[Preview] 6 compelling indies we played at Day of the Devs 2023

Earlier this month, Nintendo Everything dropped by the Day of The Devs indie showcase event in Los Angeles to demo some upcoming Switch games from small teams all over the globe. We played a staggering variety of games and had a chance to chat with some of the developers behind unique titles like Dome-King Cabbage and Resistor, and will be publishing dedicated previews for some of these games over the coming week; Still, with more games present on the show-floor than we could dream of covering individually, we thought we’d compile a list of some smaller titles that might not be on your radar yet. Here are six Switch-bound indies we played at Day of the Devs 2023 to keep an eye on!

Bits & Bops

Developer/Publisher: Tempo Lab Games | Release Date: TBC

If Nintendo won’t make a new Rhythm Heaven game – and I hope someday they will – just leave it to the indie scene to pick up the torch. Bits & Bops is essentially a spiritual successor to the quirky pick-up-and-play series in all but name, offering a collection of over 20 minigames with simple controls and tight beat-based challenges. It’s all wrapped up with some of the smoothest hand-drawn 2D animations I’ve seen in a while, alongside some extremely catchy music that’s upbeat and easy to tap your foot along to.

My demo at Day of the Devs consisted of three minigames, and all of them were a blast. Flipper Snapper has you trying to photograph a seal as it bounces a ball on its snout and is a great showcase of the silly sense of humor in the game. Another had me hammering nails to build a piece of Ikea-esque furniture and had me laughing mostly due to its strong commitment to replicating the art style of those DIY manuals. The toughest game of the bunch tasked me with listening to the chirps of a songbird and tweeting (literally) in perfectly timed responses, which was particularly tricky when my visual cues were taken away. I think the big question I have is how Bits & Bops will shake up repeated playthroughs of the same minigames, and if there will be any alternate modes of play beyond just working through the games one after another. We’ll find out when the game launches on Switch sometime soon.

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Sophia The Traveler

Developer: Memo Gogo | Publisher: Thermite Games | Release Date: 2024

If you grew up sifting through hidden-object books like “Where’s Waldo,” Sophia the Traveler aims to capture some of that energy in a relaxing, colorful package. While this type of game has been made more popular in recent years thanks to the success of Hidden Folks, I found Sophia The Traveler to be a much more approachable experience than that game – its art style allows for environments to feel dense without being difficult to visually parse, and a map makes it easy to figure out at a glance what segment of the stage you’re looking at without getting too lost.

I’m pretty good at these types of games and was able to blaze through the first four or so stages in under thirty minutes, but don’t be fooled – levels get big quickly, and you’ll graduate from rummaging through quaint homes to, eventually, entire towns. Delightfully, many objects can be interacted with – drawers can be opened, foliage can be shaken, curtains can be parted – and you’ll need to be thorough if you want to find some of the smaller objects. Married alongside the ambient sounds of whatever locale you happen to be exploring, what results is a relaxing, self-paced experience that I think will be a great palette-cleanser for me between next year’s many big RPGs. I look forward to chipping away at this one while cozying up under a blanket with a cup of coffee.

Sulfur

Developer/Publisher: Perfect Random | Release Date: 2024

This bloody yet cartoony first-person shooter seems to be melding together ideas from several different genres, and I’m here for it. On one hand, Sulfur is a roguelike adventure, tasking players to explore progressively deeper into dangerous caverns to retrieve whatever weapons and gear that’ll fit into their limited inventory; death, of course, means losing everything. But Sulfur also posits a bigger emphasis on narrative than many other games in the genre – in the overworld, players will encounter all kinds of strange denizens, and how they’re treated during conversations will affect just how willing they’ll be to help moving forward. There’s an overworld with nooks and crannies to explore, and its tone features both occult themes and the brutal disfiguring of cute little goblin creatures. Unsettling and mildly charming? Sign me up. 

