FEATURE | Indie Round-Up

Indies have been the stars of the gaming show in 2021, our Game of the Year podcast is testament to that.  On that note, let us have a look at some recent indie highlights.

A Short Hike

A Short Hike, developed by Adam Robinson-Yu, came into existence by accident.  It was Adam’s side project when he was feeling a bit worn out on the RPG he was working on. It grew arms and legs and became a game of its own – and I am incredibly thankful that it did!

When we started Game Club way back when (second half of 2020), this became our first Game Club game of the month – and for good reason.  At that time it was a Switch console exclusive which is no longer the case with A Short Hike now released on Xbox and PlayStation allowing many more gamers to appreciate this little bundle of joy.

A Short Hike sees you assume the role of Claire, a deep-blue bird, who has visited her Aunt May’s holiday camp.  The premise of the game is simple at first glance, to hike to the top of the largest peak in the camp to allow Claire to obtain phone reception and receive a call from her mother.

Exploration is key, with Claire needing to gather enough golden feathers to allow her to endure the hike.  The feathers are hidden around this glorious little island, amongst a cast of interesting characters including rock climbers, marathon runners, artists, rangers, and campers.

Claire can climb and fly further with each feather she obtains, opening up new areas for her to discover. Set against a beautiful soundtrack, the island is simply a joy to explore with the added tasks of fishing, watering various plants, participating in parkour races, and playing some beachstickball!

The title may imply this hike is short, but it is not as short as you may expect with plenty to keep you happy for hours, if not days. 

A Short Hike is a game I feel everyone should play, it really does have that special feeling about it.

A Short Hike is available now on Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.

Formula Retro Racing

Formula Retro Racing is exactly what the title suggests – a retro arcade racer, a throwback to those checkpoint games of old like Virtua Racer.

Developed by RePixel8, a micro indie developer who we had the pleasure of meeting at this year’s EGX, Formula Retro Racing has become much coveted due to its classic style and simplicity.

With a number of different modes including the classic Grand Prix and Time Trials to the survival-based Eliminator mode, there is something for everyone.

Sporting an excellent soundtrack, fantastic visuals and incredibly satisfying crash physics, Formula Retro Racing is a gem of the indie racing game scene.

Formula Retro Racing is available now on PlayStation 4/5, Xbox One, and Steam.

Aspire – Ina’s Tale

At first glance I was unsure what to expect from Aspire – Ina’s Tale; what I did find was an incredibly charming 2D platformer with a gorgeous art style.

Aspire sees you assume the rule of Ina, “the heart,” who has woken in The Tower which has suffered and attacked by a great darkness.  Ina must find a way to navigate a route through the ruins and find her way home.

To find your way, you must solve various puzzles utilising special abilities Ina can absorb from the gods – these include being able to make objects move, grow and ignite.  These mechanics provide interesting, but not overly challenging, puzzles to solve along your journey

One of the game’s key strengths is its looks.  It has an incredibly deliberate art style, with a geometric look to it, having each ability presented as a shape (square, circle, triangle).  The aesthetics then builds on these shapes resulting in some beautiful backdrops.

As a 2D platformer, level design is key and in Aspire – Ina’s Tale this is very well done with a variety of jumps, slides, ropes, lifts, and interactive items to solve the various puzzles and plot your escape.  What I would have liked though was a little bit more animation when traversing the levels.  Ina is, unsurprisingly, two-dimensional – there is a lack of animation in Ina herself which I found very noticeable, particularly when trying to build momentum on rope swings – I wanted to see her try a bit harder.  A little more animation in the character model would have added another layer of immersion, but this is a minor gripe.

Having been unsure what to expect with Aspire – Ina’s Tale, its charm won me over.  Not one that brings anything new to the table, but an incredibly enjoyable chilled experience if you have a few hours to spare.

Aspire – Ina’s Tale is available now on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One and Steam.

Word Forward

It is no secret; I love a puzzle game of any kind. So, when I saw Word Forward thought “this looks perfect for those boring Teams calls!” 

Word Forward is a fresh take on the classic word search.  Your aim for each level is to clear all the letters from the board by making words of 3 or more letters.  This may sound easy, but it was certainly trickier than I expected.

Word Forward Screenshot

You are provided with different tools to aid your all-clear quests including the ability to swap letters within the grid, shuffle the grid, bomb an individual letter tile, or change a single tile to the letter of your choice.

For a few pounds, I struggle not to recommend this to anyone who has a soft spot for word games.

Word Forward is available now on iOS, Android, Nintendo Switch and Steam.