Written by Daikon
This article was featured in our 2023 June-July issue. Check out more articles and interviews in the full issue.
When I look at the kinds of games made by solo developers, I can sometimes get a real sense of what sort of person they are. Playing their games can feel a bit like meeting and hanging out with the developers for a while, and learning about their tastes and interests through their work. This sense of familiarity and intimacy is indeed one of the best reasons to play through indie games. Works like El Panadero by Sketchy Ceviche is the sort of game that allows us a peek into the inner life of its creator.
El Panadero is an action platformer with brutal attacks and a bizarre world. The hand-drawn backgrounds and levels are modeled after the creator's hometown, and the unique art style is squirming and alive. There is not a straight line in sight. It's like you've jumped directly into someone else's imagination, playing as a furious baker clambering across throbbing platforms of skulls, gourds, and unfurling vines. It's the kind of fever dream you'd see after eating too many sweets and marathoning every classic B-movie in a single day. In other words: it's exactly the kind of thing that makes this indie game fan very happy.
Inhabiting this world are memorable enemy characters whose designs radiate with charm. One of the first bosses you encounter is an enormous and languid skeleton held together with fruit and flowers, who attacks by swinging around a giant lute. The enemies in El Panadero are quite tough and hit hard. But not to worry, your character is the strong and dependable baker. Whether alone or with another player in local co-op, the baker sets out to punch and kick every veggie alien until they've learned not to mess with Earth.
Speaking of the baker, let's see what they can do. You can throw dough to stun enemies, then pummel them with your mighty fists. Whether you do a ranged or melee attack is automatically determined by your distance from the enemy, so the player does not need to divide their attention between the two attacks. Movement is slow but deliberate, as if to put pressure on the opponent. The movement speed is suitable for gauging the distance to the enemy, and it is easy too feel for when the player's attack will be ranged or melee.
The player's jump is about two sprites high, and there are objects throughout the levels that let you jump even higher. This means that there are few places where you have to stop and consider the platforming, thus allowing you to focus on taking down enemies. The player is in almost constant forward motion, bouncing from one enemy to the next. This type of side-scrolling beat-'em-up fits very well with this art style and world.
It is not spelled out for you in the text, but as you progress through the story, you enter darker and more mysterious levels. It seems like there is more going on than just fighting off space invaders. Is it all right for a baker to deal with all of this on their own? I guess anyone who stands up to protect their hometown can be a hero. It certainly is an amusing choice for a beat-'em-up protagonist.
The unique art, the quirky story and setting, and the straightforward action of El Panadero make me feel like I personally spent an afternoon hanging out with the developer and getting to know them. And the game is just plain fun. Their desire to entertain shines through from start to finish.
El Panadero currently in development, and the demo is available on itch and Steam. Follow Sketchy Ceviche on Twitter @SketchyCeviche and find more of their work on their itch profile. And you can watch us play El Panadero on stream!