On top of all of that, Inscryption’s arrival in mid-October makes for a perfect Halloween game. What seems most vital for the game's success will be to casually get it to people who won’t know what to expect, like fans of deckbuilders just looking for another to add to their pile. Still, even if players go into Inscryption expecting the unexpected, there’s entertaining depth to its mechanics and narrative, a form of storytelling that could only exist in a video game.
When everything is flowing in The Good Life, it feels like a touch of Animal Crossing with alternatingly quaint and irreverent British pastoral television, all with a burgeoning murder mystery underneath. Unfortunately, some of its rougher edges seem possibly related to the Switch itself and, although loading times are usually on the shorter side, their frequent appearance interrupts the flow even more. The Rainy Woods residents are charming and strange and there’s a numbingly pleasant feel to smalltown life and chores, but stiff controls and muddled design make it hard to find a good rhythm in The Good Life.
That just scratches the surface - there’s also crafting, a chip slot equipment system, companions to help in battle, some simple item fishing a la Hades, unique weapons to divine, and many more secrets we haven’t even touched upon. For Brazilian developer Studio Pixel Punk, Unsighted is an accessible and content-rich debut with a compelling sci-fi drama at its core, and certainly in the argument for one of the best metroidvanias of the year.
Match all of the above with a mesmerizing soundtrack of hummable motifs, from cheerily playful ditties to dramatic dirges, and everything in between, and Eastward distinguishes itself handily within its heavily populated genre. While it's not without its shortcomings - in particular, a bit less variety in combat and puzzles than the genre often typifies - where it shines, it does so brightly. For RPG fans, Eastward is the real deal, and it’s an unmissable and impressive feat of indie design that deserves plenty of recognition amongst a sea of bigger releases in 2021.
Min-maxers can prioritize equipment and stat upgrades to further sabotage any challenge, but everyone else can just jump into Dodgeball Academia’s matches and glide through the snappy story. By the end, a full roster of characters unlock for use in a versus mode pack-in, albeit with no online multiplayer available. Super Dodge Ball fans will immediately respond to what Pocket Trap is up to here, but Dodgeball Academia should also prove an easygoing delight to anyone looking to sink into a very specific type of sports RPG.
There are some problems in Eldest Souls, though, including weird pathing to certain bosses that require trap-dodging, which just feel out of place. Additionally, the lack of a true pause means re-speccing may require a return to a previous checkpoint. These are ultimately small gripes for what is a wonderful experience overall, as Eldest Souls is a challenging but fair boss-rush with great pixel art and some smart New Game+ content. The Souls community is sure to enjoy this, but the build experimentation and shard system add an appealing sense of growth that makes Eldest Souls feel like it has even broader appeal than its niche.
If Death’s Door is not mentioned in a list of the year’s best indies, it will only be due to its finer focus and lack of complexity or significant depth, which also speaks to the game's utter lack of bloat. Those who are looking for the cavernous biomes of Hollow Knight or the lore-rich epistolatory storytelling in a Souls game may feel shorted by the 10 or so breezy hours on offer here, but Death’s Door is a precisely engineered and immersive adventure which will fully satisfy anyone seeking that exact experience. Isometric action RPGs are a dime a dozen, but rarely are they polished to such a brilliant sheen.