Do you like Shadowrun? Do you like space romance? Do you like rescuing pigs? Do you like magical owls? Do you like pretending to be a fireman? WELL…
SAVE MERLIN THE PIG! A rescue quest of dubious proportions by Leigh Alexander
Text adventure about two jerks who become obsessed with rescuing “a pig from slaughter by a high-end Brooklyn foodie restaurant”. Makes fun of gentrifying assholes but doesn’t lose dimension through parody, because it’s a well-observed story before anything else.
And the branches twist sharply, reminding me of those Choose Your Own Adventure stories for kids, where it was fun because anything could happen. Except instead of scifi-fantasy perils, we have the capricious folly of proto-yuppies, where apathy and arrogance are as deadly as any spike pit.
Meepo in Love by thecatamites
We are all Meepo.
Fire Point by Cesque and Aeron
Firefighter simulator! I like the level select menu, a book of matches striking with each selection. I like that you can save people from fire by tossing them from rooftops. I like the cute sounds they make when they run to safety.
Dying can be a little frustrating. Maybe I just can’t handle the heat!! Reminds me of a favorite tweet by graeyalien.
Magic Owl by Edwin Montgomery
See this owl? It is a magic owl.
It flaps through a 2D landscape that feels pleasingly handmade. This landscape is a cross between a musical instrument and one of those orbs that you touch and arcs of electricity blaze to your fingertips. You trigger these effects by flying around.
In the comments, MNO advises: “I found the animations were a lot smoother (and not annoyingly fast) after I set the game speed to about 50 (which you can do by hitting the escape key and going to Options, after starting exploration)”
DataJack by Ryan Foltz
Isometric Deus Ex/Syndicate/Shadowrun-esque hack & shoot.
Robbing the burger chain to strike a blow against the megacorps is so delightfully cyberpunk. It reminds me of how people assume poorly paid service workers somehow represent and speak for the face of the corporation that owns them.
Q to cycle inventory, E to use inventory item, F to interact, number keys to select weapon, click on things to shoot them.
I am a grizzled hacker cyborg gun dude. You know what part of town I live in? The part with a big building that says GUNS and a big building that says CLINIC. Circle of life.
A passing businessman says, “You look like you know where I could buy a rocket launcher.” Apparently my physical appearance suggests I have knowledge of where best to procure a large tube that fires highly destructive projectiles optimally used against vehicular or structural targets. I have that aura about me.
Old-school transaction system, that is to say, some edges aren’t shaved off. You trade in your old weapon to pay off some of the cost of the new one, which brings it a little closer to actually being in a grimy weapons shop in the year 20XX. You don’t do this for other upgrades, which means buying the most expensive product you can afford is more cost effective than upgrading increment by increment? Which means abstaining could potentially be optimal if you can survive it?
I don’t know, I keep dying, I’m still figuring this out. And god, it costs like a thousand bucks to heal from the brink of death at the clinic. Yeah, I have a cerebral hemorrhage, a fractured spine, and internal bleeding, but I need my badass new iPhone deck.
If this were made by a large company you’d collect Cyber Orbs for every action and trade them in for straight upgrades to your weapon, and your weapon would be one of several Platonic Guns, or a Katana, or Cyber Magic.
Data Jack has handguns, submachine guns, rifles, shotguns, swords, body armor, leg implants, arm implants, eye implants, torso implants, hardware, software, gear, and explosives to buy, but only enough cash to buy very carefully. You have to destroy capitalism by making the best consumer choices possible.
This ruthless systems friction reminds me how a game’s economy can be used to reinforce theme instead of act as a power fantasy slip n’ slide greased with liquid money.
So you buy some weapons. Weapons have all these stats. Noise, accuracy, etc. You can kill things loudly. You can kill things silently.
There’s a certain dangerous appeal for me, this finicky meticulous tidying up. As if there was something noble about my bloodshed being clinical and noiseless. Fortunately I kicked that habit after spending days quick-loading Deus Ex saves to grow my perfect garden of bad-ass silent take-downs cultivated through millennia of time travel (compare to me spending weeks hopelessly mired in Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines, stuck on any level where it was remotely possible to jump from a place of any altitude with my katana and slice people in half.) Quick saves are a serious societal scourge and they ruin lives.
Understand: in a world of murder, killing people nicely is a form of sophistication, and flamethrowers and shotguns are tawdry manifestations of populism.
A true philosopher opts for quieter, less flashy weapons, because as we all know, violence is just better when you sanitize it, which ties perfectly into this century of neoliberalism. This form of violence is superior because it’s a longer, more circuitous way of reaching the same point (a dead body). These are free range organically grown corpses, each one lovingly murdered by painless needle gun darts.
If so, then I am vulgar. Now I rampage in a profoundly anti-intellectual way through the palaces and skyscrapers of such games. You ivory tower murderers have no idea how free this feels.
Anyways, I like games where you get to be a hacker and snag cash by blowing up the system. It isn’t so much about escaping from your shit apartment, it’s about everyone sucking and living in shit apartments, because this is Generic Dystopian Cyberpunk Universe and we’re all miserable neurojunky burnout hacker mercenaries here–and anyone who doesn’t live in a shit apartment is an Evil Megacorp Executive who deserves to have their fancy holo-screens and chrome sculptures and zen waterfalls exploded as you drain their bank account in real time, digits dropping to $0000000.