The Wholesome Games Direct presentation just wrapped, and after about an hour of trailers, the livestream underscored one thing for me: There sure are a lotta farming sims out in the wild. Hey, I don’t mind the abundance of these games. Farming in games can be a cozy escape, but it was strange seeing so many trying to bite the successful formula of games like Animal Crossing and Stardew Valley. That said, the broadcast did feature a number of compelling indies, from turn-based rhythm games to visual novels, some of which are coming sooner than you might expect.
In case you don’t know, the Wholesome Direct, now in its second year, is a livestream dedicated to comfy-cozy indie games usually developed by marginalized creators. So what you’re getting are experiences that venture off the beaten path, stories about subject matter often pushed aside in “AAA” development. As such, these games tend to get overshadowed by the glitz and glamor (and huge marketing campaigns) of big-budget games. That’s where the Wholesome Direct comes in: To shine a light on the developers pushing the medium to often unexplored territory. It’s awesome stuff!
Anyway, of the nearly 100 wholesome games shown during today’s broadcast, here are eight that you should totally keep an eye on:
A Frog’s Tale
A joint collaboration between indie studios Norman Company and Mythcarver Games, A Frog’s Tale is a charming turn-based action-RPG where you battle to the rhythm of thumping ‘80s synth beats not unlike Crypt of the NecroDancer. I love the pixel art aesthetic and the adorable characters. It gives me very Final Fantasy meets rhythm gameplay energy, and that slaps.
A Frog’s Tale is expected to launch on PC sometime in 2023. You can wishlist it on Steam right now and support its Kickstarter campaign.
Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly
This was so cool to see! The original Coffee Talk was an endearing visual novel whose creator,Mohammad Fahmi, tragically passed away this year. So, I’m stoked that the spirit of the first game seems to live on in this sequel from Toge Productions. Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly continues the story of the OG game, with new characters, extra features like temperature control, and even more drinks to serve to patrons.
Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly launches sometime in 2023 for Nintendo Switch, macOS and PC, PlayStation consoles, and Xbox systems.
Kaichu – The Kaiju Dating Sim
So, as I was taking notes with the Wholesome Direct livestream running on my second monitor, Squiddershins’ Kaichu popped up and all I could type was “WHAT?” A Kaiju dating simulator, Kaichu – The Kaiju Dating Sim puts you in the role of Gigachu, a big romantic looking for love. You go on dates with six other mega-monsters, doing things like destroying buildings while smooching in between the carnage. It’s sweet and funny, and I want it now.
Kaichu – The Kaiju Dating Sim is expected to hit PC this summer.
If the name doesn’t give its premise a way, the game’s description absolutely does. “Grab your axe and save the environment by chopping and recycling every man-made thing in your path.” Yeah, this is pretty much Smokey the Bear: The Game. In FinalBoss Games’ LumbearJack, you play as Jack, a bear who functions as the environment’s last savior. Armed with your trusty—and customizable–axe, you go around eradicating human creations through puzzle-solving in the hopes of ecological preservation for all. Hm, now that sounds like an important subject we should be talking more about.
LumbearJack is out now on Nintendo Switch and PC.
A rhythm platformer developed by Half Asleep, Melatonin is a collection of mini-games about piecing together various disparate dreams. Each chapter features a different kind of challenge, requiring you to shoot UFOs on beat, jump between platforms to the rhythm, and eat donuts on a chair in the sky. Yeah, it’s a weird one. But hey, weird is cool. And Melatonin is both of those.
Melatonin is coming to Nintendo Switch and PC on September 16.
Paper Animal RPG
Cuddling Raccoon Studios’ Paper Animal RPG clearly takes some inspiration from Nintendo’s Paper Mario franchise, while also being very much its own thing. A cute roguelike set in a colorful boardgame-sized world, you help a little chick named Peep and his friends find the king by strategically outplaying enemies, all while meeting adorable animals and leveling up by the campfire.
Paper Animal RPG doesn’t have a release date yet, but you can wishlist it on Steam. A Kickstarter campaign launches this summer, and if it gets funded, it’ll hit Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation consoles, and Xbox systems.
Olliefrog Toad Skater
No list of mine would be complete without a skateboarding game. Mr. Thee’s Olliefrog Toad Skater is a mix of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and the “skateboating” game Wave Break in the best way possible. You play as a customizable frog in what’s being called a “faithful recreation of the gamefeel of late 90s and early 2000s skateboarding games.” So, in other words, gravity-defying Indy 900s. But as an amphibian. Yeah, that’s sick!
