An Australian game has just taken out the Grand Prize at Japan’s longest-running independent games festival. Dap, the debut game from Melbourne microstudio Melting Parrot, just won the Vermillion Gate Award at Bitsummit, as well as the festival’s award for Best Sound Design. With these wins, Dap might be the most celebrated Australian game you’ve never heard of: now, it’s scheduled for release on 29 September, and it’s time for that to change.
Iris and Paul Anstey, the artist-musician duo behind Melting Parrot, had never made a game before Dap. Originally, the dark, dreamlike title was intended as an experiment. The pair quickly found that game development suited them, with Iris taking the lead on programming and art, and Paul focussing on sound and level design. Clearly, both efforts are paying off.
The result is a surreal action role-playing game set in a lucid dream. In the dark, forested dreamscape, you collect strange creatures called daps. Moving in a dreamlike, collective motion inspired by the way bees swarm, the daps can help you fight monsters, solve environmental puzzles, and battle the alien infection taking over the forest.
The game’s lush, dark visuals draw on influences from Hyper Light Drifter to Studio Ghibli’s Princess Mononoke, and its haunting sound design is at once ominous and glitched out, and organic as flowing water. Combined with the fluidly coalescing daps, it’s a distinct and alluring pitch.
I first came across Dap when it was part of PAX Online’s virtual showcase, almost exactly a year ago. Then, it was an intriguing title that promised spooky vibes and exploration, and aesthetically might fit in alongside gothic indie classics Hollow Knight or Limbo. Playing the demo felt like experiencing a campfire ghost story or creepypasta in three dimensions. The more recent announcement trailer reveals that the Ansteys have spent the last year refining the art of the unsettling: the audio creaks, whirrs and peeps as Dap‘s folk-horror creative vision unfolds.
Watch the trailer below: