The game I am most excited for this month is NBA 2K22, lol just kidding nobody needs a new triple-A sports game.
No, it’s escape that I’m interested in: I want a game that will whisk me away from my everyday woes as though I’ve invoked the demon Calgon, a game that will transport me to a new life far from the dull background horror that, at this point, we’ve all just grown accustomed to accepting as a normal part of our daily routine.
A trio of indie games are coming out in the first half of September that may fulfill that wish — Lake, which transports you to an Oregon idyll where smart phones do not exist (bliss!); The Artful Escape, which appears to be a digital drug trip; and Eastward, which is both an escape to an underground fantasy dystopia and also the dingy SNES rental section of a Blockbuster circa 1993.
Perhaps you are planning a real-life escape by running into the wilderness, screaming like a feral ape, never to return. (Good for you!) But if you need just a temporary reprieve, add these three titles to your wishlist:
Some games hit you with a wild, mind-bending premise, and others seem like they were made specifically about you personally. In Lake, you are a tired urban tech worker who leaves the city for a two week vacation in the sleepy Oregon town where you grew up. It is 1986 and there are no smart phones or internet, but there is mail to deliver. So that’s what you do: Get to know the locals while dropping off packages and making calm small talk. No combat, no dark mysteries to unravel, no leveling-up. Just deliver the mail, make friends, meditate on the lovely voice acting, hang out after work, and embrace the slow pace of small-town life in the 1980s. And then, once you are done playing the game, wonder what your life would be like if you’d been born a few decades earlier and if you really need to live in Seattle.
Release date: September 1
Platforms: PC and XBox
THE ARTFUL ESCAPE
What even is The Artful Escape? Literally nobody knows, and judging by the bewildering press materials, that may include the people making it. The premise makes enough sense: You are a young musician struggling to measure up to your famous uncle, and you are on a mission to establish a distinctive stage persona. Okay, got it, cool. But what actually is the game? It’s a “psychedelic journey,” the makers say, and “an adventure spanning stolen opera houses, melodic alien landscapes, and the impossible depths of the Cosmic Extraordinary.” Yeah, but what is it? “A story about great expectations” featuring “musical jams” in which you “shred, soar and dance across the multiverse.” Sure, but what is it? “A ride across the dilated pupils of the universe.” WHAT????? Well, it features the voice talent of Carl Weathers and Jason Schwartzman, if that clears anything up (it does not). As far as I can tell, it’s a brightly-colored, visually-rich comedy-platformer in which you careen through album-cover-looking art while accompanied by fantastic music. There, that wasn’t so hard, was it?
Release date: September 9
Platforms: PC and XBox
Wait a minute, don’t adventures always go west??? My mind is blown! Eastward is an adorable adventure game set in a society that’s on the brink of collapse — so, like, our own real life world? No no, this one’s on the brink of a different collapse. It’s a techno-fantasy dystopia in which you wander through beautifully illustrated underground enclaves, solving puzzles and making friends. I’m getting classic Final Fantasy vibes with a touch of the original Fallout and maybe even a hint of Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, especially after discovering a recipe crafting system, a rich plot, and a soundtrack that’s 100% bangers. You may be too young to remember the feeling of wandering into the video game section of your local Blockbuster circa 1993, stumbling across a new and unfamiliar SNES cartridge, and discovering a mind-blowing new game that you simply HAD to plead with your parents to let you stay up all night playing. Well, there’s no going back to that time, but Eastward’s as close of an approximation as I’ve ever seen.
Release date: September 16.
Platforms: PC, Mac, Switch.