This week: Three space outlaws, two pitch black caves, two curious machines, two unspeakable horrors, a lasso-slinger, a sword-slinger, a herd of elephants, a courthouse.
Cyber-Lasso by Alan Hazelden (Draknek)
Alan’s making a habit of designing clever PuzzleScript games that push the engine beyond what you might expect possible. His previous is You’re Pulleying My Leg, a vertical sidescroller that asks you to manipulate a series of pulleys and mirrors to direct a beam of light into the depths of an ancient cave system.
This new one is equally clever, a top-down block pushing game in which you can’t push any blocks. Does a cow wrangler push cows? No, that’s called cow tipping. A professional uses a lasso. And a cyberprofessional uses a cyberlasso.
Spacebar or X sends your lasso out in a direction of your choosing. Rope up a block and you can wrangle it into a new position, your lasso bending if there are obstacles in the way. The puzzles are satisfyingly intertwined, most spanning multiple screens. Watch out for electricity. The ending is the trickiest part.
Zombies & Elephants by Verena Kyratzes
A horror twine game set against the backdrop of post-colonial Mozambique. It takes seriously both the science underlying its horrors and the economic and cultural conditions of its slightly fictionalized setting. You are asked to make terrible, imperfect choices in an environment where trusting those in charge to look out for your interests has always been a difficult exercise. Not for the faint of heart.
Space is Red by Todd Luke
An utterly stylish, glitch-filled story game, experimenting with a few different modes of interaction over the course of its brief few minutes. You’re an outlaw lying low as some sort of space mechanic, putting in the hours on a floating red cube. Something drew you here. It’s probably foolish to think you could escape your past.
A Dark Space Wind by bburbank and a friend
This is a bit of an adventure game and a bit of an action game. A small girl with a big sword on a small ship with a big problem: only forty hours of oxygen left in the tank and not enough fuel to make it into port. Dad says we should just do dreams and drift out.
It’s a short game, shorter than it wants to be. Everything resolves too easily and the sword swinging bits are almost perfunctory, but it’s also utterly charming. It’s worth playing for the incidental dialogue alone, the fluent daughter and her broken-English dad. And you can imagine the ever so slightly more fleshed-out game it hopefully might one day become.
The World Beneath by Clément Duquesne
A first-person game about exploring a dark cave. WASD to move, mouse to look around, mouseclick or spacebar to throw one of a limited number of torches. It feels glorious, the music swelling with each torch thrown. I’m pretty sure it’s possible to reach a permanent dead end, but eventually you’ll run out of torches anyway so it’s not a huge loss. Reloading the game generates a new cave system to explore.
Pale by One Life Remains
This is also a 3D first-person game about exploring a dark cave, and it also involves placing a limited number of lights to mark out a visible path. But while its stark, simple geometry can’t compare with The World Beneath’s stylish expressionism, this one has the more interesting game structure.
You start off in a pitch black space. A simple diamond shape floats in front of you, but it doesn’t illuminate anything around it. Clicking the mouse activates your single torch, but it also places it on the ground, immovable, lighting up just the small surrounding area. Walking up to the diamond grants you an additional torch, but it also extinguishes any you’ve already set down, placing them back into your on-hand stash. You can use the diamond to reset your lights as many times as you like, but it will only grant you a new light the first time you touch it. There are more diamonds out there, and discovering them will allow you to explore further in one stretch.
So this is a game about using your limited resources to strike out in search of the next diamond-shaped bonfire, retreating to a previous one if you’ve placed your lights unwisely. There are a lot of decisions to be made that emerge naturally from these rules, and there’s a lot of room for coming up with your own navigational strategies. You’ll spot multiple bonfires off in the distance, and you’ll have to figure out which ones might be reachable with the number of lights you currently have on hand. The overall effect is a strong sense of exploration, despite the simplicity of the world’s geometry.
(Note: if mouse-look doesn’t work straight away try clicking away to a different browser tab and returning to click into the game window. WASD to move, space to jump, mouse to look around, mouse click to place a light source.)
At the Courthouse by Jamie Berrout
A lightly horror-tinged hypertext about a trans woman trying to make her name change official. It’s very short, elegantly elliptical. A story of impossible frustration in the face of a system that makes nothing easy.
Mother Machine by Ben Swinden
A mysterious spaceship game controlled with your mouse. Right-click engages thrusters and left-click fires a weapon. Your tiny ship is inside of a much larger one, and this mother machine is dormant at the outset. I’ve awoken it some, but I’m still figuring most of it out.
Borderline by rylgh
A high-difficulty/low-score quick-play arcade game. Bounce against the blue pads along the edge of the screen to score a single point and add some rows to the hourglass-like timer counting down in the background. Crossing into any of the large red obstacles that emerge from the edges will make the timer run faster, and the game ends if the background color drains all the way out.
I like this simple game’s use of space, how it keeps everything you’re interested in around the edges but bounces you back toward the center with each point scored. While you have influence over the direction and magnitude of that bounce, there’s something neat about the way that for a fraction of a second after scoring you lose control.
The Whisperer in Darkness by Nathaniel Nelson, Quincy Bowen, Mark Sparling
This is a modernized adaptation of an H. P. Lovecraft story, told via a palimpsest of journal entries, audio recordings, email correspondences, and short interactive pixel art sequences. The overall effect is a compelling one, and it works especially well in relating a narrative that turns so directly on the unreliability of its evidence. Something’s out there in the woods, and its intentions might be unfathomable.
‘Til Cows Tear us Apart by Pierrec
A road trip game about a pair of cattle thieves trying to make it across the galaxy to where cows can be sold for more than their weight in gold. You’ve got 15 of them in the cargo hold and you’re down to your last three faster-than-light jump charges. I’m not sure your alien expat telepath girlfriend knew quite what she was getting into, but it’s too late to back out now. This game has a whole lot of personality. And you’re in a whole lot of trouble.
(Thanks to those who have written in with suggestions. Submit your own game or others’ to @nobodybutyours.)