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Freeware Garden: Dust City

The City & the City

I can't quite explain why playing through Kitty Horrorshow's Dust City felt so great, but I suppose it must be due to a combination of the joys of exploring strange worlds, the realization that some truly clever things have been included in this game and the brilliant atmosphere that evokes an ungodly mix of Pathologic, Geoff Crammond's Sentinel and Phenomenon 32.

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Being the first 3D game by interactive wordsmith Kitty Horrorshow, Dust City is typically unique and something I initially didn't quite expect. Oddness, melancholy and a touch of humour were more or less a given, and it quickly became apparent that that this was mainly an exploration game with a few puzzles and first-person action sequences. But what was it all about?

Alien real estate lingo is alien. My first thought was that Dust City was a game about doors - doors in all their magical glory. There are more than a few in it and the (excellent) pdf manual that comes with the game does let you know that due "to the hazardous and unpredictable nature of 'Doors', the Agency will be incapable of monitoring your progress should you enter a building or structure. In such an event, utmost caution is to be used".

But, hold on a second there. An Agency, what agency? Could the game actually be about the Agency? Well, reading said manual will indeed reveal that some sort of Agency is involved. It is the Agency that has randomly chosen you to investigate Dust City, a city that simply appeared within a large crater less than 12 hours ago and must be searched for anomalies, artifacts and clues as to its nature, with the help of a standard issue Esotech Arcanodex 5 thingy, and some level 3 magical protection. All that is required of you is to bring along pencil and paper.

Decrepit cities appearing out of nowhere, you see, are usually filled with the kinds of secrets a mortal mind simply cannot remember. Also codes you'll be using in entirely unexpected ways and clickable entities waiting to disclose bits of disturbing plot and convince you that Dust City really is all about Dust City itself, and its sad, oppressive and sometimes hopeful human stories. A hub with gateways to other, unknown places of varying moods and a constant sense of dread. A gateway to wonderfully composed alien worlds that you'll love exploring and figuring out, while hopefully taking something back with you.

In a nutshell: wow!

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