Welcome to the inaugural Indie Roundup! That’s right, Trump isnt the only one put in office. So what is the Indie Roundup, you ask? Well every month, I’d like to take you through a few of the smaller titles you’ll find digging through the Steam store and highlight the big indie game releases. I’ll also pick out an older title that I want to call attention to or an old gem I’m discovering for the first time. Gotta do something about that Steam backlog, right?

OK, let’s get to it.

Nefarious: It’s Alright to Be Bad

Nefarious by Starblade puts you in control of Crow, the evil villain and scourge of Macro City. Like all evil-doers, his main goal is to kidnap the princess and thwart the hero…but what if the hero didn’t want to save the princess? Crow finally wins one and decides the answer is to kidnap MORE princesses from other kingdoms. It’s a unique twist on the general hero/villain trope and Crow does become a hero in his own weird way throughout the course of the story.

The game is a standard platformer and you only have access to a punch and a grenade to take out the various enemies you’ll encounter. You can collect coins and upgrade these abilities in a few different ways. The platformer part was arguably my least favorite of the entire game. They would go on just a bit longer than I’d prefer, and the controls were not nearly as tight as they should be. I found myself missing jumps I should have landed or explosions knocking me off to my death, which lent itself to a frustrating platforming experience. The game does have some collectibles, but they would be just out of reach with no clear direction on how to get there. The collectibles hinted at deeper mechanics around grenade jumps or enhanced movement abilities, but I never figured out how to actually get those mechanics to work.

The meat of Nefarious are the reverse boss fights, where you’ll act as the big bad guy trying to take out the plucky hero. For these battles, the game draws its inspiration from classic video game bosses of the past. Your first fight has you piloting a flying ship and swinging a ball and chain using your momentum. If you didn’t realize it was Sonic the Hedgehog already, your opponent Dash the Honeybee would tip you off. There was a battle later in the game that was clearly a throwback to SNES JRPG games, but those were the only two where I recognized the reference. These sequences helped to break up the duller platforming segments. You’ll pick up the pattern of how to attack really quick but it only amounts to “figure out how to hit the hero” and wail on them for three minutes until they’re knocked out. The hero really doesn’t present a challenge and after the novelty of the fight wears off, you’re just trying to get to the next sequence.

Outside of the levels, you can wander around your airship and talk with everyone aboard. The princesses have some good dialog and the game does present you with breaks
from the action in between levels. One sequence had you participating on a dating game show, trying to woo the princesses you’ve captured and another was an underwater exploration sequence. The game has a really catchy art style that gives it that classic video game aesthetic without being an 8/16bit game. On top of that, the music was really catchy and would stick in my head for a bit after I had finished. Nefarious does try to be funny, but I personally found it hit or miss. I will say that Crow’s ‘Secretary of Evil’ Becky had some of my favorite lines in the whole game and she brings a dry sense of supervillain humor to the game.

Nefarious has a lot of interesting ideas and the art style is catchy and engaging. By the end though, I was ready to put Nefarious behind me and move onto something else. It’s an alright experience that should wrap up a little faster than it actually will and it’s worth checking out as a part of a future sale down the line. Nefarious is currently available on Steam.

Diluvion: DIVE! DIVE! DIVE!

Have you ever wanted to be a submarine captain? Diluvion by Arachnid Games is for you then! A long time ago, the world was visited upon by a Great Flood and forced all of humanity to live underwater. You come in as a captain willing to brave the depths with your crew in search of treasure and glory.

The waters of the world are wide open to you, and Diluvion has you moving from one quest to the next for whatever your ship requires. You might be trying to find a sonar officer to recruit or dive down into wreckage for lost treasure or ship upgrades. The plot structure is really linear and while there are side locations to explore, I didn’t really find anything interesting to make it worth investigating. The story itself was compelling and I enjoyed seeing just how these people survive underwater. The game does give hints of something bigger or more sinister at work and while I haven’t finished it entirely, I’m curious to close it out and see.

Your minute to minute gameplay is rather straightforward and consists mostly of driving the sub through wide open areas. Now normally, I wouldn’t make a specific note of the controls but I found it necessary to highlight for Diluvion. Piloting the sub is something of a chore. You’re never moving as fast as you’d like to, and instead of W and S controlling your forward and backward movement, they instead control the speed of the sub. Q and E are used to lower and raise the sub in the water. The default control scheme ended up getting in the way when it came to action sequences or combat, causing me to run into obstacles I couldn’t see or position correctly. You end up in situations of low visibility and usually at the point where you can’t afford it.

On the same point as low visibility, the game plays like you have the draw distance turned to thirty feet in front of your sub at all times. You’ll usually see obstacles coming unless you happen to run into a wall but in the end you’re staring at your ship in a murky bluish expanse for most of the time. This leads to some dull visuals when it comes to other ships or the underwater world itself.

