Now that the weather’s prettying-up, it’s a good time to get out of the house. By which I mean, play video games about leaving the house. Nature beckons, but only digitally.
Fortunately, a handful of cute indie games are lining up to tempt you this month with various depictions of the out-of-door. Some are grandiose, like King of the Seas — a procedurally-generated pirate adventure. Others are puny, like the Pikmin-esque The Wild at Heart, in which tiny little creatures do your bidding.
And then, of course, outside of the indie space there is the much-awaited Resident Evil 8, a game that is in the strange position of having been entirely overshadowed by a single character: the towering Lady Dimitrescu, a nine-foot-tall matron who awakened so many giantess fantasies in unsuspecting fans that Capcom seems to have shifted the bulk of its marketing strategy onto reminding customers how much they want to be stepped on. Somebody warn Dan that he’s about to get a bunch of letters from people trying to work through those erotic feelings.
KING OF SEAS
I’m a sucker for games that produce a sense of physical flow — or at least, games that do it well, because it’s one of the most difficult experiences for a digital product to deliver. Soaring, gliding, cascading; computers are uniquely bad at providing satisfying entropy, but reviews of King of Seas suggest that developer 3DClouds has nailed it. You play as the child of a powerful pirate king who is mysteriously murdered. Accused of killing him, you must assemble a crew and embark on missions to build a reputation worthy of your lost father. Float about on the seas, capture the wind, explore procedurally-generated islands, search for treasure — you know, pirate things. The game looks, above all, relaxing, with the slow heave the sea tilting your vessel amidst the calming whoosh of ocean waves. And yes, there’s also combat, with cannon fire and strategizing to defeat rival pirates. The game resembles the open-ocean flow of Windwaker, which will be an entirely welcome experience indeed.
Release date: May 25 on Steam, Switch, Xbox, and Playstation
THE WILD AT HEART
I tried for too long to find something other than Pikman to compare this game to, and you know what? It’s fine for it to just be a Pikmin clone. Pikmin is good! A clone of that game would be just fine! And I appreciate that The Wild at Heart is trying something entirely new with the art style, a sort of 2D popup-book feel that is very easy on the eyes. Gameplay appears to be exactly what you expect: amass a group of adorable tiny creatures and dispatch them to solve puzzles in nature. The scale’s a bit larger than Pikmin, and the game has an “unattended children wandering in a forest” vibe that feels rather ‘80s to me, accompanied by a story about the world being consumed by a mysterious nihilistic force. So … Pikmin plus The Neverending Story? With a crafting system? I don’t hate that.
Release date: May 20 on Steam and Xbox
I am intrigued by the originality of Weaving Tides, a game that you don’t play as much as you sew. Billed as a “cozy adventure game,” you play in a world of textiles, and solve puzzles by weaving threads through fabrics. The look is completely innovative, perhaps taking a cue from games like Yoshi’s Wooly World but evolving to a new level in which the craftiness is not just a vibe, but a mechanic unto itself. You play as the only human in a world of cloth and dragons, vibrant color, and a story about lost parents (kind of a theme with this month’s games, for some reason). The game also has a creative mode that lets you just fiddle around with your own embroidery patterns — soothing, without the frustration of poking yourself with actual needles and spending hundreds of dollars on really nice merino yarn that you definitely do not have room for and yet you are helpless to resist purchasing. Winner of quite a few indie game awards, this is the May release I’m looking forward to most.
Release date: May 27 on Steam and Switch
ALSO: RUNNERS, GIANT LADIES, and DOG AIRPORT
As I mentioned, Resident Evil 8 and its giant lady comes out this month, so try to control your libido. There’s going to be a new Leisure Suit Larry game that looks absolutely dreadful, but maybe you like that kind of thing. I’m quite curious about Erica, a PC port of an FMV game that came out in 2019 — yes, they’re still making those. And then there’s Hundred Days, a vineyard simulator that has a charming farmy appeal. Also of interest is An Airport for Aliens Currently Run by Dogs, which seems like a lot of low-poly chaos in a messy sandbox, with lots and lots of dogs you can pet. I’m not opposed.