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Mental Salvo is an "infinite open world" art game full of procedurally generated surprises

"Not even I can predict what's in it," says dev

A small humanoid character running through a process of giant robot figures, all presented in black and white
Image credit: imaginini

Mental Salvo describes itself as having an "infinite open world" in which you can do so many things, "they're impossible to list". Were this a game from a triple-A publisher, I'd be heading down to their compound with some powerful magnets and cannisters of highly concentrated acid to wipe out their ungodly creation before it replaces the fundamental particles of our universe with waypoints. But Mental Salvo is actually the work of new indie imaginini (yes, no capital-I), and is a "top down art adventure with light RPG elements" that is perhaps a bit ZANY but also, refreshingly playful in essentially being about poking a big white screen to see what tumbles out of it.

Here are some things that might tumble out of it: opinionated cats. A gun that shoots words. Unspecified things that depend upon the time of day. Concentric rings of doors. A trolley seemingly adapted from the widespread internet sketch of the trolley problem. A large... deer... thing? Some events or entities can't be seen, but will still respond to your presence. Your objective, amid all this, is to travel far enough away from spawn to find "something special". If the cats and trolleys grow overwhelming, you can always make your character's head explode to reset the simulation.

Mental Salvo is the first in a series of "Figmental" games from developer Pawel Pachniewski, whose other works include the Bennet Foddy-esque platformer 99 Fails, which I wrote about for little-known RPS offshoot PCGamer back in the day. It should be noted that Pachniewski has a research interest in modern generative AI software, but his interest appears to be more "we can do absurdist philosophical experiments with these tools" than "we can use these tools to optimise/reposition 10 percent of our art department into the gutter". Here's a cut from a twittering digging into Mental Salvo's origins:

It's part hand-crafted and part procedural, but the procedural part is using very advanced AI (let's just say, that there is a meta-agent that inventso [sic] some of the procedures on the fly, but there's much more to it) which means not even I can predict what's in it. Semantically though and with respect to what I put in, it's a visceral, emotional, but also cerebral experience.. where you can endlessly explore topics and indulge in experiences...from my consciousness stream, work, from the world, and more. It's also part parody, part commentary,... on existence, meaning, the world, gaming, AI, consciousness.. and beyond. I'm really excited about it as I have prototyped and worked on several iterations and candidates of various games from this series since 2013(!), including a trip generator of sorts (probably next), but due to various life circumstances and other projects, I abandoned them. Not this time.

Mental Salvo is out in August - Steam page here - though I guess you could argue that being infinite, it has always existed. Questions of tense mean nothing to Mental Salvo. What we call 'spacetime' is but an outspoken feline scurrying across the grinning face of its quantum immensity. Anyway, if you dig the purgatorial whitespace aesthetics here but need a bit more structure, I heartily recommend Sixty Four.

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