Games for When Your Mind Just Won’t Quieten Down

It’s officially autumn! If you’re like me and can’t stand summer (read: sweat, biting insects and dehydration occurring either in opposition or in tandem with each other), this is literally the best news this side of August. The leaves change colour to golden reds, oranges and browns that pop vividly on your Instagram post, the wind whipping around your peacoat gives just enough justification to treat yourself to a hot drink, it’s a time when family comes together for the holidays, when you can reflect proudly on all their memories of the summer and spring as the sun disappears earlier and earlier from the day. It’s also the time when school begins once again, trudging in the cold to a class you’re not really sure you understand, when SAD intensifies, and anxiety over not achieving enough or making the most of 2016 pervades the casual scroll through your peers’ Facebook feeds, while sat at a family gathering feeling totally alone.

It’s easy to feel adrift at one of the busiest times of the year. But as Raeyn and Troy Bolton have said before us, ‘we’re in this together’. Today, I have rustled up seven indie games that aim to relax, destress and soothe their players for your perusal. Put your feet up and scroll on, friends.

A bright, pastel forest. A grandmother says to a child, "Wow! You already found one! You're really taking this seriously, huh!"

Lieve Oma (Florian Veltman)

Itchio, Mac/PC/Linux, $3.99 USD

Obviously the most seasonally appropriate game of the bundle, Lieve Oma has you harvesting mushrooms in the woods with your grandma. The forest is bright but never brash with the classic colours of autumn, softened with pink hues and the occasional departure to cool blues and whites of deep winter. As you stroll, Grandma makes jolly quips about the forest, recollects the amusing memories of her years and wonders on your school life this year. The short walk through the forest has been carefully crafted and supported by a mellow piano soundtrack, and the story told through the conversation between grandmother and granddaughter strikes chords in many players’ hearts.

 

A seascape made of rich blues and aqua greens. A small boat with a samurai sails for a dock leading to a tall, black lighthouse. It is unlit,. The image has a popup book feel.

Tengami (Nyamyam)

Steam, Wii U, Mac OSX, Windows, $9.99 USD

Tengami emulates a pop-up book constructed from Japanese washi paper, telling the story of a samurai journeying from one atmospheric vista to the next at the swipe of a page. Solve the puzzle presented by pulling tabs and folding the scene in front of you, and be rewarded with the narrative revealed through haikus. The leisurely movements of the hero allow the player to be submerged in the pastel paper and peaceful sounds of traditional Japanese instruments. It’s a short and sweet visual treat and its clever aesthetic and mechanics never fail to please.

A bright, low-poly world. There's a small pond before you with distant mountains. Surrounding the pond are brightly colored trees. Just before you and across the pond are two black stones with what could be a white gem inserted in their tops.

Morphê (Pixelfoot)

Itchio, Mac OSX/Windows, name your own price!

With Morphê, the player interacts with six mysterious obelisks situated on a floating mountaintop to compose a melody. Self-described as a musical toy, the player drifts from one obelisk to the other surrounded by a light pastel, low poly forest. Each obelisk generates a different sound that can be conducted based on pitch and volume or reversed completely, as the musical notes are represented by little bubbles rising into the air. A radio can be used to input white noise. The player creates a shimmery ambience for the floating island, and once the sound is judged to be just right, the surroundings and its colours blur into one. Morphe is perfect for composing a soothing melody to help with sleep, studying or meditation.

 

The night sky. A constellation puzzle sits among the stars above a silhouette of trees.Icosia (George Prosser)

Itchio/Google Play/App Store, free!

Icosia is an endless puzzle game for free download on Android, OSX and Windows. Surrounded by a calming soundscape, untangle constellations that get progressively more complicated as you solve each jumble of stars. If you’re suffering from a sleepless night, you can easily boot it up on your tablet or cellphone and play from the comfort of your duvet cocoon, and the muted deep purple and dark blue palette is just right for tired eyes. Unravelling the shapes made in the sky as each one materialises after the other whiles away time like counting sheep, sort of.

A house and trees drawn in bright crayon on a dark purple and blue background. A small green and red figure is traveling across the screen. To the right is a red button with the number 1 [one] on it.

Secrets Agent (Joni Kittaka)

Itchio, in browser, free!

‘This guy stole our gemstone, it’s an artefact. It’s precious to us. And so we’re going to steal it back.’ The mission of Secrets Agent is crystal clear, but the narrator won’t be leaving the player to brave the mansion’s perilous traps alone. It’s a simplistic game, collecting cheese, graduation caps and coins for no discernible purpose with an unsophisticated chalkboard aesthetic. The rapport built with the narrator as the player traverses the dangerous mansion is what defines Secrets Agent and adds another dimension to the jittery, bold settings. The disembodied voice is chilled out and casual, placating your nerves on this critical mission, and helps disarm the traps and navigate the rooms to acquire the gemstone. When the pressures of work and school seek to trip you up, it’s nice to have someone both unreservedly knowledgeable and considerate at your back.

A black screen. White text reads "inh-exh. this is a self-help tool, to help you with grounding yourself, through regulating your breathing. -- breathe in and out as you click the words. breathe at your own comfortable pace and finish when you feel ready to. the exercise is completed once you feel you're done." At the bottom underlined text reads "breathe"

Inh_exh (himynameischuck)

Itchio, in browser, free!

Sometimes it really does get a bit too much. That’s totally ok. You’re a human being. And if life overwhelms you, inh_exh by himynameischuck is easily accessible on your PC, tablet or cellphone browser. It’s a self-help tool created to help regulate your breathing. Tap the white words of ‘breathe in’/’breathe out’ against the dark background at your own pace to calm and relax. There’s no time limit, and there’s no need to press restart – in_exh works exactly how you need it to. The sympathetic script of inh_exh stresses that self-care is valid and is by no means conceding to defeat, a statement that we can all do with from time to time. It’s important to take some time for yourself.

A gif of a dung beetle rolling a large ball of poo into a smaller ball. When it hits the smaller ball the ticker in the upper left goes from 0/10 to 1/10. The landscape is hilly and reddish orange.

The Travels Of The Dung Beetle (Louie Zong)

Itchio, Mac OSX/Windows, name your own price!

The transition from summer to autumn to winter is chaotic at best, and there can be so many pulls on your time and energy with work, holidays, school, hobbies, new Netflix shows… It’s important to stay grounded. And that’s just what The Travels Of The Dung Beetle achieves. It’s a low poly platformer and you play as the titular dung beetle, rolling your poop ball around across three dainty levels. Many amazing things have been accomplished with poop, and hopefully many more poop related successes are still to come. The Travels Of The Dung Beetle quietly reminds the player of this undeniable fact, and it’s humbling. Bad test score? Argument? Collect poop particles to a jaunty soundtrack, and feel the metaphorical dark clouds fade away. The real dark clouds are still here though. It’s autumn, after all.

Thanks for stopping by! I hope you find something new in this list, and that that something is truly helpful in unburdening oneself of the hustle and bustle of autumn. If you have any favourites of your own, please let me know because I am a sap for indie games of all kinds. Enjoy your PSLs, salt-grit your drives and paths, wear a scarf when it gets especially cold, and above all, take care of yourselves.

 

Image sources: 1, 2, 3, 7. All other images from writer’s own screencaps.

Imogen
About Imogen 1 Article
The biggest kid. Would much rather be playing pretend, or writing about playing pretend. Say 'hey! listen!' at @_idolon.
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