Welcome, once again, to our curated list of curious indie games you might enjoy. As always we've tried to gather a varied bunch of games for you to pick from. This time we have a spaceport (with a janitor), a house (with many doors), a park (with many puzzles), a guild (with several demons) and tiles (with a lot of tiles).
Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor
Do not go into Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor expecting grand adventures where you, the hero, are delivered a starring role in saving the universe. You are a janitor. In a spaceport. You pick up other people's junk and incinerate it for a form of currency mandated by the government (which can be exchanged for actual currency at a bank). Every day you must sleep, and eat food that's often been dropped on the floor.
You enter the sewers and are cursed by a floating skull. You navigate the port without a map. You pray to strange alien goddesses. You find pieces of string on the floor. You eat eyes that make you trip and see in first person instead of third person. The spaceport is made of flickering blocky pixel art, and is like living inside a fruit salad chewy sweet: orange and pink and sticky. Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor is very strange and sometimes sad, making the mundane sort of beautiful. But it is still mundane. A grind to get paid so you can maybe buy some things you need the next day. That's the point though, right?
A House of Many Doors
A House of Many Doors is unsettling. An earwig scuttling across the inside of your skull kind of unsettling; chitinous scrapings and weird feelers in the dark kind of unsettling. It's a 2D exploration game, wherein you, the captain of a train that is also a mechanical centipede, explore the many, many rooms of this transdimensional house. But it's not a house, it's a huge subterranean grid. Some squares are empty, some contain strange ruins, some house cities of angels. The darkness drives you to madness, but lights use up oil and alert enemies.
There are plots and plans and many intrigues to uncover. The stories branch and are long and winding. As a game it feels like the kind of weird fantasy book you'd read in the bath. Various people might join your crew, and you can fall in love with them (sometimes they aren't people; on Steam you are warned that romance options include 'Ten million crows' and 'An oil rig'). A House of Many Doors was partially funded by Failbetter Games, and inspired by that studio's games Fallen London and Sunless Sea, so use those as a yardstick. There are complicated systems in place in the game to let you do so many things, often without judgement. But even so, it sort of feels like the game is looking back at you.
Did you love those classic point-and-click adventure games? Did you relish the challenge of joining seemingly unconnected dots to make something happen, possibly involving an animal or a tentacle, which is itself a dot on another trail to something else? Did Elaine Marley in Monkey Island awaken confusing feelings in you? Fear not, because there's a new point and click adventure from the minds behind the classic Lucasfilm/LucasArts games of the good ol' days. We've done a full review of Thimbleweed Park here.
My Guild Leader is a Demon!
This is a visual novel, so it's using digital media as a mechanism for telling a story. In My Guild Leader is a Demon! you won't be interacting much, but you'll be told a nice little pixelated story (sometimes it has 3D backgrounds too) — though you can watch the episode on YouTube rather than clicking through it if you prefer. The main characters are Bethlehem Bay and best friend Sammers, who're getting constantly griefed in their favourite definitely-not-Nintendo game. This then involves actual demons.
The dialogue is funny, and surprisingly not obnoxious, as writing for teenagers often ends up being. Another highlight is how emotive the characters are despite being pixelart. Dialogue is unvoiced, but it doesn't lose nuance — or, rather, the exaggerated lack of nuance in expressions means you can easily read sarcasm, shock, happiness, or anger in character faces. My Guild Leader is a Demon! has one foot in retro inspirations, down to the six-degrees-from-The Baby-Sitters Club title, but has some whip-smart modern references. The first episode is free, and there are already some weird story hooks for future instalments.
Listen, there's this game I play on my phone on commutes and for the love of Christ I couldn't tell you what it's called; I couldn't tell you what it's called if you had my granny tied to a chair on some train tracks, and you'd only free Zena (for that's her name) if I told you the answer. But I play it every day, I have poured countless hours into this game, and all I do in it is arrange coloured squares on a grid.
Enter Tiles. In Tiles you, a tile, must navigate a path across other tiles, which float in an endless void. Once you skip over a tile it drops into said void. You have to get all of them to do it or you won't advance to the next level. Different coloured tiles do different things. Some vanish and reappear. Timing is everything. It's only a couple of quid and it's the sort of game you can zone out and play for hours while you binge that show on Netflix — whichever one everyone is currently going on about. It is an oasis of curiously zen frustration.