For this week’s indie games we go for a bit of a magical theme. As we make friends with Moomins and give weapons to mystical princes. Two very intriguing games so lets get straight to it.

Blade Prince Academy

PUBLISHER: Firesquid
Platforms: PC
Price: TBA
Steam Deck: Unknown (Plays but needs work)

Credit: GameTrailers

Ever wondered what Baldur’s Gate 3 would be like if you stripped away the award worthy writing and story and left just the battle system? Well wonder no more, because Blade Prince Academy is here to give you just that!

First let me say, the above isn’t a sleigh on this game, because as much as I love Baldur’s Gate 3, playing another version of that would be too much, so something a stripped back is more than welcome and whilst Blade Prince Academy takes many cues from BG3, it does carve its own path.

Whilst I personally found the story to be a bit Bobbins, I did think the characters had a ton of charm and allowed me to care more than just seeing them as a means to get through combat. Visually as well there is a lot of personality to Blade Prince Academy, as it looks like something that wouldn’t be out of place in 80’s action cartoon territory.

But where I think the game nails things is in the gameplay loop. Using the free movement exploration to move through levels, transitioning to a sort of real-time, turn-based affair for combat. Whilst there are clear influences here, I love what Blade Prince Academy does to set itself apart.

You will essentially have your party attack enemies that are within range, you can do things such as pause time to plan routes, attacks, buffs, debuffs, area of effect attacks, etc. Which can lead to some pretty impressive set pieces happening.

Your party will consist of a various class types, with the usual tanks, ranged combat classes, melee types. I found you can get some pretty devastating combinations going depending on how you set the party up. I also liked how regularly characters would level up and upgrade, as it wasn’t ever a slog, but neither too fast that I never got to enjoy the new things I had earned.

I did have to move and play this on the bigger screen as at this stage it is a very fiddly game to play on Steam Deck and does need some accessibility improvements to get me fully invested for the long haul, but it is something I will come back to from time to time and well worth picking up if you fancy something to scratch a certain itch.

Snufkin: Melody of Moominvalley

DEVELOPER: Hyper Games
Platforms: PC, Playstation, Switch, Xbox
Price: TBA
Steam Deck: Unknown (should be verified)

Credit: IGN

The word ‘Whimsical’ was invented to Snufkin: Melody of Moominvalley, because this is just the most lovely and whimsical adventure I have ever been on and brings the magic created by Tove Jannsson to a video game in the best way possible.

As a child of the 80s I loved the Moomins, I don’t know why, but outside of Thundercats, Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors, He-Man and Visionaires, it was the Moomons that really spoke to me and they couldn’t be more opposite to those that I loved above. A yin to the yang maybe?

Anyway, this isn’t a piece about my childhood, this is about this game and oh my, what a wonderful game it is. From the very second it starts up your are transported to a beautiful land that immediately feels like a story book has been brought to life. You know when someone talks about a book they are reading and how the things being described jump off the page? Well this is that actually happening.

As you progress you’ll not only play as Snufkin, but also interact with the many other wonderful characters from the mind of Jannsson, Snifkin, Moomintroll, Mrs Filljonk, Snorkmaiden and many more. Meeting all these characters I remember from the stories just brought a warm smile to my face.

The gameplay is so calm and relaxing too, yes there is a story, one of which things happen and you as Snufkin need to restore harmony to Moominvalley. It is a nice simple story to follow and with it the game encourages you to explore and discover.

You’ll get given lots of tasks to do, all based around some kind of discovery and light puzzling, using Snufkin’s harmonica for the most part. The music plays an important part and I’ll use that word whimsical again, because that is exactly what it is. Joyously whimsical.

Headphones on, duvet wrapped, Steam Deck in hand and relax. Be taken on a magical journey that you’ll never want to leave. It takes something special to break me away from Balatro at the moment, but being able to lose myself in the magical whimsical world of the Moomins will do just that.

We are mere weeks into 2024 and we are being so spoiled right now. Snufkin: Melody of Moominvalley is sitting pretty right at the summit.

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