The Best Nindies At Gamescom 2019
We played a whole bunch of indies at Gamescom. Read on for our thoughts on the lot of them, and be sure to check out the rest of our coverage from the event.
Gamescom for Nintendo kicked off this year with an Indie World Direct that showcased a great selection of games headed to Switch. Lucky for us we got to go hands on with a whole bunch of them on the show floor, and a few extras too! We’ve got hands on impressions of Northgard, Silksong, Skellboy, The Touryst, What The Golf, Two Point Hospital, Youropa and Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair.
So, in no particular order, let’s get into it!
Hollow Knight: Silksong
The fact this game started out as DLC - before ambition got the better of developers’ Team Cherry - is evident in the gorgeous art style that will be familiar to fans of Hollow Knight.
You can see why they opted to spin Silksong off into an entirely new game though. Hornet moves a lot quicker than the first game’s protagonist, and is much more nimble in the air. Sure, all the tight platforming and tough boss battles are still here, but there’s enough of a different feel to exploring this world to give Silksong a personality all of it’s own.
The more forgiving platforming and slightly better exposition should make this a more accessible affair. Read our full preview to find out why we’re really looking forward to this one.
A big hit on PC, Northgard is an RTS with plenty of depth. Despite some initial trepidation going in, the Age of Empires and Settlers vibes slowly sucked me in and if the demo hadn’t ended I would’ve likely spent a couple of hours building up my economy and strengthening my armies.
Your territory starts out as a single area with expansion achieved by settling in neighbouring tiles. You can only build a certain number of buildings in each tile, so increasing your settlement is crucial to improving your Viking society.
Some areas are occupied by enemies though, who will need to be taken care of before you can settle. It was an immediately satisfying gameplay loop, and with all the genre-defining resource management present and correct, this should be a great play on Switch. Keep an eye out for it later this year.
Skellboy, developed by Umaiki Games and published by Fabraz, was the immediate standout for us in that Indie World Direct. The 3D but 2D art style looked fantastic, and the beautiful diaromas the game takes place in looked jam-packed with charm. Thankfully, playing the game did not disappoint.
It’s the developer’s first game, and they’re only a team of 3, but the light platforming elements and smooth combat made it an incredibly fun playthrough. The boss battle at the end of the demo was a tough but satisfying fight too. This being an early section of the game, I’m excited to see what else lies in store.
It’s difficult to overstate just how unique and enjoyable this game’s presentation is. Apparently the artist didn’t have a huge amount of experience with 3D modelling, so they went with 2D, added some depth to the sprites, and Skellboy’s visuals were born. It’s brilliant, and the way the camera swoops around as you battle your way through the castle adds a cinematic vibe that makes the hero’s posthumous adventure feel even more epic.
I can’t wait to explore the castle in more depth when the game launches in December.
The Touryst was another game that stood out during that Indie World presentation, and another one that didn’t disappoint when I got my hands on it. From developer Shin’en, the game is a world away from their previous game - Fast RMX - that Switch fans will be familiar with.
In an almost Captain Toad like setup, you take control of a Magnum PI looking dude as he treks around self-contained islands solving puzzles and looking for clues. There’s a mystery to be solved, and jumping around beach huts and ancient monuments was a lot of fun.
There’s no combat to speak of, the battle is purely between the terrain and your wits, but the bright and clean visual style really made it fun to explore. There’s a ton of polish here, and Shin’en should be applauded for making what is essentially a basic artstyle look so goddam gorgeous.
Exploring the little dioramas was a lot of fun, and the demo ended with a trip to second island. I assume the game will comprise multiple islands like this that need to be investigated, and I can’t wait to don my hawaiian shirt to do so.
Two Point Hospital
From the guys behind the PC classic Theme Hospital, spiritual successor Two Point Hospital arrived on PC last year. Plenty of us have been holding off for a console version and thankfully one is coming soon.
The Switch version wasn’t available at Gamescom, but playing the game using a PS4 pad gave us a chance to see how the game has made the transition from keyboard and mouse. Happily it seems to have done so brilliantly.
There’s always a worry that these types of games require an inordinate amount of button pressing in order to access the various menus that would be a cinch with a mouse. Fortunately, after only a couple of minutes, I was building rooms, hiring staff, and instructing patients where to go with ease.
