Live Free, Play Hard: Illegal Gender Magic

By Porpentine on July 7th, 2013 at 2:00 pm.

Illegal gender magic. Raise your horse from a young larva. Skull critter time wars, in a ravishing shade of multiplayer.

 

HORSE MASTER The Game of Horse Mastery by Tom McHenry

HORSE MASTER The Game of Horse Mastery is a horse management sim crossed with body horror. Do you have what it takes to raise a massive, muscular, dripping mega-horse in a dark, dystopian future? Are you a Furioso-Hellfist kind of person, or do you lean towards Carolina Coffinbreath?

HORSE MASTER The Game of Horse Mastery is 100 percent for real. This is no joke. This is ultimate mastery and it has a dexobrimadine fist down your throat, wrapped around your heart, squeezing out every drop of weakness until nothing remains but smoking shards of raw saddle-wisdom. Do you know how many horses die in the larval stage? That ain’t masterful, that’s shit.

~SPOILERS~

I arched my eyebrow when the macro was introduced, which gives +6 of every stat. Everyone I talked to had the same reaction: suspicion. Why does the game bother giving me other options if it’s going to hand me cheats?

I wondered, is it going for some kind of morale? Am I going to be chided for taking the fast, easy path instead of the careful, nurturing one?

This is videogames, after all, so I can understand nurture as the act of clicking 3 links instead of 1.

The answer, of course, is that in HORSE MASTER The Game of Horse Mastery, that moral is completely flipped. Mastery isn’t about taking it slow, mastery is about taking it to the limit.

Secondly, I like how getting evicted means the rules of resource management (pay one move in exchange for stats) start to break down. I wouldn’t call it an exhaustive analysis of the chasm between homeless and housed people, but it does play with expectations.

Click to take a shower, oops, it isn’t that easy, you spent hours in line waiting to use someone’s hose, losing all your moves, time to sleep, better luck tomorrow. One set of rules for stable housing, another for those on the street.

We expect a certain level of efficiency from a management game, in order for our decisions to have weight. Just as HORSE MASTER The Game of Horse Mastery starts with the central concept of a horse in order to destroy that concept, so does it suggest the orderly nature of resource management, only to subvert it.

 

Pure Again by Kevin McGowan

A witch doctor hands you an onion-stinking drink as you wait for the most important moment of your life. Pure Again has all the tension required of a story where your happiness hangs on illegal gender magic.

No simple wish fulfillment here. Pure Again understands that the more we want something, the more terrified we are of losing it. A bittersweet game for bittersweet lives.

The way Kevin uses hyperlinks is excellent, so alive and expressive: to convey last-second hesitation, to simulate panic, to talk about the body we desire (focusing on our own personal expressions of gender (“softer”, “harder”, etc) instead of that clinical M or F).

~SPOILERS~

I like how the dream sequence forgoes traditional hyperlinks, sliding back and forth with the “<^>” UI instead. This forgoes the explicitness of named hyperlinks in order to better mimic the way we unconsciously flow between dreamscapes.

 

baker flowers by orange08

A relaxing little game about watering flowers.

 

BRICK[bricksmash]SMASH by Draknek

Breakout is about smacking a ball with a paddle so it breaks blocks. This is meta Breakout, so when you hit a block, a tiny game of Breakout starts playing inside that block, and you start controlling that as well.

It works because you can manage both at the same time, focusing on tiny 1-pixel balls as your peripheral vision handles the comet-like chaos of the larger balls.

The balls sound like marimbas and come in all the colors of the rainbow. Beating my previous time is one reason to play better, but my favorite reason is that the game will look and sound prettier–audiovisual texture tied to prowess.

 

I Can’t Find My Glasses by ElijahT

Glasses have this frustrating, paradoxical quality where they’d help you find themselves, if only you had them when you were looking for them. I Can’t Find My Glasses is less about finding glasses, more about focusing so intensely on a task that we neglect everything around us.

 

NOSERUDAKE by 新人クリエーター

A spinning platform. You shoot shapes onto the platform, trying to balance them so they don’t fall off. Each round brings the challenges of a new shape.

That’s the review. The review is written in physics. It feels good to make things not fall off, especially when the challenge is to do it from a distance, like some kind of carnival game.

 

Wojna Taniec by Team EWE

Wojna Taniec is a multiplayer game where skull masked critters fight across time and space. Up to four people can play, and the basic goal is to kill your opponent. Each round you get a critter with a randomly chosen attack–firebreathing, lasers, energy antlers, etc.

Your previous lives carry over to the next round, part of an ever-growing army of programmed selves. You only control your most recent incarnation (unless you regain control of past warriors by killing their killer or victim).

