RE:BIND

Browsing posts from: Catherine Brinegar

In the early 1960s, a movement began to stir beneath the streets of France, led by Guy Debord. A resistance against the growing tendrils of capitalism permeating an ever more concealed reality, the ideals of the Situationist International were far-reaching, covering significant ground over its 15 years of existence. One facet the SI confronted was the perception of time. We are forced to live in circular time, or the time of the proletariat: you wake, you work, you get paid, you pay your rent, repeat until death. In contrast, the bourgeois live in linear time, shackled to no cycle, free to move forward through this world unburdened by society, free do to as one wishes.

For Debord, there also existed play: moments outside of both linear and circular time. One praxis for manifesting this was what he termed dérive, French for “drift,” where one detaches from the material world and its bindings, searching out the psycho-geographical pushes and pulls of an environment, to “let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there”. We see this exemplified in Even in Arcadia, a game that serves as an immersive play, in which the player finds themselves somewhat aimlessly meandering from room to room, scenes flittering between each in real time, the player’s movements drawn by nothing more than curiosity.

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In a world offering plenty of showy marketing and instant gratification, it takes a certain sort of individual to take on the weight of a project that reveals itself drip-by-drip. To make a game that so thoroughly obscures itself that it’s hard to see that it’s a game is a feat that, on the face of it, may easily stymy its initiator. However, New Zealand-based developer Marc Loths (@OldLoths) has gone above and beyond in creating something equal parts mystifying and enrapturing: This, Too, Shall Pass (@afleetingworld).

Presented in the form of a Twitter bot sharing snippets of a world much like our own, TTSP is a fascinating project to watch unfold. With each screenshot of its landscapes, new mysteries dot the vistas, prompting viewers to wonder, “what in the hell is happening here?”. It’s been a pleasure to watch it take shape over the last few months, and I was lucky enough to sit down with Marc to discuss the project, its development, and where it’s going from here.

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In their early years, before resolving to churn out Gundam and Macross games until the sun burns out, Japanese developers Artdink fiddled with quite a lot of bizarre simulation games. Setting the Japanese train enthusiast world ablaze with incredibly complex railroad simulator A-Train in 1985, it eventually grabbed the attention of Maxis who published the third title on western shores. Alongside that, they experimented with other games such as No One Can Stop Mr. Domino, and Tail of the Sun: one a puzzle game built around toppling anthropomorphic dominos, the other tasking the player with building a tower of mammoth tusks to reach the sun.

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Originally released back in 2006, Toribash (@toribash) from Singaporean developers Nabi Studios is a free-to-play fighting game in which you and your opponent simultaneously take turns adjusting various joints on your characters’ bodies to perform moves. You’re able to contract, extend, relax, and hold each joint as you mix-and-match contortions in an attempt to throw a punch or kick. For the uninitiated, the game is insanely hard. For the skilled, it allows for some extremely slick and cool looking fights to unfold.

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Set among myriad others, DELVER from Cuddigan (@cuddigan) and Joshua Skelton (@JoshuaSkelly) is a roguelike in the purest sense: dungeon crawler, randomized item drops, potions with unknown effects. You venture into a labyrinthine series of halls, descending ever deeper towards to the core. Each death sends you back to a base camp on the surface, populated with a few friendly faces who can offer some equipment for your next attempt. It’s tough as nails, it beckons you to try again and again, with every death trickling funds into your coffers, letting you to buy up some gear for you next run.

Obviously a labor of love, DELVER is an excellent action RPG in the best ways, constantly pushing you forward and swatting you down for your missteps, but in a way that simply wants you to be the best you can be. Outside of the combat, the game also offers a high level of fidelity when it comes to interacting with its world: bowls, candlesticks, bones, and so on can all be grabbed and used as projectiles. There’s even a bit of lore outside of the dungeon, notes scattered across the halls that flesh out the grander world and story.

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What is the act of play? When presented with a game, is play the participation of the so-called “player” within structures created for them, acting within the choreographed dance laid out before them? Is play the moments in between, where improvisation takes hold, and the unexpected occurs? Is play the times in which you stop clinging to control, to perceived notions of input and action, to simply be within whatever world it is you’ve chosen to delve?

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Among the retro-throwbacks of the current indie renaissance, first-person shooters harkening to the golden era of id and Build engine titles are up there as one of the most commonly occurring iterations on a genre. They tend to be an easy format to recreate: hand the player an armory of guns then turn them loose on a labyrinth of gnarled hallways and rooms stuffed to the brim with enemies lying in wait. Varied enemy types are mix-and-matched in myriad hordes thrown at the protagonist, the interplay between their varying tactics forcing you to stay on your toes as you adapt to rapidly changing circumstances.

You have fun twists on the genre with games like STRAFE and Tower of Guns throwing rogue-lite procgen into the mix, or simply hardcore returns to form with something akin to DUSK. There’s bullet-hell injected MOTHERGUNSHIP, as well as arcade styled Devil Daggers. Of course, along with the overwhelming amount of solid titles fleshing out the FPS space, one can explore more experimental takes on ripping and tearing with things such as DRL, which reimagines DOOM as a pure rogue-like experience. Further down that path, there’s modding tool ZKVN which turns the engine into a host for visual novels.

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Long ago, in the era of Netscape and Internet Explorer, I would spend hours surfing the net trying to find any sort of MMO that, A) could run on my brick of a computer, and B) was free. World of Warcraft and Everquest were the biggest thing around, the novelty of online communities uniting so many around common goals. I would pore over articles on Asheron’s Call, Star Wars: Galaxies, Final Fantasy XI, Ragnarok Online… For every game out there, it had another ten beside it, veritable hydras housing universes inside of them.

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In a far-flung future, cyber-laden Vapor Trails from developer sevencrane (@sevencrane) presents a sidescrolling action game oozing with style. Weaving a plot of intrigue and mystery, the player fills the shoes of Val, part of a robotic line known as Valkyries, thrown out to waste away in The Deeps for being too adaptable. Your abilities take you far, though, as you find yourself working your way back to the surface for revenge.

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Among legendary shows that have become fixtures of pop culture, Hideaki Anno’s Neon Genesis Evangelion is a beast in a league of its own. Airing nearly 25 years ago in 1995, it maintains status as a foundational mainstay for anime fans and something of a go-to for those who wish to explore the “mature” side of the medium. Exploring themes ranging from what free will truly is, to transhumanism and the mental ramifications of religion, Eva plunges deep into its characters’ psychologies and the plight of the human condition.

Of course, this is all well-documented and understood at this point. End of Evangelion has long since come and gone, leaving us stranded in an LCL-drenched liminal space, waiting on Anno to finish the Rebuild series, a reimagining of the show as he (supposedly) originally wanted it to be, unconstrained by technical limitations or budget restrictions. Regardless of opinions on the three entries thus far, it’s hard to deny the fact that they have fueled the hype train of Eva‘s insanely devoted fanbase like nothing else. Not unlike the original show, Rebuild has spurred all sorts of spin-off material, including but not limited to: pachinko machines, an expansive section at a Japanese theme park (complete with giant Eva-01 statue and Lance of Longinus), crossovers with Godzilla and Transformers, and, of course, video games.

So many video games.

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