The Wholesome Games Direct aired today, showing off a staggering 75 indie games filled to the brim with fuzzy feelings and good vibes. I’m a bit of a ‘wholesome’ game lover myself, always hunting for a new relaxing experience to wind down with at the end of a long day. But with the presentation’s back-to-back-back trailer format, I can’t help but wonder if the age-old phrase “too much of a good thing” is true.
I’m not here to say the Wholesome Direct was bad, because it wasn’t! The presentation showed off some real corkers—getting to see more of Paralives was a genuine treat, and so many games have flown under my radar that feel like they’re made for me. Tea-brewing sim Pekoe looks adorable, and games like Yokai Inn and Unpacking look like the perfect zen experiences. I’m so stoked to see Passpartout get a sequel, and Spirit Swap looks to be giving the match-three genre a much-needed fresh lick of paint.
Those are just six of the 75 games that were shown. There were a tonne of other amazing-looking games there, but with each one getting roughly the same amount of air time, it was hard for them to stand out from one another.
For instance, In my first watch-through, I completely glossed over Letters—an amazing-looking adventure puzzler in which you physically use words from a pen pal’s letters to advance the story. There’s also We Are OFK, which might be one of the prettiest games I’ve seen in a while. An episodic coming-of-age narrative adventure with a gorgeous colour palette and believable characters? Count me in.
The games were all given about two minutes to present themselves. When you’re collecting projects that share similar themes, colour palettes and ideas, the result is bound to be that they mush together into one pastel-iced cake. That’s not to say the games weren’t unique, but if you showcased 75 FPS games one after another, you would have to expect some fragging fatigue.
To be clear, Wholesome Games providing a platform for 75 fabulous-looking indies in a sub-hour presentation is no mean feat. It’s not just this presentation that’s suffered from the same problem, either. With E3 being entirely digital this year, it feels like we’ve gone from a gaming drought to the dam bursting, drowning everyone in release dates and announcements.
Studios have definitely tried to alleviate it somewhat by tempering expectations, but it’s a pretty overwhelming time right now. Just before Wholesome Games, we had the Guerrilla Collective show, with just as many indies. That’s too many games back-to-back.
It turns out that big in-person events were shielding us from a relentless cavalcade of trailers and not-quite-announcements. These could have been spread out to let us savour them, but every virtual show is now competing with every other virtual show, packing in the games to make sure everyone will tune in. It’s a lot!
If you didn’t check it out live, you can watch the Wholesome Direct on Youtube, which is probably the best way to experience it. At your own pace, bit by bit. Some games, like Paralives, have extended trailers available separate from the Direct too, so you can go check them out in more detail and give the games the love they deserve.