Virtual Boy hellscape. Not all levels have spikes. Godhand.
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The 2nd Amendment by Ramiro Corbetta, Jane Friedhoff, K Anthony Marefat
On Twitter, Jane Friedhoff said: “Dear David Cage: this is how true emotion in games is done.” A bold claim, but I’m forced to agree. What a truly immersive experience. This is storytelling at its finest. At once an impassioned critique of the right to bear arms (an urgent issue in these times of violence) and a nostalgic celebration of classic gaming.
It’s bizarre that more games haven’t embraced this sophisticated control scheme. What better way to immerse the player than…with the player? I felt like I was using my own body to control my own body controlling the game. I was.
You Will Die Alone at Sea by Andi McClure
One minute in a crimson wireframe sea in a black void.
Andi referenced the thoughts of evilseanbot when she said: “someone was talking about imagining exactly what circumstances lead to the alternate universe where the Virtual Boy became a big hit on the backs of life-simulation games encapsulating small true-to-life moments, starving to death abandoned in the ocean, your clothes got stolen at the laundromat, calling an ambulance for someone who got hit by a car etc”
Interestingly the game was released with the intent that only mouse look would be used, rooting the experience in helplessness. However, the debug controls made it in by accident, so you can violate the author’s pristine vision and move around, slipping into a whole new zone of disorientation, where even the menacing red Virtual Boy ocean becomes familiar and inviting by comparison.
GAMEHAX by Guilherme S. Töws, KenneyNL
It has a virtual notepad on the side that you can write notes in!!! It’s for cheatcodes! These appear at the bottom of the screen. What does a game look like when you have the cheat codes? GAMEHAX
The sound effect for walking is so piercing as to constitute an aesthetic challenge in of itself, not immediately jarring but growing and overlapping the longer you hold down the arrow keys. Is this on purpose? Either way I’m all for games being as annoying as possible. *** out of ???? (UPDATE: The author of the game says there are no sound effects, please select your own wacky reason for why I was hearing this incredibly shrill sound. Option A: Haunted by ghost Option B: Haunted by ghost Option C: Irreversible brain damage resulting in auditory hallucination)
Enigmabot by Ben Allen
You control a teleporting cube. The cube has to touch an EXIT PORTAL. The cube is separated from the EXIT PORTAL by tunnels full of spikes. The screen wraps, so you can zoom all around the place! It feels good to be flying over spikes then teleport in a different direction instead of falling, the enjoyment of defying gravity multiplied.
I forgot to mention, not all levels have spikes. It’s okay to take a break from our problems sometimes. When was the last time you did something for yourself?
PUSH by Yotam Frid, Mati Ernst, Itamar Ernst, Jason Lord
You control an archaeologist. The archaeologist has to touch a GOLD STATUE. The archaeologist is separated from the GOLD STATUE by stones and holes and traps that shoot arrows. Sometimes you control two archaeologists at once.
You can only push one thing per level, so you have to choose the perfect thing to push. I hope you enjoy pushing perfect things.
Weird Egg & Crushing Finger by Mason Lindroth
AHHHHH I love this! You control a giant hand and you click to squish things and you hold down the mouse button and drag to push things. This game is so short and discoverlicious (NEW WORD I JUST INVENTED) that there’s really no point in reading my brief thoughts.
What a huge fucking VERB to make the cursor a godlike hand that takes up half the screen. I cower before this imperative. See, I didn’t read the instructions so when I started playing I thought the dilemma of the game was: do I let a thriving culture develop, or do I succumb to the brute instinct of crushing things under my massive FINGER?
Then the soldiers came and started killing people, so I wondered if I was supposed to be pruning my village, squishing undesirables to keep my peaceful citizens alive. Then I read the directions. You need soldiers to kill citizens so their souls pop out and you push the priests onto the souls to harvest them. I figured this out wayyyyyyy late so the flesh horrors filled half the island before I even started trying to win. I spent most of the time pushing houses to make an impromptu architectural corral for those hamburger octopuses. So the game is entertaining in different ways before and after you understand how to play.
Mason’s claygasmic sludge art was previously used to make attractive, low interactivity worlds. Weird Egg & Crushing Finger shows the evolution of an artist with both mechanical and artistic vision.
One example is how the souls you collect are tracked by the number of stars in the sky, keeping everything within the game fiction, as opposed to the HUD overlays of many games where beautiful landscapes are superimposed with meticulous numeric values, as if the player is some kind of space probe impassively monitoring the protagonist’s activities, a resource-obsessed droid from another planet commandeering the helpless, terrified mind of your hero to obsessively interrogate the world’s resources, or as thecatamites puts it: “in the famous, popular videogame ‘skyrim’ the evocation of a seamless and exciting virtual world is in part accomplished via one hundred thousand exploreable boxes each of which seams to contain some combination of [wheat] [yarn x2] [rough fabric] or [trowel]. if you click on people the same box appears except it contains [1 gold] [fabric] [dagger]. if you murder a hellmonster and click on it the same box appears and it contains [bone] [monsterheart x2] [dagger]…the romantic computer fantasy world is built upon the most advanced wardrobe simulator that mankind has yet produced.”
The tortured insistence that we must compensate for the obvious gulf between us messy flesh-beings and our rigid computer avatar by Understanding How Many Eggs I’ve Stolen From Bird Nest #97 (South Quadrant), because a real human being would know how much they were holding (except by weight, memory, etc, which are types of friction–as opposed to the player as a frictionless container for information). Big Games rarely differentiate between activities on a meaningful sensory level because that would interrupt the set of overlapping loops that superficially encompass everything and say nothing. (the terrifying introspection of severing those infinite infrastructure browser/mobile games from their numeric justification–Jóhann Jóhannsson’s Fordlandia plays as the camera pans listlessly over 10,000 Silver Palaces arranged in slumlike squalor)
Then another HUD is placed on top, the HUD of the reviewer who applies numeric ratings (!) to each category. Once the game has passed these important safety tests it can leave the factory and be released into a Gamer’s environment where they absorb and digest it for trace amounts of nutrition.
(I’m talking about Uncool HUD not Cool HUD. Cool HUD is a deliberate movement that embraces artificiality. They understand the problem. It is not that the HUD distorts, it is that the HUD does not distort enough. In the same way, Objective Game Reviews distorts the metaHUD of the game reviewer, comprehending artificiality as the suppressed true nature of the HUD that simply hasn’t been taken to its full and glorious conclusion. I’d rather have 200 made-up numbers referencing non-existent sub-systems blinking wildly on my panicked star marine faceplate holo-display than 1 factual (boring) number!!)
In contrast to HUD-ism, Weird Egg & Crushing Finger has an integrated, mythological feel, where a mortal soul casually pops onto the night sky like Orion getting thumbtacked into the constellations, all part of some kind of cosmic beekeeping practiced by the Crushing Finger, the culture it has spawned simply a prerequisite for the stars it requires.
Weird Egg & Crushing Finger is not about everything. It’s about a giant hand that squishes things on a weird island.