Hello and welcome to the worst month for videoed games, and also the best month! April, scientists tell us, comes right after March, which is the end of a financial quarter; so all the big game companies have squeezed out their biggest-ticket titles by now. As a result, April and May are typically pretty quiet on the big-publisher game front.
But owo what’s this? A whole bunch of exciting indie games are coming out this month? Because indie developers are held (slightly) less prisoner by the invisible iron fist of the market? And they’re not all titles in which game mechanics are used as a heavy-handed metaphor for the instability of interpersonal relationships? Ok, let’s check ‘em out!
(There is also a new Pokemon, because Nintendo is weird.)
RAIN ON YOUR PARADE
I watch a lot of game trailers and this is the only one I can think of in the last couple months that made me laugh out loud. Rain on Your Parade looks like it could be 2021’s Untitled Goose Game, but instead of being a horrible anseriform you play as a cloud, ruining people’s day with weather.
I wonder if they might have a bit of a misfire with the tone, though — the challenges come off as a bit mean, like ruining a wedding, or causing a car crash by dropping snow on the road. The goose caused mere inconveniences in pursuit of its own silly ends that inadvertently revealed humans to be ridiculous self-important buffoons; whereas the cloud seems to be a bully whose only goal is to cause suffering. But I guess that’s clouds for you!
To be fair, the game has a cutesy cardboard-and-toy vibe that looks like Little Big Planet meets Yoshi’s Wooly World, so you could rationalize it as the cloud causing mayhem for toys instead of people. Or, I suppose, I could just RELAX because it’s just a silly slapsticky comedy game.
Release date: April 15 on Steam.
Must … resist … urge … to compare every game with farming to Stardew Valley! Actually, Cozy Grove is a bit more like Animal Crossing, so there. You are a cute little blob of a person who has moved to a new island to make new friends with animals, gather natural resources, and build a settlement. What catches my eye here is the lovely watercolor art style, and also the fact that all of your animal friends are dead. Well, technically, they’re ghosts, and they all have silly little quests for you. Delightful.
The game comes from Spryfox, whose game Tripletown was a pleasant puzzley hit about a decade ago; Cozy Grove seems to be a spiritual sequel. Where Tripletown let you build a simple village of a few buildings on a small grid, Cozy Grove has graduated to a much larger, richer world. (It’s also perfect for brief bouts of play, perfect for a commute, if you still have one.)
Release date: April 8 on Switch, PS5, Xbox, and PC.
NEW POKEMON SNAP and INSURMOUNTABLE
Okay, we’ve already established in the Rain on Your Parade review that I’m a little too high-strung about this kind of thing, but has it always bothered you that Pokemon games are all about trapping animals and forcing them to fight? The Snap series takes a more vegan approach by arming you with a camera and a mission to take wildlife photos, rather than capture.
This game is, it must be pointed out … small. It’s a relatively tiny download, and reviewers have noted that you can play through it a handful of hours. Still, a pleasant little game to hand over to younger players. And it’s a far more casual alternative to Monster Hunter Rise, which came out for the Switch last month; both games are about stalking wild animals, but MHR is violent (the monsters bleed!) and button-fiddly while Snap is a relaxing breeze.
And hey, if you discover that you like taking pics of animals, maybe it’ll inspire you to spend some time photographing actual beasts at the local zoo and aquarium.
Release date: April 30 on Switch.
(PS: While we’re on the topic of outdoorsy games, you might also be interested in Insurmountable, a mountaineering game that seems to have somehow combined A Short Hike with Final Fantasy Tactics on a hex grid. You are a mountain climber who must choose a path to reach the summit of a mountain, dodging obstacles and managing resources. It is pretty. Release date: April 29 on Steam.)
ALSO GOOD: GIANT MONSTERS, SOCIAL MEDIA, and YOUR EYES ARE A GAME CONTROLLER
For more reflex-intensive fun this month, take a look at Lost Words: Beyond the Page, and unwieldy title for a moody platforming adventure with lush watercolor art. You might also like 8Doors, a Metroidvania-style game with a Tim-Burton-ish look.
Two games with interesting mechanics also caught my attention: Before Your Eyes is a game played by blinking. The game uses your webcam to track your face, and advances the narrative every time you blink. Also of interest is Emily is Away <3, which is a whole game based on social media sites of 10-ish years ago, before they reached their current levels of toxicity. Remember how fun it was to use Facebook before it felt like a job, or before it was a constant reminder of your relatives’ political madness?
And then there’s Praey for the Gods, in which you fight giant monsters — yes, yes, Shadow of the Colossus already did that, but Mario invented jumping in the 1980s and we’re still finding fun ways to innovate on THAT.