There’s never been a better time to be a PlayStation player. Whether you’ve made the leap to PS5 or still while away the hours on the PS4, the PlayStation Store has a vast collection of top-notch escapism. But among the ray-traced reflections and 4K action, the indie scene has seen a resurgence of a blast from the past. Pixel art has quickly become a popular visual style among indie games and players can’t seem to get enough of a retro look given brand new life. Often going toe to toe with AAAs with hard-hitting stories and addictive gameplay, it’s hard not to fall down the pixel art rabbit hole.
So, to kickstart your pixel art pilgrimage, here are five indie games that pack a powerful punch and are all available to purchase in the PlayStation Store now. Perfect for a Christmas treat!
Developer: DigiTales Interactive
Publisher: Assemble Entertainment
Released: December 2021
Choices matter games are now a dime a dozen, but rarely do they truly have lasting and rippling impacts throughout. Lacuna from DigiTales Interactive is a sci-fi noir adventure that plunges you into a case of interplanetary proportions. You are Neil Conrad, a CDI agent tasked with solving a murder of a politician. What begins as a standard investigation soon turns into a web of intrigue that could turn the whole solar system on its head. It all hinges on your actions.
Breaking away from adventure game traditions, Lacuna emphasises story and investigation. Conversations and choices are non-repeating, time-sensitive and carry real consequences. And like in reality, these may not immediately reveal themselves until when you least expect it. And if you’re thinking of loading up a previous save, nice try! Saves are all auto and have no choice but to watch the story unfold. But as a CDI agent, Neil is equipped with the ‘Cell’, the all-purpose investigation tool. This will track evidence and testimonies related to a case, examine trace evidence more closely and create a report to submit to his superiors. Good use of this can be the difference between cracking a case wide open and a criminal running loose.
Visuals are a treat with sublime lighting effects, animations and parallax layers. And with a stellar jazz noir soundtrack backing it, the futuristic setting lives and breathes atmosphere. So if you’re looking to step into a complex and mysterious future, Lacuna is waiting for you.
Buy it HERE.
Developer: Goloso Games
Publisher: RED ART GAMES
Released: October 2021
Or perhaps you’re looking for a more classic point-and-click adventure and like your pixels a little more chunky? In that case, Inspector Waffles needs your help to solve a mystery! In a bustling anthropomorphic city, the titular Waffles—a famous cat detective—can often be found at the bottom of a milk bottle after the loss of his partner Pancakes. But a call to investigate a prominent cat’s death throws him headfirst into a web of intrigue. And it stinks like yesterday’s kibbles!
Opting for the standard cursor and inventory format, you must help Waffles look for key pieces of evidence, interview witnesses and solve puzzles to crack the case. And you won’t be going in alone! New partner Spotty the dog is an expert sniffer and just all-round best boi (yes he is!). His nose is pivotal in uncovering vital clues and his plucky, cheerful temperament will spur you on through tricky puzzles. Tricky but logical, never stepping into moon logic territory, and aided by a handy notebook that keeps track of tasks and all you’ve uncovered so far.
Despite the chunkier pixels, the animation is fluid and full of character with plenty of nods to adventure game greats. The soundtrack too is a mystery fan’s dream with jazzy bass and noir piano and cymbals. It’d be a crime to miss it!
Buy it HERE.
Flynn: Son of Crimson
Developer: Studio Thunderhorse
Publisher: Humble Games
Released: September 2021
If colourful homages to SNES platformers are more your fare, then a venture into epic fantasy with Flynn: Son of Crimson is a must! Become a child of prophecy as Flynn, a young man with mysterious origins who discovers he is the wielder of mythical Crimson Energy. The evil world of The Scourge has broken the barrier to his home of Rosantica, masterminded by the evil Lord Zealock and his protege Rozia. With the help of Dex, a Guardian Spirit, Flynn must stem the tide of evil and banish The Scourge for good.
From the get-go, the visuals and sound are superb. Beautifully intricate locales mix with vibrant character designs and animation. These are only further enhanced by the exceptional soundtrack; a wide variation of styles range from the grand and epic to the personal and poignant. Your primary senses will be in seventh heaven!
A Super Mario World-style overworld map allows you to travel to different stages in Rosantica where you’ll run, jump and fight your way through obstacles. As you master the Crimson energy, you’ll gain a trio of weapons and elemental abilities that you can switch to suit your play style. These also allow you to defeat certain enemies and reach new paths, not to mention get the upper hand against epic bosses. And Dex? Well one good doggo deserves another! The biggest and boofiest girl there is, Dex can be summoned as a mount, galloping and slashing through anything that gets in her way.
Buy it HERE.
Ara Fell: Enhanced Edition
Developer: Stegosoft Games
Publisher: Dangen Entertainment
Released: March 2020
Sea of Stars reignited players’ love for turn-based party RPGs, so why not ride the wave with another epic quest? Originally made in RPGMaker and given a Unity revamp in 2020, Ara Fell Deluxe Edition mixes Japanese-style and western RPG aspects for a fantastical tale that will have you hooked. The titular world of Ara Fell is a continent of floating islands, inadvertently doomed to eventually fall from the sky by the ancient elves battling the sinister vampires. After turning themselves to stone and the vampires dwindling, the fate of Ara Fell seemed sealed. Until young heroine Lita stumbles upon a remnant of elvish magic…
As Lita and her three companions (gathered as you progress), you will journey across the floating continent seeking elven artefacts and engaging in turn-based combat. The feel is familiar with a selection of actions per turn and characters possessing different abilities according to their class. But with a visible turn order and the potential to manipulate it, it brings a satisfying modern flair to the retro setting. Crafting and upgrades to equipment and items also offer the opportunity to get the upper hand in battle and acquire impressive perks. Side quest lovers are once again spoiled as there are plenty to undertake, delving a little more into Ara Fell lore with nuance.
At the heart of it all is a cast of characters with personalities and stories that will charm and captivate you. You will be determined to see them through their victories, struggles, moments of weakness. And kick mythical butt while doing so!
Buy it HERE.
A Space For The Unbound
Publisher: Toge Productions
Released: January 2023
A lesser-known culture and a powerful dive into the depths of the self turn out to be a dynamite combination. A Game Awards 2023 nominee combination even! A Space For the Unbound is a slice-of-life adventure that makes the mundane magical and takes on a beautifully complex journey into emotion. Set in ’90s Indonesia, protagonist Atma is a young man navigating high school life with his sweetheart Raya. But the everyday is soon anything but: both awaken dormant supernatural powers in themselves, Atma experiences familiar dreams and the very fabric of existence soon hangs in the balance.
In side-scrolling Ghibli-esque fashion, Indonesia in the ‘90s is beautifully captured. You guide Atma through daily life, from the pressures of high school to watching a movie with Raya. The simple and the supernatural combine in Atma’s ability to ‘Spacedive’, entering a dreamlike manifestation of a person’s mind. Here Atma can use items and alter events to help them resolve internal conflicts and process complex emotions. But alterations carry consequences and, good or bad, they must be faced. There are also numerous side quests and hidden items to satisfy collectible lovers.
Taking inspiration from Makoto Shinkai, anime-like cutscenes mix static images and animation. Backed by a stellar soundtrack, including two full-length songs by Christabel Annora, it’s an adventure that strikes emotional chords you didn’t know existed. If you’re after a deep delve into the feels, take a Spacedive into the lesser known.
Buy it HERE or sample a 1-hour trial with PlayStation Plus Premium.