No one has ever accused the PlayStation Store of being easy to navigate off the beaten path. If you’re tired of AAA open-world adventures or big-budget action games, it can sometimes be hard to find an alternative. A huge number of games come out each week, including piles of shovelware like "Bouncing Pasta", and the near-complete lack of curation in the store leaves deserving games in the dark. Gamers and developers alike are suffering from this lack of visibility.
PlayStation has reaffirmed its desire to be a favorable place for Indies, so that is the category we will peruse today, helping to find the diamonds in the dirt. Until Sony decides to recreate the store and take a page out of Steam’s playbook, we intrepid journalists will do our best to highlight the hidden titles you may love just as much as the more well-known games.
If you’re a cyberpunk fan or a bartending fan, then boy-howdy does Sony have the game for you. Set in a future city where the requisite corrupt government enforces an oppressive existence on a downtrodden populace, some choose to drown their sorrows. That’s where you come in, as the bartender at Hall-A of the VA-11 bar, also known as Valhalla.
The action here is mixing drinks for your patrons, and talking to them about whatever they want to tell you. As you talk to them and prepare their libations, you begin to unravel the game’s story. It’s sort of like a walking simulator, except you aren’t walking anywhere, and there’s more alcohol. Add in a fantastic soundtrack, and you’re on your way to an incredibly different but well-crafted cyberpunk adventure that provides a different side to the genre than, say, Cyberpunk 2077.
If you’re an RPG fan, you’ve visited hundreds of shops in your travels across the digital landscapes of fantastical adventures. But did you ever stop to think how the shops got these amazing items? This is the question that Moonlighter answers, putting you in the shoes of a shopkeeper that must fill the shelves of the shop he runs by day, through his adventures into the dungeons at night.
The dungeon crawling gives you the loot you need to sell to the adventurers who frequent your store. Pricing the gear correctly, and turning that money into even better gear to explore further into the dungeons, is the other half of the gameplay loop. Better gear means better loot, which will garner better prices in the shop, and so on. What part of the game you like best will depend on your tastes. Are you an adventurer or a management geek? If you’re both, you’re really in luck with this game.
Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark
This game is an ode to the progenitors of the tactical RPG genre, specifically to the granddaddy of them all, Final Fantasy Tactics. There is a ridiculous amount of content here, with a huge number of classes, special abilities, and the like. The biggest part of the game, and what will likely appeal most to fans of the genre, is the customization. There is so much depth here that it will take you a number of hours just to decide what class and build you will like best, and then you get to swap it up as you like.
The combat is going to please anyone who has been in this genre space before, as you get to move to different heights in the combat area, prepare your attacks, and basically play 3D chess as you stalk your enemies. Whether it’s guns you love or more typical swords and shields type combat, it’s all on offer here for you to bend your character (and your enemies) to your will. No matter your favorite part of the genre, there’s enough to keep you busy for dozens of hours.
Harken back to the early days of real-time strategy games, where the strategies were simple and the graphics were pixelated. This one is a bit of wonderful nostalgia, with a distinct Command & Conquer feel to the gameplay and the look of the bases and buildings you will construct. Back then, tank rushes were a viable strategy and the only thing you needed to worry about was harvesting enough material to keep your buildings pumping out new troops.
The graphics are adorable voxel-based creations, and everything is brightly colored with up to 6-players at a time able to step on the battlefield without things getting muddied up. The fun here is seeing your massive waves of machinery and soldiers falling upon the enemies like the tides upon the beach, explosions, and smoke marking the end of your troops and (hopefully) even more of theirs. A joyous return to gaming of the past, it’s easier than you would expect to get your destruction going on console with a simplified control scheme. Mount up, soldier!
Oxenfree is a spooky narrative adventure, where you never quite know what’s going to come next. You play as Alex, and with a group of friends, you’ll explore and try to escape from an island where nothing is what it seems. The more you explore the island, the weirder things get, and it all has to do with radio signals and World War 2. The game is a delight due to its writing, which is real and believable and offers branching paths to make multiple playthroughs enjoyable.
You will do a lot of walking around the island and listening to the protagonists talk, but the scares and mysteries pop up frequently enough that it never seems dull or tedious. The various locales on the island are in turns spooky and gorgeous, and it all has a distinct ‘80s kid mystery movie vibe to it. And speaking of multiple playthroughs, make sure you stay all the way through the end of the game, there may just be something to that…
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