Don’t Miss These 2021 Indie Games
2021 is already shaping up to be an exciting year for gaming. The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X | S are in their infancy. Halo: Infinite and Horizon: Forbidden West are on the—erm, horizon. And there are a smattering of indie games in 2021 (where my Hollow Knight: Silksong fans at?) to break out the Switch for.
But those games are old news: What other indie surprises can you expect in the New Year? To kick off 2021, the Weekend at Dave’s podcast is back, and we’re asking the important questions.
New format, new insights, same charming host! Catch the latest episode of Weekend at Dave’s here:
(0:00 – 2:49) — Intro
(2:50 – 5:14) — UFO 50
(5:15 – 7:09) — Chicory: A Colorful Tale
(7:10 – 8:29) — The Wild at Heart
(8:30 – 9:13) — Outro
Hi everyone! My name’s David Silbert, and I’m the host of Weekend at Dave’s, a chill, solo podcast where I ramble about games and other hot topics in the entertainment industry.
2021 marks a new year, and I don’t know if you noticed, but Weekend at Dave’s was virtually MIA for the entirety of 2020. To be fair… It was a bad year! But to those who’ve enjoyed the show, I apologize, and let this be an olive branch I’m offering to show that, A) I’m back, and B) I want 2021 to be the strongest year for Weekend at Dave’s yet!
So, what’s new about the podcast this year that’ll help us get there! For one, more bite-sized topics! I’ve always tried to keep things brief, given how many podcasts are out there, but this year I want to drill that down even more. Expect more frequent episodes, but ones that are only 10 to 15 minutes in length, tops.
Secondly, more in-depth thoughts! I’ll be working harder to script out a lot of what I talk about during the show. I’ll have my notes handy, so hopefully that means better lines of thought, deeper insights, and more enjoyable content on the whole.
Lastly, I want to branch out! I want to bring guests on the show, maybe get a couple of developers to interview. And, for the very first time, I want to take Weekend at Dave’s to YouTube, where I’ll be experimenting with b-roll, video editing, and all. that. Jazz.
So! *clap* It should be a lot of fun! Let’s dive right into things, with our first topic of the year…
Now, we’re at a time where there are so many games, and so many ways to play them. We’ve got next gen consoles that just launched, a plethora of subscription-based game services, other reward systems that dole out games like candy… It’s a bit of a madhouse.
So! With so much out there, and so much existing coverage of popular games, I wanted to dive deep into a couple of indies that seem to be off a lot of folx’s radars. I’m talking real deep sleepers here, the type to hit snooze at noon and roll out of bed at 2 p.m. sleepers. Ya feel me?
Basically, the following three games are three indies I’m super excited to see more of in 2021—and I think you’ll be excited to see more, too.
Sound good? Let’s get to it:
Starting off, we’ve got one that’s near and dear to me: UFO 50. Developed by Mossmouth, aka Derek Yu, aka the maker of Spelunky 1 & 2, UFO 50 is a collection of not one, not two, but fifty retro-inspired games, spanning a mix of styles and genres.
UFO 50’s been in development for a long time, and we even have some past coverage on The Punished Backlog about it. (I’ll link it in the written transcript.) The game’s a collaboration between Yu and five other indie developers (whose handles I’ll also link).
In addition to Derek Yu, we have:
So, it’s a six-person project, covering 50 games, each of which is being touted as its own full-fledged game, and not a mini-game or micro-game.
It’s an ambitious project! Which is also what makes it so exciting! Interestingly enough, each game has its own director and supporting roles among the six devs, and these roles cycle from game to game.
The full collection includes an Advance Wars-esque turn-based strategy game, plus platformers, RPGs, fighting games, point-and-clicks…. There’s so much potential here, not just in terms of playtime or replayability, but just sheer quality of experiences.
