I’ve played and reviewed countless games and I’ve experienced many unremarkable concepts. Consequently, when one is touching, original, and interesting, I’m genuinely impressed. Newfound Courage is one game that stands out from the crowd. With its original soundtrack, excellent story, and hand-drawn pixel images, it ups the ante for all indie developers.
Developed and published by Cafe Empty, this is a narrative-driven adventure RPG. With minor character improvements and a linear plot, you may worry that it lacks depth. However, its wonderful array of characters, heartwarming story, and interesting environments, more than make up for it. On top of this, it leads the way for the LBGTQ community as it explores the challenges of coming to terms with your sexuality.
Originally released in 2019, the core gameplay has evolved considerably. Previously, Curtis Campion focused on the story and its eclectic blend of characters. Now, there is a more rounded approach with the original mechanics supporting the new combat and RPG character levelling system. As such, it will appeal to a larger array of gamers, and this isn’t a bad thing. Moreover, its niche approach could have alienated would-be players. Consequently, the new elements ensure everyone can enjoy it at some level.
Newfound Courage is enriched with lore.
Normally, I love a game that relies on deep and meaningful lore. However, Newfound Courage packs in so much information that it is at times overwhelming and confusing. Yet, don’t let this put you off, as you can take as much time as you wish to absorb the key moments. Once you get to grips with the fundamentals, you’ll enjoy the deeply fulfilling story and the LBGTQ undertones.
The plot revolves around a young man named Alex and his struggle with his sexuality. His home town is full of bigots and as such, he is ousted and spurned by those he loves. Luckily, he finds refugee in Silverpine where he can start again. Here, he is accepted and begins to make friends, but his heart falls for the wrong boy. Jake does not reciprocate his feelings towards Alex, but he loves him like a brother. However, unbeknownst to them, this friendship is the key to saving their home and banishing the evil that resides there.
A fantastic combination of elements.
Unlike other adventure games or narrative-focused experiences, Newfound Courage has balanced its approach perfectly. Yes, it is a little lore heavy at times, but its delivery of the story and combat moments are spot on. Then there are the puzzling elements, simple and humorous tasks to complete, and the tongue-in-cheek conversations. There is a small world to explore that revolves around the central vault and the magic within. However, there is plenty to do and many collectables to find. Consequently, it will interest you from beginning to end.
As you progress through the game, the magic and surreal moments take centre stage. Yet, they never undermine the LBGTQ elements or the gay protagonist. Instead, the dreamy scenes allowed the developers to explore some touching and challenging elements. What I particularly enjoyed was the randomness of each situation and the loss of control. During every scene, the hero must help others whilst they come to terms with their issues. This was particularly well written without being pretentious or preachy.
Alongside these strange encounters, you enjoy some basic fighting with creatures called “Sendings”. With the use of a sword and spells, you must dodge and hack your way to victory. Sadly, the lack of complexity won’t impress serious adventure RPG fans, but I liked the change of pace. Its simplicity was easy to understand, and this allowed you to focus on the plot and the characters.
Newfound Courage is wonderfully pixelated.
With a Sega Mega Drive aesthetics, a vivid colour palette, and hand-drawn imagery, Newfound Courage looks great and is one of a kind. Furthermore, the sprites are well detailed, the environments are unusual, romantic, daunting, and atmospheric, and the animation is smooth. This is one title that promises a unique style and then proceeds to deliver on every aspect of that promise.
I adore great audio as it makes or breaks a game. Jessica Kelly has composed a chilling and haunting soundtrack that is juxtaposed with high-energy and fun tunes. With 20 original tracks and complementing sound effects, it works perfectly alongside the heartwarming, serious, and childish moments.
Slow-paced and easy to play.
Because of its gentle pace, excellent UI, and well-thought-out and responsive controls, Newfound Courage is easy to play. Moreover, each new element is well explained, and the combat is straightforward and quick to master.
Sadly, the core game only lasts around 5 hours. This comprises 2 stories that share key protagonists. However, I desperately wanted the action to keep going. There were many eccentric characters, and I wanted to hear their views. If these moments were explored, and the action padded out a little more, the lore-heavy sections wouldn’t have felt so daunting. As it is, the replay value is minimal, but the first playthrough is still worthwhile.
Newfound Courage is relevant no matter your sexuality.
Though Newfound Courage will pique the interest of the LBGTQ community, it shouldn’t be pigeonholed. Instead, it must be celebrated for its unique approach, wonderful writing, and marvellous aesthetics. I cherished its viewpoints and its poignant story, and I firmly believe it is relevant no matter your sexuality. This is an incredibly original and well-considered title and I recommend you to buy it here! Take a journey of discovery and acceptance as you fight to find a new home.