RPGamer’s Picks: Itch.io Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality
Itch.io is sponsoring a bundle to challenge racial injustice, inequality, and police brutality against Black people. The Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality, which is available for a $5 minimum donation, includes more than 1,600 items. There are several RPGs of interest among the mind-boggling collection of platformers, Metroidvanias, puppy walk ’em ups, tabletop RPGs, game assets, and other outpourings of digital creativity. Here’s a small selection of our favorites from the ever-growing collection.
The bundle will be available until June 16. Full proceeds will be split evenly between the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and a collection of community bail funds. For more background on racial inequality in America, check out blacklivesmatters.carrd or Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “Letter to My Son“.
Connections are important in Echodog Games’ Signs of the Sojourner. The unnamed protagonist leaves home to save their shop, which keeps the rural community of Barstow on the caravan route. Without its connection to the wider world, Barstow will dry up and die. Making the town profitable requires stock, which other members of the post-crash society only share with those they trust.
Establishing trust is a matter of playing the right cards. Conversations are represented by a card-matching system where each character’s values determine their deck’s contents. Since Barstow is a community of empathic, community-oriented folks, the player begins with a deck of orange circles and green triangles. As they adapt to the outside world, they may swap out their starting cards for more nuanced ways of communicating or switch their rhetoric entirely to include artistic, individualistic diamonds or straight-shooting squares. Travel changes people, but the home they leave may not be as welcoming when they return.
It’s a lot of fun to craft a deck (and therefore a persona) to meet the challenges and stories of the road. Meeting the characters along the caravan’s route and learning their stories is a joy that drives mechanical experimentation. Everybody wants something, but they’re not going to get it on their own. Especially in a bundle like this one, it’s exciting to see a game where helping individuals is a catalyst for wider social change. — Zach Welhouse
Whenever the subject of Minit turns up, it always feels appropriate to defer to the words of our previous Editor-in-Chief. The unique title from Kitty Calis, Jan Willem Nijman, Jukio Kallio, and Dominik Johann immediately grabbed attention and swiftly became a favourite, deservedly receiving the honour of being the first victor of our award created in Mac’s memory. I’ll let him explain it:
“Minit has a simple premise; you have sixty seconds to explore, perform tasks, and make progress before you die and have to respawn back at your home. As simple as a concept that is, it’s far from shallow and is actually one of the most compelling and pure gaming experiences I’ve had in recent years. […] Minit is as lean as a game can be, and the lack of fat and padding make it an ideal title to just dive in and play. It’s fantastic.” The full review has more praise. — Alex Fuller
Since reviewing Jimmy and the Pulsating Mass last August, I’ve spent some time thinking about its charm. Is it the solid, turn-based combat or imaginative world? The depiction of deep, messy family love? The swaggering wit of dashing gang leader Punch Tanaka? Yes. These are all examples of the earnestness and care that have gone into Jimmy’s world.
Jimmy’s imagination is the stand-out mechanic. As he learns to empathize with his opponents, Jimmy can take their forms. Each form, like the ’50s-style vampire or the record player bird, has different abilities and stat modifiers. As Jimmy spends time in these forms, he unlocks improvements to his base state. This growth in combat matches Jimmy’s growth as a character. As he crafts an identity from the world around him, the world reveals more about who he is at his core. — Zach Welhouse
Long Gone Days is a title I’ve had my eye on for a while as it has gone through the Early Access process. Its modern-day setting combined with pixel-sprites and visual novel-style storytelling immediately appeals to me, and it explores some very interesting elements often glossed over in RPGs such as the human toll of conflict and language barriers. The game is edging closer to that full release, with developer BURA currently working on its final chapter. I’m looking forward to fully diving in, but for those who can’t wait, there’s lots of content already available. — Alex Fuller
2064: Read Only Memories looks like a game made to honor the era of MacVenture classics while offering modern design conveniences. It revels in an appealing retro pixel-art aesthetic, splashing its large environmental scenes in color, letting the player explore its dystopian Neo-San Francisco via an icon-based cursor interface. The game features a lengthy narrative, fully voice-acted, about the search for a kidnapped scientist set against the politically-charged backdrop of trans-humanism and AI rights’ protests. It’s a bit on the easy side, but constructs a well-realized world for players to lose themselves within. — Pascal Tekaia
I can honestly say I’ve never played a game quite like Milkmaid of the Milky Way. Even though its gameplay is of the familiar point-and-click variety, the game is presented entirely in rhyme, whether narration, dialog, or journal entries. Then there’s the unique path the heroine, dairy farmer Ruth, is on. The game begins in the Scandinavian mountains, where the player must solve inventory-based puzzles to make milk and cheese. Before long, things take a drastic turn, sending Ruth into outer space in a dramatic scene after her herd is cownapped by an alien spaceship, and tasking her with facing the ruthless alien queen Amrita to rescue her herd and, incidentally, liberate an entire alien society. It’s an irreverent, surprisingly emotional, and, above all, incredibly memorable game. — Pascal Tekaia
People like witches. People like office humor. Someone ought to do something with the two. Someone—AP Thomson—did. Cassandra, the oracle for her company’s Magical Resources department, is in a pickle. She’s at risk of being downsized! To justify her corporate existence she must drive back a horde of demonic corporate raiders.
