Friday, November 21, 2014

Short on Games: October-November 2014

A(s)century is a cyberpunk twine game by Austin Walker.

This is me punting; I wrote about this game, and particularly how it fits within cyberpunk literature, in March. Of particular interest (slightly edited):
An inherited ambiguity (what is the role of the player character?) meets an inherited theme (the contested body) by way of a formal declaration: your choices are tracked, and you are meant to know this.
What still stands out most about the game, to me, is its scope. As noted (and per the title), it takes place over the course of a century. The second most standout is that the writing holds up; it's a game that was clearly written with a smile, which works. And then the third is that it just looks pretty cool.

And then there's a whole bunch of other stuff which I wouldn't classify as standing out but is cool.


Lullaby for a Heartsick Spacer is a cozy space by Merritt Kopas.

You appear in something like a cavern. You press keys to move; move on the ground, or lay on it, jump into the air, and keep puffing your way up and around. You're alone.

The caverns themselves are procedurally generated, with lighter-and-darker blues forming rocks against a blueish-black background. Every time I have played there has been one or two wide open spaces and some things resembling corridors. The spaces aren't very big, as a whole, as far as I can tell.

What makes the game is the ability, when earthbound, to just lie down. A short animation happens (presumably a death animation elsewhere), and you lie there for a few breaths, and then a pleasant song plays. It's really wonderful.

The flying - presumably a jetpack - is also a wonderful touch. Something about the delay in the animation, and how it seems to be the dust sprites from the abandonauts pack. The little mote that lingers, especially, gives the game a beautiful weight.

You can also press down while lying to do something like pushups and turn the song into something like a round, which is neat.


Real Folk Blues is a side scrolling adventure game by Jord Farrell.

If the name's anything to go by, it's a sort of Cowboy Bebop vignette with a squiddy protagonist, set in what would probably be best described as the subgenre of "science fiction" (scare quotes as part of the genre name: decomposing postindustrial paintings as backdrop, hoverboard/car/things, a DDR club, and a lot of random executions).

It's mostly a game about how neat it is to watch your character walk, as far as I can tell. And be stoked about that sequence where you pick things up with your squiddy arms. Then you shoot a bunch of stuff and die and that's cool too.

The game starts with a static scene with an image of a Z encased in a box at the center (after the credit). You push the corresponding button; the screen shakes. You press it again, a bunch, and the screen keeps shaking. When you're about ready to give that up, your avatar pops up, and then you walk around. You grab some stuff, you shoot some dudes, &c.

After the jarred introduction and the first person sequence, you have an inventory (and a cape). The game controls with arrows for movement, Z for action, and numerals for using inventory. It's weird and unwieldy. I dig it.


Mystery Channel is a collection of minigames/stories by the catamites.

Opening the game throws the player into a screen filled with a screen; a static-filled television takes up the whole game window, and a remote control floats in front of it. Clicking the remote opens the frame narrative; a Vincent Price/Crypt Keeper style host greets the player, and gives short explanations of the various "films" that can be chosen. Clicking any of them causes your computer to open a prompt asking you to authorize a new executable to be opened; it's horribly unimmersive, which is great. Or, it's a form of immersion which leaks from "the text" into the operating system, which is also great.

The games range from clicking through dialogue to wandering abstract spaces with little signposting and fluid player-avatar relations. Often, the game will simply dump you into a screen, forcing you to press the arrow keys and hope for a response. Then you end up wandering toward the edges of the screen, hoping for a new screen. Sometimes your avatar just wanders off.

In one game, which consists entirely of a screen with a small, static-filled television and a(n umodified) Final Fantasy VII-style dialogue box, an reading of horror films is given; they are "the depiction of a world only a single failure of luck or attention away from becoming a screaming, nightmarishly stupid monster dimension." This, on the other hand, is a game where villains will menace, but can ultimately do no harm.