Cyborg hell. I still dream of Orgonon, I wake up sidescrolling.
Voyages of Mogey by thecatamites
Mogey rides a noble steed across an inhospitable world of rude dogs and orange pillars, eye-melting plains of marker graced by the tinny wind of an endless music loop arranged from the more exquisite tones of inner ear damage. Mogey seeks King Bubbles…but at what cost?
Hint: Don’t listen to dogs, all dogs in thecatamite games are liars, I learned this the hard way. ;(
Dialogue boxes sit out there in the open without the need to be activated. They exist on the same plane as the dirt and the dogs. It’s videogames, painted onto the landscape. We don’t need a robust framework. This was not intended for habitation. We don’t need anything more than signifiers with the gears torn out.
Best part: EVERYTHING TO DO WITH BUBBLES
Nested by Orteil
A nested, recursive version of the universe. We are all made of drop-down menus. So clever to design this from a basic UI element. The only resource is the click, aka your time and fascination.
Nested looks so clinical, with this highly systemic method of exploring galactic superclusters and neutrinos, but there’s a sense of humor scattered inside. Sort through unfeeling starstuff to find the squishy things with brains and nervous systems and funny thoughts.
jerry clouds by orange08
Jerry carries canisters to the cloud machine by the sea. I like your character’s walking animation, so full of purpose and tireless enthusiasm. This is a man who knows his clouds.
The piano piece by Stargenx captures both hope and sorrow, well chosen for the lonely, majestic hills of this cloud-makers paradise. A tender experience for gentle souls.
Socrates Jones: Pro Philosopher by Connor Fallon, Val Reznitskaya, et al.
Phoenix Wright but with classic philosophers (and just the cross-examinations). You start with the ancient Greeks and work your way up through the ages, a chronological difficulty curve. The intent is to teach “the fundamentals of Critical Thinking”.
After dispatching a sleazy deer repellent salesman with your deft args (that’s badass philosopher talk for “arguments”), you get in a car crash and long story short, you have to reason your way out of the afterlife against the most formidable philosophers of yore.
Look for weaknesses in their arguments and slam them with contradictions–but too many unsupported claims and your Credibility meter will plummet, trapping you forever with a bunch of opinionated straight white males–a plot device with chilling parallels to the world we live in.
Verminian Trap by Locomalito and Gryzor87
Inspired by “classic fixed screen games like Wizard of Wor, Battle city and even Pacman,” Verminian Trap is a one to four player arcade shooter where you fend off zillions of bugs. All bugs kill you in one hit, but some spin webs, some go fast, some take longer to kill, etc.
Friendly fire won’t kill you, but it does stun for a second, offering a soft penalty that becomes extra dangerous in the more crowded levels. The social advantage is a slight psychological shift in blame from your friends to the bugs, rather than the immediate, controller-hurling frustration of instant death.
Glory Days of the Free Press by thecatamites
Ah, the glory days of the free press! Making headlines! Taking names! Committing gross breaches of journalistic integrity!
The music is the equivalent of those narrow tunnels that guide cows to get their brains smashed. You are the cow.
Pause Ahead by Askiisoft
Your basic sadistic platformer with spikes and sawblades, except pausing the game preserves your velocity and makes you immune to damage. So if I want to pass through a field of spikes, I can run forward, hit pause, and come out the other side unharmed. Pause Ahead takes a humble, utilitarian feature of many games and turns it into a tool for pulling off death-defying stunts.
Each level has a limited number of seconds to spend on pausing. Some levels give you only a single second, asking you to execute lots of micro-pauses and velocity shifts without spending more than a second in real time.
Why frame your power as pausing and not something like Ghost Magic or whatever? One is meta, the other is internal. This matters because the story essentially involves the game itself taunting you. Only a power “external” to the game can defeat the game, aka God.
Humanoid 47 by JO99, Oliv. Kronsilds
Escape from some kind of asylum where the therapy involves turning people into cyborgs, through tunnels and chambers filled with an amoral doctor’s bizarre experiments. This is a point and click adventure, so many of the puzzles involve interfering with your fellow abominations, usually to their benefit (I’m not sure anything can be done for the head socketed into a massive wall of neuropipes and cyber-cables).
So you’re in this scary place, but because of the sheer detail invested in the art, everything has a certain twisted beauty. Instead of bland filler and generic labstuff, every inch is a testament to the doctor’s obsession, countless machine guts scattered across desks and floors, forlorn heads abandoned inside boilers.
And the debris speaks so much history. It says: this place has been here long before you, and will remain when you are gone. The insistent environment feels like a world, not a set. The designers do a good job of creating a zone that simultaneously repulses as it draws you in.
Despite the busy art, I didn’t get stuck on puzzles or have to excessively hunt the pixel. Objects tend to have color schemes resembling their destination, and their uses are logical.
Blue cyborg leg goes on blue cyborg body.
Note: At one point, you have to combine two items by dragging one to the other. I think this is the only time this comes up.
If you like Humanoid 47, I highly recommend another of their games, Queen of Snakes–an audiovisual injection of snake venom and ayahuasca. Mystical temple of scales, rattling and hissing, an organic compliment to this cyborg hell.