Aside from a handful of hits, Xbox Game Pass has had a bit of a slow month — until yesterday. During a showcase focused on indie games, Microsoft announced two more games would hit the Game Pass library: Tunic and Paradise Killer. Better yet, they’re both already available.
I know, I know…I’m eating my words already. But hey, at least words make a fine breakfast!
Paradise Killer, developed by Kaizen Game Works, is one of the more unique games of the past few years. One part visual novel, one part detective game, and three parts weird, you’re tasked with solving a murder in a sun-drenched pocket universe full of wacky characters with names like “Lady Love Dies.” But the main draw was the irresistibly catchy synthwave soundtrack from Barry “Epoch” Topping. As you play, you unlock more music, slowly building out a jukebox menu you could use to switch up the tunes at any point (all bangers, no clangers). For its release on Xbox and PlayStation yesterday, Kaizen Game Works added extra songs.
Tunic, meanwhile, is a Zelda-inspired adventure game that just came out yesterday and is already being acclaimed as one of the best of the year. You play as a little fox, who wakes up empty-handed on a whitesand beach. From an isometric perspective, you plunder dungeons and slash enemies in a twee-art fantasy setting. You’ve done all this stuff before, which is what makes Tunic’s core quality stand out: It trusts the player unequivocally. The menus and in-game signs are done up in a runic language that explains very little, so you’re forced to rely on instinct and internalized knowledge gleaned from other, similar games. Check out the first half hour of gameplay, if you’re not already sold.
But Tunic’s surprise release on Game Pass highlights a growing strategy for the popular games-on-demand service. In December, the service saw three games — Townscaper, Generation Zero, and Serious Sam 4 — added out of nowhere, bucking the years-standing format of Microsoft announcing new inclusions weeks before they would arrive.
As recently as January (via Wayback Machine), Tunic’s publisher, Finji, was adamant in claiming that the game wasn’t coming to Xbox Game Pass, so it’s unclear when the Game Pass deal was inked. When reached for comment, a representative for Finji told Kotaku that the company doesn’t discuss business dealings with the press.
Now, it’s not like there’s anything nefarious going on at all — quite the opposite, in fact. You couldn’t purchase Tunic until yesterday, well after it was available as part of the Game Pass library. There was no way to pre-order the game, so there was no way for players to buy it early and then feel burned. But that’s one publisher’s decision, and is no salve against future additions to the service’s library. The new normal, now, is that clearly anything can hit Game Pass at any time. So what happens when the next surprise-release game has been pre-ordered by tons of players?
Representatives for Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment.