Games of a more relaxed and lighthearted nature took centre stage during the first-ever Wholesome Direct, an indie games showcase that shone a light on more than 50 titles – upcoming and already released – across various platforms.
As the online stream’s hosts Jenny Windom and Josh Boykin explained, the Wholesome Direct is “a celebration of wholesome games”.
“A lot of people think wholesome games are just cute and colourful, but they’re so much more than that. Wholesome games let players express love and compassion. Sometimes they’re lighthearted, but make no mistake: wholesome games can tackle even the heaviest subjects.”
The Direct also featured comments from 3D environmental artist Michael Pearce, who said, “As someone with a lot of anxiety, wholesome games are extremely useful in unwinding and just having a little sigh of relief after a long day. That’s a different kind of comfort that no other medium can really replicate properly.”
The first title shown during the Direct was Button City. Set for release in 2020, this colourful game is about a fox and his friends trying to save their local arcade from being shut down.
Upcoming action-adventure game Errand Boy, which is slated for release in Q2, 2020, was also shown. Speaking during the stream, Art Director of Tree Interactive Felipe Cartin described the game as “a story about the end of the world and how a small creature acts on it. You play as Watt, an orphan boy looking to make a change in himself and find meaning in his last days.”
Next to feature was Ooblets, a farming creature collection and town life game, with early access coming soon to Epic Games Store and Xbox One.
This was followed by Kind Words (lo fi chill beats to write to), a game about writing nice letters to real people, and it was announced that over one million letters have been written since the game released last year, while a new content update was also revealed.
A title set for release in 2021 is Snacko which, according to the Direct, “stars former big city kitties as they start a new life on a seemingly deserted island. Farm, fish and explore as they build a community from the ground up.”
The stream also gave viewers a look at painting adventure game Chicory. While no release date was announced, the developers shared, “In Chicory, there’s a magic brush with the power to colour the world. It’s wielded by an amazingly talented artist named Chicory. Until one day, she and all her colours vanish, leaving the world black and white. You play as Chicory’s number one fan, who takes up her brush and goes on an adventure to colour the world back in and find out what happened to Chicory.”
THE SPIRIT AND THE MOUSE
Next year will see the release of The Spirit and the Mouse. As was shared during the presentation, “You play as Lila, a small mouse that’s full of courage. After a fateful encounter with a mysterious spirit, Lila resolves to help troubled villagers the best she can.”
Spiritfarer is a game set for release later this year. According to the Direct, “Spiritfarer is a cosy management game about dying. As ferry-master to the deceased, you’ll build a boat to explore the world, care for your spirit friends, and guide them across mystical seas before releasing them into the afterlife.”
SAYRI: THE BEGINNING
Another title shown was Sayri: The Beginning. Set for release in Q4 this year. “Forced to leave a dying world, their adventure begins with pain and loneliness in an unfamiliar and beautiful world. With an uncertain path and untold challenges ahead, they found that helping others was repaid with the joys of friendship. Ready to help them find their way in this uncharted wilderness.”
Kitfox Games’ Mondo Museum is an interesting looking title. Opening in early access later this year, Mondo Museum is a building simulator where players design and curate the museum of their dreams, fill exhibit halls with artefacts, hire staff and do everything they can to expand their visitors’ horizons.
As one of the game’s producers, Farah Coculuzzi, explained, “What makes it wholesome are the endless possibilities, all the exhibitions you can make, and we hope it can remind you of happy times at museums.”
Also coming out later this year is Bird Alone, a game in which you become best friends with a lonely bird figuring out what life is all about.
LITTLE WITCH IN THE WOODS
Another notable title is Little Witch in the Woods, a life sim about a witch’s apprentice named Ellie. Players will make potions, study magical creatures and help the local townspeople in Ellie’s journey to become a full-fledged witch when the game releases next year.
Slated for release in Q1 2021 is TOEM by developers Something We Made, who described it as “a small adventure game where you take photos and help various communities.” In TOEM, players follow a small figure through Scandinavian-inspired landscapes to witness a magical phenomenon. Players travel by bus to visit various locations, each with their own architecture and sights to behold, while also listening to calm music, encountering curious characters and capturing each special moment with their camera.
