Stop me if you’ve heard this one. There’s an indy game with “retro-inspired” graphics. It’s a difficult platformer in which the story at the beginning is really vague. Along the way you learn more and more about why you’re doing what you’re doing. And eventually, you learn that not everything is what it seems and maybe the real journey is the struggle we undergo within us to find peace.
Well, while that is the case for damn near every indy platformer under the sun now, Celeste took this and put the genre on the map. I even debated adding this to a “hidden gem” list because you SHOULD have heard about this game.
Celeste does two things remarkably well. One, it progresses well, gameplay-wise. The game constantly introduces new mechanics and then makes it trickier while never feeling impossible. Every time you die it’s not because the game is too hard, it’s because you missed the particular trick to get through the stage.
And the second thing is the story. The game was written by someone who was going through a gender identity crisis at the time and the story perfectly captures the anxiety, stress, and depression that comes with looking at a mirror or merely self-reflecting and not liking what you see while also not knowing how to become the better you.
My Time at Portia
Here’s another “stop me if you’ve heard this” moment.
Your character is down on their luck and having a hard time and looking for a change. It’s around that point that a letter shows up in the mail stating that you’ve received property in a new town where you’ll get to start fresh.
Through crafting, farming, and more you’ll help better your new life and the immediate community you live it. You’ve seen it. Animal Crossing, Harvest Moon, Stardew Valley, etc. It’s been done.
But not like this.
See, My Time at Portia starts you off fresh but it’s the town and world that makes it very different. See, Portia is a war-torn community. An enemy had attacked previously and the town is rebuilding. Some people live in worn-out buildings while people in charge seem to be hoarding much of the wealth. The cute, welcoming town slowly starts to reveal its problems over time.
There’s a major science versus religion problem that’s growing in the community. Love triangles. Power struggles. Monsters and dungeons.
Portia offers so many different things to do in so many different ways. Take a break from farming and go collect materials to build bridges or small machines. Take an elevator deep underground and use special tools to dig for devices from a lost civilization for research. Head into a dungeon with a sword and shield and fight your way through floors of bosses. Practice your martial arts and take a spot in a fighting tournament against other people in the community. There’s such an insane wealth of things to do.