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itch.io Recommends: a demo and a game we can't talk about

This week’s recommendations are going to be a bit different than usual. We’re recommending less games for one, and the second game I can’t really talk about without ruining it for another. Also the first game is a demo? Weird, right? Anyway, let’s dig into these strange new projects.


Roadwarden

A lot of the trouble of recommending demos and unfinished games comes from the fact that demos and betas all traffic in promises. It’s not just the content that’s available, but the framework that’s set up in advance of the full game. The Roadwarden demo I played this week is as guilty of this content scaffolding-as-project as any, but the potential here is so great that it has rocketed up my list of anticipated games.

If you’re interested in interactive fiction: strap in because you’re going for a ride. As a fan of IF I feel like I’ve seen what the genre can do, but Roadwarden somehow blew my expectations out of the water with its polish. There are live updating maps and art on one side of the screen that change as you branch your way throughout the story, an updating inventory that changes as you acquire and consume resource, and the most impressive detail: the emotion system.

Roadwarden’s Emotion system feels like a genuine step forward in roleplaying in IF. Instead of having specific dialogue that you’re choosing between Roadwarden allows you to choose one of several emotions you’re trying to convey through your interaction. From here the conversation branches into several different paths and you do some more traditional dialogue clicking. It’s an interesting change that I hope becomes the standard going forward.


Dungeons and Brooms

Dungeons and Brooms is a game that intentionally makes no sense. As a part of the design the developers wanted to make a game that’s inscrutable as if you’d lost the manual to a game (that was the theme of the game jam they made the game for) and out of respect for that I’m not going to talk about playing the game itself.

When I was younger I’d be lent games from friends and cousins purely in cartridge form. In most cases this was fine, but occasionally I’d have to discover rules and play on the fly. It’s an experience that seems kind of impossible as tutorials become better and more common and while that’s definitely progress some part of me longs for the way things used to be. After a fair amount of playing I’m still not sure what the mechanics of Dungeons and Brooms are completely but I’m enjoying the process of trial-and-error-ing my way through them. It’s a fun sort of repeated faceplant that’s worth checking out if just for the mystery alone.

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An interactive fiction in which you explore and change a hostile, grim realm.
Interactive Fiction
GIF
A challenging board game
Puzzle