I do like it when a developer has a house style. Sorta-shmup, sorta roguelike death’n’dodging frenzy Post-Future Vagabond is immediately recognisable as the work of Michael ‘Smestorp’ Brough, in appearance, audio and even mechanics. If you’ve played his excellent 868-HACK on iOS – a PC version is due soon-ish, which is great news – you’ll probably figure out what’s required of you from this new, free game a little more quickly than if you went in blind. It’s a game in which every move you make matters, it’s a game about staying one step ahead of abstract, snarling monsters who relentlessly hunt you, and it’s a game about shouting SHIT BALLS DAMMIT at your monitor because you went left instead of up and now everything’s gone to hell.
It evokes, to me, all sorts of things without actually being them. Repton. Yar’s Revenge. Centipede. It isn’t like any of those in any meaningful way, so please don’t download it on that basis, but to me it nebulously felt like them, transporting me back to the abstract strangeness of those early gaming experiences, where I simply accepted thin, absurd concepts and not a little sadism instead of demanding context and explanation and assistance. Only it uses lo-fi, minimalist art and sound to be consciously creepy, even threatening, in that characteristically Brough way. It’s a game where it feels like the very screen is trying to devour me, and all I can do is make desperate acts to survive rather than strive for a particular goal.
Like 868-HACK, it turns to be highly tactical despite its garbled appearance and simple controls. Techniques to survive will only become apparent in time, and after repeated failure.
Smart, disorientating, singular, highly recommended, and free from here.