WINDING WORLDS; DÉPANNEUR NOCTURNE
Also shown were two games now available from KO_OP: puzzle-adventure Winding Worlds which features “a heartwarming tale of grief, love, truth and acceptance”; and Dépanneur Nocturne, which Community Manager of KO_OP Marcela Huerta described as “a short, atmospheric exploration game by GP Lackey about poking around a convenience store to find the perfect gift for your girlfriend.”
TOKOTOKO: HAKO AND FRIENDS
Another title available is a mobile game by Kalank called Tokotoko: Hako and Friends, in which players solve puzzles with real drawings using augmented reality.
WHEN THE PAST WAS AROUND
Two upcoming titles from developers Mokiken Studio and publisher Toge Productions were also showcased, beginning with When The Past Was Around, a point-and-click adventure game about love, loss and all the joy and pain in between, which is set for launching later this year.
A SPACE FOR THE UNBOUND
The second title is A Space For The Unbound. Releasing in 2021, the game features a story about overcoming anxiety and depression. “As two high school sweethearts in 1990s Indonesia, investigate the supernatural forces threatening their small town. Uncover secrets, dive into people’s minds and overcome the end of the world together,” it was shared.
OCTOBER IS BOOK OF TRAVELS
Launching this October is Book of Travels, which, as the game’s art director Jakob Tuchten explained, is “a serene online multiplayer RPG that focuses on social roleplaying, exploration and non-linear narratives. It’s a very calm game. It’s full of everyday life situations, but it also has mystery and conflict.”
Another title showcased and set for release this year is Garden Story, in which players become the newly-appointed village guardian and “explore ways to help those around you, traverse and rebuild a broken island, protect its inhabitants and make friend with a fruity cast of characters.”
Next up was Calico, which will be coming to PC and consoles this October. “Calico is a slice of life community simulation where you’re given one very wholesome responsibility: rebuild the town’s cat cafe and fill it with cute and cuddly creatures,” shared the Direct.
In addition, a summer 2020 release window was revealed for Rainy Season, a game described as “the story of an ordinary family spending time at home during a storm. Listen to the rain, spend time with your family and see for yourself how an ordinary day can lead to extraordinary moments.”
This year will also see the release Wayward Strand, a heartfelt interactive story set in an airborne hospital. Players will take on the role of teenage journalist Casey Beaumaris and uncover the airship’s mysteries and explore the lives of its inhabitants.
The Direct then featured a montage of a number of games. From the montage, the games that are available now include: Puzzle game A Fold Apart; roleplaying game Later Daters; and co-op arcade game Pushy and Pully in Blockland.
The stream closed out with the reveal of Hoa, a game by Skrollcat Studio. As Co-Founder of Skrollcat Studio Le Son Tra explained, “Hoa is a side-scrolling adventure platformer where you can explore a world of beautiful hand-painted art, listen to awesome music, and experience a calm and relaxing atmosphere. Hoa is in active production and will be coming to your PC and Nintendo Switch in late 2020.”
Also featured in the montage are self-exploration game Tracks of Thought and adventure title Frogsong, both of which are releasing in 2022, as well as four titles without release dates: village simulation game Sylvan Meadows; management game Creature Resort; tea-making sim Pekoe; and life sim Rolling Hills.
GAMES RELEASING IN 2020
Titles from the montage releasing this year are: Story-exploration game Melon Journey 2; woven world adventure Weaving Tides; adventure roleplaying game Haven; a sci-fi pack DLC for Tracks – The Train Set Game; hot spring management game Onsen Master; management game Old Friends Dog Sanctuary; open-world puzzle adventure A Monster’s Expedition; puzzle game The Other Side; roleplaying game Alchemic Cutie; Himig, a game about calm, everyday moments; Eight-bit action-adventure Orange Island; and adventure game Misc.
GAMES RELEASING IN 2021
The games releasing in 2021 include: Co-op puzzler KeyWe; a game about skateboarding birds called SkateBIRD; puzzle game Unpacking; farming game Clouzy!; seafaring adventure Critter Cove; a co-op farming and sim set in the Stone Age called Roots of Pacha; roleplaying game BattleCakes: A Snack-Sized RPG; Ollie-Oop, a game about a skateboarding dog; and dog shelter simulator To The Rescue!.