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76

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

The power crystal mine

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THIS WEEK: Queer edutainment. Clickless Twine. “As you are paralyzed with pain he punches you so hard that your head explodes.”.

 

 

Even Cowgirls Bleed by Christine Love

Even Cowgirls Bleed turns your cursor into the shaky aim of a trigger-happy, bullet-incontinent country girl set on making her way to the big city. This is one of the most interesting uses of shooting as a verb I’ve seen since that other queer text shooter. In this case, the goal isn’t to solve a puzzle so much as to be acutely aware of your own clumsiness in the most hilarious way possible.

And my god, this is beautiful, have you ever seen a Twine like this? A mouse-driven text adventure with no clicking, just gliding, and the dusty descent of the page–!!!

People are becoming increasingly aware that Twine’s bare bones can be skinned and muscled with CSS/Javascript (in other words, a rich, powerful history accessible to most, not a custom language or limited set of plug-ins), and the results are fantastic. Text has a dry reputation but the stuff I’ve seen in the last year is so alive and expressive. As we paint our words and set traps in our paragraphs, we approach the diverse vocabulary of graphical games.

 

 

You Will Select a Decision, № 2: Cow Farming Activities on the Former West by Brendan Patrick Hennessy

Another installment of the highly educational You Will Select a Decision series, just switch the cold Kyrgyzian forest for the sweltering desert of Wyoming. With the flipclick of a page, you too can engage in traditional American pastimes like lizard gambling, water finding, and horse encouragement!

This installment is especially labyrinthian–there’s just so much, so many co-existing realities. To repeat myself, it’s more than funny (although it is really funny), it’s interesting–so many flourishes of imagination and language, the structure of English taken to illogically logical extremes.

If you die instantly, turn to page 92.
If you die right away, turn to page 90.

 

SWIFT☆STITCH by Sophie Houlden

A triangle flies horizontally through the barren atmosphere of a 2D world. For millennia, basic shapes have attempted to survive in brutal geometric environments, guided only by the mysterious god known as the Player. It will die hundreds of times before it reaches the end of its migration, at which point the world reforms to become even more brutal. The triangle does not complain. It has no mouth.

You have a few amendments to your default velocity. Hold Control to fly vertically. Press Space for a burst of slow motion. Along the way, colored lines change your direction or add spin to your movement.

Lovely details:

Sparks fly when you graze the walls, a daredevil aesthetic that leaves you feeling a near-collision, and, if you’re like me, perversely trying to cut each corner as closely as possible.

Guidelines project from your avatar so you can angle in on bonus crystals.

When you drop into slow motion, the music shifts perfectly to become tranquil drugged neo-Miami hotel muzak (whatever that means).

 

 

Positive Space by merritt kopas

Simultaneously a story about a powerful sexual experience and a guide to a rare, underground sex technique. Some say the Inguinal Canals are a place of great riches but also great danger. Do you dare cut past the legends and discover the truth about basic body parts that people don’t talk about for some reason?

Exciting to think of all the secret zones we contain, the locked away possibilities of sensation. We get so jaded, then it’s like, what the fuck, there’s all this hidden shit my body can do.

 

 

AND THE ROBOT HORSE YOU RODE IN ON by Anna Anthropy

The Wild West. 2100 A.D. Cyborg horses, stolen cred-chips, and sexy banditas. Buried up to your neck in sand. You’ll die here unless you spin a good tale about where you hid the loot, but how you spin is up to you. Was it at the robo farm? The graveyard? The power crystal mine?

A brutal breakup told through the medium of scifi Western pulp, with all the adventure and drama that implies. The glare of sunlight against text never looked so good.

 

Inner Vision by Sunil

A cigarette-smoking skeleton challenges you to talk three depressed strangers out of suicide. That’s it. Uurrgh, weepy emotions bubbled up while playing.

This is so earnest and simple. It can’t pretend to be a perfect picture of a subject this big, but it is about listening, and that matters.

 

 

400 Years by Scriptwelder

400 Years is a tranquil game about the slow march of a stone golem with only four hundred years to avert a disaster. This is about waiting, about watching the seasons blur. Wait until the water turns to ice so you can walk across, wait until trees grow so you can climb them.

Some parts were hard for me to figure out but I ended up getting through with 127 years to spare.

 

 

Depression Quest by Zoe Quinn, Patrick Lindsey, Isaac Schankler

Belying the name, Depression Quest isn’t a superficial treatment, some typical set of mechanics with mental health terminology pasted on, and neither is it an abstract set of impressions.

It is, shockingly enough, about the realities of depression (although it is careful to stipulate that no depiction of depression is perfect) with a focus on methodically representing the internal life of the sufferer as they go about their day. It is concerned with things like answering a late night IM from a concerned friend, letting a cat into your life, or just being able to get out of bed.

This internal focus is important because people with depression are punished twice–first by themselves, then by other people.

The pathetic, deformed social responses of the depression sufferer, instead of being taken as mustered up brave gifts, are attributed to malice or disdain. People grow irate at the way time flows differently in that black hole of the mind, the numbing disconnect from the outside world. They don’t always understand that revealing our problems can mean trading a strangling silence for loss of agency, for stigma.

Games like this are a way to fight back against these harms, a means to acknowledge the depth of our inner hells. Depression is an extremely lonely disease; seeing ourselves in media can be a way to wake up and realize we aren’t alone.

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