april-2023-indie-spotlight
Screenshots via Super Rare Games, Playism, and HeartFrog

April 2023 Indie Spotlight: OTXO, Rusted Moss & Dance of Cards Light up Imaginations

Three games that will cost less than a Triple A title and could provide you with experiences you’d never have discovered otherwise.

Indie games are treasures that help fill the void between entries in colossal, genre-defining franchises, content updates in our favorite games as a service, and unique experiences that often surpass many of the giants that grace our consoles and screens. Just last month Dredge blew us out of the water with a surprisingly compelling combination of fishing mechanics, amazing narrative threads, and a dark undertone of cosmic horror that still doesn’t let some of us sleep easy. April is no exception, with many indie games releasing, all of which you should definitely play.

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Rusted Moss ($21)

Rusted Moss, created by a trio of developers, is a wild combination of twin-stick shooter and Metroidvania with impeccable vibes. You play as Fern, a changeling raised by unsuspecting human parents in a world on the brink of collapse. Humanity has used stolen Fae magic alongside their metal monstrosities to push back against faeries, and your job is to take the world back. In fairness, it looks like we’ve ruined the planet even further, and what’s left of humanity really isn’t worth saving.

This game looks fantastic. The vibrant yellow and black accents on the protagonist focus your eye as you travel around a drab and often dark world, fighting against mechanical witches, rusted machines, and dark goopy liquid hatred. What sets the game apart from other Metroidvanias, other than the frantic shooting, is your cute eyeball friend. This creature latches onto anything around Fern and allows her to swing 360 degrees. It’s this eyeball that gives the game the fast movement it needs to keep up with the combat.

Both boss fights and standard encounters see the screen quickly fill up with bullets, explosives, and swords as enemies throw everything they have at you. The design of the game’s antagonists is sensational, including a witch with metallic spider arms, one that surrounds herself with swords and summons more as she fights, and even a rusting sphere that spews hot plasma in your direction. It’s appropriately post-human and gives off a feeling that you’ll be taking back the world for nature, not a new species.

Unsurprisingly, you’ll be collecting weapons and abilities as you progress, making for a deadly combination of magic and metal to take down the increasingly powerful enemies. For me, it’s the world I can’t wait to explore, though. Dead Cells is a brilliant example of what you can do when you iterate on the Metroidvania genre with twin-stick shooter mechanics while still telling a compelling story through the environment, and Rusted Moss looks like it’ll take that to a whole new level. This game is available to play right now via Steam.

OTXO

There is no other way to describe OTXO, developed by Lateralis Heavy Industries, other than as an assault on the senses. I’ve never seen a game that, as far as I can tell, uses only three colors in its entire palette to be more vibrant than Viva Pinata. The real appeal though is the fact that OTXO is very clearly inspired by the Hotline Miami series.

You are a nameless protagonist who enters an inexplicable, abstract mansion in search of his lover. Inside, you’ll face room after room of guards in various combinations and ultimately conquer your inner demons through a series of boss fights as you complete each floor. The top-down shooter aesthetic will take you back to the first time you beat up thugs with a baseball bat in Hotline Miami, but things are very different in OTXO.

The game packs in rogue-lite elements to ensure you’re always evolving, even through failure. While not all the systems have been revealed at the time of writing, I know for a fact that there’s a slow-mo button that makes the game every bit as much like John Wick as you want it to be. You can smash through doors, take down enemies in the order that works for you, move through weapons, use walls as cover, and simulate the most frantic fight scenes imaginable. This game is an all-out war across hotel room floors, and it’s magical.

Just like the games that inspired it, OTXO has a deeper meaning beneath everything you see. Each boss represents some part of the protagonist that needs to be confronted before they can move on. I’m really excited to see where the story leads and just how far I can push the mechanics when it launches on April 20.

Dance of Cards

Last but by no means least, please behold the beautiful ingenuity of Dance of Cards. If you’ve ever played Flesh & Blood 2: Termina, you’ll have at least an idea of how this game works. It’s a gambling RPG, but it’s also a battle royale. No, it’s nothing like Fortnite, it’s a slow-paced battle royale in which you’ll chat with your enemies as they slowly plot your demise over days instead of the mere seconds a bullet takes to end you elsewhere. You should probably watch out for those too, though.

The core of Dance of Cards is poker and games of chance. Think higher or lower, guessing which horse will come first in a race, and pretty much any other sort of gambling. You’ve been unlucky enough to get caught up in a deadly game of cards while on a cruise ship to the new world. Each game of chance decides who will live and who will die. You have to play over the course of seven days and, hopefully, emerge alive out of the ship’s roster of sixteen passengers.

Of course, this is no ordinary card game-based battle royale title. There are RPG elements that will see your stats improve based on certain actions. You could ask a fortune teller to help you predict whether cards in a game of higher or lower will go your way. Find the right drink at the bar, and you might perform better at blackjack. I can see this game having as many hidden layers as some of the most notorious cult classic indies out there.

Dance of Cards didn’t just attract me for its unique gameplay and adorable graphics; the game also takes the classic setting of strangers on a boat looking for a fresh start and flips it on its head. It’s not even a tired trope, and this game makes it fresh and compelling all over again. I want to know each passenger’s story. Why they’re on the ship, who they were back home, and why they want to leave their lives behind. As of April 14, you can find out too, and you can read our review if you want to get a better idea of what the game is like before you buy it.


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Author
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Jamie Moorcroft-Sharp
Jamie Moorcroft-Sharp is a Staff Writer at Gamepur. He's been writing about games for ten years and has been featured in Switch Player Magazine, Lock-On, and For Gamers Magazine. He's particularly keen on working out when he isn't playing games or writing or trying to be the best dad in the world.