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Live Free, Play Hard: The Week's Finest Free Indie Games

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Multiplayer god poem. HUNT FOR THE GAY PLANET. Super Hallucinogon. Color domming.


Ex Nihilo by Juhana Leinonen

Ex Nihilo is an elegant multiplayer vignette about a god’s journey through the void.

Choose your dualism, light or dark, then navigate the drifting words until you meet the other god of this binary universe. What you say to them is added to the game’s memory. What you say will be said again when someone else plays. Strangers leaving messages for each other. What kind?

Historically gods have done whatever they want. A lot of funny responses, but some solemn, others fatefully poetic:

I type “I love you”, struck by a sudden desire to put more happiness into the world.

“Goodbye.”

Crushing.

The other thing Ex Nihilo shows you is the kind of world this encounter creates. Naive, complacent, detached, to name a few. Look to the other side of the screen and you’ll see the trail of decisions that lead your rival god to this point, the tracks of their divinity.

 


HUNGRY by poyborn

The person to your right – an immaculate hot business dad, skimming this morning’s print Journal. The person to your left is unimportant to the narrative.

Homoerotic dream architecture quest with deft control over the way words unfold. A constant hunger, Bataille, a massive clone of your body that you get inside like a mecha.

Some games about dreams are lazy surreality–this was interesting. Poyborn gets dream tension, the way physical drives make us squirm in the helpless daily paralysis of sleep, an underpinning of hunger, full bladder, thirst, sex. In this case the drives are hunger and sex, and they burn through the story like desert sun.

My Favourite Island by Whisperbat

Hypertext about a creature washed up on the shores of a strange land, a detailed, xenopological look at alien society, constantly visceral and dripping and emotional. Emotional?

The reason I found this so affecting was the sense of confusion and despair–the way the protagonist can’t shake their memories of this infinite world of higher beings from which they’ve been cast down, punished by having their oceanic consciousness funneled into a single body, a lone mind. Isn’t that a similar feeling to dreams? The way our dreams are so fluid and limitless but as we wake our body reasserts its old aches and our familiar fears creep past the amnesiac tide of sleep.

My Favourite Island uses radically nonhuman characters to evoke some of our deepest human feelings. Also recommended for fans of scifi author Ian M. Banks.

 

Jelly no Puzzle by Qrostar

A bunch of cubes are hanging out. If a cube touches a same-color cube, they BLOOP together and become a rectangle. They can move left or right and are subject to gravity. From this simple rule you have a slick puzzler where the goal is to match all the cubes without blocking yourself off. I don’t know much about puzzle games, but colorful jelly shapes seems like the main criteria for excellence? If so, this is TEN PUZZLEBLOOPS out of TEN.


Westerado by Ostrich Banditos

Westerado is a cowboy sandbox where you roam around and ride horses and shoot and talk and it’s pretty and sounds great. The lack of a save feature means you’ll have to do this in one run (although it saves fast travel locations), and some parts are rather buggy, hopefully they fix that.

Being able to shoot the guy giving the target practice tutorial was deeply satisfying, a liberating moment of freedom. Fuck you little computer man, I know how games work, let me randomly push buttons until I figure it out! Westerado promises us the chance to inflict violence on all lifeforms, which is all we can ask from our precious murder simulators. Find the clues and hunt down the man who killed your family in the first 20 seconds of the game.


HUNT FOR THE GAY PLANET by Anna Anthropy

A scifi text adventure response to Bioware’s gay ghetto planet fiasco. If that situation is the Death Star, this game is the Millennium Falcon–a plucky little thing whirling around shooting fun lasers as a massive behemoth makes terrible decisions like restricting all content for an entire demographic inside a single planet that costs extra money to access.

Instead of hunting riches or murdering things, you’re searching for romance, which is exactly what I’ve wanted to do with a spaceship since I was a kid who saw Star Wars while living in a massive suburban sprawl as disconnected from civilization as any desert planet.

 

Polar by Artūrs Grebstelis

A hallucinogenic take on Super Hexagon but with a couple twists:

One button. Tap to reverse direction.

You can’t die, you just stay stuck in your current stage until you improve. When the timing works its way into your knuckles, the pattern evolves. No sadism here, just personal growth.

Colorful things flow toward me, forming curves and walls and chaoses of spikey rainbow spores. They spiral infinitely from a black void.

All these factors come together to hypnotize me, from the focus of having one button to the languid feel of the opening sequence, the soothing back and forth as you roll from side to side, a pattern natural as riding a swing. Then things get frantic and you feel like you’re achieving some kind of game-induced enlightenment, fighting a psychic battle made of third-eye afterimages. It just feels good.

Epilepsy warning for later levels.


Reset by Lydia Neon

You wake up in a futuristic hospital with fucked-up implants, unable to see correctly, unable to remember, unable to speak without fyheevat lbhe jbeqf. They say it was an accident.

Reset cares a lot about perception and so the limits of the player’s perception are constantly, skillfully stressed. You’ll have opportunities to calibrate your recognition of color, struggle with aphasia (generated by ROT13), and negotiate a hot/terrifying session of transhumanist cyberpunk kink. The constructed reality of kink, with all its rules and arrangements, forms a matrix within a matrix where the difference between what Reset is doing to the main character and to you, the player, is brilliantly negligible.

A disorienting work handled with purpose and technique, using recursion, language scrambling, and the color spectrum to immerse you in a world where reality is only as trustworthy as your hardware.

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