Connor Sherlock’s Walking Simulator A Month Club collection visits a lot of strange places for $5

Connor Sherlock makes some of my favourite walking simulators these days. With bold colours, vast scale, and his cracking retro synth soundtracks, they explore strange places it often feels we really shouldn’t be in. I’ve wandered through mysterious structures on the surface of a comet, through caves and catacombs, and down the valleys beyond a walled kingdom, I’ve rocketed around megastructures and even had a potter through a graveyard. All these places and more are yours to explore in a new collection containing most of the first-person strollers he’s made over the past two years, and it’s currently on sale for only $5. After several hours of wandering this afternoon, and with plans to return, I heartily endorse this.

His walk ’em ups tend to share several characteristics. They’re largely set in alien places, on distant planets or in space (or if they are set somewhere human, it’s largely unrecognisable). They explore big spaces built from rolling landscapes contrasted with stark structures. These structures are huge. Really very big. They’ll show a little of themselves in the distance, poking over a hill or silhouetted, but it can take minutes to reach one. This sort of vast scale is alien to most first-person games and, combined with the simplicity of any structures, even trying to figure out the scale can be disorientating. I dig that.

Many of these strike similar moods of loneliness, lost majesty, and more than a little malevolence. The colours are often intense and blown out in a way that makes me think of old sci-fi and horror B movies, only on a scale they could never managed. This is all amplified by his ace music, warbling moody synths (and occasional piano). The sound is key, tying everything together and elevating it in a way few walking simulators can.

I don’t mean to suggest these are all the same: they’re not. But these aspects echo across his work, and they’re great.

Expecting a certain tone from Sherlock, I was wildly surprised by the one which visits a graveyard in the heart of a city draped in a pink sunset. It’s quite quiet, aside from the musical notes and warblings rising from monuments (a little like Proteus or The Bends). It’s surprising from him and really quite lovely. And another’s run through a flowering forest cloaked by lavender smoke even feels joyful.

Across this collection, he also plays with several different types of movement as appropriate, including slow plodding, low-gravity bouncing, exuberant sprinting, and even the odd jetpack. Playing the collection as a whole, these differences feel quite striking and fitting.

All of these were made for Connor Sherlock’s Patreon, which he runs as a ‘Walking Simulator A Month Club’ delivering new walk ’em ups regularly to subscribers. He bundled the first load up for this collection in December but I missed it then so I’m telling you now, okay.

You can buy the Walking Simulator A Month Club Vol. 1 from Itch, where it’s $5 right now on sale. Or $7 gets you these plus Birthplace of Ossian and his and Cameron Kunzelman’s walk-o-story Marginalia.

p.s. do read the readme files for a little fun backstory.

9 Comments

  1. Sarfrin says:

    The soundtrack to the trailer was enough to convince me. Looking forward to exploring these.

  2. and its man says:

    I’m on it. Thanks!

  3. caff says:

    Not keen on Patreon – first a data breach, then changing the way patreons pay. But I’m happy to buy off itch.io who are lovely (so far). Maybe I’m overly risk averse and need to chill out a bit.

  4. caff says:

    What the heck – this is interesting. I’ve just played (tried/meandered/tripped the hell out) through the first one in the one-a-month series and it’s fascinating.

    My experience went thus:
    1) I’m a dwarf, meeting my nemisis in a strange cavern
    2) I’m lost, better backtrack
    3) Ok this cavern is big
    4) Ooh a bit tower in the distance, walk towards that
    5) Ok I can’t get in the tower
    6) This music is a bit mad, it’s like me when I’m sat at the piano, drunk, feeling melancholic
    7) Ok this cavern is REALLY big
    8) Ok this music is repeating and I’m lost
    9) I appear to have fallen into some lava. It seems all hope is lost but I’m not dead.

    In short: very fascinating, and I need to try more of them.

    • caff says:

      WS02 and my experience is different:
      1) Ok the music is slow, lots of synths, sounding like Boards of Canada
      2) Swans!
      3) Er, badger rats? Weird brown things
      4) I’ve jumped over a wall and glitched through the floor… oops

  5. poliovaccine says:

    Welp, you sold me anyway. Wasn’t aware of this guy or his work before this, but now I’m thinking I can add this bundle to my mental file under “what to show people when you’re trying to convince them that games can be art.” So far it’s pretty much this, Everything, Firewatch, Stories Untold, and Alien Isolation if I’m just feeling mean haha.

    See, this is why I read RPS and not IGN. Thanks for sharing the good stuff!

  6. Ooops says:

    I bought this on itch.io following this article but, to me at least, it was a waste of money ($5, no biggie), space (3Gb!) and more importantly time. I do love walking simulators and “art games”. Just not those ones.

    I tried more than half of the lot and didn’t like a single one. The walking/running pace in many of them is glacial. The environments look like random asset paintings, with a random shader pasted on top. The music is… well, not bad (not good either) but feels completely out of place. I can’t think of a single positive thing to say other than one of the shaders is a C64-color palette and is kind of pretty.

    Take a good look at how slow the second half of the trailer is and that’ll give you an accurate idea of the pace of this thing.

    Actually, I bought the $7 bundle that includes two other games as well, so I still have not lost hope that I’ll find something to like in the two stand-alone titles.

  7. Sarfrin says:

    To give an alternative perspective, I’ve tried the first one and had the most womderful sensation of walking through an emotionally ambiguous dream with a soundtrack that’s cleverly constructed to fit any part of a huge experience.
    I felt the pace was a compromise between video game pace, where you never have to wait more than a few seconds to encounter something new, and real life pace where 5 minutes walking will leave you not far from where you started.

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