TFI Friday is a regular column where Alice Bee finds some new indie games and presents them to you. Enjoy These Fine Indies, on a Friday.
I think I am slightly out of sync with the original fortnightly schedule for this, owing to E3 destroying about a week of our lives, but now I’m back! Or rather, I’m gone – to my mum’s house again. This means that my big rig is alone in Brighton, while I am here with my MacBook Air for company.
As such, everything this week is also playable on Mac OS. And blimey, loads of good games are on Mac these days, aren’t they? It’s a really great distraction from all the spiders in this house, and the fact that the shower osscilates between being freezing cold and boiling, bum-burning hot. The actual realities of cottagecore would shock you people.
Who’s it by? Sneaky Yak Studio, Whisper Games
Where can I get it? Steam
How much is it? ￡20/€21/$25
At first glance I thought this was another wacky management sim, like Two Point Hospital. And it’s not not that. In Spellcaster University you build a magical school, room by room. You can add different student houses, which specialise in different schools of magic and have slightly different uniforms. You slot in classrooms that focus on, and generate, different kinds of magic. You can also add in decorations or other things that give passive bonuses. And you need to have rooms where your staff and students can feed, rest, and recuperate as well.
But it’s also so much more than that. New rooms, students and houses are all built by drawing cards from different decks, with each new draw from the same deck incurring a higher cost. You set a curriculum. Students graduate. It can all get very, very granular – plus you can zoom right in to see people at work, and the animations are great. Students and teachers all have a number of different traits that affect the day-to-day running of the school, so Billy Bumcakes the alchemist might be fun, and give a bump to students’ learning while in his class, but he’s also an abject coward who will run away almost instantly when the chips are down.
And the chips, they will fall. You have a time limit before a vague and evil dark lord of some description turns up with an army of nasties. So around the countryside are different factions – adventurers, townsfolk, orcs. You can send envoys to them, or encounter them in random events, that raise or lower your standing with them. There’s a lot to this one, and I was very impressed. Also, some of your students will be werewolves. Sin wrote about this for Unknown Pleasures, and since then it has hit 1.0 release. I assume it has only got better.
Who’s it by? Iron Wolf Games
Where can I get it? Steam
How much is it? ￡4/€4/$5
The elevator pitch for this is, “lol someone made a Die Hard game with just enough legal distance to get away with it”, with the mini pre-pitch that this is actually the digital adaptation of what is a physical card game. But this digi-version is great. A card game that even I, with the attention span of a coked-toddler, can get behind.
To explore the level of Kobayashi Tower you’re on, you draw cards. You have a time limit, which is used up by actions like reloading your weapon, resting in order recover, or by using said cards. To move to a new area you need to activate either a corridor card, or a door – doors let you you move two places, but you need a key to open them. Keys are held by rarer cards like security guards, who’re on your side.
But security guards make noise, represented by the card having a little bell on it. These will alert terrorists (what is a Nakatmoi Plaza-like without terrorists?). Terrorist cards will automatically attack if you pull another terrorist card, or two loud cards. The further the game goes on, the tougher it gets. You’ll run out of bullets for your weapon, so you’ll want to try and pick up another one before the top – but that’s pretty risky. Sometimes a card will offer you a dark bargain: draw the top three on the deck, but if one is a terrorist card then you automatically have to fight them. It’s really fun, slick, and compulsive. Big fan.
Who’s it by? Brady Soglin, Overfull Games
Where can I get it? Steam, Itch
How much is it? ￡7/€8/$10
I found Fossil Corner to be nothing short of a delight. You play as a retired paleontologist who, eschewing an expensive cruise that your friends organised for your retirement, returns to carefully collecting and categorising fossils in your garage.
In the main this involves unpacking boxes of shells. Each box contains a jumbled-up group of ’em, and your job is to sort them from oldest to youngest, along their family tree. Each generation the shells will change – as well as being a different colour, they might get bigger, grow spikes, or change their pattern. Doing this is quiet, meditative, and makes you feel like a scientist. Much better than a smelly old cruise
Pretty soon your garage runs out of space to store all your shells, so you need more furniture. So you go back to photographing shells for blogs and magazines to earn a bit on the side. This is very low pressure, but adds an extra happy little thrill. If you need to phograph two 2-star rarity shells of the same colour, it’s a real “Ah ha!” moment when you get that purple 2-star shell you’re after. Honestly, I wish I could retire to become a full-time player of Fossil Corner.