That particular worry out of the way, all that was left was to enjoy the hilarious gameplay on offer. Reading staff bios always gave a chuckle, and ridiculous ailments like Light Headedness (in which the patient has a light bulb for a head) should mean that this will be a experience on Switch.
What The Golf?
I don’t think I’ve laughed this much at a game in a long time. The bait and switch from the tutorial is genius. Going in blind it seems like a fairly straightforward golf game and that initial tutorial is set up exactly like one.
You hold A to power up your shot, with an arrow showing you the direction you’re hitting the ball in, and away you go. Once the ball is in you move onto the first hole proper.
You hold A, the golfer stood at the T bring his club back, you release… and the golfer himself gets launched launched down the fairway. From there on in it only gets more ridiculous.
Hitting a house through traffic. Launching a clod of earth with the hole in it towards a massive number 1 dug out of the ground (a hole in one, naturally). Whacking a ball through an homage of Super Mario Bros’ World 1-1. Each hole is more ridiculous than the last.
I honestly had so much fun with this brief demo. If the full game can keep up the surprises and the variation, it will honestly be a stone cold must-play on Switch. Simply brilliant.
Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair
We had to wait a while for Yooka-Laylee to arrive on Switch. When it finally arrived the game wasn’t without it’s flaws, but nevertheless scratched that nostalgic itch for those N64 era Rare platformers.
This time around however, the guys at Playtonic Games are bypassing their Banjo-Kazooie history and going all the way back to SNES-era Donkey Kong Country. They could well be onto a winner for doing so.
Full disclosure: the version we played at Gamescom wasn’t on the Switch, but the Xbox One. It certainly looked gorgeous on Microsoft’s system, each level bursting with colour and the personalities of both enemies and the heroes themselves plain to see. Hopefully the Switch version won’t need to much of a downgrade in the visuals department.
The gameplay though was top notch. The two levels I got to try out were a ton of fun, with all sorts of secrets and hidden passageways to hunt down. There’s tons of quills floating around for you to collect, as well as 5 coins which take the place of the ‘KONG’ letters.
The health system from the first game has gone too, with Impossible Lair instead opting for a Yoshi’s Island style system. If you take a whack from one of Capital B’s minions, Laylee will fly around in a blind panic and the player as Yooka has to go retrieve her. Fail, and you’ll have to find a bell to call her back. It was quite a fun system to play with and added something different to worry about besides just making it to the end.
Some may argue that Yooka-Laylee suffered due to the scope of the game and the fact it was such a new and small (albeit experienced) team. However, Impossible Lair could well be a much more manageable venture, not least because the studio are now much more established. There was a level of polish evident in this brief playthrough that was missing in the original game. I can’t wait to see how the rest of Impossible Lair pans out.
Last but not least we have Youropa. This was one of the more intriguing propositions from the Indie World showcase, and it takes a little more time to get to grips with too. With a world tipped upside down and the Eiffel Tower smashed into hundreds of pieces, your weird paint-sponge-man avatar must make their way across each of these floating shards.
The kicker is that gravity has a real effect. In something like Super Mario Galaxy, gravity is always located at the centre of whatever planet you’re running around on, whereas here, gravity is always down. Getting your head around that takes a little time, but once you do, you start to appreciate how clever the puzzle design is here.
Your little dude has suction cup feet, which allow him to walk around curved platforms and hang upside down or walk across walls. Reach an edge though and he’ll fall downwards. Remembering which way ‘downwards’ actually is, is the key to moving around.
Activating certain pads and switches will open up the way forward to the next path. There’s also powerups and abilities you can earn to make figuring out the best way forward a little easier (in the demoI unlocked one that allowed me to zoom out and get a birds eye view of the current diorama). There are secret collectables to find too.
I wouldn’t say Youropa knocked my socks off, but by the end of my playthrough I was certainly intrigued enough to want to play more. The concept is incredibly clever, and I got the sense that the puzzles will be equally brain-bending the more you move through the game. Quietly impressive.
Phil is the co-founder and editor of Nintendo Village, and also writes, hosts and produces P Myth Gaming. He has been a Nintendo fanboy for as long as he can remember and owns every home console bar the Virtual Boy (one day... one day...). His favourite game is The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.