Welcome to Indie Games Spotlight, Goomba Stomp’s biweekly column where we highlight some of the most promising upcoming independent titles. This week, spooky skeletons haunt the streets and the smell of pumpkin fills the air: October is upon us at last, bringing a slew of promising indies along with it. This issue includes everything from in-depth stories of the paranormal to some nostalgic throwbacks to some of gaming’s less appreciated past.
Killer Queen Black Brings Arcade Action back to Consoles
Before the wonders of online gaming, multiplayer used to be a much more social experience. Crowded around massive arcade cabinets, players would have to compete with each other face to face if they wanted to test their skills, only being able to challenge those who were physically in the same room with them. Now, Killer Queen Black looks to hearken back to those golden days of social gaming with its upcoming release on Switch and PC.
Its multiplayer focus is only fitting, considering that it was built for arcades from the very beginning. It boasts of hectic 4v4 action, in which three players are tasked with protecting their team’s Queen: whichever team kills their opponents’ Queen three times takes the victory. Of course, local couch co-op is the game’s signature mode, although it also offers wireless local multiplayer for sessions with multiple handheld Switches for complete eight player matches. It comes complete with a slew of leaderboards and ranking systems to incentivize you to keep coming back. It’s not long before the hive war breaks out on October 11, with a release on Xbox One to follow later.
Afterparty – One Hell of a Night
Not all parties are as fun as they should be. If your party isn’t going as well as it should, you might feel like you’re in Hell – and that’s the exact premise behind Afterparty, the latest game from Night School, creators of 2015’s indie hit Oxenfree.
Afterparty begins when the recently deceased friends Lola and Milo find themselves trapped in Hell. Hope may seem lost in the face of such eternal damnation, but they soon find a loophole: if they can outdrink Satan himself, they’ll regain their freedom and return to the land of the living.
Oxenfree was remarkable for its deep dialogue system, and that mechanic returns in full force in Afterparty, with the ability to engage in dynamic conversation with many of the underworld’s most outlandish denizens. This is all on top of other side activities like ping pong, beer pong, and more – as one does while awaiting eternal damnation. It should be one to watch out for when it hits PC, PS4, and Xbox One on October 29. Switch fans will have to wait a bit longer, with a release on Nintendo’s console coming in the next few months.
Stela Brings Shadows to Life
As fiends run rampant in the haunted season of October, there’s no telling what’s lurking in the shadows. This is the core idea of Stela, a stylish cinematic adventure about a young woman roaming a ravaged world while fleeing from the clutches of horrific creatures called “Shadows.”
At first glance, Stela looks like it might one of “those” indie games: the ones that try to follow in the steps of Journey or Inside to create an emotional experience yet ultimately don’t provide any meaningful gameplay experience. However, given the pedigree of its development, Stela shows some true potential. It’s developed by SkyBox Labs, a studio that is also helping out with the development of a little game called Halo Infinite. The idea of these developers bringing their AAA sensibilities to a decidedly smaller project like Stela certainly bodes well for this new title.
It’s already showing a great sense of atmosphere from early footage and trailers, and with the promise of “massive puzzles” and exploration, it could be a worthwhile product for fans of more meditative games. It releases for Xbox One on October 17, with an Apple Arcade edition arriving “in the coming weeks” and a PC release following in the first quarter of 2020.
Broomstick League – Derivative Multiplayer Mayhem
With October being the spookiest season of the year, it won’t be hard to find witches and broomsticks on every corner. Thus, it only makes sense that one of this month’s highlights is Broomstick League, a competitive multiplayer romp all about challenging your friends over magical mastery of the broomstick.
Players split up into teams and fly across massive stadiums to win a magical golden orb, firing off plenty of magical spells to gain the competitive edge all the while. This premise may bear more than a little similarity to a Harry Potter game of Quidditch, but as Charles Caleb Colton once said, “Imitation is the greatest form of flattery.” It should be a fun excursion once it releases on Steam early access “soon.”
Sublevel Zero Redux Calls Back to Forgotten Classics
If there’s one thing that many indies do well, it’s calling back to the history of gaming. Plenty of indies have tried to reconnect with some of gaming’s most iconic classic franchises: so many have taken heavy inspiration from the classic gameplay formulas of Zelda, Mega Man, Castlevania, and more. But amidst all these traditions represented in indie games, not as many have channeled the classic first-person maze shooter style of games like Descent or Forsaken. Sublevel Zero Redux aims to change that.
First released on PS4, Xbox One, and PC a few years back, this revival of the first-person six degree shooter is coming to Switch. It features everything that made its forebears so memorable back in the 90s: gravity-defying aerial combat, massive procedurally generated environments to explore, and old-school difficulty. Perhaps best of all, this new Switch release includes gyro aiming, allowing for a greater degree of firing precision than was otherwise possible. For those looking for a callback to one of the more underappreciated facets of gaming history, Sublevel Zero Redux should do the trick when it hits Switch on October 15.