A couple of weeks ago at the time of writing, I picked up the itch.io Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality, which included a staggering 1,741 video games, RPG’s, sountracks, development assets and a few other bits of content from 1,391 creators, all for as little as $5. I doubt there’s ever been better value in the name of a good cause or otherwise, with a retail worth of over $9,500, and it’s been a massive success, raising almost $8.2million as I speak!
There’s a few big indie headline-grabbers included, with things like Overland, Night in the Woods, Celeste and the wonderful Minit to name just a handful, but the real joy I’ve had so far is browsing through the rest of the content, deciding on a few priorities, and discovering some really cool stuff on the way… Far more enjoyable than actually playing anything!
Despite that, it is nice to feel you’ve actually made some progress into a giant heap of stuff like this, and that came when I accidentally started a browser-based choose-your-own-adventure called American Election, then spent a bit over an hour playing through it. Very simple, nothing revolutionary, but well written and engaging. With that quick win out of the way, I also couldn’t resist jumping straight into Wampus – an actual NES game in actual .nes file – when I came across it. It’s a very linear take on the original Zelda, nothing too taxing and is over in an hour and a half, but it’s a nice time.
With games that play in your internet browser, it’s often just as easy to click Run Game as it is to read a description, and that’s what I nonchalantly then did with a game called Intrepid. “You are an intrepid explorer hunting for artifacts. Can you survive?” This was developed by Jambudd for the March 2018 Archeology Bitsy Jam, with Bitsy being a simple HTML 5 game and world editor, and archeology being the theme for that month’s game jam.
And this one properly caught me by surprise! I’m still not sure how such a tiny, 1-bit browser game can be quite so affecting, but a week on from finally getting the ending I wanted, I can’t stop thinking about it! From how a two-colour opening scene can be quite so descriptive of your enviroment and convey such atmosphere, to its commentary on colonialism that dictates the “good” ending, I was really blown away by this!
In the space of four of the most basic-looking but perfectly beautiful screens you’ll ever come across, and over the course of less than a minute of gameplay, you’re finding a cave in the desert, inching your way across a rickety bridge, climbing to reach an artifact, then getting out of there, Indiana Jones style.
And there’s multiple ways of doing that, most of which end in your demise, but think long and hard about what you’re doing (and I did, over days!) and things might work out a bit better!
The minimal look, complemented by equally minimal text that gives you literally just enough to make progress one way or another, does a wonderful job of inspiring your imagination – as was so often the case in the early 8-bit days – and as a result comes across as far more atmospheric than the sum of its parts. And it all combines to keep nagging at you until work what you should be doing!
The bundle might be over, but if you missed out you can still check out Intrepid here. And I can’t recommend doing that enough!
Before I go, another quick couple of recommendations to help you to tick off some more games in the bundle if you did manage to pick it up… First up is a surprisingly powerful browser-based text adventure called Masks, about being in a university under siege by riot police. It’s inspired by last year’s Hong Kong protests, but seems equally relevant as I write now. It takes just minutes, though you’ll probably want to play again a few times, and it’s very unique in that genre as far as I’m aware, but regardless is just very impressive.
There’s a few other game-jam type browser games there that are definitely a look too, but I don’t want to spoil your browsing fun, so I’ll just close with recommending you check out I’m Bored, Let’s Explore (Ruins). It’s another quick, simple treat with a lovely art style, so check it out and don’t forget that small is occasionally beautiful!