Jenny LeClue
Developer: Mograf
Platform: PC, Mac, Linux
Release: Winter 2015 

Jenny LeClue caught my eye when it appeared on Kickstarter last summer. You play as Jenny LeClue, an intelligent young detective, who is trying to prove her mother’s innocence in a murder. The game is story-focused and choice plays a big factor, changing the outcomes between chapters. I played a demo, and the handmade art style stands out; the game is gorgeous. I also was impressed with how sound was used wonderfully to create scenes and moments. A narrator also tells Jenny’s story, but your choices can also change his story. But what I really love about Jenny LeClue is how it harkens back to old-school point- and-click adventures. I enjoyed clicking through every little possible option and the game rewards you for doing so, whether it’s with humor or new observations. Smart writing, tackling choice, a great female lead, and delving into deeper issues like loss and identity makes Jenny LeClue worth keeping an eye on. – Kimberley Wallace

Spider Rite of the Shrouded Moon
Developer: Tiger Style Games
Platform: PS4, iOS, PC
Release: Spring

Arachnids freak me out, so I was surprised to have some much fun controlling on in this indie title. Players control a tiny spider as it skitters along walls and ceilings, hunting down insects to feast on. The spider is a nimble little bugger, and its jump trajectory can be dialed in using an analog stick if you're playing on controller, or aimed swipe on iOS devices. The spider can also trail a sticky line behind it while jumping, which forms a web when strung into a geometric shape like a triangle or rectangle. Players then collect trapped moths or flies to unlock new levels.

Another unique feature of Spider relies on current weather data to determine what's happening in each stage. For example, if it's raining in the city you're playing, the game knows this via weather data and lightning may strike a rod on top of a house. Or a windy day might cause a windmill and the gears within it to spin rapidly, turning the cogs into deadly hazards. It's a novel concept, and the spider gameplay feels leagues better than other games that have attempted similar mechanics. – Tim Turi

Hero Generations
Developer: Heart Shaped Games
Platform: PC, Ouya
Release: April 2015

Hero Generations is arriving a year after its successful Kickstarter campaign. The concept draws from several genres, including roguelikes and 4X games, but it carves out its own spot thanks to a clever core idea: You play as a 16-year-old adventurer on a board-game like grid. Every step you take ages you one year. Your goal is to explore the area while acquiring fame and fortune, fighting monsters, and building up the world. Before you get too old, you have to head into a town and make a love connection. Your hero will then carry some of their traits to their child, who will continue the cycle as they turn 16. There’s a nice balance at work between wanting to explore as much as possible without dying of old age out in the field. Combat is simple, and resolved quickly by the roll of a virtual number. You can see what you’re up against before committing to battle, and if you’re overmatched you can always flee. Doing so will cost you fame – which could end up hurting your family later on. Players who last long enough can pass along heirloom weapons, and their offspring will earn money by passing through the upgraded buildings and areas that their forefathers (and mothers) developed before them. It’s a great approach, and it’s handled elegantly. - Jeff Cork

Blues And Bullets
Developer: A Crowd of Monsters
Platform: Xbox One
Release: Summer 2015 

This episodic noir story has you investigating the kidnapping of Al Capone’s granddaughter. You’ll actually work with Capone, but he functions more as a sidekick. Your job is to investigate crime scenes and piece together information. After you find the right clues, you match them to different leads in the investigation, such as witnesses and facts. Investigating clues opens up more branches. For instance, you might have a thread that shows torture happened, which leads to finding a lynching occurred. During my demo, I saw some pretty grotesque scenes, such as opening up two severed hands that were clasped together – finger by finger – to find the next clue. I liked that it didn’t dial down the horrific scenes. After all, murders are grisly. The investigations are only a fraction of what Blues and Bullets offers – expect tough choices and tense shootouts to also be a part of the adventure. – Kimberley Wallace

Strafe
Developer: Pixel Titan
Platform: PC, Oculus Rift
Release: Spring 2016

Tons of indie games bank on players’ nostalgia for the pixelated 2D titles of yesteryear, but few dive into the low-poly realm of mid-‘90s FPSs. Inspired by titles like Doom and Quake, Strafe combines fast-paced first- person shooting with roguelike progression. Players blast their way through procedurally generated sci-fi labyrinths with standbys like the shotgun, machinegun, or rail gun. Merchants are available to purchase upgrades from, and some can be discovered in the levels like steroids that boost damage or speed. Death is permanent, so be sure to hunt down the wall-mounted health stations that look conspicuously like EVO suit regenerators from Half-Life.

The procedural generation tech wasn’t in place during my time with the game, but I did have a riot working through a set level one shotgun shell at a time. Having been on an old school FPS kick lately (Doom, Blood, Duke Nukem 3D), Strafe demands twitch reflexes and full awareness of your surroundings. Watching the charmingly crude enemies explode into bloody bits warms my heart in the strangest way. – Tim Turi