After all this time cooped up indoors, the nice weather of the out-of-doors is calling louder than ever — if a game wants to compete with walking the children in nature, it’ll need to present a strong case for staying in.
Fortunately, we have quite a few titles releasing this month that are a treat for the senses — from tiny robots bouncing on bugs to a metal-detector-themed romance to a game that calls upon the player to sing, rather than just mashing buttons. Okay, video games, you’re starting to convince me that you’ve outdone nature.
Also of note: Later this month is E3, a trade show for the game industry where the big companies generally make their announcements about whatever sludge they plan to release in the next few years. This year’s is likely to be even more of a dud than usual, since everyone’s pipeline got clogged by the pandemic, but if you’re looking for something to play in the triple-A (ugh) space, the expo is likely to bring at least some good news.
Last month’s Pokemon Snap was tempting, but brief (surprisingly so, given the price point). Beasts of Maravilla Island looks like an intriguing alternative: You are a diminutive photographer, wandering a lush island, snapping pics of flora and fauna. You have a variety of methods of interacting with the environment, like whistling to attract creatures NS blasting your flash at photosensitive plants; and the island itself is a pleasure to gaze upon. The art style has a low-poly look that feels like a PS2 throwback, but the world is large and packed with details to appreciate — not unlike going for a real hike and snapping pics. The difference here is that nature actually wants to see you, instead of being suspicious of your presence.
Release date: Sometime this month — they won’t say when, which is certainly one way to build hype — on Switch, XBox, Playstation, and Steam.
Already available on Android, the lovely Sky: Children of the Light finds what may be its most natural home this month with a Switch release. Once you are done rolling your eyes at the pretentious title, a gorgeous and deeply satisfying experience awaits, in which you glide through hazy dreamlike worlds, solving puzzles to save spirits. The game was developed by the same team as Journey and Flower, which are not so much games as methods of meditation; with a focus on calmness, tranquility, and beauty, Sky is exactly what you need to lower your blood pressure and, if you’re so inclined, enjoy getting super duper baked.
Available now on Android, coming to Switch this month ... sometime. Oddly, this is another title that they won’t provide an exact date for.
It is Prague, July, 1945, and after making a deal with the devil you have become trapped in your own paintings. You klutz! Now you’ll have to navigate through your lovely lush landscapes, solving puzzles (why did you fill your paintings with puzzles? Ah, no matter) in order to escape. It’s Myst in watercolor, a beautifully art-directed wander through worlds that may look anchored to reality, but conceal startling fantastical secrets. Gameplay footage from the demo versions looks a bit like strolling through images at an art gallery, if the art gallery demanded that you solve intricate puzzles of levers and gears in order to go home.
Release date: June 17, 2021 on Steam. A Playstation version was teased a few months ago but the developer has no details about a release on that platform, so ... just ... hold tight, I guess? Oh, indie games, you break my heart sometimes.
ALSO: TINY BUG ROBOT, METAL DETECTOR SIM, and YOUR VOICE IS THE CONTROLLER
A few more promising titles coming out this month: In Stonefly, you pilot a tiny little robot around the branches of a tree, collecting minerals while dodging insects. I’m intrigued by One Hand Clapping, which is played by singing into a microphone — the pitch of your voice controls the height of a platform that the game’s hero can traverse. Chicory: A Colorful Tale is an adorable game in which you solve puzzles by coloring in black-and-white line drawings. And then there’s The Magnificent Trufflepigs, in which you wander a farmer’s field with a metal detector searching for an earring, while a deeper interpersonal story unspools via walkie-talkie — so, Firewatch but on a farm.