Come, let us celebrate the arrival of spring in the traditional manner, by skipping off to a cat cafe in Northern Sweden while furiously rotating every object in our path. There’s a big beautiful bounty of unique indie games dropping this month, each with a particularly intriguing twist. Pleasantly, all have demo versions available for your sampling pleasure, so you needn’t get too invested simply because you dropped money on one title or another.
CAT CAFE MANAGER
First, the bad news: Your grandmother’s cat cafe has fallen into disrepair. Now the good news: You can fix it back up. Cat Cafe Manager looks something like if Zynga had made Stardew Valley — a relaxing cycle of resource management, with paper-doll characters needing your godly guidance to manage their workload, upgrade the cafe facilities, and, of course, pet a lot of cats. Naturally, there are periodic festival days; recipes to unlock; and villagers with backstories. No junimos though! This is not Stardew! It is a different game altogether! To be fair, there are a few interesting twists beyond the very familiar format — for example, capturing stray cats and giving them a safe happy home. A limited demo is available now, and developers promise even more dialogue and story options in the full release.
Release date: April 14
Platforms: Windows and Switch.
This one comes with a clever concept: You wander a pretty city with an empty picture frame in your hands; certain objects can be placed inside the frame and then rotated and moved to become something new. Hold the frame over a painting of the moon and hold it over a grassy field, and suddenly the moon has become a golf ball. Use the frame to rotate a clock, and night becomes day. This neat mechanic facilitates fun, creative puzzles with built-in visual puns — but there’s also an accompanying story about overcoming self-sabotaging feelings and finding ways to move past sadness and doubt. You can play a demo version now, and it’s worth noting that early-release testers have reported that some puzzles are a bit confusing but the developer’s promised to polish them. Ten percent of proceeds will go to charity — though there’s no word on which charity, but the developer says “our primary concern (at the moment) is the mistreatment of both the African-American community and women in general.”
Release date: April 12
Platforms: PC & Mac.
“Old northern campfire stories come alive” in this atmospheric action-adventure inspired by Sámi culture. Puzzles and platforms await a young reindeer herder who must save the natural world from a mysterious blight, voyaging through a beautiful landscape and acquiring new abilities through contact with elemental spirits. Explore a lovely Scandinavian world, meet the people and listen to their songs, learn traditional drumming; voice lines are recorded in Northern Sámi, the language spoken by the largest proportion of Sámi people. Early release players have praised the attention to natural details — plants blowing in the wind, animal tracks in the snow, and some dynamic mushrooms — but there’s been some dismay about a temperamental camera and some glitchiness with controller button mapping. Hopefully that’ll be ironed out prior to release, as this looks like a particularly delightful experience.
Release date: April 22.
Platforms: PC only.