The Best Hidden Gems in Itch.Io’s Community Bundle
Games service Itch.io currently has an interesting charity bundle on sale. For a minimum donation of $5 towards the NAACP and Community Bail Fund, you get the sheer volume of almost 1500 titles. While smash hits like Celeste and A Night in The Woods are a part of this bundle, there are a lot of lesser known titles in its ranks. Included are game assets, tech demos, and tabletop games. For brevity’s sake, I’ll be focusing on completed PC games, but also only talking about the positives of each. To not take away from the wonderful charity work, this isn’t a review, but a series of recommendations, nor is this in any particular order. Here’s the top 10 games on Itch.io’s Community Bundle For Racial Justice and Equality.
10. Stowaway by Dirigogames
Stowaway is a short sci-fi horror title that grabbed me almost immediately. Set on a space station, the story of Stowaway is familiar: an alien monstrosity picks off the crew 1 by 1. While the story is recognizable, the graphics are out of this world. Aesthetically, Stowaway is like no-other, with cold vector industrial landscapes and nearly no color. At times, you feel like this is some time capsule early title meant to be played on an oscilloscope. Every visual choice feels meant to drive home just how alone you are. Similarly, Stowaway’s soundtrack will leave you wishing for a friendly face as you race through the desolate station. You can complete Stowaway in about an hour, giving you nonstop thrills while leaving you wishing for more.
9. Night Of The Consumers by GERMFOOD
As a former retail worker, Night Of The Consumer’s tagline “Retail Is Hell” spoke to me in a way that not many do. When it opened with a warning that this game included content about retail, I was hooked. Night Of The Consumer is a survival horror that takes place in a grocery store. Instead of zombies, you face off against a horde of customers with endless complaints. If you take enough damage, they ask to speak to the manager and its game over. Aesthetically, NOTS evokes PS1 horror, similar to Resident Evil, albeit with a high paced format. Night Of The Consumer is a fun romp that’ll leave you glad it’s only fictitious.
8. 2064: Read Only Memories by Midboss
If you’re a cyberpunk fan and looking to scratch the itch for a well rounded cyberpunk title, 2064 is for you. Set in a future where mechanical augmentation is common, you play as a journalist given the story of a lifetime. Inspired by titles like King’s Quest and Snatcher, 2064 is a retro eyecatcher. Each frame is painstakingly crafted with 256 color, accompanied by a crunchy synth soundtrack. If you’re a fan of old school Point-and-clicks, 2064’s interactive environments and item puzzles will be all too familiar. 2064 also includes an optional legacy mode with less streamlined controls for that classic feel. If you find yourself drawn in to 2064, the game also has an artbook and downloadable soundtrack available for a separate purchase.
7. Long Gone Days by Camila Gormaz
Long Gone Days takes a surprisingly brutal look at war in a way often reserved for linear fps campaigns. Being a strategy game with multiple combat layers, Long Gone Days allows you to connect with war in an unprecedented level. You play as a sniper caught up in modern urban combat. While the primary form of combat is a turret style shooting, close combat is done on a turn based style. This, combined with the visual novel segments, makes the combat seem slow and unending, adding to the feeling of impending dread. While the cutscenes are rendered in beautiful modern pixel-art, the drawn sprites for combat makes you remember the faces of those you kill. For fans of hard-hitting visual novels with fun strategy gameplay, Long Gone Days is sure to please.
6. Rebop Blasters by dean_sick
If strategy or adventure games aren’t your style, try Rebop Blasters! Inspired by epic anime fights and a game called Cosmic Rochambo (also by dead_sick), Rebop pits you against another overpowered guy trying to beat you up. Similar to Super Smash Bros., if you get kicked out of bounds, its over. In your arsenal is enough energy blasts and martial arts to turn the stage to dust. While currently only a few stages are available, the combat against AI is smooth and satisfying. If you’re looking for something like super smash brothers for pc with exciting combat, look no further.
5. Master Spy by TURBOGUN
Unlike high octane platformers, the stealthy Master Spy prefers a slick, calculated approach. Each one of your jumps requires forethought, no time to react poorly. For a novice like me, I was glad that despite being unforgiving, the game never sens you back too far. Each level is short, and you can complete them in only a few jumps. Your tool of trade is a trench coat masking you from the senses of the guards, but not their dogs. As a trade off, cloaking yourself hinders your movement, so it’s better to practice precision. When you’re not stealing everything that isn’t bolted down, Master Spy treats you to some gorgeous pixel cutscenes. Eventually you’ll be flipping between your cloaked and uncloaked states midair to avoid dangerous laser tripwires and shark moats. Evoking spy thrillers like Mission Impossible, Master Spy is easily the most challenging platformer I’ve played in years.
4. THE ENIGMA MACHINE by ENIGMA
I’m gonna be honest, the box art of The Enigma Machine was the first thing to jump out at me. Once I started playing, the game itself captivated me as much as the art. The Enigma Machine is set in a future where androids called enigma machines require maintenance in a surreal realm of coded consciousness called Dreamscape. Here you wander around a ps1 inspired puzzle world acting out the whims of a mad AI. Occasionally, you try to discuss and maybe even deescalate the rage of the mechanical beast. Gameplay wise, The Enigma Machine feels like a combination of Blade Runner and Myst, the puzzles play with your perception and sometimes even your sanity.
3. Spirits Of Xanadu By allen
Spirits Of Xanadu feels like a modern recreation of System Shock. The game tasks you with freeing a space station taken over by killer robots. With the insurmountable odds you face, coupled with tapes describing how the ill fated Xanadu came to be, leave you feeling downtrodden. However, when you finally clear an area, you are rewarded with the will to carry on. Very often throughout my play through I found myself blindsided by the hordes of robots, armed only with a single gun. This tense action marks the core of what makes Spirits of Xanadu work so well.
2. Your Future Self by Contortionist Games
Imagine you find yourself in a conversation with your future self, what would you do? Now imagine that your future self was going to be responsible for the death of tens of thousands of people, how would you talk him down? In Your Future Self, you play one giant blown up speech check as you try to reason with a madman. The dense text is broken up by trippy retro visuals and a funky chiptune soundtrack. All in all, Your Future Self is a quick but tense conversation into madness and paranoia with a temporal twist.
1. Test Tube Titans by Ghost Time Games
Test Tube Titans takes raucous Kaiju action and adds the drunken boxer style controls of Qwop. What you get is a destruction fest that even the player has no control over. By mutating and creating new monsters, you can add to the chaos. Also available is co-op and versus mode, so more players can add into the destruction. A word of warning, Test Tube Titan is more enjoyable playing with a gamepad. If you’d like to create your own Kaiju comedy, Test Tube Titans is for you.
As the Itch.io bundle stretches into the final day, I recommend taking a look and finding some titles that interest you. If this article has won you over, the community bundle is available from their homepage.