Now, my demo for this game had me using keyboard and mouse controls, so I can’t ascertain at this time how exactly the Switch port will feel, but the combat mechanics felt approachable even as someone who doesn’t typically play a lot of roguelikes or shooters. I’m intrigued by the art direction and the world, and the game looked great on the OLED screen on the show floor. For me, the thing that makes or breaks these types of game is just how rewarding their progression loop remains over the duration it takes to experience the story – I’m hoping that with such an interesting setting, Sulfur will takes time to flesh out its lore and use its writing to invest me in unraveling its core. Based on what I played, I’m optimistic that this team might just be able to pull it off when Sulfur launches sometime next year.

Holstin

Developer/Publisher: Sonka | Release Date: TBA

Sometimes it plays like an old-school survival-horror game and sometimes it plays like a third-person shooter, but regardless of perspective there’s many exciting ideas in Holstin. Set in a quiet eerie town in Poland, the player is tasked with investigating why exactly their friend disappeared; at the same tim, e a strange supernatural blight has begun infesting the streets, infecting people, and literally tearing the city apart. Not everything is necessarily trying to kill you – while the town’s residents are slowly losing their minds, there’s incentive to try and get them to talk with you before they do, as some of them may be able to provide insights to aid in the players exploration. And of course, you’ll have to solve the occasional puzzle and unlock a few doors to make your way through when you’re not in combat.

Holstin has a lot going for it, from its unique spin on rendering its isometric world to the interesting way the player can shift the perspective of the environment. I was also really absorbed in the soundscape and haunting background music despite the busy ambience of the show floor, which really impressed me. I have no idea where the story in this game will go, and what other new mechanics it might introduce into the mix later in the game, and that’s partially why i’m excited for this one. The team cites Resident Evil, Silent Hill AND Twin Peaks as inspirations – which is quite the, um, diverse spread of influnces – so I’m a little wary that Holstin’s ideas could end up being too ambitious to wholly execute. Still, I liked what I played; hopefully this one locks in a release date soon.

Last Time I Saw You

Developer: Maboroshi Artworks | Publisher: Chorus Worldwide Games| Release Date: TBA

At first glance, this narrative-driven side-scroller bears strong similarities to 2023’s indie gem A Space for the Unbound – it’s a coming-of-age story with magical realism undertones set in a rural village, bolstered by beautiful hand-drawn art and a strong sense of place. I’ll admit, my first thought was something along the lines of “we’ve seen this all before.” But thouse thoughts began fading after sitting down with the game for almost an hour, because Last Time I Saw You somehow manages to make all these elements feel just fresh enough to stand out as its own spin on the concept, rather than falling into the trap of being overly derivative.

Protagonist Ayumi is dealing with a lot at the start of the game – he’s seeing a mysterious girl in his dreams, there’s an impending typhoon that’s threatening the safety of his town, and of course he’s dealing with all the drama that comes from being a young teenage boy. As I explored the quaint Japanese streets of the game’s late 80’s setting, I think it’s going to be the writing that sets this game apart the most from its peers – the dialogue felt truly authentic to how kids of that age would chat, and it seems like there will be a fair amount of space to interact with townsfolk via sidequests and some mild exploration. I’m hoping that there’s more than meets the eye with Last Time I Saw You and am looking forward to seeing more of its surreal dreamlike shenanigans when the game eventually lands on Switch.

Braid: Anniversary Edition

Developer: Jonathan Blow | Publisher: Thekla | Release Date: April 30, 2024

Okay, I’ll admit you’ve probably already heard of this one. For a while, Braid felt like THE game that people associated with the word “indie” during the seventh generation of consoles – it was a moody puzzle platformer with a painted art direction that was truly unlike anything else at the time, and its time-manipulation mechanics lent themselves to some really clever levels and challenges. Unfortunately, the game hasn’t had any form of rerelease since its original launch, making it less accessible for new players.

Well, that’s finally about to change. Braid: Anniversary Edition – which was announced over three years ago, if you can believe it – is finally getting a modern remaster, with repainted and more detailed artwork, smoother animations, and improved sound quality. There’s even going to be in-depth developer commentary and a “whole new world of puzzles to solve,” which at least for me makes the idea of revisiting this game a little more enticing. I’m so excited to have a way to play this classic on a modern device in what will likely be its definitive form; Braid: Anniversary Edition is set to finally launch on Switch on April 30, 2024.

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