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

the crimson of slumbering natal depths

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THIS WEEK: Turn-based platformer. Pokemon puzzle combat. Designer bosses. I, Mecha. “and so a softer approach is needed, nothing loud and colourful.”

 

Bump! by Aaron Steed

Bump! is a turn-based platformer that I’ve been playing all week every day. Instead of reflex, it demands foresight. It has a level clock, but it counts down moves, not seconds.

The maps are randomly generated and often seem impossible. They are less daunting if you know certain facts:

You can move sideways into stationary spikes, just not on top of them.

When you bounce into blocks, you affect everything in that column. Gems turn to points and spikes drill downward (potentially destroying other spikes or clearing paths).

Bump! has that Spelunky feel where simple rules generate a rich texture of micro-challenges. It takes that feel and polishes it into a minimalist jewel that takes minutes to play and never gets frustrating.

You die, the word DEAD laconically appears for a few seconds, then you’re back again, honing your movements until they approach the effortless speed that the platform trappings suggest.

 

electro primitive girl by Sloane

Electro primitive girl is a mecha story from the mecha’s point of view.

It feels like a bittersweet love letter to the genre, a passionate revision that takes the premise of giant sentient robots battling across screaming cityscapes to its darkest, most hyper-violent extent.

Sloane’s evocative prose doesn’t bury the agile ferocity of her subject under paragraphs, it hurtles sentences like piercing volleys.

Text bathed in the crimson of slumbering natal depths and emergency warning lights, acrobatic typography that shakes, rattles, leaps, and lunges, precise writing that captures the grandeur of mecha bodies–”mile-long arms, freeway legs” and “fists as big as a starship.”

EPG rejects the hetero anime lifestyle, seething as powerful female strength is made subservient to the petulant male pilot.

Unlike her brash pilot, the mecha is introspective, outwardly voiceless. But not helpless. Far from it–there is exultation in the power of her body.

This is a game I’d cite as a key example of Twine, both in terms of the tech it shows off and the economy of the writing.

This is the story of a genre in revolt.

There are three endings.

 

Puzzle Monsters by Arthur Lee

Do you like gem? Do you like to make gem explode with Pokemon? Yes? Good!

Puzzle Monsters combines Pokemon-style teambuilding with puzzle gameplay. You can play hotseat, online, or against the AI.

The core mechanic is comboing 3 gems of the same color. Your monster’s move determines the effect, like gathering resources or blasting enemies with fire.

Other moves destroy tiles in various shapes, letting you prune the field to set up big combos. There are also heals, status effects, evolutions, and so on. As you can see, there are many ways to make gem explode with Pokemon.

The basics are clear soon enough, but resistances, team composition, and the ever-shifting battlefield offer both strategic and tactical depth. I’m interested in the Puzzle Monsters metagame–the overpowered combinations and unexpected synergies that people will inevitably discover.

This is an early but highly playable version. I look forward to future releases with more monsters and a monster capturing system. Like they say, time to gem.

 

Typing With Hands by Loren Schmidt

TYPE

WITH HANDS

THAT ARE NOT YOUR OWN

 

Cathode Raybots by JohnnyUtah and Tom Fulp

After televisions went obsolete, apparently we blasted them into space. Now they’re back for vengeance.

Cathode Raybots is a 2D shooter where you fight killer televisions

which is fun enough I guess

or you can DESIGN YOUR OWN KILLER TELEVISION

…and if other people like them, they become part of the main selection, a sea of bosses in competition. I know I’d much rather be designing than shooting, and Cathode Raybots’ coolness is that it offers something for players of both persuasions.

Designing your own boss involves:

-making an arena out of platforms and blocks

-drawing a pixel art face for your television

-calibrating weapons (and these can be tweaked, like a bomb can drop normally or even fly up with reversed gravity)

-then programming the boss by taking direct control (the game records your movements and firing pattern). Do you go for classic boss patterns with a memorable cadence, or do you hammer the keyboard frantically, creating a deadly, unpredictable dance?

 

Defining Moments by André Lincoln Read and Håvard Christensen

Experimental two player Tetris. Pieces fall at angles, so you can aid or entangle the other player.

Each line of blocks translates to a line of text, meaning this story can only be told if both players cooperate and feel each other’s movements out. The result is a dance of drifting geometry, a negotiated, intimate space.

 

Dysphoria City by Spanglypants

Gender dysphoria, gameified. Each humiliation quantified by a lost point of emotional energy.

Dysphoria City is about being ground down by basic tasks. Feeling broken but too tired and anxious to fix things. This is not a day of victory, it is one of the many that come between.

 

Blues for Mittavinda by Jack King-Spooner

I’m calling this one of the first Great Games of 2013, whatever that means. I hope everyone plays it.

Blues for Mittavinda is a handcrafted Wild West composed of clay, film, pencil, and photo. Your father is dying. He wants you to ask a man called Tonda about a cure.

Sure, I could point to the dialogue (playfully old timey but sincere), the beauty of ambling through photographs, or any number of details. But these obvious virtues pale next to how it made me feel–this renewed realization of what games can be.

Blues for Mittavinda is in touch with bodies. It feels made by a human. It is for humans. It is complementary to human biology. After playing it, you will feel different. Not just intellectually, but physically.

It is about bodies, and despite one billion years of games ostensibly about death–death as a mechanic, death as punctuation, death for the sake of death–it is one of the few I’ve played that is actually

about

death.

Because all bodies must die, and this fact defines their existence, underscores the preciousness of every breath.

It is the kind of game we need. In other words,

“a softer approach”

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