Indie Arena Booth Hybrid 2022: The Best of What’s Next

2 0
Read Time:8 Minute, 5 Second

For the first time since pre-pandemic, Gamescom celebrated a bold return to physical form in 2022. Hosted in Cologne, Germany, from August 24th – 28th, the event showcased over 1000 exhibitors worldwide to hundreds of thousands of eager visitors. Unable to physically attend? They had you covered. Gamescom also showcased a hefty virtual program of livestreams, gameplay trailers and panels for gamers to sink their teeth into. But of course, it wouldn’t be complete without the return of one of its popular features.

With a 1500 SQM space and the ‘Indie Arena Brawl of Love’ theme, Indie Arena Booth Hybrid hosted over 130 indie developers with playable demos and interactive experiences. Some debuted their demos exclusively at Gamescom. Heavyweight publishers such as Daedalic Entertainment, Raw Fury and Application Systems Heidelberg appeared with a wide variety of exciting projects to display. Hand-drawn adventure AKA proved a big hit (picking up 2 Gamescom awards), as did pixel art mystery Animal Well and historical investigation venture The Darkest Files. And for those unable to physically get in on the action (like myself), almost all of the projects exhibited were available to sample on the Indie Arena Booth browser experience.

Lookin’ snazzy!

Players could customise an avatar and potter around the quirkily themed areas such as the lava-filled Mines of Cryptoria or the undersea realm of Wastelantis (my favourite). Areas contained opportunities to collect XP, stickers and tattoos to spruce up their appearance should you choose to. But the meat of the experience was visiting the gaming booths and trying out some of the delectable demos on display. Suitably edgy and funky avatar in place, I dove right in and surfaced with 5 highlights that made more than a lasting impression.

A Space For The Unbound


Can’t be without an EPIC bucket list!

Indonesian studio Mojiken has a glowing history with adventure games with the likes of ‘She and the Light Bearer’ and ‘When the Past was Around’ picking up plentiful praise. A Space For the Unbound, their newest project, shows no signs of breaking this streak anytime soon. This slice-of-life adventure follows teenage sweethearts Atma and Raya in ‘90s Indonesia. High school is coming to an end and both are trying to discover what this means for each other. But a supernatural power threatens to tear the fabric of their existence and the couple must get to the bottom of it, while learning more about their seemingly small world and each other.

Even if you’re not a fan of slice-of-life, A Space For the Unbound has a knack for storytelling that naturally draws you in and keeps you invested. As Atma converses with those around him, a little more is uncovered about their everyday lives and happenings around the town. A simple act of skipping school is a perilous quest and befriending, petting and naming the neighbourhood cats is a heartwarming must. Not to mention the magical ability to dive into people’s subconscious and find what they need most at that moment. All this is backed with gorgeous pixel art that feels familiar yet fresh.

Looking to escape to another life for a spell? A Space For the Unbound could be the adventure you’re looking for.

Download the demo HERE.

Fall of Porcupine

There’s always time for appreciation.

Fans of ‘Night in the Woods’ looking for more narrative-driven 2D experiences may find a spiritual successor in Fall of Porcupine by BUNTSPECHT.GAMES. In the anthropomorphic town of Porcupine, Finley is fairly new in town, working as an intern at the local St. Ursula’s Hospital. As summer comes to an end, he must juggle treating patients in a struggling healthcare system, social life and finding purpose in this small town. But not everything is as it seems and even the most homely towns hold dark secrets.

Set against splendid painted backdrops and charming animation, Finley must navigate the struggles of working in healthcare, while treating patients in the form of minigames. Absorbing tests of speed, skill and logic, he’ll arrive at a diagnosis and also learn more about patients through mastering these minigames. Like any small town, everyone knows each other and engaging in conversations with the residents can strengthen friendships and uncover personal struggles. And explorative platforming segments can lead to forgotten landmarks and the appreciation of little things. To say any more story-wise is to spoil it, but there are certainly moments that will move, warm and even unnerve you.

Fall of Porcupine seems en route to being a thoroughly engrossing and unpredictable journey you won’t want to put down.

