Close your eyes, the real ones. The only skill in this game is cheating. Alien civilization’s version of Metal Slug. Grow your own vignette.
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Kim’s Story by Kim Moss
“When I was a young girl, I was a member of the Boy Scouts.” is one of the best opening lines I’ve ever read. Kim’s Story is so good and so sad. Why can’t I see anything. What’s wrong with my eyes.
Kim’s Story knows exactly what happened in that icy wilderness. We aren’t here to choose a different path, we’re here to talk about it. This is a conversation with the reader, a heart to heart, a story that wonders about your own story.
And it’s about the way society chooses a person’s gender, sexuality, and identity before they can even think for themselves, telling people the clothes they’re expected to wear for the rest of their life, telling them the name they must say to every person they ever meet no matter how uncomfortable it sounds to their own ears, telling them who to love and who they can never touch.
Get a new iPod case change your wallpaper buy a car go wild with decisions that matter only on the meanest level of existence but God forbid you choose your own identity.
This game speaks to the fact that everyone was a scared, confused kid once. I can’t imagine being cruel to someone while that thought is still in my mind.
Oh My Gorgons! by Alan Hazelden and Sarah Marshall
Wander a maze full of monsters who kill you on sight–and only on sight. Some enemies charge when they see you. Those aren’t so bad. The gorgons kill you instantly. Unless you close your eyes in real life. Trust me.
Oh My Gorgons! surprises us with how well we can play videogames with our eyes closed. Would I have beaten this game if I didn’t have a lifetime of WASD navigation seared into my fingertips? Who knows. I’m going to go play TF2 with my eyes closed and see if I kill anyone. I will be playing pyro.
A Fortune in Gold by John Candy
Beautifully deranged RPG about murdering tsarist autocrats in the wilderness of Russia and winning A Fortune in Gold. Seek marriage, ride boats, rob graveyards!
This scratches the same itch as Space Funeral. What itch is that, I guess it’s the itch to wander through a world painted with a glitched-out brush where the boundaries and inhabitants feel unpredictable and the music is glorious. An RPG that’s more of an uneasy truce than a vending machine.
I hate random battles but every enemy can be killed in one or two hits so it isn’t that big a deal. After a while they mysteriously stopped fighting me, ending combat after a wordless pause. I’m not sure if I had anything to do with that. Maybe it was the murder I did. Like I said, unpredictable.
I can’t call this ugly. I love the jaggedly evocative tiles, the dark blue river that conveys freezing cold so well, the NPCs drawn in minimal blotches of pixel.
Humbug 2 by pixelcontinuous
Humbug 2 could be called a puzzle platformer, but you won’t be pushing many crates or reversing gravity here, you’ll be breaking the 4th wall and exploiting metagame features to escape from a castle populated by knights and cannons. What changes when the game is paused, when does dying help me win, how can I mess up that guard’s word bubble so the “not” in “You may not pass.” is covered up? Less reflexes, more lateral thinking.
I always have to use a walkthrough at some point for the Humbug series but somehow I don’t mind. If I figure it out on my own I feel smart, if I use the walkthrough I’m like ahhhh that’s clever. Humbug is bullshit but it’s a good bullshit.
A Man’s Quest by Drunk Devs
You’re a kid wandering the 2D world in search of adventure. Fortunately your house is next to miles of spikes arranged in increasingly challenging formations. Must be a coincidence. You meet a bully, a ghost, and lots of those spikes. One of them is actually quite nice.
Jumping feels good. You can solve most of your problems by jumping. That’s the platformer guarantee.
A Man’s Quest deftly avoids what makes some platformers horrible to play, with superb controls and checkpoints ubiquitous as air. No masocore brutality here, just a simple interest in you blazing through the levels and enjoying the wind on your face.
Titan Flux Kapacity 2 by Jake Clover
Titan Flux Kapacity 2 is an alien civilization’s version of Metal Slug, a run and gun through hyper-saturated, myopic battlefields shooting slimy blobs and hijacking vehicles. It is not for human consumption. We can consume it anyways like a banned off-planet drug or turpentine.
Through the haze I begin to identify details. Running out of ammo leaves you helpless. You hurl grenades further if you’re in motion. These are vehicles, those are enemies.
The worth of TFK2 lies in deciphering enough of the chaos to progress. I wouldn’t call it a crowd pleaser but alien transmissions have always had their worth.
bluelit by Berkeley Staite
In bluelit you have speak, touch, breathe, and cry. The verbs are well chosen and feel natural in any order.
Sitting on a bed next to a woman you–love? Betrayed? Just met? I won’t spoil the myriad outcomes (65 nodes total) of this emotion labyrinth. There’s a lot of anger, sorrow, and despair in this, so finding little triumphs on that bed feels sweet.
The author left behind Twine source code where all you have to do is plug in new values to make your own version. I love the idea of setting a story with four verbs–Stab Spell Delve Run, Wait Whistle Hide Walk, Drift Rain Storm Lightning–what an excellent way to structure a vignette. Just picking them is an art unto itself, trying to find four that work together as harmoniously as bluelit.