In my last game, I was charging across the field, when BOOM my whole crew explodes in a mess of charred skulls. A past self had triggered one of those explosive orange pods, and I knew it was going to trigger that pod for the rest of the game. I would have to work around it–blow it up early before my overzealous ancestor got to it, or stick to the edge of the screen. Since you die in one hit, flanking seems better than traveling in groups.

Wojna Taniec’s temporal mechanic elevates it beyond brute deathmatch, to an intricate dance between battlefield ghosts. On top of that, it has vivid art–their vibrantly colored manes, the anatomically evocative skulls, the alien plants, and the sudden death-enforcing dark hands at the edge of the screen.

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32 Comments »

  1. GameCat says:

    Quick note for curious people:
    Wojna Taniec means War Dance. (both words are nouns here)

    Ah, since devs are not from Poland actually, I think they wanted to name it War Dance with war as an adjective and just used google translate. In that case it should be named Wojenny Taniec.

    • Robotic says:

      Woah thanks ! We’ve had a few polish people telling us “this doesn’t mean anything” without explicating why. Now I get it ! We made this game in 48h for a game jam, which theme was a polish video (Tango by Zbigniew Rybczynski), and only used google translate since we thought it was a simple enough expression. I apologize for the mistake ! Thanks anyway. Wonder if we’ll rename it or keep the mistake as a private joke.

      • GameCat says:

        There are also errors in music titles on your blog:
        1. There’s error, but I don’t know what exactly you wanted to name it
        4. Kosmiczna Polka – Polka is a feminine noun so you must add ‘a’ letter at the end of adjective
        7. Projekcja Astralna – same as above
        8. Kiedy Dziecko Wraca Zwycięsko – same as above, but withe exception that ‘dziecko’ is neutral noun (it)

        BTW, this title can be nice, just add comma between each word:
        Wojna, Taniec
        It will even fit great to that spoken title. BTW this concept is awesome, shame I doesn’t have anyone to play with, damn.

      • nancy8998 says:

        Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job Ive had. Last Monday I got a new Alfa Romeo from bringing in $7778. I started this 9 months ago and practically straight away started making more than $83 per hour. I work through this link, http://ow.ly/mpCcC

    • Evilion says:

      As the man who named the game and the musician who give the titles to the musics, I am the one who apologizes for grammar, spelling or meaning mistakes !
      I used Google Translate in both ways to verify the names were correct, but it seems to not be enough haha…
      I hope it does not affect too much the tribute that I wanted to pay to your beautiful country !

      Also, thanks a lot to RPS for putting “Wojna, Taniec” in this article, it means a lot for us. We made a web page with infos and last version of the game here : http://wojna-taniec.tumblr.com/

      • Rosveen says:

        The title isn’t really so bad. After the initial “but it makes no sense!” reaction I started reading is as two separate nouns, something like War (as) Dance. It would look better as a line in a modern poem, but hey. ;) ‘Wojna, Taniec’ conveys the same meaning and is more easily understood.

        Google Translate is rarely enough for languages with relatively complex grammar. As for tribute, it’s always a nice feeling to see your native language appear in a video game out of the blue. :) Now to find a while to actually play it… So many hobbies, so little time.

      • riverman says:

        For future reference, google translate doesn’t really work for *any* language at a level beyond crude translation. I have seen a fair share of hilarious google translated latin tattoos since up its study, and google translate is always the culprit.

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  2. Burc says:

    Amazing, this right here is my favorite content on RPS. Porpentine has an amazing way to exude personality while never getting in the way of the content.

    Awesome.

  3. eoferr says:

    Tom McHenry is an amazing writer/comixer, and when you posted a game made by him I almost cried with joy. For anyone who loved it and wants more, noncanon.com is great, as is his epic masterpiece Fail Faster Forever (which is only a google search away).

    • eoferr says:

      The game is Horse Master, that’s the one by Tom McHenry if that wasn’t clear.

  4. Atalanta says:

    Man, Horse Mastery was fantastic! And definitely not even close to what I was expecting when it started.

    • Ostymandias says:

      really good.

      reminds me of lot of Atwood’s Oryx and Crake

  5. Daleof says:

    HORSE MASTER HORSE MASTER HORSE MASTER HORSE MASTER HORSE MASTER HORSE MASTER HORSE MASTER HORSE MASTER HORSE MASTER HORSE MASTER HORSE MASTER HORSE MASTER HORSE MASTER HORSE MASTER HORSE MASTER HORSE MASTER HORSE MASTER HORSE MASTER HORSE MASTER HORSE MASTER HORSE MASTER HORSE MASTER HORSE MASTER HORSE MASTER HORSE MASTER HORSE MASTER HORSE MASTER HORSE MASTER HORSE MASTER HORSE MASTER HORSE MASTER HORSE MASTER HORSE MASTER HORSE MASTER HORSE MASTER HORSE MASTER HORSE MASTER HORSE MASTER HORSE MASTER HORSE MASTER HORSE MASTER HORSE MASTER HORSE MASTER HORSE MASTER HORSE MASTER HORSE MASTER HORSE MASTER HORSE MASTER HORSE MASTER HORSE MASTER HORSE MASTER HORSE MASTER HORSE MASTER HORSE MASTER HORSE MASTER

  6. The Random One says:

    If Horse Master wasn’t in here I would have stormed out in a huff.

