Yes yes yes, the weather is starting to get very nice, but have you considered: Video games?
Game developers have apparently decided to do everything in their power to keep us indoors this month, with a ton of great-looking titles dropping over the next few weeks.
Of course, there are the big ones — the first wave of Mario Kart 8 expansions; Final Fantasy Origins, a retelling of the first FF game; Kirby and the Forgotten Land. But anyone whose timeline has even briefly brushed up against a gamer will hear about those titles ad nauseam.
So instead, it’s a fine time to dig into the more obscure indie releases for March, starting with an honorable mention for Have a Nice Death. That one, slated to release March 8, has been getting quite a bit of attention — but to be honest, it looks to me like a completely ordinary 2D dungeon-crawl, just gussied up with better-than-usual animation and a cute Tim-Burtony aesthetic. Fine, if that’s your thing. But let’s turn our attention to the more unusual titles bouncing our way:
THE LAST CUBE and LUMOTE: THE MASTERMOTE CHRONICLES
I’m lumping these together because of their unlikely similarity — if you like one, you’ll probably want to play the other. Both are 3D platform-puzzlers, one with rigid blocks and the other with gooey sea creatures. In The Last Cube, you are a cube that rolls clunk-clunk-clunk through a landscape full of other cubes, slapping stickers on surfaces that endow them with special properties which you use to reach the exit. The game effectively scratches the part of the brain that visualizes three-dimensional grids and geometry — sort of a candy-colored IQ test.
Lumote, on the other hand, features a gooshy jellyfish-looking creature bobbing around on ocean-bottom platforms, hopping atop other simple sea-life to squish and bounce through puzzles. Like The Last Cube, Lumote is a fun brain-squeezer that produces little squirts of I-did-it neurotransmitters every time you find your way past an obstacle; if I had to choose one to play first, it would probably be Lumote for its adorable animations. As an added bonus, Lumote’s developer has released crochet patterns for anyone who wants to make one of the game’s cute creatures out of yarn.
Release dates for both games are a little mysterious — the developers have listed multiple release dates spanning multiple years. But the latest info appears to be: The Last Cube comes out on March 10, 2022, on Steam (for Windows only); Lumote comes out March 24, 2022 on Steam.
You are an adorable fox with a sword and shield, wandering around an island chopping grass and finding treasure. Climb blocky platforms, swing at equally adorable monsters, decipher clues — okay, it’s basically a Zelda clone but furry, with off-the-chart wholesomeness. Fans of the chill-out island game A Short Hike who wished that game had a combat system will likely be pleased. Impressively, the game is largely the work of a single person — Canadian developer Andrew Shouldice. A demo is available (though only for Xbox, alas) and early reaction has been almost entirely positive, aside from the usual pre-release tech-bumpiness.
Tunic releases on March 16, 2022, for Steam and Xbox.
SUBMERGED: HIDDEN DEPTHS
I am too easily seduced by games in the “relaxsploration” genre, but I make no apologies. Explore a ruined, submerged city, seeking clues about its destruction and a way to restore what was lost. Beautiful, vibrant colors, intriguing architecture, and lush organic plantlife abound amidst abandoned stone structures and crumbling metal skyscrapers. In an interesting twist, there are two player-characters, each with different abilities, and you switch between them to proceed through the ruins. A follow-up to the 2015 game Submerged, there’s no combat whatsoever here — just curious exploration, collection, and serene laid-back dolphin-friendly vibes.
Submerged: Hidden Depths releases on March 10, 2022, for PC, PS4 and PS5, and Xbox.
You are a musical little sperm, dancing your way through hypnotic rhythms toward a nice egg in these trying times.
Okay, I’m not 100% sure that this game is actually about fertilization, but it’s all I can think about when I gaze upon this meditative little experience. Is it a game? Kind of, but I think it’s more of a toy or a fidget. You float through pretty 2D worlds full of glowing plants and abstract pastel shapes, catching rhythmic pulses of light and sound, creating melodies with your movement. It looks like a more art-directed Rez; or it’s a reminder to get high, take some deep breaths, and turn off your brain-noise before bed.
There are a few little hiccups in the experience that may keep it from being completely meditative; if you're using a Switch controller with Steam, you might have to go through a confusing button-remapping experience (but that's not Onde's fault, it's Valve's for making a lousy interface). Some of the mechanics of the game, which involve riding on the edge of ripples, are not always immediately intuitive, and because the pace of the action is so gradual and peaceful, missing a beat can set you back with a sloooow replay process to recover your previous progress. But it's hard to stay frustrated with the game, thanks to the serene trance-like music and lovely organic shapes. Like gazing into a mountain pond while enjoying a particularly effective psychedelic substance, Onde soothes more than it stresses.
Onde releases on March 17, 2022 for PC, with Switch and iOS versions promised later this year.