When it comes to long-standing franchises, especially in the realm of blockbusters, it’s never much of a surprise when some fresh excitement is injected by a different franchise. The crossover is a process/marketing trick older than the medium of video games, time-honored and tried in every variety: in the history of cinema, you can’t take two steps without tripping over an Aliens v. Predators or even something more esoteric like Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo. Godzilla has endless fights with characters from other kaiju material. Even the modern zeitgeist of the Cinematic Universe is a dedicated extension of the crossover, fostering the Ultimate Crossover Experience by building up a series of one-offs to culminate in a climatic finale.
Browsing posts from: Catherine Brinegar
EA girl sits alone in a room, her door locked. She glances toward her bed, but isn’t tired enough to sleep. Instead, her focus turns to the TV and her game console. As she boots it up, time dissolves and gives way to a series of vignettes exploring the continually deteriorating state of the village she lives in. Death begins to form an iron grip around the village’s throat, piling bodies higher and higher as the townspeople work tirelessly through the night to fill the graveyard with the corpses. An entity haunts the woods, creeping, stalking. Dust falls eternal and chokes the air. Unknowable horror lurks beneath the dark eaves of a thatched cottage.
From the developers at Analgesic Productions, Sean Han Tani and Marina Ayano Kittaka, comes a sequel to 2013’s Anodyne, titled Anodyne 2: Return to Dust. I had a chance to pour over a preview beta build of the game, and I’m head over heels.
Presented in a lo-fi, late 90’s aesthetic, you play as Nova, a Nano Cleaner tasked with the seemingly overwhelming goal of tackling a malaise plaguing the world of New Theland. Nano Dust has spread far and wide over this place, infecting anyone unfortunate enough to become host to this particulate assassin. Once inside, it spreads rapidly and exacerbates all the worst things one can imagine: rage, sickness, gluttony, pain, and so on. By shrinking to microscopic size, Nova is able to enter the minds and bodies of those afflicted and take on the infestation with her trusty vacuum.
Made for Isolation Jam 2019 in Iceland, Svartkolla from Joon Van Hove & Marín Björt Valtýsdóttir is a very small, modest game about returning your lost sheep to their pasture. By interacting with specific items wherever you find yourself — in your house, your shed, your boat — you manufacture a way to get the poor sheep, Svartkolla, back where they belong. It’s very straightforward in its design, not necessarily a head-scratcher in terms of figuring out puzzle solutions, but more so an exercise in form.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.