Well, this looks like it’ll be my final article of 2021.
This year, I made a conscious decision to concentrate more on the indie game scene. Something I’m planning on doing a even more of in the future too. I mean, it’s not even 2022 yet and I already have four indie games to review. I just prefer indie games to big-budget AAA titles. I did explain why right here. The short version is that I find indie games far more interesting as the devs are willing to take chances and can show a lot of originality or breathe new life into some brilliant retro game concepts. Whereas AAA games are slowly becoming tired and nothing but sequels to franchises that continually repeat the same old gameplay and mechanics over and over.
As we reach the end of 2021, I thought I’d just take a quick look back on some of the indie games I have played and reviewed this year and offer my personal favourites. So here it is, my indie game review roundup 2021. Kicking things off with not only my favourite indie game of 2021 but my favourite game of 2021 in its entirety, indie or otherwise. Just give the titles a click for my full reviews.
A Metal Gear parody with some of the finest and funniest writing I have ever witnessed in any game. Chock-full of game and movie references, in-jokes, fourth-wall-breaking and just outright clever storytelling. The gameplay in UnMetal was old school, 8-bit fare but with a few modern twists and features one of my all-time favourite game characters with Jesse Fox. I really was super impressed with just how well this all came together. I only put a review request in on a whim as I had nothing going on at the time and I thought the trailer looked okay, my expectations were zero. Then when I played it, I was blown away by just how ‘effing amazing UnMetal is, to the point where I ended up writing one of my longest reviews ever (one that the dev of the game called a ‘love letter’). I eventually played through the game five times and I might even sneak in another cheeky playthrough before I publish this article too. In short, UnMetal is amazing, buy it!
Okay, so I am cheating a little bit here. Technically, I first played this game in 2020 and not 2021. However, HyperParasite was the first game I reviewed this year… so I’m counting it as a 2021 review… cos it was. A top-down, twin-stick shooter that uses a brilliant roguelite gameplay mechanic and keeps you coming back for more. Even now, over a year after first playing HyperParasite, I’m still playing it. Every now and then, I just feel like having a quick game… which usually turns into several hours. I’ve still not finished it yet either. I have got to the last area and all, but I’m working on unlocking every single character… which is tough and does take quite a while to do. Still, I do adore this game and it is a big recommendation from me.
One of the greatest ever side-scrolling shoot ’em ups was reborn this year with R-Type Final 2. I have a big passion for the R-Type games, as you will see if you read my review of this one. The game kept what made those classic shooters so damn good… and bloody difficult, whilst throwing in plenty of unlocks and surprises. Alternate paths to take that lead to branching levels. Different endings, tons of cosmetics to discover. You could even design your own level layouts and even re-title the game itself. R-Type Final 2 had a lot crammed into it and the more you found, the more you wanted to find. All while never straying too far from the awesome gameplay that made these titles so playable in the first place. Old school shoot ’em up action, given a smashing modern update.
As a massive Ayrton Senna fan, I knew I had to give this one a go. The base game of Horizon Chase Turbo is great. Simple 16-bit arcade racing action done very well indeed. So when the devs announced they were doing a Senna add-on, I sent off my review request ASAFP. The main part of this add-on took you through (most of) Senna’s F1 career from his first drive with the Toleman team up to his third World Champion title win. Even though I am a die hard Senna fan, I find I can be very critical of when a game uses his name as they never really do it justice. Horizon Chase Turbo: Senna Forever absolutely nailed it though. A brilliant blending of arcade racing action and respecting the greatest F1 driver of all time.
I played quite a few survival horror games this year, none of them really stood out to me… except for Song of Horror. A loving throwback to similar games of the nineties. Titles like Resident Evil and Silent Hill were definite influences here, as well as the overlooked Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem. Song of Horror had a few rough edges but nothing that ruined the game. It also featured a permadeath mechanic that really made you care about the characters. And about those characters, they were all different and not just character model swaps. Each character had their own personality and even acted and reacted differently to events in the game, this made paying as the various characters really interesting. It also featured some genuinely scary themes and ideas, something severely lacking in modern horror games.
This really was a very interesting little title. I mean, you deliver post in a sleepy small town in 1986… that’s it really. A little rough around the edges and I did find one or two (easy to fix) issues (there have been a few updates since). But overall, I really did enjoy my time with Lake. I guess the best way to describe Lake is as an interactive soap opera. You take the main character, Meredith Weiss, through various ups and downs as you talk to and get to know the town’s residents. As you deliver the mail, you’ll also take part in side-quests that reveal more about the people you meet. As I described the game in my review, Lake is a fantastically relaxing and tranquil game, a delightful change of pace if you ever feel like just unwinding and chilling out. I still stand by that too, a great chillout game.
This was another one of those games that I knew nothing about but was damn happy I discovered it. A top-down roguelite that played a lot like the classic Cannon Fodder. You control several survivors during a zombie apocalypse following the introduction of a new burger on the market. Deadly Days was tough, hard as nails difficulty that was quite frustrating at first. After a while, it became really damn rewarding the more you played. There’s a surprising amount of depth here once you scratch the surface and Deadly Days throws a lot of gameplay your way. Hard yes but really damn enjoyable and a game I poured plenty of hours into.