Olliefrog Toad Skater is “hopefully” coming late 2023, according to its Steam page. You can wishlist it on PC now and support its Kickstarter campaign. Oh, and there’s a demo for Olliefrog Toad Skater is available now on itch.io.
A relaxing story game about one of the most boring card games imaginable, Beardshaker Games’ Soulitaire plays more like a Tarot reading than a game of Solitaire. Using ambiguous soul cards, you interpret the meaning of the symbols on the cards to predict the futures of your customers and friends. It’s got some beautiful illustrative art full of rich colors, a chill reverb-heavy guitar soundtrack, and some hidden mystery that seems intriguing. I’m in.
Soulitaire doesn’t have a release date, but you can wishlist it on Steam now.
Phew. That was quite a bit. And again, those were just the eight most compelling games to me. There were so many more shown off during the Wholesome Direct livestream, so be sure to hit me in the comments with some of the comfy-cozy experiences that stood out to you. Oh, and be sure to hit up WholesomeGames.com to learn more about the above picks and so many more.
Thom Browne Spring 2023 Menswear
In 2017, Thom Browne expanded his oeuvre and put men in dresses during his menswear show in Paris. That collection, called “Why Not?” was less a provocation than a flex: The elegant elongated shapes Browne was developing for women translated, seamlessly and cheekily, for men. Five years later—and after a two-year hiatus from Paris—Browne’s menswear…
In 2017, Thom Browne expanded his oeuvre and put men in dresses during his menswear show in Paris. That collection, called “Why Not?” was less a provocation than a flex: The elegant elongated shapes Browne was developing for women translated, seamlessly and cheekily, for men. Five years later—and after a two-year hiatus from Paris—Browne’s menswear is back in the French capital with similar potency. His spring 2023 collection, suspended almost entirely from jock straps, is Browne’s updated meditation on “how far you can push it?”
“I thought the dresses were too much back then,” Browne began at a preview in his showroom, “but now feels like the time to do this. It’s about how much guys can look at and entertain.” Referring to the many visible cheeks on the catwalk, he pointedly added: “It’s not about shock value.”
If not shock, then what? There has been a lot of nudity this menswear season and in the past two years in general, but Browne’s stated intent is less about showing flesh than it is about finding a new form for men. You can see how he could get bored quick. This is his third catwalk in under a year—plus four pre-collections. “I have a good team” he demurred when asked how he creates with such voracity.
So the brief was brief this season: short, mini, kinky, gorgeous. Each of the looks was made in a unique French tweed, from the same maker of you-know-who’s tweeds, inspired by the couture ideology of the 1940s and 1950s. The show began with friends of the maison as couture clients—Anh Duong, Marisa Berenson, Farida Khelfa, and more—bolting in to the second floor of the Crillon to find their seats. From their vantage point they could ogle the guys—a nice swap—in their shorter-in-the-back kiltlets, sailor tops, cropped organza button downs, and luxurious tweed coats with gold bouillon. As with any Browne outing, the fabrics and silhouettes were as fine as can be.
After a mostly underwhelming season, at least according to the menswear editors I tallied, how far could this irreverent beauty really go, though? Several balked. Others chuckled. When a dancer emerged at the end of the show dressed in a codpiece with an anchor Prince Albert piercing, I exchanged a glance with a friend across the aisle and we both giggled. Last night was Pride in Paris. In Browne’s beloved USA, human rights are being revoked by the hour. It would be hard to picture a more gay and proud couture-worthy collection: the sailor, the cowboy, the surfer, the tennis pro; the stereotypes divorced from expected connotations, made in the artisanal gold standard of womenswear design, ass cracks gleaming and pert under those red, white and blue bars of gingham. Browne is gay and proud. Will his cis-het clientele be radicalized or scandalized? A voiceover that started the show spoke about the couture process of the ’50s, when women were swans and men were their benefactors. “Men have the very great pleasure of paying,” said the recording. Time to pay up, boys.
Ambush Resort 2023
“The touchpoint and the root of every Ambush collection has to come from everything that happens in Japan that is unique,” said Yoon Ahn when we met at the very beginning of Paris Fashion Week. Given that she has been on that scene since the early 2000s, when she moved to Tokyo with her family,…
“The touchpoint and the root of every Ambush collection has to come from everything that happens in Japan that is unique,” said Yoon Ahn when we met at the very beginning of Paris Fashion Week. Given that she has been on that scene since the early 2000s, when she moved to Tokyo with her family, not to mention that the Ambush office sits right in Shibuya, Yoon has plenty of material to mine. This pre-collection represented a down-tempo interlude in Ambush’s rhythm of show season spectacular, and was more observationaL. The collection was designed as an imagined curation of the clothes she sees on the kids who are flocking back to Shibuya today. “Things are opening up, the clubs: everything’s coming back in Tokyo. I’ve been feeling that.”