All 50 games are tied together with a common story thread—that they were made in the 80s by a fictitious game company, seemingly “ahead of its time,” according to the official UFO 50 website. I take that to mean these games will be innovative, charming, and—hopefully—pretty good!
Of the 50 games, roughly a third will also offer co-op or competitive multiplayer modes, offering even more bang for your buck.
UFO 50 was originally slated for 2018 on PC, so obviously Mossmouth and company blew past that. It’s currently in “Done when it’s done” mode, and has been for a while, now. With the craziness that was 2020, I’m assuming 2021 definitely isn’t a lock, but who knows! Time will tell.
For those looking to learn more about UFO 50, I’ll link a great video by the YouTube channel Rude Boys Podcast, which summarizes key info on each of the 50 games.
But yeah, I’m very excited for this one, and I hope it comes out soon.
Chicory: A Colorful Tale
Next up, we have Chicory: A Colorful Tale. The game’s being developed by Greg Lobanov, maker of Wandersong, and published by Finji, responsible for indies like Overland, Night in the Woods, Wilmot’s Warehouse, and the upcoming game Tunic.
Chicory is a top-down PC adventure game that plays in the style of a 2D Zelda game. You play as Chicory, a talented artist, who lives in a land that’s lost its color—literally. With a magical paintbrush, you must explore a black-and-white overworld littered with secrets and puzzles, restoring color to the land as you go. (Correction: I misspoke! You play a nameless MC in Chicory. The titular name belongs to a different character in the game.)
I played Chicory as part of the Steam Festival back in late 2020, and was blown away. It really does feel like a Zelda game in all the right ways. It’s got scrolling screens, charming NPCs, dungeons and collectible items… everything you might expect. And yet, there’s so much that’s unique here and sets Chicory apart.
The main hook is your ability to add color as you navigate the world. You actually paint the land, using the mouse—and that’s incorporated into puzzles in unique ways. You may have to paint obstacles a certain color in order to gain access to areas and progress. Or, NPC side quests may ask that you add a dash of flair to their everyday lives.
Whatever you’re doing in this game, it’s bound to be fun, if my 30-ish minute demo was any indication. What’s more, the music’s stellar, and done by the incredible Lena Raine, composer for Celeste. (I’ll link some of that music for you here as well.) If that wasn’t enticing enough, Greg (the developer) made the game while living with Maddy Thorson, the genius behind Celeste.
In other words, this game is being created by—and inspired by—some truly prolific industry veterans. It’s due out August 2021 on PC.
The Wild at Heart
Last on our list is The Wild at Heart. The game is being developed by Moonlight Kids, and published by Humble Games.
The best way I can describe this one is Pikmin meets Knights and Bikes. As a young boy, you and your friend have wandered into a mysterious forest teeming with fantastical creatures. With the help of tiny creatures named Spritelings, you must guide these little critters around the map, using them to gather resources, build contraptions, and solve puzzles.
So, that’s the Pikmin angle, and if you haven’t played Pikmin before, I heavily recommend you grab the recent Pikmin 3 re-release on Switch to get acquainted. But The Wild at Heart differentiates itself from Nintendo’s hit series with its distinct 2D style. Visually, it looks like a cut-out book, very reminiscent of games like Knights & Bikes, or even Paper Mario.
In any case, I had the chance to play the game at PAX East 2020 (back before life went AWOL). And… I loved it. It was colorful and charming, with a nice hook of a story. More importantly, though, the demo I played was super well designed, and immediately served to scratch that Pikmin itch of mine in a whole new way.
It remains to be seen whether The Wild at Heart will be as unique as the other two games on this list. But in terms of sheer quality, it’s quite possibly my most anticipated indie sleeper of 2021. It’s due out sometime this year, on Xbox and PC.
And that’s that! I hope you’ve enjoyed this new take on Weekend at Dave’s. Let me know your comments over on punishedbacklog.com, and tell me what topics or games you’d like to see covered next.
With that, I’ll say thank you, and peace out.