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Piles Of Smiles: HUGPUNX

HUGPUNX is a sly, heart-fluttering wink in videogame form. It's not long at all, but who cares? There's enough 60-hour epics in the world to last us 60 million years. This one comes from Merritt Kopas (she of the powerfully minimal Lim and countless other bits of brilliance), and it's quite overtly inspired by PUNKSNOTDEAD. Difference is, where developer mooosh wrapped himself in entrails and screamed raw fury, HUGPUNX dispenses, well, hugs. The more people (and kitties!) you wrap in your prancing gumball embrace, the more gorgeous the landscape grows. Consider this a free, no-strings-attached smile. Just play it. Be happy for a bit.

HUGPUNX was also inspired by an essay called "Towards A Cutie Aesthetic" that examines the way we define reality and realism in games - and, of course, the many types of people the resulting focus on young testosterone-ridden guys excludes. It's a good read, though certainly not required if you want to enjoy the game.

Oh, in case you were having trouble, it's Z to hug. There now, isn't that joyous? It's basically the opposite of our normal videogame vocabulary ("shoot," "punch," "beard," etc), and that's... well, it's just nice. I'm all for blasting dudes in some smoggy dystopia, but fresh air is good too.

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