Seasons After Fall
Developer: Swing Swing Submarine
Platform: PC, Consoles TBD
Release: 2016

If you’re looking for a break from games that revel in destruction and death, Seasons After Fall could be for you. This gorgeous puzzle-platformer stars an adorable fox who finds itself in a world that’s simultaneously similar to ours with some surprising differences. To navigate through a forest lit in amber autumnal hues, for instance, fox has to find its way up onto a platform. Its tiny legs won’t make the leap, but after exploring for a bit it discovers a jellyfish. Not only that, but it’s a jellyfish that flies. After leading the glowing companion to a plant with a similar luminous hue, a pod opens up, giving fox enough height to make the jump. That’s fairly run-of-the-mill stuff, but fox also gains a powerful ability through its adventure: changing seasons at will. That adds another layer of manipulation to players. A gap might be too far in summer, but switching over to winter uncoils a branch and gives fox a makeshift bridge. Swing Swing Submarine isn’t incorporating violence into its puzzles, and fox can’t jump anyplace that will lead to its death. Instead, players are rewarded for their curiosity. Seasons After Fall looks like a great pick for families, or puzzle lovers who want to explore a rich and inviting world. – Jeff Cork

Developer: Mudvark
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Wii U, PC
Release: TBA

Yes, you’re going to push a lot of boxes around in Mudvark’s upcoming game, Hue. Fortunately, there’s a nice twist to differentiate it from the long line of similar games that preceded it. As the name suggests, the game makes use of color, and to great effect. At first glance, it looks a little strange. There are few colors displayed on screen, and your character is an odd little Limbo-like fellow. Walking around, he might come across what looks like a dead end. Players can pull up a color wheel and change the shade of the background, which in turns opens up the game. A crate may reveal itself once the color shift happens. Pushing it into place gives the player just the lift he needs to hop up and move on. Puzzles in the demo start off simple, but eventually build up to require multiple color swaps as blocks need to be revealed, repositioned, and manipulated. There’s a lot of potential here, and it’ll be interesting to see how much variety Mudvark can introduce throughout the full game. What they showed certainly held promise. – Jeff Cork

Developer: Broken Window Studios
Platform: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Release:  April 2015 (PC, Mac, Linux), Summer 2015 (PS4, Xbox One)

Reflections is one of the more intriguing games I’ve seen at GDC. This experimental narrative has you exploring the environments in first-person and deciding what you want to do the day before you head off to college. Everything you explore and choose to do affects your future. Maybe you decide you just play horseshoes and neglect important things like calling movers or spending time with your girlfriend. Or maybe you want to repair a sink before you leave, showing you can’t let go of your childhood home. Reflections is about how sometimes the littlest decisions can affect the course of your life and examining what these little interactions say about you.  At the end of the journey, the game assesses your personality type based on the things you chose to do with your time. You actions can lead you down the path of being an office executive, going out in the wilderness, or living with your family, to name a few. – Kimberley Wallace

Read Only Memories
Developer: Midboss
Platform: Ouya, PC, Mac, Linux
Release: Summer 2015

Read Only Memories is an adventure game that’s vastly different from most games. The year is 2064 and you explore Neo-San Francisco with the world’s first sentient robot. Your duty? As a journalist, you must investigate a company called Parallax that’s released new technology, called ROM. ROMs have replaced all mobile technology, but something seems awry. Your friend mysteriously decides to leave the country and Parallax is where he worked, something tells you everything is connected. The game stars LGBT characters, tackling LGBT themes. It’s your basic point-and-click with dialogue options and small puzzles, like giving the right objects to various NPCs. You’ll meet lots of people along the way and you decide who you want to trust and who to leave behind. Read Only Memories already holds plenty of promise, and I like that it’s delving into deeper issues that often don’t make it into games.  –Kimberley Wallace 

The Westport Independent     

Developer: Double Zero One Zero
Platform: PC, Mac, Linux          
Release: TBA

The Westport Independent caught my eye because it had an aesthetic similar to Papers, Please. It also turns out it has just as interesting as a premise. The Westport Independent is a censorship simulator. You’re editor-in-chief of an independent newspaper that’s in its last weeks of being one. A new government bill is shuttering it down. Now’s your chance for payback right? Or at least to rock the boat a little. What can it hurt? You’re out of a job anyway. That’s part of what makes this game so exciting: You’re in charge of what gets printed and what doesn’t. Will you abide by the government’s wishes? Sensationalize headlines? Strive for journalist integrity? That’s up to you. But remember what you print has impact, so you’ll see if affect the people and the future of Westport. You’ll also need to manage your writers, who have their own idea of what you should print. Don’t expect them to do you any favors if they don’t agree with your decisions. This game already looks like a simulation delight. – Kimberley Wallace

Keep checking back for even more of the best indie games from GDC 2015!