Despite November being a slower month for new releases, I’ve had my hands full with exciting new games to try out! And despite Apple Arcade launching new titles every month, I’ve turned my attention away from the new service, and back to what you indie developers have been publishing.

So as always, I’ve cherry-picked five brilliant games I played last month, and shared exactly why these games caught my eye, and what developers, like you, can learn from them.

Let’s get started.

1. Figment

  • Developer: Bedtime Digital Games
  • Launch date: November 28th, 2019
  • Price: First Chapter is free, then it’s $4.99 to unlock the full game.
  • Available on: iOS, Steam, Switch, Playstation

The developers at Bedtime Digital Games have created yet another magical title, again looking like something out of a children’s dreams. This action/adventure game follows the story of a grumpy main character and a cheerful bird, while layering in surreal music, humour and a multi-layered narrative. A lot of what you’ll see in Figment reminds you of children’s cartoons or games, while adding a bit of fun through platforming and beating up baddies.

Having polished audio can make a game feel premium

The best thing that Bedtime Digital did was invest heavily in the audio and graphics, making Figment feel really polished. The various enemies have their own theme songs, which in turn make them feel fun and playful, instead of sinister and cruel. The game is about the deterioration of the mind, so having these funny and silly songs, which are all well written, give the game childlike wonder without harming its quality.

As you explore a world full of dreams, Figment does a great job of making you enjoy the characters, including the ones you play, while delivering a story through music. I haven’t personally played that many games that I would describe as a musical, but Figment is more like this when it comes to sound design – which makes the game stand out and feel like it’s worth paying a price for.

2. Saily Seas

  • Developer: ImpactBlue Studios Pty Ltd
  • Launch date: November 21st, 2019
  • Price: Free
  • Available on: iOS & Android

Throughout my years of playing games, I’ve experienced some truly breathtaking titles, all while having simple controls and gameplay. Saily Seas is one of those games. But this time,  ImpactBlue Studios took the time to make an endless runner that has some unique aspects. Instead of running, you find yourself sailing across the sea, trying to get your boat up waves and over dangers.

Innovation on overdone genres

Endless runners are a dime a dozen, however, ImpactBlue Studios made something that feels fresh and new within this genre. Instead of being overly simple where you just tap to jump, the controls have you pressing to follow waves, tapping to get up from under the water, and holding down to jump over obstacles or glide through the air. These controls are very simple and intuitive, but both of these actions do two different tasks.

ImpactBlue Studios was able to breathe life into an overdone genre, just by layering on more actions to the gameplay (without over-complicating anything). These mechanics, alongside beautiful graphics and sound, truly have raised the bar for endless runner titles.

3. The Wanderer: Frankenstein’s Creature

La Belle Games and ARTE Experience have taken the concept of Frankenstein’s Monster and created a new type of game inspired by it, called The Wanderer: Frankenstein’s Creature. This game has you playing a new creature, with no memory or understanding of the world, just trying to explore and learn. There are various puzzles and a setting made entirely of watercolor, all for this creature to check out.

Layer elements to make your world more immersive

The best thing that La Belle Games and ARTE Experience did within The Wanderer is the way the world changes as your character learns. This creature doesn’t really know about pain, loss, sorrow, happiness – many of the emotions that people generally develop over time. As the creature interacts with things that are positive, like growing flowers around them, the world gets more bright and beautiful.

On the other hand, as the creature interacts with more negative things, like getting bit by a snake or eating raw meat off the ground, the game gets more dark and sinister. These emotions then develop through their experiences – and so does the creature’s outlook on their world and life. Developing a changing world like in games, like Undying and The Wanderer, makes each decision and interaction feel so much more meaningful, providing a more captivating and emotional experience. Game devs – don’t be afraid to push the limits of your ideas in creative and new ways. They really can pay off.

4. Wanna Survive

  • Developer: PINIX
  • Launch date: November 28th, 2019 (on Mobile)
  • Price: *depends on the platform*
  • Available on: iOS, Android & PC

Wanna Survive is a turn-based, zombie survival game that does well not to contain too much repetition. Taking on swarms of zombies, not only will you be battling against them but you’ll also be collecting resources and finding new characters to help you fight in this apocalyptic world. There are a map and a world to take on, and each level has win and lose conditions.

Screen grab of Wanna Survive

Visual cues help simplify a complex game

The best thing that PINIX did in Wanna Survive is the way that turns play out. In many strategy games, when swarms of enemies are on the screen, turns can take a while as each enemy, one by one, takes their turn. But in Wanna Survive, all of the enemies take their turn at the same time.

This vastly speeds up level time and makes the game feel so much less repetitive than other turn-based strategy games, where you’d end up spending half the time watching your enemies move. And when it comes to mobile games, having a quick playtime is a huge benefit. To make sure that players see what’s going on, PINX added visual cues in the form of warning signs next to your character’s head, to show when you are going to be hit by a zombie. A zombie’s first attack doesn’t actually do damage, but instead, they hold you in place, meaning it will take one more turn to actually lose some health.

When you’re playing such a complex game on a small screen, and when so many things are going on, it’s easy to miss important actions. Visual cues, such as the above, help the player manage and react to what’s going on (instead of dying and rage quitting). It evens out the playing ground a bit more. If you want to balance your game out a bit more, take a look at this title. You may find a few new tricks to add to your sleeve.

5. Cracked Crusaders

  • Developer: Webbysoft
  • Launch date: November 5th, 2019
  • Price: Free, with in-app purchases
  • Available on: iOS & Android

Cracked Crusaders is an action platformer sprinkled with humor, where you can seamlessly switch between three different animal characters (all of which looking to find some stolen sheep deep within a lair). Each area is split into a level, which rewards you with stars (that you can spend on upgrades) once you’ve completed it.

Let your players learn the game before adding new challenges

The most interesting thing about Cracked Crusaders is the way that Webbysoft designed the first few levels of bosses. Instead of being challenging, these baddies are cowering in fear over how much of a hero you are. As you get deeper into the game, the bosses start to become real bosses, containing a lot of challenges, but in the first few levels, they just aren’t! Rather than overloading players with a lot of controls, instructions and difficult bosses right at the start, Webbysoft lets the player play around with the mechanics and learn them, one at a time, while removing threat and pressure so that they can master the mechanics at a comfortable place.

This is a brilliant example of onboarding. So if you’re looking for some inspiration for this, then definitely check this game out.

Releasing a game worthy of this list? Tweet me here and I’ll consider it for next month’s review!

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