Beard Blade
Beard Blade

I’m sure, at some point, I’ll get tired of Monster Hunter Stories 2, which comes out today for the Switch and is, I’m happy to say, excellent. Not unlike a Pokémon that’s all boss fights, the game’s available to play in demo form if you’d like to get a taste of its adorable monster-taming, egg-hatching, gear-crafting rock-paper-scissoring. The game’s done an excellent job of capturing essential elements of the mainline Monster Hunter games and adapting them to turn-based combat.

But if that doesn’t thrill you — or if you’ve put in hundreds of hours of monster hunting at this point and you’re ready for a break — some promising indie games are scheduled to hit stores this month. I’m particularly intrigued by Tribes of Midgard at the end of the month, in which players craft and protect a base from slow-moving giants that can be seen approaching from miles away; essentially, it’s a roving boss fight. Neat. Then there’s Cris Tales, with a lovely art style that I want to make my home; Boomerang X with a toss-catch rhythm that looks deeply satisfying; and lush island-explorer Lost at Sea.

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TRIBES OF MIDGARD

I can’t wait to get my hands on this one, which looks like a cross between Valheim (explore a Viking island while crafting bases) and Shadow of the Colossus (poke giants) with rune-based power-ups that reminds me of Hades. Played alone or in multiplayer mode, you gather resources to build a camp; small waves of enemies attack at night; and every couple of days, a giant appears in the distance, slowly approaching and giving you plenty of time to prepare. I’m honestly not sure what to even call this intriguing hybrid of genres — survival-action-crafting-RPG … royale? And there’s one more interesting note: Developer Norsfell plans to continually introduce new content through “seasons,” which seems to be an increasingly popular way of releasing DLC without making early adopters feel like they only got half a game. Should be particularly good for streamers, so expect to see your favorite Twitch kids giving this one a shot.

Release Date: July 27

Platforms: PlayStation, PC.

CRIS TALES

There’s no way to talk about his month’s indie games without mentioning Cris Tales, a tribute to JPRGs that’s attracted a ton of attention for its can’t-look-away animations. But behind the flashy visuals, the game offers a nifty promise: Players use a time-travel mechanic to solve puzzles and win combat. Plant a tree in the past then zip to the future to gather fruit; dampen a metal enemy and then rust it by warping it through time. I like the concept, but it's notoriously difficult to make time-travel games satisfying (and prevent situations that allow creative players to break the whole thing). Maybe that’s why the developer has made a demo available, in the hopes of proving that they have, indeed, worked out all the kinks; early impressions are generally positive. Another pleasant layer is the game’s extensive Colombian cultural inspiration; from the architecture to the animals, there are tons of lovely Latinx elements.

Release Date: July 20

Platforms: Playstation, Xbox, Switch, PC, Steam, Epic.

BEARD BLADE

You know, not every game needs to reinvent a genre — sometimes it’s nice just to see a beloved old genre polished to a beautiful shine. Beard Blade looks like an absolutely pitch-perfect tribute to SNES platformers, with a cartoony hero who bounces through 2D environments with the help of his super-powered beard. Visit a barber for power-ups that allow the beard to grasp objects, slice boxes, and climb chains, a concept that is too delightfully ridiculous to resist. On top of the marvelous art, the game boasts a fantastic vintage-tinged soundtrack by Steven Melin; listening to a handful of the game’s 40 (!) songs, I was immediately swept into a potent nostalgia for the basement in which I played Donkey Kong Country and Castlevania. After years in the works and a Kickstarter that didn’t fully kick, I’m absolutely delighted to see this game finally land.

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Release Date: July 20

Platforms: PC, more TBD.

ALSO: MAGIC BOOMERANGS, A MYSTICAL ISLAND


I’m itching to check out Boomerang X, which just released for PC and Switch; it’s a first-person shooter that replaces the shooting with a bladed boomerang. Where the Heart Leads and Lost at Sea come out on July 13 and 14, respectively, and both appear to be moody, narrative-focused gameplay-as-metaphor-for-relationships games; the art on both is lovely and while I find this particular genre a bit too slow and railroady to hold my interest, players blessed with a bit more patience than I will likely appreciate them. Also consider Last Stop, releasing on July 22, a David-Lynchian dialogue-driven mystery with impressive attention paid to the quality of the voice acting.

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