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Live Free, Play Hard: Illegal Gender Magic

raw saddle-wisdom

Illegal gender magic. Raise your horse from a young larva. Skull critter time wars, in a ravishing shade of multiplayer.

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HORSE MASTER The Game of Horse Mastery by Tom McHenry

HORSE MASTER The Game of Horse Mastery is a horse management sim crossed with body horror. Do you have what it takes to raise a massive, muscular, dripping mega-horse in a dark, dystopian future? Are you a Furioso-Hellfist kind of person, or do you lean towards Carolina Coffinbreath?

HORSE MASTER The Game of Horse Mastery is 100 percent for real. This is no joke. This is ultimate mastery and it has a dexobrimadine fist down your throat, wrapped around your heart, squeezing out every drop of weakness until nothing remains but smoking shards of raw saddle-wisdom. Do you know how many horses die in the larval stage? That ain't masterful, that's shit.


I arched my eyebrow when the macro was introduced, which gives +6 of every stat. Everyone I talked to had the same reaction: suspicion. Why does the game bother giving me other options if it's going to hand me cheats?

I wondered, is it going for some kind of morale? Am I going to be chided for taking the fast, easy path instead of the careful, nurturing one?

This is videogames, after all, so I can understand nurture as the act of clicking 3 links instead of 1.

The answer, of course, is that in HORSE MASTER The Game of Horse Mastery, that moral is completely flipped. Mastery isn’t about taking it slow, mastery is about taking it to the limit.

Secondly, I like how getting evicted means the rules of resource management (pay one move in exchange for stats) start to break down. I wouldn’t call it an exhaustive analysis of the chasm between homeless and housed people, but it does play with expectations.

Click to take a shower, oops, it isn’t that easy, you spent hours in line waiting to use someone’s hose, losing all your moves, time to sleep, better luck tomorrow. One set of rules for stable housing, another for those on the street.

We expect a certain level of efficiency from a management game, in order for our decisions to have weight. Just as HORSE MASTER The Game of Horse Mastery starts with the central concept of a horse in order to destroy that concept, so does it suggest the orderly nature of resource management, only to subvert it.


Pure Again by Kevin McGowan

A witch doctor hands you an onion-stinking drink as you wait for the most important moment of your life. Pure Again has all the tension required of a story where your happiness hangs on illegal gender magic.

No simple wish fulfillment here. Pure Again understands that the more we want something, the more terrified we are of losing it. A bittersweet game for bittersweet lives.

The way Kevin uses hyperlinks is excellent, so alive and expressive: to convey last-second hesitation, to simulate panic, to talk about the body we desire (focusing on our own personal expressions of gender ("softer", "harder", etc) instead of that clinical M or F).


I like how the dream sequence forgoes traditional hyperlinks, sliding back and forth with the “<^>” UI instead. This forgoes the explicitness of named hyperlinks in order to better mimic the way we unconsciously flow between dreamscapes.


baker flowers by orange08

A relaxing little game about watering flowers.


BRICK[bricksmash]SMASH by Draknek

Breakout is about smacking a ball with a paddle so it breaks blocks. This is meta Breakout, so when you hit a block, a tiny game of Breakout starts playing inside that block, and you start controlling that as well.

It works because you can manage both at the same time, focusing on tiny 1-pixel balls as your peripheral vision handles the comet-like chaos of the larger balls.

The balls sound like marimbas and come in all the colors of the rainbow. Beating my previous time is one reason to play better, but my favorite reason is that the game will look and sound prettier--audiovisual texture tied to prowess.


I Can’t Find My Glasses by ElijahT

Glasses have this frustrating, paradoxical quality where they'd help you find themselves, if only you had them when you were looking for them. I Can't Find My Glasses is less about finding glasses, more about focusing so intensely on a task that we neglect everything around us.


NOSERUDAKE by 新人クリエーター

A spinning platform. You shoot shapes onto the platform, trying to balance them so they don’t fall off. Each round brings the challenges of a new shape.

That’s the review. The review is written in physics. It feels good to make things not fall off, especially when the challenge is to do it from a distance, like some kind of carnival game.


Wojna Taniec by Team EWE

Wojna Taniec is a multiplayer game where skull masked critters fight across time and space. Up to four people can play, and the basic goal is to kill your opponent. Each round you get a critter with a randomly chosen attack--firebreathing, lasers, energy antlers, etc.

Your previous lives carry over to the next round, part of an ever-growing army of programmed selves. You only control your most recent incarnation (unless you regain control of past warriors by killing their killer or victim).

In my last game, I was charging across the field, when BOOM my whole crew explodes in a mess of charred skulls. A past self had triggered one of those explosive orange pods, and I knew it was going to trigger that pod for the rest of the game. I would have to work around it--blow it up early before my overzealous ancestor got to it, or stick to the edge of the screen. Since you die in one hit, flanking seems better than traveling in groups.

Wojna Taniec's temporal mechanic elevates it beyond brute deathmatch, to an intricate dance between battlefield ghosts. On top of that, it has vivid art--their vibrantly colored manes, the anatomically evocative skulls, the alien plants, and the sudden death-enforcing dark hands at the edge of the screen.

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