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

drop the worm baby

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Heterosexual narc. More than a few games about the demise of balls. CANDY ANT PRINCESS.

 

Sacrilege by Cara Ellison

Here’s Sacrilege, by our own Cara Ellison of the PC gaming website Rock Paper Shotgun dot com. It’s about being young and limitless, giddy with dancefloor heat, wanting to love and be loved, to be appreciated before our bodies crumble. It’s also about heterosexuality.

In her words: “…I wanted to make it about the heart stopping drudgery of being heterosexual in a world where heterosexuals are conditioned not to talk to each other, or listen to each other, or really have any idea what they are doing.”

This is a drunk story told in club cadence, thoughts flashing like faces under strobe lights. In those moments: communication/lack of communication, people hurt by a culture of paranoia between genders.

The club is perfect for exploring heterosexual dynamics, as one of those venues Audre Lorde called “proscribed erotic comings-together…characterized by a simultaneous looking away, a pretense of calling them something else”, an eroticism that boils away with the morning sun, leaving smudged makeup and sullen silences.

 

 

On Formalism by Darius Kazemi

If debates had tombstones, this would be an obelisk surrounded by landmines.

 

 

Martian Middle School Dance by Benedict Fritz

Martian exchange student at a middle school dance. Help it fit in with the humans, by dancing and knowing all the right things to say.

 

 

Yeti Yeti Yeti by Dustin Covan

“Like an episode of Teletubbies directed by David Lynch”

A yeti carries a worm baby around as a mysterious presence accuses it of being slave to a videogamey system of rewards.

There’s darkness full of evil faces, there’s mama worms in the clouds.

What can you do? You can choose to keep playing or stop playing. Every game has that option implicitly, but Yeti Yeti Yeti formalizes it.

There’s energy in the sky. I think you can get past it somehow. Maybe it’s a vortex?

You can pick up a worm baby. You can drop the worm baby. I don’t think it can die (I tried pretty hard).

 

 

 

Copy Kitty 1.2 by Azure Lazuline, Raibys

I admire the sheer noisiness of the graphics–nothing exists that cannot be made to ripple, glow, pulsate, or exude motion trails.

You play as a catgirl in a virtual defense simulator, hunting down robots and scavenging weapons from their cyber-ashes. You have three weapon slots, and you can press C to fire them as a single “mega-weapon”.

Endless Mode spawns enemies eternally as the terrain grows around you. You can kick terrain to destroy it.

Mission Mode has 70 missions where you hunt down robots and defeat bosses. I enjoy the bosses more than the regular missions, although I have no idea whether they pick up or not (I played the first 10 or so missions).

The level editor is easy to use and strong enough to make pretty much everything in the base game.

 

Planet Punch by Matt Thorson and Alec Holowka

Planetary pugilism punctures peace pact in solar system slug out gone grim, gargantuan globes grappling, grunting, gyrating as orbs upgrade your incredible encounters. The best part is lining up your shots like a cosmic game of pool.

Boyoon by Masamune Games

Click the ball to make it bounce, don’t let fall into the pit! Make it fly high enough and stars and pastries will fall. You can collect those with your mouse but that distracts you from the eternal problem of the falling ball.

You have prismatic safety glass that can take a few hits, and tons of sparkly power-ups. There are many balls representing all the major elements: metal, beach ball, doughnut, penguin…

 

a2 ~a due~ by Arowana, Nellie, and azurextwilight

A Chinese-American punk rocker forced to run her deceased father’s orchestra as a condition of his inheritance. She disdains the stodgy formality of classical music, but she owes some violent people money. Then a stranger enters her life…

This is a full featured visual novel with multiple chapters, three endings, and unlockable extras like artwork, vocabulary, music, etc.

 

 

Candy Ant Princess by Whisperbat

Running a candy ant colony is hard work. Will you raise your daughters to war or peace? Who can you trust in the ruthless environment of Strawberry Swirl Forest?

Candy Ant Princess is about writing your own story. You click words to change them to other words and those words are fact.

Now I’ll explain why Candy Ant Princess is great on a technical level.

CAP is made in Twine. Twine is a bit clunky with variables in its default state.

To change variables, you once had to click a hyperlink before you’d see any changes. So if I want to make a game where you pick out dresses in preparation for a ballroom dance, I need a SALMON PINK DRESS link, a MAGENTA DRESS link, and so on. You click a link, go to a passage that sets the variable for you, then go back to the central branch where the variable prints your choice of color.

See all that branching? It can get tedious.

Then Leon Arnott made a macro called <<cycling>>, which basically functions as a dial for variables. Every time you click the link, the $dress variable changes color. Then click to the next passage and you got yourself a dress.

Easy to see the difference. Adding more dress colors is just a matter of adding an extra word, not making a new branch.

Obviously simple manipulation of variables is a Good Thing for everyone, but I’m most excited about one specific application: aesthetic choice–the hyperlink as revision (which we saw in Emily Short’s First Draft of the Revolution (which was custom-built so it’s nice to be able to approximate that in Twine)) and the hyperlink as collaborative world-building.

Candy Ant Princess is one big showcase for aesthetic agency. It doesn’t over-think the ramifications of those choices, you aren’t paralyzed wondering if you’re making optimal long-term decisions (not that I totally don’t want to see a Dwarf Fortress x King of Dragon Pass x Candy Ant Princess hybrid).

A fair amount of choices are purely cosmetic, for your own enjoyment. CAP isn’t obsessed with formally codifying your decisions (a dress or suit of armor is only worth wearing if it gives you +2 to Fashion or 10% Heavy Armor! beep boop).

By playing with aesthetic choice, players become invested in the world’s fiction as co-writers. And more significantly, perhaps, they get to be candy ant princesses.

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