At X019, I went hands-on with a selection of indie games at the [email protected] booth. These conventions are a good place to try some lesser-known titles, and two caught my eye this year. Phogs and The Falconeer may both feature animals at the helm, but these are vastly different games. Both impressive in their own right; Phogs is a physics-based platformer and The Falconeer an action RPG with a focus on aerial combat. I’m here to shed some light on why these two should definitely be on your radar for 2020.
In one of the most charming indies I’ve seen in some time, Phogs is a puzzle platformer that stars a double-headed dog with a stretched belly. Think CatDog but sticking to one species. Phogs can be played in solo by controlling both heads in tandem. However, the game shines in co-op, where each player controls Red or Blue; the two dog heads. Manipulating this slippery beast is a challenge in itself in co-op, and you’ll have to be on the same page as your partner to progress. The way it controls is reminiscent of the slimy-platformer Snake Pass, but Phogs is a little more puzzle-solving than platforming.
Once you get the hang of controlling your dog(s), Phogs is quite simple to grasp. In my demo, I spent my time grabbing light sources to access new areas and manipulating the environment to find hidden secrets. The game was relatively easy once I got hold of the controls, but it was still extremely satisfying. Just watching the creature glide through the environment was charming and put a huge smile on my face. It’s backed up by a gorgeous art style too, which reminded me of a children’s storybook. Phogs was pure fun, and it will be launching straight into Xbox Game Pass in 2020.
This one swooped onto my radar when it was announced before X019, so I had to have a try on the show floor. The Falconeer plays like a dogfighter without aeroplanes. Instead, they’re swapped for a kitted-out falcon. You are tasked with taking out enemies in a number of ways, including attacking outposts or just exploring the world. It plays like a more organic dogfighting game, where you feel connected to the bird you control. It’s incredibly smooth to play and as someone who isn’t too familiar with the genre, The Falconeer was welcoming for a budding falcon.
The art style is beautiful too. The out-at-sea setting combined with a wistful style reminded me of Sea of Thieves. Rare’s pirate adventure may be more grounded than The Falconeer, but that same sense of adventure is present. The mission structure is similar too, where you venture out to complete quests in the wild. This setup made me think of where the game could go after launch. The Falconeer feels tailor-made for added content down the line. Sea of Thieves was successful with this model and there’s no reason The Falconeer can’t be either. This welcoming dogfighting RPG is definitely one to watch.
Both of these are set to launch next year; Phogs is confirmed as an Xbox Game Pass title at launch. Which of these indies do you want to play?