Combat revolves around Cassandra’s ability to predict and counter her opponents’ moves. Each card she plays from her fortune-telling deck predicts a specific attack with some degree of certainty. Playing additional cards provides additional effects, but also risks muddling the initial prediction. Building a deck that responds to different challenges is a nice bit of strategy. Fortune 499 is quick to pick up and play, so its quirky writing and lo-fi aesthetics make for a great jolt of caffeine. — Zach Welhouse
These days folks seem to have a lot of funny ideas about what makes a real cowboy. The exemplary trailer for The Real Texas has a little advice for every lone rider with a gun on one hip and a holster full of beef jerky on the other. Take it slow, talk to everyone, and piece together what’s happening in this wild world. Mind the bats, keep free from dynamite, and explore all the nooks and crannies of whatever world you may find yourself. No matter how much you may look like you’re made out of wooden blocks, the thrill of an action RPG can drive you. Dodge, reload, and keep an eye open for your enemy’s weaknesses.
If you’re not quite ready to walk the path of the cowboy, check out RPGamer’s review from the archive for more True Cowboy Facts. — Zach Welhouse
Gataela is still in its demo phase, to judge from the file available in the bundle, but it’s already looking better than the majority of RPG Maker-ish titles out there. It’s definitely an homage to the SNES in some ways, but goes its own way in others. One interesting item of note is that it has a separate encounter system for arguing, debating, or otherwise attempting to convince an NPC to help with something, and successful resolutions will net the hero experience points. The writing and story seem to be going in a good direction as well, so this is one I will be keeping an eye out for in the future. — Michael Baker
It would be easy to write OneShot off based purely on its RPG Maker aesthetic; true, that software was indeed used to create this game, but there’s nothing ordinary or pedestrian about it. In fact, OneShot isn’t an RPG so much as a non-traditional adventure game sporting the look of a 16-bit RPG.
Niko’s quest to save a slowly dying world, whose sun has been extinguished, from certain annihilation by bringing a light bulb to the top of a distant tower is already a bit out of the norm. But it’s the whole package that makes the experience truly unique, as OneShot involves the player in the narrative by actually casting them in the role of an omniscient being, featuring regular dialog exchanges between player and protagonist, and posing puzzles that require both thinking and looking outside of the game box to solve. A world needs saving, and you’ve got one shot to become the savior that it desperately needs. — Pascal Tekaia
ARGH-P-G tries hard to live up to its own name. This tidy little dungeon-crawl fits a basic roguelike experience into a format playable by numeric keypad, if necessary. It’s also quite lethal to the player’s hero, which fits with its chosen sub-genre. This one’s mainly recommended for fans of the more hardcore roguelikes as an interesting tidbit to mess around with. It’s also playable directly through one’s browser without downloading, which is a plus. — Michael Baker
Thou Shalt Be Brave hearkens back to an earlier time of PC RPGs, where the colors were EGA and the screen space was cramped. As this is purely an aesthetic choice on the developer’s part, it is of course cranked up to 11. There really isn’t enough space within the game’s window to show much, but a lot was done with the nuances of thirty-five-year-old sprite graphics management. The text is readable, if mainly through the power of pareidolia, so I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone who’s not fluent in English. — Michael Baker
Taking a break from the digital to arrive at the tabletop, Blades in the Dark is a pen and paper RPG that has a group of people become a gang. Set in a world heavily inspired by games like Dishonored, Thief, and Bloodborne, Blades has the group performing a series of jobs or heists while trying to avoid authorities, rival gangs, and sometimes ghosts and demons. It’s a setting that slowly grinds down the characters, even as they and their hideout get stronger, but where it really shines are the heists themselves.
Between missions, players get downtime to relieve stress, gather information for future jobs, build alliances, or work on improving stats. But rather than getting bogged down in details, once a heist begins players are given a large amount of freedom to tackle things as they want. Instead of preparing for any contingency ahead of time, players can “flashback” having done something in the past to aid them in the present. This isn’t infinite and does come at the cost of Stress, which can have devastating effects if too much accumulates. What it does do is make every mission a tense tightrope walk, balancing forward progress and managing setbacks in unique and interesting ways. And that’s exactly where Blades is at its best. — Zack Webster
What if you could play as a mouse? Mausritter, which is German for “mouse knight”, offers you that chance. Create your own mouse and band together with your friends in this tabletop roleplaying game.
Mausritter is a great introduction to tabletop roleplaying games, because it takes a lot of the complexity out of the game. The neatly created playbook contains 24 pages of character creation, loot, encounters, and much more to start up your adventure. It is short, very clear, and it is designed to get a game going in a jiffy. So why not get your whiskers wet and dive into a game of Mausritter? — Erik van Asselt
While having a similar macro structure to Blades in the Dark—a bespoke difference between downtime and missions—Lancer instead puts players into the pilot’s seat of mechs in a simple, yet engaging, tactics RPG. Players have nearly thirty mechs to choose from and, thanks to the game’s straightforward leveling system, can mix and match almost any parts they want from other mechs onto their chosen one. It’s a really accessible, modular system that lets players get creative without hours of number crunching.
That’s just scratching the surface of what’s available. Wide Ocean Big Jacket? The bundle has you covered! Mable & The Wood? Bam! Pyre? Ayup. Please join the discussion in the comments about the staff’s selections and anything you’d recommend we check out.