2023-05-18: More More More Stuff I Played Recently
I played Redfall this week. If you're an Arkane fan like myself, save yourself the heartache and go crush all your bones with big boulders instead, it'll probably be more fun. Alternatively, you can play one of these indie games. If you're a coward.
The game is extremely short (like, 40 minutes short), but it's based around a cool unique concept where your main method of attacking involves building up momentum and jump-stab-lancing your enemies with a big sword. The levels are made up of big loops, with the difficulty coming from the claustrophobic level design and enemies which require a certain amount of speed to kill. The game has a legit retro aesthetic thanks to the developer's decision to write his own 3D engine from scratch, which, while not exactly efficient, gives it a retrojank vibe that's hard to achieve in Unity or Unreal.
The End of Dyeus is an open-ended open world action adventure game by the developer who created Worlds
, the best game with the worst name. You're dropped into the middle of a woodland clearing with nothing but your fists, your gumption, and your sense of adventure. No floating objective markers, no talking NPCs, not even a map or a compass, it's a very hands-off experience. It's also hella frustrating, especially if you neglect your ranged weapons. Enemy design is outright cruel at times, with creatures that zip and flip and run around erratically, crowds of projectile spammers who run away as you approach, shield-piercing fire and explosives, and an unrelenting pace of combat. On the flipside, exploration is satisfying and rewarding, and you'll NEED all that equipment you find to survive. The game's not going to give you anything if you don't look for it.
Interior Worlds pioneers the bold new game design technique of putting the worst level first. Stick with it, though, because it's an atmospheric photography game inspired by that liminal space business the kids are raving about these days, and in my opinion it's one of the better executed games in that aesthetic. The game has some major horror-esque vibes, but it wisely realises that the impact of liminal spaces comes from the uncanny sense of emptiness rather than spooky monsters, so there are actually no enemies or jumpscares to speak of. It might feel a bit generic if you've played a lot of these kinds of games, but it's a great chilled-out introduction if you haven't.
Skábma is, first and foremost, a cultural work depicting the life and beliefs of the Sámi people, who tend to see very little representation in media in general, let alone in video games. Their culture shapes and influences every aspect of the game - the narrative, the asthetics, the gameplay mechanics, a lot of effort has clearly gone into making the Sámi culture more than just a surface level aesthetic. The worst thing that can be said about the game is that by the time you get all of your Familiar powers the controls get a bit too dense and janky, but the punishment for death is so minor that it's rarely more than a minor annoyance. It's a charming adventure that shows just how good games can be at this uniquely video gamey way of immersing you into different worlds and ways of life, regardless of whether they're based in fiction or reality.
Vision (no colon) Soft Reset is a time travel metroidvania which gives you a limit of 20 minutes to beat the game, the twist being that every time you rest at a checkpoint you make a new node in the timeline tree, and can freely hop to any node at any time you want. You can rewind time on a smaller scale as well, helping you compensate for mistakes both in combat and platforming for as long as you've got your little bar of time-juice above 0. The game isn't very long, but it is dense and it executes its time travel mechanic fantastically. I'm not sure I can think of any other game which lets you travel back and forth across your entire session while presenting the mechanic so intuitively and cleanly.
Phrixothrix might be a goofy name, but a goofy game this is not. It's a dark, oppressive, cryptic, and very atmospheric... exploration game, I guess? I'm not really sure what genre it is. You find yourself in a complex of some sort with nothing but a remote controlled worm drone for company, and you have to navigate the drone around the dark, winding corridors and vents of the complex, solving puzzles(?) and finding items to progress. Make no mistake, though, the primary challenge of this game is navigation. Even with your torch on the vast majority of the screen will be pitch black at basically all times, making it very easy to miss openings and items and lose yourself in the winding corridors. The game will not
hold your hand, so unless you want to spend a lot of time running blindly in circles, a pen and paper is MANDATORY, which is both a source of great frustration and one of my favourite things about the game. It really makes getting to the end screen feel like a well-deserved victory, without being as ridiculously obtuse as something like La Mulana.
No points for subtlety. TraumaCore is a breakneck spectacle fighter with a modest but versatile selection of attacks with a lot of movement utility, and which you will NEED to get familiar with to get past some of the levels. Combat is designed around a uniquely powerful parry which teleports you to the parried enemy and grants you temporary invincibility to briefly wail on an enemy without being stunned by a stray projectile, and while this may sound broken powerful, the game's still plenty difficult regardless. Combat is fast and chaotic, and there is a LOT of shit on the screen during combat. Blood and particles spray all over the place, covering half the screen in a psychedelic light show. Side note, shoutout to the final boss. Fuckin love mirror matches, man.
WatanOS bills itself as a Cicada 3301-style puzzle game which is, for some reason, set entirely within a fake operating system. I'm gonna be honest, I'm mentioning this more because of its potential than its quality, because it's quite a baffling game. There is, frankly, no reason for this game to take place in a fake OS, and it seems like an awful lot of time has gone into polishing fake OS experience. You might think that it's to make the tools you need to solve the puzzles more accessible, but the vast majority of the puzzles I got could be solved with logic or a basic cipher, and there are no tools for stuff like audio spectrum analysis. The game also has twice as many puzzles as it has levels - the puzzles you get are randomised each playthrough, so you'll miss out on at least half the puzzles if you only play once. It's a bizarrely designed game (mostly in a bad way), but it could end up really quite interesting. Certainly something to keep an eye on. Oh, and it's free.
God I love a good compilation. As the name indicates, Landfall Archives is a collection of various rough demos and game ideas by the studio Landfall, responsible for such goofy physics games as Totally Accurate Battle Simulator. Most of the demos are very short and clearly incomplete, but they all demonstrate a unique (usually physics-driven) central mechanic, which makes it both a cool collection of tech demos and an insight into Landfall's mechanics-driven approach to game design and development. Some of the ideas, frankly, seem like absolute winners to me, and the fact that someone came up with a game where you control a giant armoured walking mecha house from the inside and then never took it past the concept stage breaks my heart. Oh well, maybe some day.
Loplight isn't very difficult, and it doesn't control very well, and it's not particularly long. The narrative, the aesthetic, the general vibe
is the star of the show here, but it's difficult to talk about it without giving stuff away. It's a very terse plot that does an awful lot in a very short amount of time, which gives it this strange, dreamlike quality - it somehow feels cohesive despite skipping a lot of the journey to just show the important moments. I dunno, maybe I'm rambling. I liked it.
There we are, ten more cool, mostly niche indies. Tangentially, I played Neon White and The Forgotten City recently, and while I very rarely tend to get obsessed with replaying games, Neon White is the closest I've come to that feeling in a long while. The writing deserves every bad thing said about it, but the music, the visuals, the gameplay, oh! It's absolutely divine, if you'll excuse the wordplay. Shit, by the end I was even getting Stockholmed into looking forward to the "dating sim" moments with the various Neons, even though, objectively speaking, most of them are trash. I guess that's the eleventh recommendation of this post now, even if it hardly needs any more praise. Oh, play The Forgetten City too. Bye.