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Live Free Play Hard: Hang Out With Mice Forever

Free Games = This

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Only one of these games has cute little mice in it and that’s why videogames suck.

 

Fish so sage by Simatten

I played this for a minute and dismissed it as too simplistic. Then I came back later and didn’t stop playing til 4 AM.

Fish so sage is a game of exquisite timing. You stand in one place and kill everything that rushes at you.

You have 3 buttons: Z, X, and C. Z shoots a single projectile, X sprays in front of you, C shoots a GIANT LASER that destroys EVERYTHING. Each attack costs energy. A full gauge means you’re wasting firepower, but getting caught without energy can get you killed. Both extremes are bad, so a lot of the tension is carried in the gauge.

There are 3 enemies. The race car is fast. The flying one is fast too and takes timing to hit because it bobs up and down. The warthogs are tanky and annoying. Each random handful of enemies requires a quick decision that balances energy efficiency with killing them all and this happens over and over and over and over and it’s great every time.

This is a really unforgiving game, and that’s why the fundamental tension of the gauge is so good, because there’s 100 percent up-time. Your actions matter every second of the game until you die.

Every time you use an ability, it gains experience, important for keeping up with the slowly rising HP of enemies.

13770 is my high score.

Like a Raisin in the Sun by Victor Pflug, Mark Yohalem, Steven Poulton

The morbid tale of a little robot that wants to make cupcakes.

I really like the presentation: a steampunk hypertext radio encased in lustrous wood paneling, complete with voice acting. The glass circle with glowing icons is an adorably cozy way to illustrate each paragraph, yet the limitations of the hardware mean all images come in an ominous orange glow.

The evocative design of the UI is one of my favorite things about this. I imagine punch card-style programming, insertable cards with branching instructions and encoded images, the glowing eye incapable of presenting the most innocent subject without the faintest hint of red hot menace.

GREAT! Mouse Friends by thecatamites

In Octopus Decision you can hang out with octopuses forever. Thecatamites builds on that concept by giving us a game where you hang out with mice forever.

Fashion World by thecatamites

TURN THAT FASHION DISASTER UPSIDE DOWN

a delver dreams their own demise by fizzhog

Mystical dungeonscape glimpsed through a blurry, glitchy lens. It feels like one of those boxes you look inside and press a button to change the picture? Like someone turned a nickelodeon into a game?

I pick my avatar, a scrawled ink figure with the faintest suggestion of a staff and robe. Lines from Emily Dickinson are scattered across a backdrop of frozen fantasy characters. Cards covered in symbols spread before a translucent glass horse.

I wander through a myopic dungeon where the combat involves a sword swinging in a circle. I chase after portals as ghostly minotaurs glide toward me. I can’t figure out the password screen. This world feels so lonely and abandoned.

I’ve noticed a trend toward games where you explore undefined, sometimes illusory systems (Rat Chaos and Frog Fractions comes to mind). Despite the confusion, your path is usually pretty linear, and sometimes the fail states are equally illusory. ADDTOD, on the other hand, has a fail state, which means you need to commit to tracing the outlines of these uncertain systems if you want to see the end.

Swan Hill by Laura Michet

Low-key fantasy hypertext about the relationship between two brothers. One chose to rule. The other ended up practicing magic, which goes by the high-brow name of philosophy in the Swan Hill universe.

Philosophy is physically painful to cast, draining mortality with each use, and the greatest spells can kill the caster. I like the descriptions of aching hands–the cost of power.

Links have two colors, black and orange. Black cycles through text on the same page (an effective way to show muddled memory, belated truth rising to the surface) and orange takes you to a new page. This is great because it eliminates the micro-tension of wondering whether a link will break you out of the passage before you’re done exploring it. A maze of twisty little passages, but not all alike.

~SPOILERS~

In my eyes, the strongest ending is the one where you realize that your outsider status is your strength. Realizing you’ll never be one of them, and instead finding strength in your independence, and finding camaraderie with those as independent as yourself (“Your family are strangers.”).

Your brother, on the other hand, has no such independence, manacled to the land by his title. Both of you made sacrifices for power, but the cost was hardly the same. Unlike him, you seem to have accepted your cost.

Impostor Syndrome by Georgiana Bourbonnais

Impostor syndrome refers to the belief that one is a fraud and undeserving of success, no matter how many times you prove yourself. I think a lot of women have to deal with that feeling. Feeling like a fluke, like we don’t belong, like the universe will correct itself and we will disappear.

Impostor Syndrome is also a text game about a nervous woman giving a talk at a tech conference. Tech is a notoriously sexist industry, and I identify heavily with her anxiety.

The internal focus on her anxiety is important. It highlights how sexism is more than the act of sexism itself. Misogyny seeps into the body and eats us up before we even leave the house. Harassment throws us off, makes us appear unreliable, scattered, angry, incompetent–in short, misogyny cultivates the very stereotypes it lies about.

Impostor Syndrome is set a generation in the future, so instead of people getting bored and checking their phone (which is a visible action and therefore less socially acceptable), they can just stare through their VR glasses and completely phase you out. Maybe. Are they? You have no way of knowing.

That struck me as legitimately nerve-wracking–the idea that you could be talking to an entire roomful of people and you might as well be talking to nobody. Irrelevant, worthless, just a source of noise to be tuned out.

There are multiple endings.

 

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