Step By Terrified Step: Post-Future Vagabond

I do like it when a developer has a house style. Sorta-shmup, sorta roguelike death’n’dodging frenzy Post-Future Vagabond is immediately recognisable as the work of Michael ‘Smestorp’ Brough, in appearance, audio and even mechanics. If you’ve played his excellent 868-HACK on iOS – a PC version is due soon-ish, which is great news – you’ll probably figure out what’s required of you from this new, free game a little more quickly than if you went in blind. It’s a game in which every move you make matters, it’s a game about staying one step ahead of abstract, snarling monsters who relentlessly hunt you, and it’s a game about shouting SHIT BALLS DAMMIT at your monitor because you went left instead of up and now everything’s gone to hell.

It evokes, to me, all sorts of things without actually being them. Repton. Yar’s Revenge. Centipede. It isn’t like any of those in any meaningful way, so please don’t download it on that basis, but to me it nebulously felt like them, transporting me back to the abstract strangeness of those early gaming experiences, where I simply accepted thin, absurd concepts and not a little sadism instead of demanding context and explanation and assistance. Only it uses lo-fi, minimalist art and sound to be consciously creepy, even threatening, in that characteristically Brough way. It’s a game where it feels like the very screen is trying to devour me, and all I can do is make desperate acts to survive rather than strive for a particular goal.

Like 868-HACK, it turns to be highly tactical despite its garbled appearance and simple controls. Techniques to survive will only become apparent in time, and after repeated failure.

Smart, disorientating, singular, highly recommended, and free from here.


  1. DantronLesotho says:

    What’s up with the sharecart1000 thing? FJORDS was called the same thing. Was there some wacky gamejam I missed out on?

    • jonbro says:

      they load and effect each others save files, so changes in one change the other. I think there may be future ones coming out, but I am not sure about this.

  2. Geebs says:

    Two words of caution:
    1) The music is HORRIBLE
    2) It’s not even slightly reminiscent of Repton, which is disappointing.

    • douhbar says:

      I found the music to be great. And the sound effects made with mouth noises are really cool, as with his other games.

  3. Niko says:

    So this is what post-Singularity world will look like.

  4. psepho says:

    I don’t get why Brough’s artwork is considered lo-fi. Some of it is low resolution for sure, but simply using fewer pixels doesn’t mean that it is less polished, crafted or artistically expressive.

    Some game art is genuinely lo-fi, like the felt tip drawings in some of thecatamites recent games, but I don’t see that that applies to Brough’s art — he has simply chosen to use fewer pixels…

    • crinkles esq. says:

      “lo-fi” is short for low-fidelity, and is usually a description of the medium used. In music, this has usually described music recorded with cheap equipment — either through limited means or pure choice — which doesn’t accurately capture a large sonic range. But often these limitations have been turned into unique sonic palettes. By the same token, in this case the game author is using tools that one would not call high-resolution.

      lo-fi is almost never a direct critique of an artist’s craftsmanship or talent, but simply a technical limitation or deliberate artistic choice. I would also add that I’ve noticed artists almost never self-describe their work as “lo-fi”, and some actively express derision for this term, but the press and fans continue to apply it to them.

  5. VelvetFistIronGlove says:

    Techniques to survive will only become apparent in time, and after repeated failure

    That’s what I didn’t enjoy about Zaga-33 and 868-Hack. They expect everything to be learnt through lots of repeated trial and error. I just don’t enjoy games that function like that. (No, I didn’t like D* Souls either). “You must be *this* bloody-minded to play.”

    • Hypocee says:

      Meh. The important mechanic in 868-HACK is obvious in moments. The reason I so love roguelikes and their likes is that they create more situations than you could possibly be tutorialised through. Plus, 868-HACK has a tutorial; I assume you’ve actually played it and make the claim that the tutorial is poor, rather than twisting a marketing line.

      Logged in to note that there is, more or less, already a version of 868-HACK on PC, in the form of the original 7 Day Roguelike prototype 86856527. I’m confident it’s quite inferior in balance, fairness, generation, scoring, but I’m looking forward to the return of HACK because 86856527’s been my preferred waiting-for-something quick-dip solitaire game since its release. I’ve played it for, oh, probably a dozen hours or so – which doesn’t sound impressive except that it’s a game of minutes.

      • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

        Yes, I played the tutorial. IIRC it teaches you how to move, how to shoot at the enemies, and about one of the programs. It rather notably omitted how to collect resources, but I figured that out. But I still find the game incredibly difficult after a couple of levels, and not very rewarding.

        I’m not dissing roguelikes at all—I’ve played Nethack for hundreds of hours. I never won; but one thing the classic roguelike designs have is a rate of difficulty increase that is very much in the player’s control, despite the randomisation. A less skilled or confident player can spend a long time on the upper levels, while a more skilled or confident player can head deeper sooner. I found 868-HACK’s difficulty increased far faster than I was capable of dealing with.