A Little to the Left is one of these indie games with a niche core idea that only needs a short teaser to convince thousands of players that this is exactly the game they had wanted their whole life.
If the thought of jumbled cutlery items, cupboards left ajar, or frames ever so slightly tilted have you break out in a cold sweat, and you feel great satisfaction fixing these little imperfections, it's likely A Little to the Left is for you.
And the highly awaited indie darling finally has a release date, with developer Max Inferno Games revealing at the Future Games Show today during Gamescom that it will launch on November 8 on PC and Mac, with a Switch and mobile release still on the horizon as well.
A Little to the Left started as an Itch.io project that Max Inferno decided to turn into a full-fledged game in March 2021.
"Part of what we are offering is a bit of humour in the absurdity of what we are proposing as a puzzle"
The title was unveiled during E3 2021's Wholesome Direct where it gathered a lot of positive buzz, and was initially scheduled for an October 2021 release. It ended up being pushed back and was showcased again during Not-E3 2022, with Day of the Devs describing it as a game "about the sublime little puzzles we find in our everyday lives."
And with each new trailer and announcement, the interest from the indie community and players alike seemed to flourish.
"I’m grateful for people’s growing interest in our game," says Max Inferno co-founder Anne Macmillan in an exclusive interview with GamesIndustry.biz. "It feels wonderful to see all the hard work we’re putting into it be appreciated. It’s been a big part of our lives for the past year, and the main thing we talk about at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I try to see the growing hype as though we are attracting an audience who wants to see what we have to show them, and not take it as added pressure to perform to rising expectations.
"I think the challenges we face are typical for indie devs – constantly wanting to make the game better, unexpected technical issues, managing a business, things taking longer than expected… But I think we’ve managed each challenge really well as a team, and with the help of our publisher, Secret Mode."
Max Inferno is a two-people studio based in Nova Scotia – Macmillan is an illustrator and animator, and works alongside programmer and designer Lukas Steinman. The pair were approached by many publishers when the title was first announced in 2021, Macmillan says.
"We hadn’t considered working with a publisher until we started having discussions with some. We were planning to make a much smaller/shorter game as we were both working full time and were making the game as a side hobby. We loved the idea of focusing full time on the game with the support of a publisher, and to be able to expand on the initial prototype we had, because we saw so much potential in it that we wanted to be able to explore. Secret Mode stood out to us immediately for all the right reasons. They are experienced, kind, communicative and supportive. They offer valuable mentorship, but also completely respect our creative vision."
"There is a creativity that emerges through the mundane, and hopefully that resonates with the audience as something familiar"
This creative vision feels somewhat similar to an Assemble With Care, an Unpacking, or a PowerWash Simulator – these cosy, wholesome, oddly satisfying games we seem to see more of lately, that focus on an unusual gameplay loop. And that's a label Macmillan is absolutely comfortable with.
"It makes sense to me that our game would be understood and embraced by this community, and by players who have responded well to new concepts of what a game can be," she says. "Our game sometimes engages the player with mundane activities – pulling stickers from fruit, or putting away cutlery, for example. Part of what we are offering is a bit of humour in the absurdity of what we are proposing as a puzzle.
"We do this by highlighting little relationships with objects that may be familiar to some, or playing with principles of design, or imagining the logic of someone who wants to have control of their environment. I think the levels are silly, and they ask you to look around your own space and wonder if there is anything else going on with those clothespins and pen caps. I imagine being a kid again and creating games with things that are not toys, reimagining their function and discovering a hidden life. There is a creativity that emerges through the mundane, and hopefully that resonates with the audience as something familiar."
The idea for A Little to the Left also finds its roots in the COVID-19 pandemic, which led a lot of people to reconsider what is important to them or what they want to focus on.
"During the pandemic, I worried less about how others might judge how I spent my time; I had more confidence to just do what I wanted to," Macmillan continues. "Maybe others are more comfortable being themselves these days, too. Hopefully, that will allow artists to create things they just want to see and share.
"I don’t know when the wholesome genre started to emerge, but I think it’s safe to say that the past few years have been difficult, and I believe many people find comfort within games. As media continues to become more pervasive in our lives, people may be interested in engaging with accessible gaming experiences that feel connected to positive aspects of life, whether that’s through a relatable or heartfelt experience, or with a broader community who shares similar values."
"I want people to laugh at the moments I laughed at when we created it"
Concluding our chat, Macmillan says Max Inferno already has ideas for A Little to the Left post-launch, for instance "bringing some seasonally themed puzzles to players." Beyond that, the pair also wants to explore ideas that didn't quite make it to the core game.
As for her expectations for the title and what the team hopes to achieve, the answer is simple.
"I want people to laugh at the moments I laughed at when we created it," Macmillan says. "I want people to wonder along with me why certain activities, sounds and movements are surprisingly satisfying. I want people to get excited and share with us their own ideas for puzzles based on their own experiences. I want people to reimagine the mundane as something with hidden potential. I want people to feel welcome, relaxed and calm, but be delighted by the occasional surprise."