Tailoring, sportswear, footwear, nylon-spliced denim, and of course this brand’s core category of jewelry was all effectively designed to be defined less by the wearer’s gender identity than their aesthetic orientation and subcultural proclivity. The classics covered, from Ambush specific bodice tops and kimono coats to standards including bowling shirts and tracksuits, were adroitly but subtly remixed through tweaks in proportion, color, and fabrication. Pills and mushrooms came suspended from safety pin earrings and chains, supplies brought in for a big night ahead. This though was a collection built for street life: night life comes later.
Alled-Martinez Spring 2023 Menswear
“I don’t really like the term ‘Y2K,’” quipped Archie Alled-Martinez during a Zoom preview from his hotel in Paris. “We just used to call it ‘millennium’ back then, so that’s what it is for me.”Alled-Martinez is part of a wave of millennial designers that is remarkably skilled at putting together a visual mood that encapsulates…
“I don’t really like the term ‘Y2K,’” quipped Archie Alled-Martinez during a Zoom preview from his hotel in Paris. “We just used to call it ‘millennium’ back then, so that’s what it is for me.”
Alled-Martinez is part of a wave of millennial designers that is remarkably skilled at putting together a visual mood that encapsulates an era or mood. “I do a ton of research,” he said “I like exhaustive research of images and visuals, it’s what helps me design.” Much of the research he did for spring was based on the mystique around the soccer player. Titled “Reclaiming the Fields,” the collection is a nod to the homoeroticism of that figure and a reclaiming of the word and concept of a “metrosexual.” “I kept reading that word as I researched and I thought, ‘How homophobic?’ Alled-Martinez said as he pulled up the Google definition of the word: “a young, urban, heterosexual male with liberal political views, an interest in fashion, and a refined sense of taste.”
The fact is, around the time both Alled-Martinez and myself were growing up, the word was casually thrown around as a descriptor of a straight man who embodied all the stereotypical characteristics of a gay man without (allegedly) being one. In essence it was a way for people to pejoratively call someone gay without actually doing so. Many of the “metrosexuals” of our time were famous athletes, particularly soccer players, who dressed well and looked even better—David Beckham being the best example. In fact, Beckham was a source of inspiration for Alled-Martinez, which explains why the lookbook resembles a series of photos of Beckham in the late noughties, the clothes looking like just what he would have worn for a night out with or without Victoria Beckham.
The collection itself stays true to the signature homoerotic aesthetic that Alled-Martinez has become known for, particularly to the gay fashion community and social media space. Part of the charm of the label is that its founder knows just how to speak to his audience. “There’s an intrinsic nostalgia to my work, I like to recreate things that are constantly in my mind,” Alled-Martinez said as he walked me through the lineup for spring. Low-rise cargo pants, straight-cut jeans, knee-length swim trunks, and tight short shorts build the core of the assortment, all cut and styled in his signature gay male gaze, which is homoerotic and often voyeuristic. They’re all references to the way men would dress back in the second half of the 2000’s, and, most significantly, to those elements of masculinity that gay men coming into their queerness at the time would often lust for.
“I like doing the tees because it reminds me of when I was growing up and would see a Ford logo tee that said ‘fuck’ instead,” Alled-Martinez said. This season’s tees with Ford and Bic logos reimagined as “faggot” and “dick,” respectively, will surely be a hit for his nostalgic customer, but the designer was at his best this season when he took it past the mood board and found a way of turning nostalgic items into covetable pieces. A pair of baggy cargos in light wash denim stood out, with the center-front crotch seam mimicking a jockstrap, as did macrame bags made in raw silk and “cheap poly football uniforms” reimagined in glossy, saturated colored knitted silk.
For his presentation, Allied-Martinez decided to lean into the voyeuristic sensuality of his brand, creating an installation that saw guests peep into the collection through holes in a wooden wall to discover a locker room where models were changing in and out of the clothes. “Basically an ode to voyeurism and glory holes, all about desire,” said the designer. It was something that felt right out of XY magazine, another Y2K–sorry, I mean millennium–gem many millennial gay men will surely remember.
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