Kicked off by a friendly face — former Nintendo of America president Reggis Fils-Aime — the Tribeca Games Spotlight offered a look into 8 of the most interesting indies from the show yet.
It all began with Signalis, a creepy horror game introduced by Guillermo del Toro. Pitched as a cosmic psychological horror game, the trailer featured what looked like a lot of computer interfaces with strong PS2 vibes. The moment-to-moment gameplay looks like some classic adventures, but then there’s also bright red screens with fonts saying “I’ve been waiting for this for a long time”, first-person sequences at the cockpit of a crashed ship, and a lot of text and audio in German.
Kena: Bridge of Spirits was next up, featuring a cutscene where we see Kena learning how to use a bow for the first time. Ember Labs then explained their history as a studio, starting life as a business working in visual effects for films, before branching out on a creative path doing animations and commercial work that eventually lead them to creating their own video game.
We’ve seen other studios venture into games this way: the Dino Crisis spiritual successor is being made by a New Zealand design firm.
From there we then got to see how The Rot becomes Kena’s friends and follows her around, in a very Princess Mononoke wood spirit kind of way. The Rot will help you solve puzzles too: once you collect enough of them, they can possess objects, put things back in place, and just generally run around like cute little creatures. It’s wholesome.
Norman Reedus then appeared (in one corner of a screen, in front of a massive painting) to introduce NORCO, a Southern Gothic game from Geography of Robots. It’s a studio that focuses on making games highlighting the American South and its influences, and NORCO concentrates on a particular industrial town in Louisiana.
It’s a point-and-click adventure, at heart, with a lot of LucasArts influence. The presentation, however, is incredibly clean and there’s even a strange combat sequence with some timing puzzles.
Next up was the stop motion of Harold Halibut, although Harold Halibut is a lot more fluid and smoother than most stop motion games. Made by Slow Bros, the studio explained that making a game might be more approachable — and financially feasible — than a feature-length film.
They eventually learned that games cost just as much, but they’d already gone far enough down the path that they couldn’t stop. The studio’s process works with photogrammetry 3D scanning to bring the models to life in-game, with motion capture used afterwards to provide the smoothness for the animation. That gave the developers a little more control over the lighting and camera than what you’d ordinarily get with stop motion.
An astonishing amount of work still has to be painted and crafted by hand — like every single one of the in-game sets, and tons of tiny details like cutlery, tables, stools, and all the things you see in a scene. Harold Halibut is fundamentally a sci-fi game, but it’s still rooted in a world that is very much rooted in the ’70s and the themes of the Cold War.
Japanese Breakfast’s lead artist Michelle Zauner then appeared to introduce Sable, the indie game which she is helping produce all the music for. Sable‘s been an eye-catching highlight since it was announced, but this morning was a first opportunity to learn more about the themes behind Sable.
The motion reminds me a lot of DS games, and you’ll move from place to place as the world of Sable revolves around communities formed around resources. You’ll travel to those micro communities through your glider. It’s a very sedate game, described by the developers themselves as “lonely at times”. If you’re the kind of player who wants virtual spaces where you can just wander for a while, and you’re not pressured by time or fail states so much, then Sable seems an absolute treat.
Next up was Even and Odd, the two stars stuck in the magical chaos of Lost in Random. This first appeared as one of the rare indie games in EA’s annual showcase, with a release date of 2021 on PS4, PC and Switch.
No update was given on that in the Tribeca Games Showcase, but the developers showed and talked through the game’s Tim Burton influences, design, and concept art.
James McAvoy then introduced 12 Minutes, an interactive thriller about reliving a very short time loop. You have 12 minutes before a police officer comes into your home, accuses your wife of murder and then beats the protagonist to death. You wake up at the start of the evening and have to use what you’ve learned to move forward.
Daisy Ridley (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi), who also voices one of the main characters, then described the challenge of creating emotion without the player ever able to see the character’s faces due to the top-down view.
Twelve Minutes has a 2021 release date, but there’s not much info beyond that at this stage.
The Big Con closed out proceedings with its ’90s cartoon vibe, where you’re trying to save your mother’s video store by hustling throughout ’90s America. The game’s director explained that one of The Big Con‘s biggest challenges was convincing people about the merit of a game that didn’t have guns.
It’s a story fundamentally about a single mother and their daughter, their small business and survival, and the dynamic between those two.
This post is being updated live.