GOBLET GOBLET GOBLET GOBLET GOBLET GOBLET GOBLET GOBLET GOBLET GOBLET GOBLET GOBLET
Too Many Ninjas! by Bennett Foddy
Too Many Ninjas! really does make you feel like you’re the poised warrior of some wuxia film, striking down all comers as they break themselves on your stoic stance–the shwing of deflecting a throwing star, the stab of pivoting at the last second to skewer some hapless fool.
You have seven angles to guard against the growing ninja hordes. Eventually there are too many of them. This number will differ from person to person.
Medieval Shark by Felix Weisner
Extremely linear Medieval Shark sim where you swim really fast and destroy things. Sometimes the things you destroy are closer to the bottom of the screen, sometimes they’re closer to the top. Your options are: nonstop slaughter…(I trail off after the first option, leading you to believe this is in fact the only option(!))
You keep getting more stuff very easily. Gems, weapons, gold. Is it ethical? Maybe this is like eating sweet, creamy pie. This is like stuffing your face with pie until you get sick.
Kids_ by Foster Wattles
Pretty, obscure gamepoem with a gorgeous soft palette and sudden flashes of interactive imagery. I like the way Kids_ shows you the controls. Press the keys to get them into your fingertips, like fitting a glove, then begin.
Interpretations will differ but I felt like a ghost traveling by train and lonely country road to the afterlife, slowly becoming invisible, disintegrating, coming to rest.
Nuign Specter by Jake Clover
Nuign Specter establishes all you need to know with a single sentence, ôMy actions had attracted a specter”, and a single image involving a dinnerplate. The rest is drawn in simple lines, distant, ominous sounds, and your shotgun.
Specter knows how to tell a story. The protagonist isn’t a hopping, reskinned platform hero, he has a cane and he walks slowly, with dignity, because that’s his character. The scene is structured so nothing can shake us out of it, leaving apertures only for meaningful input.
Cactus Arcade by Cactus
The release of Hotline Miami is the perfect time to play Cactus’s older titles, conveniently packaged in Cactus Arcade, a launcher hosting 17 masochistic, melting games.
Naked women and giant pink cubes pushing you into walls in sumo wrestling shoot-em-up SeizureDome, searching for escape in the endless grey corridor of Mondo Medicals, and Psychosomnium’s deceptive pastels hiding a fiendish body-swapping platformer–the selection ranges from straightforward all the way to claustrophobic nightmares with no indication of how to proceed.
Cho Ren Sha 68K by Famibe No Yosshin
You can almost taste the scanlines on this crunchy piece of deep-fried SHMUP originally designed for the late 80s/early 90s Japanese home computer Sharp X68000. Cho Ren Sha 68k’s most distinguishing feature is that power-ups come in threes, a spinning triangle of shield, mega lasers, and bomb. Touch one and the rest disappear, but pull off the trick of hovering inside their spinning area for a span of seconds and you get all three.
At the end of each level you get bonus points for unused bombs and lives. More points means more lives. Want more lives? Don’t die. Also, killing certain enemies fast enough will spawn secret enemies that give more points, which means, yup, more lives.
Running in Win95 compatibility mode seems to fix any sound lag you might experience.
Frog Fractions by Twinbeard Studios
Is there anyone out there who hasn’t played Frog Fractions already? You should play it!
Frog Fractions feels like stepping into some water and finding it much, much deeper than you anticipated. Robert Yang said it best: “…Frog Fractions is nostalgic for absurdity in games, at a time when game design schools and developer communities are so focused on congealing design into a teachable discipline / coherent culture, when we think designing something to death is necessarily good design.” Which segues nicely into…
Goblet Grotto by thecatamites, J Chastain, NEW VADERS
Goblet Grotto is huge.
Goblet Grotto takes thecatamite’s and J Chastain’s earlier flirtations with text + image (Pleasuredromes of Kubla Khan, Jungle Max) and structures an entire world around that irony. Goblet Grotto is the sprawling action-exploration RPG that’s going to save humanity from itself.
J Chastain’s detailed, cartoonish illustrations are a big part of why exploration is so interesting, a constant enticement to study the weird inhabitants of the pop-up book landscape. The Goblet Man level is particularly fantastic, angular streets jagging against a skybox of labyrinthian dungeon, city debris floating through a carved-out hollow earth.
This sense of exploration spills offscreen and into the HowToWinAtGobletGrotto.zip packaged with the game, a file containing a glyph guide, a monster manual, and a library of mysterious paragraphs (ôPlease refer to Paragraph XII…”). Crime glyph…twitching glyph…”The foul-tasting and frequently incontinent swamp toad is most frequently found within the gullet of a heron. Many grotto residents will crush this toad on sight, to gain good luck or at the behest of a long-dormant aesthetic sensibility.” I felt like I was sifting through old Infocom feelies and forgotten game manuals from an alternate universe.
Goblet Grotto is a celebration of the idiosyncrasies you remember long after you glide anesthetized through some AAA theme park. In their studied reproduction of old-school games (urgh, that polluted moniker), people usually end up making them too clean. Goblet Grotto is messy. This is the kind of game you talk about with other people, comparing experiences–“Did you find the Salt Zone?” ôDoes that even exist?” “LEMME TELL YOU ABOUT SALT ZONE, BUDDY”
Goblet Grotto is coercive. All games are coercive to some degree, but Goblet Grotto is just viscous with the sickness of our world where everyone expects you to know their rules and fulfill their terrible, insane criteria. Goblet Grotto is a deprogramming machine hammering you with competing narratives–vulgar, academic, literary, retro, whatever–until we realize how absurd it is to take any of them seriously. This fantasy RPG is giving me shades of horrible job searches and people yelling at me.
Goblet Grotto is time travel to when you were a kid stuck with whatever bizarre, frustrating games you ended up playing because you had no alternative and by God you explored them meticulously with the single-minded focus of a child no matter what got thrown at you.
SPOILERS FOR A GAME YOU SHOULD REALLY JUST PLAY INSTEAD, THE GAME IS CALLED GOBLET GROTTO:
Something massive charges at me from the mist of the jungle zone but I’m not dead, it’s just pushing me around. I find more goblets.
I love the trapmasters. They talk about how many jewels they have in their pit. Their trap is that I have no way of getting out of their pit and I’ll have to restart the game.
I collect more goblets. I see a monolithic cube in the distance with a vaginal-looking hole at its apex. I try to approach it, heading in its general direction while being misdirected by erratic ramps and veering walkways. I’m fighting off creatures in a chamber full of fire and smoke. I can’t turn around fast enough and I die. I reload my game and–flash of first person mode falling through a hellish checkered maze for one second, a glitch?–then I’m back in my body. Eery. I pick up more goblets.
I reach the top of the cube and enter the hole. Dwarves are collecting geodes, well, the game calls them dwarves, but I think it’s called other things dwarves as well. Big green pterodactyl creatures attack me. I kill them. A giant crystal drill attacks me.
I die with 53 goblets.