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PVKK from the Dome Keeper devs is Papers Please but you get a huge planetary defence cannon

And an unlimited supply of tea

A cockpit with a view of a huge cannon pointing out over a valley in PVKK, a scifi simulation game
Image credit: Bippinbits

PVKK: Planetenverteidigungskanonenkommandant - yeah, let's circle back to the title - is described in the first sentence of its Steam bio as a "cozy" game. I entertain suspicions of cozy or cosy games, inasmuch as they are increasingly framed as a kind of antidepressant in the face of a darkening world, but that's OK, because the remaining 17 words in the sentence are: "Operate your planetary defense cannon to fend off an interplanetary invasion from the comfort of your [cozy] bunker."

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To offer some quick-and-dirty characterisations, PVKK is Papers Please, but you get a planetary defence cannon. It is an escape room game, but you get a planetary defence cannon. On reflection, I guess a planetary defence cannon may also serve as a kind of antidepressant in the face of a darkening world - and indeed a means of further darkening it - but well, it seems a bit more cathartic than some pastel-shaded gardening sim, right? A bit more of a release?

You can see the cannon out the reinforced window of your bunker, a brutal Schwerer Gustav-ass weapon menacing the sunset above a rocky valley. Armed with this cannon, an unlimited supply of tea ejected by some kind of dieselpunk Star Trek replicator, and a teleradio's worth of jaunty tunes, you will shoot hostile spaceships out of the sky. Mind you, there's more to PVKK than shooting. Your bunker appears to be haunted, possibly by feelings of displaced guilt at your being the stooge of an autocratic regime, whose propaganda newsletters and broadcasts you can view on the aforesaid teleradio.

Now then, that title. Planetenverteidigungskanonenkommandant, hah. This is the title of a game whose developer gives nary a bean for the affordances of digital media, a developer who cares not for limited Twitter character counts, headline lengths, the demands of SEO or the constraints of touchscreen keyboards. The prefacing abbreviation should be regarded as a gesture of sheer contempt towards people who can't fit the word Planetenverteidigungskanonenkommandant into their heads without plugging in some external RAM.

Having digested that title, it's no surprise to discover that the game's interface is an inventively overwhelming MicroProsey warren of analog fixtures. To fire your planetary defence cannon you have to operate a cockpit's worth of wheels and dials and levers and switches and grid displays and light-up buttons with annotations almost too small to read. Mech Engineer players will love it to the point of feeling incredibly aroused, I suspect. Perhaps it's worth being the stooge of an autocratic regime if you can be locked away in a dugout with the interface of your wildest dreams and the biggest phallic metaphor your planet's technology can provide. I mean, you seemingly have to oil and repair the dashboard between sessions! Absolute filth!

Those who aren't so keen on MicroProsey stuff should know that you'll spend a fair bit of time exploring the bunker, which harbours secrets about the outside world. "The regime keeps you in the dark, feeding you half-truths and political euphemisms," the Steam page explains. "Look behind these deceptions to understand the real situation and navigate the demands of the different factions in your own best interest." This is where the escape room puzzles come in, of course. You'll also have to make choices during dialogue with your superiors that feed into a spread of endings. Intrigue, there is plenty.

PVKK: Planetenverteidigungskanonenkommandant is the work of Bippinbits, who are, oh goodness, the developers of Dome Keeper??? It all makes sense now! It's like they're parodying their own work. I probably should have put that in the intro - I'll put it in the headline instead. The game doesn't have a release date yet.

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