Eating language. My alchemical romance. The end of the world has a choppy frame rate.
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TrademarkVille by Molleindustria, Mikhail Popov
A satire of trademark-hungry corporations, like King’s infamous attempt to steal the very word “candy” from our language and shorten the names of Norse tactical tribe adventures–but most of all a funny game about language backed into a corner.
There are two modes. Write a description for a thing (you can see my attempt above). The words then become trademarked and no one can use them anymore. These descriptions become part of the game, which brings you to the other mode: guessing from people’s descriptions. “Bewinged hobbiteating cryptofauna” was my favorite for dragon.
Doing some guesses before you try to write your own descriptions is good if you want to figure stuff out before you see all the possible pictures being described. Once you see all the pictures, the game becomes as much about memorization as deciphering.
This is season 2 of TrademarkVille, with new pictures and features, including the option to rate a description as good or excellent, awarding particularly clever descriptions.
A(s)century by Austin Walker, Scott Hallam, Steve Kim
Cyber-domination sim about your rise to power, with a great soundtrack by Scott Hallam that carries a lot of things: unstoppable progress consuming everything in its path, the collapse of utopian ideals, the sense of millions of people crushed under the weight of a system that regards them as mere cells in the body of history…
[SPOILERS] I had fun writing ad copy for foods. Artificial, natural, it doesn’t matter, as long as it’s framed in a way that appeals to consumers. Superfoods. This packaging is green it must be healthy. The acquisition choices you make later on are a power-thrill–upgrading my corporate-character-body with entire organizations.
I like the way Austin is careful to avoid gendering the player, and how happy the protagonist is to participate in dystopia. Always glad to see more politically conscious cyberpunk (as opposed to cops vs robbers shit that treats real world ideologies like anarchy as cartoons, or positions white cis men as rebels instead of drawing on actual outsider demographics). A(s)century absorbs you into the system, you’re eager to move up, you want to use any power you get. And honestly that describes most of us. Everyone wants to feel safe. I want to feel safe. Moving outside the system requires a lot of risk. But, as A(s)century comes to show, assimilation carries its own risks.
Your decisions are tracked. There are 5 endings.
Pachalafaka by David Calvo
Pachalafaka is a “game-poem” set in a world that ends when the song ends, which is Stardust by Freddy Gardner. A lovely micro-apocalypse (David cites Jean-Michel Folon and George Herriman as influences), the romanticized crumpling of a watercolor-splotched ink-scrawled piece of a paper, each crinkle a burst of thunder.
You Only Get One Wish by Calciumtrice
Chill Twine game about a “cool, alternative young” woman who discovers a magic lamp in the woods, with lots of different endings.
Mangia by Nina Freeman
Autobiographical hypertext about eating disorders/conditions, and how people can fail us when we need them most.
[SPOILERS] The way Mangia entangles memory with the present day struggle has me thinking of how we envision the future through our social experiences. The boyfriend who takes care of you–maybe things could be okay with people to help you through this. The mother who failed to protect you growing up–people will let you down and hurt you.
I identify a lot with how her mom didn’t believe her when she needed help. Having a parent not care if you live or die is one of the most traumatic things that can happen to a human, a violation of the most basic early care.
The tangled white lines are good at conveying such a basic need as digestion suddenly turning to snarled noise in your guts.
Solarium by Alan DeNiro
Gnostic Cold War alchemical romance told in hypertext, weaving together ancient horror with modern paranoia. MKUltra, Manichean temples, and the relationship problems of immortal beings.
Everything is glimpsed between shadows: crows in the snowy woods, tense conference rooms full of desperate men, strapped to a chair as your blood turns to metal. I like the non-linear structure, the way you build up elements, piecing together the narrative from dots instead of a straight line, elements gathered like spells…with evocative flavor…Plutonium the King Slayer…
The Rapture Is Here And You Will Be Forcibly Removed From Your Home by Connor Sherlock
20 minutes before the rapture comes and your only companions are pillars of voices speaking Lovecraftian prose.
TRISHAYWBFRFYH is a Big game, not in length but in aesthetic. The rapture is depicted as this vast mega-disc, a flying saucer expanding to fill the sky. The land is huge, you can get lost in it, although you come to barriers at the edge of the map (which unlike most games don’t feel like a frustrating limitation of 3D space but instead come across as natural: why wouldn’t a cosmic presence create a force field to hem me in?).
There are long distances to traverse between “doing” anything, running across fields as the music swells. Whether that running is aimless or mesmerizing depends on how much this atmosphere speaks to you.
Finding the connection between Lovecraft and the rapture (although alien abduction/interference is definitely one of Lovecraft’s themes) is less interesting to me than feeling it as a sample/remix/texture, eldritch descriptions playing in my ear as I run through the forests. The lengthy, verbose writing that dwells so deeply on landscapes of horror and the nature of reality that it seems as if it could go on indefinitely like some gurgling generated pus flowing from the cracks in time and space, a putrescent emission that, lacking sentience, cannot stifle its progress with the governing conscience that any Homo sapien, no matter how rash or reckless, might summon at the brink of the darkest chasm, turning aside at long last from their hideous journey, that primordial essence within the basest creature that says, here and no further, is contrasted with the fact that the world is going to fucking end in 20 minutes. All your planning and scheming doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if you understand the world because there will be no world. All that matters is the feeling.
The music + voice acting has me thinking of the War of the Worlds rock opera, serious voices narrating as synths soar. I found TRISHAYWBFRFYH to be more exhilarating than horrifying. An odd blend of scary signifiers with the feeling that maybe this is how things should be. Maybe I’m transcending beyond my human understanding into a better place. The lights are coming.
The game runs choppy for me, so you might want to shut down background apps and check graphics settings.