of this, finished my mission, and returned to the woman who gave me the quest. Well, when she told me before I left that there shouldn’t be bodies, she meant it. By messing up the stealth and killing people in the facility, I sparked a gang war that the factions around me had to reconcile. This moment entirely sold me on the game. Disjuction is an experience with fulfilling mechanics and a dynamic world, one that I cannot wait to jump into when it launches.
Radical Rabbit Stew (Pugstorm AB)
The final game I played was undeniably the strangest: Radical Rabbit Stew. While its premise roundly defies characterization, I’ll do my best to explain this zany, puzzle-action hybrid. Essentially, Radical Rabbit Stew puts the player in control of a small, blue deviant who has a big ladle and a vendetta against rabbits. In each of the game’s stages, you have to bash unsuspecting rabbits into stewpots with your ladle. Considering this is a puzzle game, though, things aren’t that simple. Various hazards and supplemental mechanics quickly turn this simple premise into a mind-bending affair, as you have to whack these rabbits into pots under increasingly complex circumstances.
While this is easily the most bizarre game I played at PAX East, it is likewise one of the most memorable and charismatic. The game has a wonderful, tongue-in-cheek sense of humor that parodies everything from Star Wars to Super Mario, while remaining smart in its tone. Sometimes overly referential humor can feel cheap, but from what I saw, Radical Rabbit Stew is tasteful and exacting in its tone. The gameplay, while not complicated from a mechanical standpoint, seems perfect for handheld play. Each stage is bite-sized and well designed. Even though I only worked my way through the first world and a half, I was constantly greeted by new ideas and level concepts that kept rabbit-whacking engaging. This is certainly a game that needs to be tried to be understood, but from my time with it, I can confidently report that Radical Rabbit Stew is worth your time when it launches.
While I played a lot of games at PAX East, these three were some of my favorites. Each presented a unique and well-executed vision. Unfortunately, with the deluge of game constantly flowing onto Nintendo Switch, it can be hard to keep up with every exciting title coming to the platform. Keep Gestalt: Steam & Cinder, Disjunction, and Radical Rabbit Stew on your radar, they deserve it! Expect plenty more coverage on all three here at Nintendad when they launch.