    Of note, even though I’m pretty much the proverbial Gamer D00d, I didn’t think the stats macro were some kind of cheat, because I figured the game was built having in mind people who would get bored from clicking three options sixteen times. But I guess for people who WOULDN’T it serves as a nice red herring.

    • Turkey says:

      Oh, nice. I stopped clicking on the optimized option after I got a message that went something like “I’m not a real horsemaster,” but I guess that’s just something he says regardless of which choice you make.

  7. fakenam says:

    Why nothing about Sonic: After the Sequel, RPS?

    http://youtu.be/TesdgOUB5f4

    A far more enjoyable game than that Ripple penguin one, and only slightly less polished.

  8. mr.black says:

    OK now I’m really confused. I type “dexobrimadine” into Google wanting to learn something new, to educate myself, and every site it gives back has this exact text, which, accidentally, doesn’t explain a thing: “You’ve never tasted the glacial tang of dexobrimadine. You’ve never felt the affection of a thousand rigid bristles.”
    Every. Different. Site.
    True Twilight zone moment!

    • GameCat says:

      We need to have a dimension of taste as addition to dimensions of sight, sound and mind.

    • nearly says:

      I’m guessing it’s from something (the game?) because I found this on a tumblr post that just linked to the game: “Some examples of Schedule II drugs are: cocaine, methamphetamine, methadone, hydromorphone (Dilaudid), meperidine (Demerol), oxycodone (OxyContin), fentanyl, Dexedrine, Adderall, piloxophite, brinotyline (ConCussotine) and—of course—dexobrimadine, “The Horse Master’s Lament.”"

      edit: it’s in the game within a few clicks.

  9. The Army of None says:

    Throwing in my hat as well saying Horse Master was spectacular.

  10. beigebloc says:

    Something about waiting around in the horse trader’s office reminded me a bit of Normality, the way it was so enthusiastic about its Day of the Tentacle influence in spite of failing to really gel comfortably with it at all, like Carless might have done better to think of Maniac Mansion or Monkey Island instead.

    Also the whole embryonic-horse motif was clearly just a way to sidestep the temptation to look it in the mouth.

  11. Premium User Badge

    Bluerps says:

    I did not become a horse master. :(

  12. crinkles esq. says:

    BRICK[bricksmash]SMASH is a nice concept, though I couldn’t keep track of the mini-breakouts; all my focus was on keeping the 10 balls in the main area in play. In the end, it didn’t seem to matter and I cleared the screen of bricks anyway, which makes the concept more “hm that’s interesting” than actually a critical component of gameplay.

  13. PopeRatzo says:

    Wojna Taniec sure is a beauty. Something about the light. It’s a thing that a lot of game makers neglect. Give me light. Beautiful, evanescent. Daytime that looks like daytime and night like night. Most of the great painters did it, but for some reason, you have these flat, AAA games that look like colors on a surface and nothing more. Like their worlds are in a basement on a cloudy day. It’s more important than color.

    Burnout Paradise and Need for Speed Hot Pursuit have LIGHT. GTA III and IV, though set in sunny places, have NO LIGHT. Most console games have NO LIGHT – just worlds in a shroud. Bioshock Infinite had a little, but not as much as it should have. Even Lost Souls had LIGHT (even dungeons can have light, you know, if it’s only out of reach). The funny thing is it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the graphics quality. More a matter of the artists’ touch. A lot of game artists think that flare satisfies the need for light but nothing could be further from the truth. I wish I had a better vocabulary of visual art to know how to describe it.

    Wojna Taniec has LIGHT. It makes my pleasure centers turn on when I see it. But is that really FLARE I see in the upper left? That’s pretty funny.

    • SD says:

      You speak in riddles, Pope. Bring the LIGHT of your wisdom to our huddled masses, so we may bask in it’s glory. We hunger for enlightement… tell us of this mysterious FLARE!

      (i.e., your ridiculous capitalisations are intriguing to me, and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter)

  14. RanDomino says:

    Horse Master is amazing, but, look, these Twine things, whatever they are they’re not games.

    • Niko says:

      So those text games of old weren’t games as well?

      • RanDomino says:

        They at least had choices. Most of these Twine games have nothing but a glorified “turn page” button.

        • Niko says:

          Maybe we should talk about games that don’t have choices then, not about “Twine things” in general. Horse Master does have choices, and I’m pretty sure it’s not the only one.