LudoNarraCon 2021 – These are the indie game demos we tried

Gare – Friday, April 23, 2021 7:24 PM
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Do you like games that tell stories? Well, so do we! Which is why we're very pleased to talk to you about LudoNarraCon 2021, a digital convention hosted on Steam that celebrates narrative games and the talented people making them – it runs between April 23-26 and will host a delectable repertoire of playable indie demos, as well as talks from various game developers on a wide range of topics. As is tradition around here, we dove head-first into the convention’s offering of demos, and collected all our experiences and opinions into a neat little article – this article.

So… wanna know what we thought about all these cool indie games? If so, read on!

A Space for the Unbound

Now this one took me by surprise. A Space for the Unbound is an audiovisual delight, with some genuinely soothing, emotive BGM and jaw-dropping pixel art – what's more, the demo's narrative also sets the stage for a potentially interesting mystery that may or may not involve diving into people's hearts to explore their inner fears and desires. Said demo also ended on a cliffhanger that left me craving for more, and while I'm still not quite sure exactly what direction the story will go in, I'm more than eager to find out. Two thumbs up.



Unpacking

This is a game I've already tried during PAX Online 2020, but it deserves another shoutout. Here's what I wrote about it last year: "Okay, so this is less like a game, and more like a relaxation tool. I mean that as a compliment, of course. Staying true to its name, Unpacking has you unpack your stuff in your new house, so be prepared to dig into those cardboard boxes and find the appropriate shelf for every book, stuffed toy and writing utensil. And while the game is mostly just a whole bunch of clicking while soothing music plays in the background, there’s an almost therapeutic quality to it all."



Beacon Pines

Presenting its narrative in the form of an interactive storybook, Beacon Pines is a cutesy adventure game with a somewhat spooky twist. What instantly drew me in, aside from the charming atmosphere and cozy writing, is the game's "Charm" system – after finding various Charms scattered about in the world, the player is able to inject the keywords they represent into the story at specific turning points, thus changing the outcome of certain events. In fact, the game actively encourages you to revisit previous turning points in order to experiment with the branching storyline, as tinkering with the storybook can indeed lead to drastically different outcomes. Sometimes, a single word is all it takes to change the world, y’know?



Lake

Is modern life in the big city getting too stressful? Too fast-paced? Worry not: relaxing open-world adventure game Lake is here to let you live out your dreams of becoming a countryside mailwoman in the 1980s. I guess the best way I can describe my time with the demo is to say that it's more or less like the love child of Euro Truck Simulator 2 and Deadly Premonition, but without the horror. If that sounds intriguing to you, do give Lake a quick look-see.



Chicory: A Colorful Tale

All color has vanished from the world and the wielder of a magical brush, Chicory, has gone missing... so it's up to you, her faithful fan/assistant in order to inherit said brush and find out what's happened. And while smearing the world in all sorts of outrageous colors is admittedly a lot of fun in itself, the brush also serves to help you solve some environmental puzzles and even defeat enemies. Now, the demo itself didn't throw anything particularly complex at me, but its adorably quirky characters and writing style were more than enough to sell me on the full game.



Mind Scanners

A psychiatrist simulator set in a dystopian metropolis. You are a Mind Scanner, tasked with detecting the lunacies of various individuals, then using your tools and expertise to cure them of their insanity, or declare them sane. Based on what I've played of the demo, I can say I love the idea behind the project, but felt that its execution could've been handled a touch better. For example, I found the mind scanning procedure to be overly trivial, with the game making it blatantly obvious what the right choices are, resulting in little to no room for ambiguity. I'm also not a huge fan of how frustratingly little time you're given each day to tend to patients; more often than not, I had to frantically rush through treatment in order to finish on time, which prevented me from really getting immersed in the world and the narrative. Nonetheless, I remain intrigued by the project and am curious to see what the full version will have on offer.



Minute of Islands

A narrative adventure game with a cartoon-like visual style, Minute of Islands gave me the impression of a 2D walking sim; in other words, gameplay and interactivity are kept relatively lowkey (in the demo, I mostly had to solve some very simple platforming puzzles), while the focus remains on building a cool atmosphere and telling an engaging story. The demo more or less succeeds in that department: the world is desolate, dare I say post-apocalyptic, and the lore surrounding it (with its strange, grotesque giants and otherworldly technology) does provide for a unique backdrop to protagonist Mo's adventures.



She Dreams Elsewhere

One of my personal favorites out of the demos that I've tried – I'm kind of an RPG guy, you see. She Dreams Elsewhere combines snappy writing, surreal retro visuals and classic JRPG mechanics into one wholly unique package that you really should go and experience for yourself. Also, the soundtrack slaps.



The Longest Road on Earth

Okay, so this is not necessarily something you play, but rather something you experience and then think about. The Longest Road on Earth is a collection of scenes pertaining to a variety of characters; there's no dialogue, only music, allowing you to piece together your own interpretation. A unique approach for sure, but it's worth checking out for the music alone, because it really is that good.



Tunic

Sweet and simple, Tunic has you control a tiny little fox who goes on a big adventure to explore some mysterious ruins. What immediately grabbed me with this one (aside from the positively soothing soundtrack) is just how clean, warm and inviting the art style is, and how quickly it managed to ease me into the world. The fluid, sword-and-shield-based combat system, along with the sheer fun of getting to explore every nook and cranny of a spooky labyrinth were somewhat reminiscent of the Zelda franchise, so if you’re looking for something more or less in that vein, you might want to give Tunic a look.



And that's it for now! Did you find anything interesting on our list? We hope you did – but if you’re craving for more, don’t forget to check out our most recent edition of “Promising Indie Game Releases”, where we go over all the cool upcoming indie projects of a given month.

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