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Sunshiney Video Games to Beat the Midwinter Blues

For decades, the fashion industry has dedicated January to showing off their “resort” collections, and if you open up a fashion magazine this month, you can enjoy pictures of barely-clad models showing off bronzed skin and coral toenails in St. Kitts and Fiji.

But for those of us who can’t afford such ritzy getaways and instead spend the month schlepping to and from work in the dark and trying to decide if a bright lipstick looks cheerful or just desperate in these wintry conditions, it’s time to get creative and start hunting for a dose of digital sunshine in our games.

Glittermitten Grove, released December 13 from Adult Swim, is possibly the lightest, froufiest confection of a game ever made. (Okay, not really, but only because there’s some seriously steep competition out there.) It’s the pink macaron of games. Listen to their description: “Just like the faeries in your garden, we love collecting berries for our prickleberry loaves and finding treasure with our special fribblesham fireworks.”

Glittermitten Grove

Which is to say, this is the kind of game you will either love or hate depending on your tolerance for sparkly faeries, and they’re entirely upfront about what you can expect. Glittermitten is a colony management sim, and at times it feels a little like the devs might have been considering making it a time management mobile app but then decided to go whole hog.

But that’s not to knock the real pleasure the game offers. You build houses for the faeries, make sure the trees don’t grow too tall and choke out the precious sunlight that helps grow their food, mine for crystals, and so forth. The graphics are lovely, and the only false note in the aesthetic is the music, which is your standard repetitive ditty.

At $19.99 and a little less than ten hours of playability for the “main campaign,” the price tag is a little steep, but it’s ten gentle, relaxing hours that remind you of the pleasure of gardens and sunlight. I paid my own money for it and had no regrets, and most users seem to share my feeling—it currently has a 9/10 rating on Steam.

Glittermitten Grove

But maybe prickleberries and fribbleshams aren’t your speed. Maybe you’re still yearning for sandy beaches and tropical climes, or sailing around the world with a warm breeze in your hair. If so, you’re in luck, because 2016 was absolutely a banner year for all kinds of naval games.

In January, we got the gorgeously designed Naval Action from Game Labs. It’s an Age of Sail naval combat sandbox MMO, so if you see an island you like, just make like the British Empire in the 18th century and take it for your own with the cunning use of flags…and cannons. Or be a pirate and steal from honest folk—we won’t judge, but be careful when you’re coming into port!

Naval Action

June brought forth The Last Leviathan by Super Punk Games for those who are more into physics and ship-building (and fighting super-creepy sea monsters). Its campaigns still haven’t been fully fleshed out, but Twitch streamers and YouTubers have had a grand time testing how far they can stretch laws of physics (gravity for instance—the quest for a flying ship is extremely popular) with their designs, and the Steam workshops are crammed with lovingly build custom creations.

In August, Herocraft fully released Tempest, an open-world pirate action RPG that allows you to fight, trade, and explore and fully supports both single and multi-player modes. Tempest is entirely pirate themed, so law-abiding mateys beware! If you love the idea of leveling up your pirate crew and battling enemy captains, though, this is fairly solid RPG fare (and you still get the creepy sea monsters!)

Tempest

All of which is to say, no matter what flavor of sea voyage you prefer, there’s a sailing game out there for you.

Of course, the January blues are the problem virtual reality was more or less built to solve, and if you got a new VR headset for Christmas, there are plenty of exotic locations you can “visit” without ever stepping outside the door or picking up a weird gut bacteria.

Alpine SkiVR from SuchWorks allows slalom racing with support for competing socially against friends, freestyle trick skiing, and offpiste heliski that allows you to fly a helicopter across a lovely, pristine landscape and choose where you want to land and begin your skiing adventure.

Bonus: even if you bought a VR headset just to play this game, it would still be massively cheaper than a ski vacation, and you probably won’t break your leg. Plus the apres-ski lounge that is your kitchen always has your favorite kind of cocoa.

So rock that bright lipstick (or hoodie, however you’re keeping happy) and keep your spirits high, my lovelies—spring has to come sometime.

Sophie Weeks
Born in Phoenix, Arizona, Sophie Weeks received a Masters degree in English Literature from Mills College in 2006 and completed her PhD in Victorian Literature at Rice University in 2013. She is the author of Outside the Spotlight, Unsettled Spirits, and The Soured Earth.
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Sophie Weeks
Born in Phoenix, Arizona, Sophie Weeks received a Masters degree in English Literature from Mills College in 2006 and completed her PhD in Victorian Literature at Rice University in 2013. She is the author of Outside the Spotlight, Unsettled Spirits, and The Soured Earth.

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