Download the demo HERE.

Farewell North

Dispelling darkness like a good doggo.

Grief and letting go can be complex processes and manifest in many different ways. Adventure puzzle game Farewell North from Kyle Banks takes on these weighty themes as seen through the eyes of faithful companions. You are Chesley, a loyal and energetic border collie and all-round good boy, accompanying your human on a trip of utmost importance. In this atmospheric archipelago, you must help your human break down barriers, solve puzzles and bring colour back to a world bereft.

Colour is used to wonderful effect, shaping the world around you and bringing platforms and the environment to life through memory. Using his powerful bark, Chesley can activate items that reveal hidden pathways and dispel dark entities to allow his human to journey on. Perspective plays a big part in these puzzles; seeing something from another angle can open up a new possibility for progression. The environment is also a dream to explore; based on the real Scottish islands of St Kilda and Orkney, the lush green plains and crystal lakes are quite breathtaking. There are also nods to ancient mythology with wisp-like beings and spirits to guide your way. But ultimately, Farewell North shows the powerful way animal companions can help overcome the complexities of grief.

Kyle Banks puts his best foot (or paw) forward with this evocative demo that is a strong sign of great things to come.

Download the demo HERE.

Paper Trail

To fold or not to fold…

Another Gamescom award winner (picking up Best Family Game), Newfangled Games’ Paper Trail puts a fresh and unique spin on the puzzle genre. As Paige, a budding academic, you venture away from home for the first time to pursue your studies. You must master folding the paper world around you to overcome obstacles and learn more about the world you inhabit. From cut-off cottages to long-forgotten caves, new areas and secrets are ripe for discovery as you become a folding virtuoso.

A top-down 2D affair, Paper Trail’s folding mechanics are superbly executed, making it easy to pick up but tricky to master and thoroughly absorbing. Some puzzles can become rather complex and that’s all part of its majesty. It never becomes tedious or bland; you become completely invested in finding the right combination of folds to progress. And to say the game is gorgeous is an understatement. The graphics are vibrant and stunning, drawing inspiration from watercolour art and printmaking. Animation is also wonderfully fluid and extends to the underside of the world when folded. Combine this with a beautifully ethereal choral soundtrack and you’ve got an experience that completely envelops you.

Releasing Q1 2023, Paper Trail looks set to scratch that puzzle game itch and take players on an interesting journey along the way.

Download the demo HERE.


Plus she’s too big for the saddle. Not that she tried!

If you’re a fan of Tim Burton’s visuals, sharp humour and modern meets mythological, then PRIM from Common Colors is the game of your dreams! This hand-drawn monochrome point-and-click adventure puts you in the shoes of Prim, the teenage daughter of Death himself: Thanatos, the Grim Reaper. Plagued every night by a dream of a human calling for help, Prim feels compelled to answer it, but Thanatos has forbidden her to leave the Land of the Dead. Or even her own room as the demo’s opening cutscene explains. 

Any fan of Burton’s animation will be besotted with the gorgeously quirky and expressive black-and-white art style; a glorious world of distinct shapes and bold lines. Equally reflected in its characters, Prim herself is a lead easy to warm to, sharp and armed with ample amounts of dry teenage wit. This is further amplified with stellar voice work from the wonderful Maria Pendolino. Puzzles are suitably bizarre in nature—as per the theme—but firmly rooted in logic and supported by a smooth mouse interface. And any adventure game that utilises items like a Swiss Army Scythe and vampire repellent with perfect logic is more than promising.

If funny, quirky adventures and Tim Burton films are up your alleys, PRIM is one you won’t want to miss!

Download the demo HERE.

Final Thoughts

While it’s uplifting to see Gamescom and Indie Arena Booth finally return to a physical, the virtual offerings allow those unable to attend to still experience the excitement. Something that more gaming-themed conventions should consider doing. It’s a big indie virtual world out there and Gamescom/Indie Arena Booth Hybrid 2022 made sure no one missed out. Here’s to many more!

About Author