British Columbia

Think digitally, buy locally: 5 B.C.-made video games for the holidays

For some holiday gift shoppers, buying locally is a goal and if video games are on a loved one’s wish list, that won’t be a challenge — especially for those seeking out creative, off-the-beaten track titles.

'Supporting not just the local economy but these creative outlets ... creates a more playful world'

A screenshot of Backbone, a game developed by Vancouver-based EggNut. The game takes place in a film noir vision of Vancouver. (EggNut)

For some holiday gift shoppers, buying locally is a goal and if video games are on a loved one's wish list, that won't be a challenge — especially for those seeking out creative, off-the-beaten track titles.

Dennis Chenard, director of industry relations at the Centre for Digital Media, says B.C.'s smaller game studios have developed a track record in recent years of making those innovative products.

He says for curious gamers, they're worth a try.

"Supporting not just the local economy but these creative outlets ... creates a more playful world," Chenard said. "It does lead to new and better play experiences."

Here are five examples of locally-made games available for the holidays.

Hot Lava

This game by Vancouver-based Klei Entertainment is a digital version of "the floor is lava." This game takes it one step forward as you run and jump and do parkour moves in a first-person perspective across platforms on literal lava, racing against the clock. It's just frustrating enough to make it challenging yet rewarding. Its aesthetic leans heavily into early '90s nostalgia.

Available on: Steam, Apple Arcade

Stela

Stela is a 2D platformer with a horror tinge from Burnaby-based SkyBox Labs. Your character wakes up in a cavern, climbs up a ladder and finds herself in a world in the throes of an apocalypse. In Stela, you solve puzzles, use stealth and sometimes just plain run to avoid carnivorous insects, ghouls and other dangers as you explore the collapsing world. It's similar to Limbo, another puzzle-platformer. The visual style is reminiscent of the post-apocalypse movie 10 Cloverfield Lane and the sound design is chilling.

Available on: XBox One, Apple Arcade, Steam (forthcoming)

Garden Paws

This is an adorable, zen game in the mold of Minecraft with touches of Harvest Moon or Stardew Valley thrown in. Developed by Burnaby's Bitten Toast Games, this game puts you in the shoes of a cute woodland animal with a house and shop. You go into the wilderness to harvest plants and other materials to craft items for sale and help build up the town. There are dungeons to explore and monsters to fight. The art and music are warm and relaxing.

Available on: Nintendo Switch, Steam

Pistol Whip

Qualicum Beach-based Cloudhead games is behind this ultraviolent VR shooter game. You shoot at enemies, dodge their bullets and weave your way through obstacles as you travel on an always-moving platform sort of like a people-mover at the airport. It gives you the feeling of being the star of an action movie like John Wick or Hardboiled. The movements required also give you the sense of being in a deadly dance party.

Available on: SteamVR, Oculus, Viveport, PSVR

Backbone

This game from Vancouver-based EggNut is more of a belated holiday item because it is not expected to be released until 2020 but there is a free demo available for download. This game evokes point-and-click adventures like Monkey Island but with more action. You play as a raccoon detective in a film-noir-styled vision of Vancouver populated by woodland creatures like otters, squirrels and bears. The pixel art style gives it a striking throwback quality.

Available on: Steam (demo only), other platforms in 2020

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