After selecting which model sub you want to pilot at the start, you’ll start recruiting crew to help add more functions to your ship. Sonar, guns and torpedoes will eventually unlock and enable you to survive longer. You can also manage your crew by assigning them to different posts within your sub and upgrading their stats with items. Features like the sonar ping will allow you to identify landmarks and enemy ships from a distance and navigate the treacherous waters.

A lot of the storytelling and crew management comes through in a slightly different interface. When you go into this mode, the game presents you with a cross-section of the ship or building and the game takes on a hand drawn aesthetic as you explore the buildings or your ship. This is also your interface for entering ‘Captain’s Time’ where you’re supposed to slow down time and increase your reflexes in combat. I never quite figured out how it worked and usually shooting the enemy as fast as possible worked for me.

Diluvion was an interesting, albeit clunky, experience. There’s a saying in filmmaking where if you’re noticing the edit, you don’t have a good editor. Diluvion feels like it hits that same note. I liked a lot of the artwork and concept of the game, and I’m likely going to finish the game off, but there were technical issues that really stuck out to me in a way I don’t usually notice them. It’s worth trying out for the novelty of the game, but definitely go in with the right expectations. You can find Diluvion on Steam.

Stardew Valley: Give Eggs, Get Love

For the lookback game this month, I wanted to highlight Stardew Valley by ConcernedApe. This was a game I put an awful lot of time into last year but I loved every minute of it.

The premise behind this farming simulator is that after realizing you want to leave a soul crushing corporate job, your grandfather passes away and leaves you his farm out in Stardew Valley. You learn how to tend to your crops, manage livestock, and explore everything this quiet costal town has to offer.

Stardew Valley is at its core a very simple farming game. I personally haven’t played the Harvest Moon series, but those games are often compared to Stardew Valley. The core loop of the game is you’ll wake up, check your TV for tomorrow’s weather and any tips the channels might have, then water your crops. From there, you can go into town, dive into the mines, fish, and chat with villagers until your energy bar depletes. You need to be back in bed before then, otherwise you’ll pass out and suffer a penalty. As you learn the various activities and look forward to the rainy days (where you don’t have to waste time watering your crops), you’ll fall into a rhythm of daily chores and routines. The greatest resource you’re going to butt heads with in this game isn’t money, but rather enough time in the day to do all the things you want to do.

Your goal is to either restore the Community Center as a centerpiece in the town or sell out the town to Joja Mart and watch them turn the center into a warehouse. Joja Co. is a traditional ‘big box’ store and the game definitely plays off the idea of a big box store muscling out the local shop owners. Pierre, the owner of the General Store, usually complains about how he can’t compete with their prices. Outside of a few snippets though, there isn’t an ongoing story unfolding around you on a day-to-day basis. The game is ultimately what you choose to make of it.

The local villagers provide most of the color and charm to Stardew Valley, and you’ll build a relationship with every single person in town. You can give each one a gift, up to two per in-game week, and depending on whether or not they like it will bump up your friendship. At a certain relationship level, you can even give them a bouquet of flowers to ‘go steady’ and eventually marry one person by giving them a mermaid pendant from the sailor ghost. Yes, you did read that right. As these relationships grow, you’ll unlock personal scenes with the other characters, highlighting that you’re not just another villager to them but a close friend or partner. Everyone has their daily routines, so when you’re out exploring the town, it feels like there’s a lot of activity.

If you decide to go down into the mines nearby, you can slay monsters for loot and resources to improve your farm. The mines are the only place you can find more advanced metals to build better sprinklers and will help unlock better versions of your tools. Combat is not deep at all. You can pick a few different weapons but they all change how fast your attack swing is and you’re really just going to attack as fast as you can. If the monsters knock you out, you’ll lose a certain amount of gold and items at random, plus you have to fight that energy bar so you don’t pass out in the mines too.

I recognize I’m in far too deep on Stardew Valley at this point, but I know it is exceptionally slow to start. The energy meter runs down fast in the beginning, forcing you to go to bed and move onto the next day at around 3:00 PM. Your character doesn’t move that fast to get around town. You spend so much time watering crops and not exploring the other aspects of the game in the beginning and it takes time to get moving. Once that momentum is there and your farm is up and running, you can spend far more time exploring and that’s where you’ll find Stardew Valley’s charm.

For $15, I’ve put in probably 130 hours into Stardew Valley since last year. I’m still amazed by that considering it’s a farming game. There’s so much to uncover as you get into the game, which is why I wanted to highlight it here as something you might have missed. You can find it on Steam, PS4 and Xbox One today , and it’s coming to the Nintendo Switch sometime this year.

That’s all for this month’s and very first Indie Roundup! What did you think? Have suggestions for my next games? Drop a comment below!

About The Author

Andy L
Review/Editorial Writer

Ever since he received a Sega Genesis for Christmas at age 6, Andy has been hooked on video games. Pokemon and Metal Gear Solid are his all-time favorite games, but he's found an appreciation for quirky, unique indie titles as well. He's also into board games because one gaming hobby just wasn't enough.