Monthly Archives: August 2018

Indie Shortieland: The Dark Room

Heya readers. I’ve had a bit of a busy week this week, what with me flying clear across the continental United States to meet some Dutch friends in Las Vegas and also chauffeur around a certain famous games messer upper for reasons that can best be described as ‘important’. I knew this was coming, and I’ve done my best to prepare for it, but now that Monday has landed I find my intended ‘full’ review isn’t quite in the place I’d like it to be.

Instead, I’m going to use this space to look at something completely different. I want to do a short flashback to a certain avant-garde game, an experiment in digital storytelling that took place before such experiments were commonplace and an interesting exploration in the affordances and limitations of a certain video medium.

Piqued your interest, has that? I’m going to ask you to close your eyes. No, it’s important, really. Close your eyes, lie down, and take a brief nap. Doesn’t have to be more than a minute.

Then AWAKE.

(Spoiler levels: Narrative, low. Mechanical, medium-high.)

(Game source: Freely available online.)

After the break: If you actually do all this, remind me to be grateful for your trust in my storytelling.

Indie Wonderland: EXAPUNKS

I got into Zachtronics‘s latest release, EXAPUNKS, the same way I get into all Zachtronics games: Learning about it way after everyone else by seeing emails or Twitter messages about release dates and special editions, buying one of those special editions on the promise of cool manuals and physical goodies, and then promising myself that maybe this time I’ll actually see one of them through to conclusion. Poor return on investment for the third bit so far, but maybe this time! It could happen.

Now, last time I reviewed a Zachtronics game (Opus Magnum, which I reviewed here), the review turned into a sort of distributed reference block about which other Zachtronics games that one pulled from most and least. Which is fine, in a sense, they are all similar. But I realized after the fact that a review like that won’t be very valuable for someone who’s not already way into Zachtronics games: Saying ‘just read these review and play these games if you want to understand this one’ isn’t exactly accessible. So for EXAPUNKS, I’m going back to the normal ‘full’ treatment: Early-game impressions, options menus, the works. If you’ve got no idea what this game is like or what the deal is with this publisher, I should hopefully have you covered.

And if you are already a Zachtronics expert, no worries! I’m sure my subconscious will sneak in more than enough references to other games anyway.

(Spoiler levels: Narrative, low. Mechanical, medium to high, depending on how well you read the screenshots.)

(Game source: Bought it myself.)

After the break: I try to explain EXAPUNKS in a way that doesn’t require knowledge of Shenzen I/O, and fail as early as this link tex- damnit.

Indie Wonderland: Mothergunship

Mothergunship. The word is evocative. What is it? Is it a mothership that’s also a gunship? That seems like the obvious choice, but what if it isn’t? What if it’s a mothership in the shape of a gun? Or a gunship that holds smaller gunships inside itself, like a sort of mother-gunship? Or maybe it’s a… I can’t think of a joke for ‘mothergun’. Or rather, I can, but I don’t want to tell it and you don’t want to read it.

At any rate, Mothergunship is also a new shooty bang game by Terrible Posture Games and Grip Digital. Maybe… maybe the only way to find out what a ‘mothergunship’ is is to play that game? Wouldn’t that be a strange world we lived in?

(Spoiler levels: Narrative, nope. Mechanical, medium.)

(Game source: Patreon funds.)

After the break: I envy you, all of you, as you got a chance to find out what a mothergunship is without actually having to fight one.

Indie Wonderland: Heaven Will Be Mine

I reviewed We Know The Devil (by Worst Girls Games) way back in the winter of 2016, when I lived halfway across the world and the world was only somewhat smoldering instead of outright on fire. I thought it was an excellent game, one that I thought about all the time and talked about a whole lot — significantly strengthening at least one friendship over it. So when the creators (one of whom I follow on Twitter) announced their next game, Heaven Will Be Mine, I reacted the exact same way I did to We Know The Devil: Studiously avoiding any and all mentions of it, but keeping a sharp eye for the eventual release date.

Turns out: That date is now.

(Spoiler levels: Narrative, low. Mechanical, medium.)

(Game source: Bought it myself.)

After the break: Between knowing the Devil (presumably in Hell) and claiming Heaven, what more is there for these developers to claim? I figure that Limbo

Indie Wonderland: Hollow Knight

There’s a fun thing that happens to me sometimes when I think about using this column for games that have been out for relatively long, and to good acclaim: I get anxious about reviewing them. Like, I get anxious about… doing it wrong, I guess? I’m not 100% on it myself. Am I anxious about not contributing to a closed discussion, if I just say ‘yeah, it’s as good as everyone else says’? Am I anxious about having a bad experience and becoming the one dissenting voice? Am I just anxious that nobody will care anymore? I’m legitimately asking because I can’t parse how my own mind works.

This is what happened with Team Cherry‘s Hollow Knight, a game that everyone and their parent of preference has been telling me to play since forever. I bought it a little over a month ago, when on sale, in case you were wondering how strong my commitment to this has been. Again: No idea why. But I finally managed to finagle a week in which I had relatively little other commitments: If I’m going to take a look at a game that this many people seem to love, I might as well do it right.

And hey: Turns out the ‘final content pack’ for Hollow Knight, ‘Gods & Glory’, is releasing a few weeks from now. How’s that for accidental timeliness.

(Spoiler levels: Narrative, low. Mechanical, high.)

(Game source: Patreon funds.)

After the break: Yeah, maybe it would have been better to pretend that was my angle all along. But, listen, I don’t do lies.