All these games teach terrible ethical lessons. All of them.
Octopus Decision by thecatamites
Big moral choices in videogames. The kind that really push the medium forward and ask hard questions, like:
Murder Little Girl…or Don’t
Perpetuate Racism…or Don’t
Be Mean to Octopus…or Don’t
One of them leads to the delightfully videogamey idea that a bunch of octopuses are what you have to destroy.
my father’s long, long legs by michael lutz
Your family seems normal enough, until one day your father decides to dig in the basement for a long, long time.
One of the creepiest text games I’ve ever played. Certainly we can accept that text is a medium conducive to atmosphere, but the use of sound and light elevates this to the jump scare fear I normally reserve for horror films.
Especially recommended for fans of Thomas Ligotti or Junji Ito–my father’s long, long legs has the calm, dreamlike precision of Ligotti, and embraces the ominous imagery of Ito.
Symbol by lilith
A dark highway and a diner (my favorite image in the game is the eternally aghast cook staring through the window), surrounded by a wasteland of pale plants and dark soil with occasional ruins. The ruins have vestiges suggesting they’ve been damaged or maybe they were never finished. They say Robocop lives in those ruins.
Lilith explains some of the impetus for Symbol:
When I was around 8 I was fixated on experimenting with glitches in Ocarina of Time- all the beta screenshots and GeoCities pages showing images of debug menus and random crud that got left in the ROM furthered this idea I had that all these things were still there, but just outside reach…soon I started thinking about all the other games I played and what was hiding there, and even began making maps of imaginary “debug areas”
Resident excellent commenter nobody also wrote good thoughts, the bulk of which you can find in Symbol’s comments:
I think what I appreciate most from this is that feeling that you’ve been placed into a world that has rules — maybe even customs — but even in feeling out what those systems are there’s this illusion, at least, of an always-receding ur-system, a dream logic you’re never going to fully have access to but which nonetheless feels tangible and gooey.
An abandoned world enacting the forgotten protocols of its lonely, ghostly machinery.
I love these games obsessed with reproducing the games of childhood not in terms of some mythical standard of quality or fuzzy warmth, but in the way they broke down or spooked us. Perhaps the queer obsession with broken games versus the mainstream focus on retro “goodness” can be attributed to the unspoken understanding that our lives were diverging from our peers and we would soon be exiled to zones as broken and senseless as the cracks we found in virtual realities.
Mystery Channel by thecatamites
Launch MysteryChannel.exe. Welcome to Mystery Channel.
A delicious aperitif for Halloween, Mystery Channel presents spooky tales of murder, getting murdered, watching murders, talking about murders, screaming about murders, murderers, murderees, and you guessed it…MURDER.
Microdoctor by Jan Willem Nijman and Kitty Calis
Microdoctor is a super fast super streamlined FPS that understands the only way to fight illness is by teleporting a little man with a gun inside the human body.
Enemies die in 1 hit. You have infinite ammo but need to reload every 5 shots. You die pretty fast too. Lean math, no padding, just pure reflex.
You can also zoom in and dash. The gameplay is so quick and lethal that I’m having trouble integrating those moves into my simplistic run-kill-hide strategy, but maybe there are wizards out there taking it a whole new level that I can’t even dream of.
Design choices I like:
-The sound enemies make when they die is so completely rewarding. It sounds like someone taking a bite out of a crisp, crunchy cyber-apple.
-The sense of speed persists not only in the rapid floaty movement but in the 0 second menu transition. KILL KILL KILL DIE MENU KILL KILL KILL KILL.
Be warned, the game doesn’t save your progress.
Gingiva by myformerselves
Myformerselves last game, Middens, had a sexy talking gun, gorgeous zones, and a system where you could kill anything in the game, friend or enemy, and it would stay dead, so I was excited to see what new wonders came with Gingiva.
So far I have rejected and killed two suitors.
I have a squiggly little pet that lives in a bell jar and I feed it things and it splurts out new equipment.
My only friend is a giant disembodied jaw that eats my enemies. Wait, a television on legs just joined the party. Things are looking up.
The mechanical framework of both games is JRPG mechanics so layered and retuned with surrealness that they’re barely recognizable as such, but the real juice is the incredible collage art, not just visually, but thematically.
Take the protagonist, for instance. Gingiva wears a typical 50’s housewife dress and her head is a wind-up key. The purest concentration of subservience. This is a strength of the art–symbols fused together with the strength of machinery, a world of interlocking evocations.
4-Lung Boy by Anatola Howard and denzquix
At once nostalgic and nowhere–small town black and white illustrations, sometimes drawn in a loose, endearing hand, sometimes Hypercardian meticulous.
As a kid from a small town, I feel this. The story has a disjointed quality and an understated way of conveying lonely social dynamics that you won’t understand as lonely until you process them much later in life.
Talking to other kids but never really clicking because everyone is still cohering into a stable human being, still searching for a center, so positive and negative interactions both suffer from the same essential loneliness that comes from being unable to commune with people on a meaningful, lasting level.
So you listen to the coolest person in town and wander around doing things for other people and the soundtrack is the perfect nostalgia because it has both a melancholy dude strumming guitar and the theme from Gundam, which might be the dominant sounds for a certain kind of kid at a certain age somewhere along the timeline of this godforsaken planet.
So lovely especially considering the author did this at 15.
Click the square on the lower right corner to access inventory. Click objects to use them.
The astronaut, perhaps the most elaborately drawn character in the game (flag unfurled, faceplate sparkling), and therefore the most in focus and therefore the most real, is the perfect metaphor for when someone escapes that boring world and blasts off to wherever smart successful people go in their fucking spaceship.