I think I may have had my gaming snob head on when I first played this. I remember playing the opening hour or so and already forming my review in my head where I wanted to rip into it. But a couple more hours later and Yonder’s charm and personality had entrapped me. There’s no violence here of any kind, you just run around the land helping folk. It is one of those gather resources and craft items kind of things set in a wonderfully striking and beautiful world. A bit too easy and hand-holdy at times, but the game really does have a lot of charm that kept me entertained and put a smile on my face.
One of the most recent games I looked at this year as it was only released at the start of December. It’s also a bit of a wildcard as it’s not quite indie but it’s not exactly AAA either. Chorus comfortably sits in that in-between area, that AA zone of a smaller game studio knocking out a pretty impressive game that feels like a big-budget release. Chorus is a really great 3D shooter with some utterly fantastic space battles and dog fights. An upgrade system, very responsive controls, stunning visuals and more. There’s a lot to do here and you do get your money’s worth. It is just let down slightly by a ham-fisted story and one that continually breaks up the top-notch gameplay way too many times. A very pleasant surprise to end the year on though.
Sometimes you just need to take your foot off the accelerator and enjoy a slow-paced adventure game. Anna’s Quest is that and so much more. Think of this as a more grown-up take on a child’s fairy tale. With wonderfully hand-drawn art that looks like something from an animated movie. A story that has a dark and twisted edge and game simple mechanics that just work. I’ve played a few adventure games this year and Anna’s Quest is far and away the best of the lot. A very endearing and utterly charming title that kept me entertained from start to end.
This one was in and out of my list a few times, I just couldn’t decide how much liked or loathed it. After a bit more thought and another playthrough recently, I decided to keep it in. Speed Limit is an incredibly short title and you can get to the end credits in just a few minutes. However, the shortness of the game is offset by a low price point, brilliant gameplay and the fact it has had a free update and new features since I reviewed it too, a review I now think that perhaps I was a bit too harsh with originally. Speed Limit is a multi-genre game that throws five different game styles at you… at a breakneck speed too. As I said in my review, this game is a haven for speedrunners and even though that style of game really doesn’t suit me at all, I’ve still to got to admire Speed Limit for what it does and how it does it. In its purest form, this game is a fantastic example of what makes indie gaming so damn great.
I’m going to finish this round up with the most surprising game of the year for me. I will repeat what I wrote in my review about my ulterior motives for wanting to review this. I just wanted to write a very sarcastic and snippy article about the pointlessness of these simulation games. Why do you want to drive a train, etc when gaming offers such a wide spectrum of far more interesting vocations to partake in? I really wanted to rip into the whole simulation sub-genre and just be a complete dick about the whole thing. However, I actually fell in love with Lawn Mowing Simulator and what was going to be a bitchy review turned into one full of praise. The game is brilliant and the career mode is what really made it for me. I just loved mowing the lawns of the English countryside while building my own business.
I really have enjoyed the last twelve months of indie gaming, 2021 was a fantastic year for the smaller game developers and publishers. those titles up there are only a small snippet of some great games I have played and reviewed in 2021. I already have a few top indie games on my radar for 2022 such as…
RPGolf Legends from Articnet. A blending of classic 16-bit RPG gaming and golf, coming very soon in 2022. The first game is on Steam for an incredibly low price, so well worth checking out. I am hoping to get a review code for this one and get a review done early in the year.
Blind Fate: Edo no Yami from Troglobytes Games. The same dev team that made the awesome HyperParasite, my favourite game of 2020 (and some of 2021). A title where you play as a blind cyber-samurai… and that premise sounds pretty awesome. Just how you do depict playing a blind character in a game, a medium that is a very visual experience? I’m really interested to see how this pans out. A free to play prologue is on Steam.
Brewmaster: Beer Brewing Simulator from Auroch Digital. Start your own brewery and make loads of beer. Looks like this could be another sim game that really surprises. Plus beer and gaming is always a good mix. I do have a weakness for these business-sim games and making beer is as good a (digital) business to run as any other. I was given a Beta code for this last month, I just never got around to playing it though.
Arcade Paradise from Nosebleed Interactive. A game I have had my eye on for many, many months now. Work in a rundown launderette and convert it into a top arcade. With over thirty playable and original arcade games too. Again, a business-sim that sounds right up my street as a gamer who grew up in the arcades of the eighties and nineties… plus, you get to clean the toilet.
Last but not least, Beyond the Long Night from Noisy Head Games. A twin-stick, roguelike title that I’ll be doing a special preview of early in the year when the game launches on Kickstarter soon. So stay tuned for more info on this one folks.
There are some cracking titles being released in the first couple of months alone and many more surprises to discover later, many of which I’m looking forward to covering in the New Year. Here’s to another top indie gaming year.