One of the best things about how indie games have democratized development is the plethora of truly bizarre ideas that now see the light of day — games that never would’ve been produced in an age when video games were massive, expensive gambles that required vetting by boardrooms full of scowling men in suits.
Now practically anyone with a strange vision and enough passion can see that vision realized, and the results have been some of the most artistic and novel play experiences we’ve seen.
And the train isn’t slowing down; if anything, 2017 promises an acceleration in production of the wacky, surreal and delightfully insane fare that’s been carving out a wider and wider niche. These are some of the weirdest titles we’re looking forward to in the coming calendar year.
The Sexy Brutale
Billed as a murder mystery simulator at a masquerade ball, #TheSexyBrutale has players investigate the murder of some of the guests by vengeful staff members.
But there’s a time-warping twist: the guests and staff are reliving the same day, over and over, trapped in some kind of nightmarish time paradox where violent murder is the order of the day and the increasingly bizarre circumstances are a growing threat to the fragile sanity of everyone involved.
The Sexy Brutale promises intrigue and occult trappings that, paired with its detective framework, border on the conventions of noir fiction.
The game’s art mirrors its odd setting, a casino mansion playing host to this never-ending mad masquerade. The players are dressed in fineries but all wear giant, rather ominous looking masks fashioned after gas masks or adorned with the spades and diamonds of card suits. The art style and music are both very appealing and serve to enhance the unsettling otherwordliness of the scenario the game presents.
Night in the Woods
The elevator pitch for #NightInTheWoods actually sounds fairly mundane. It’s an adventure game that focuses on exploration and offers a world populated with a large cast of characters to meet and interact with. On the surface, it’s a premise that sounds quite standard and well-trod.
But dig a little deeper reveals that what sounds like a traditional, perfectly innocuous adventure game is actually quite odd, more like a darkling fever dream than another #KingsQuest derivative.
For one, the protagonist and the characters she meets are all cartoon animals. But more importantly, what appears at first to be the main character’s charming, quaint home town is quickly revealed (at least from what can be gleaned from the trailer) to be a hotbed of dark secrets and hidden agendas, all somehow tied to the mystery of what lurks outside town in the deep woods.
On the Path
I’m fairly confident #OnThePath is the only game based on a blend of Russian fairy tales and the Taoism of Lao Tzu. It's an RPG in which you play as a character named Koschei the Deathless. Koschei is apparently some kind of resource tycoon or utility baron, as one of your main tasks is to seize wood mines and lumber camps and construct a base of operations.
Full disclosure: it’s actually fairly difficult to tell what On the Path is about. While it’s clearly a turn-based RPG and it features characters and antagonists with hitpoints, attacks and other recognizable elements, the descriptive text on its Steam page also hints at the game’s main challenge being the time limit, and how players will have to “perform quick actions because you have two timers at the same time.”
There are also allusions to philosophy, the “Magic Tower” and crafting, though none of them are described or elaborated on. Color me intrigued.