Small… But Perfectly Formed
Five indies set on alien planets to thrill galactic explorers
Hyper Light Drifter
Heart Machine’s blistering debut is punctuated by intense, precise bursts of combat, but for the most part the eponymous drifter is left alone as he probes the mysteries of a diseased world. This is comfortably one of the most distinctive indie games of recent years.
Five years in the making, this retro-styled adventure from lone developer Thomas Happ may be indebted to Metroid, but it has ideas that are all its own. An arsenal of weapons helps you deal with the world’s threats, while the best have wider applications, factoring into your exploration in creative ways.
Terraria in space, basically, and that’s no bad thing. In truth, this sandbox exploration and settlement-building adventure has a greater sense of purpose than its earthly counterpart, with missions giving it a stronger forward momentum for those who prefer a more structured experience.
Still in Early Access after 18 months, System Era’s open-ended adventure has expanded, offering more comprehensive base-building on top of its terrain-deforming core. Astroneer’s brand of freeform fun is ideal if you’re simply looking for a planet on which to potter about.
El egy for a Dead World
This prose-powered adventure invites your lonely astronaut to explore lost civilisations and essentially write their obituaries. Sometimes you’ll be asked to fill in the blanks, while other places give you a launchpad from which to take off on writerly flights of fancy. Intriguingly different.