RE:BIND

Browsing category: Indienoculars

Survival Town 2020 (Pavlov VR Mod) – by HydroCakes

I was standing in a breezy field of grass when I first caught sight of movement on the horizon. People began to pour out of the farmhouse on the ridge and began advancing towards my position. I tensed up in anticipation and threw my hands in the air as a show of good faith. My anxiety spiked, there was no way to know their intent. Were they going to make a lead-weighted snap decision to neutralize any potential risk, or take the time to identify me?

With no press credentials or way to set myself apart from any other camo clad operator in the countryside, I was entirely at the mercy of their capricious whims. There were no signs of fighting nearby, all I could do was hope to catch the squad approaching me at a good time and make my proposal. Moments later I had guns pointed at me, two inscrutable faces glaring from behind their sights. A calm but stern voice followed, “State your name! State your name! And your [business]”. A compelling request, although not as compelling as their shouldered rifles. I quickly blurted out my name and that I was here as a journalist to document the conflict by embedding within a local fighting group. After a short pause, the fighter to my left nodded and shrugged to his right, towards the farm house. “Come with us.” I let out a deep sigh of relief.

I had just successfully embedded within a militia in the middle of a small war-torn village, but it was no ordinary village, instead it was a full-immersion virtual locale rather than some geographical breakaway republic: Welcome to Survival Town 2020, population 35, give or take, located in the heartland of Pavlov VR.

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She Dreams Elsewhere by Studio Zevere (2020)

(Content Warning: Discussions of mental health and anxiety)

The sounds of rain pattering against nearby windows, the discordant echo of running water, the sensation of a disquiet sleep, not soothed by the melodious backdrop of the world around you, merely brought into an uncomfortably discordant focus.

Boasting a fantastic soundtrack, wonderfully fleshed out characters, and a compelling lead making her way in a world of beautiful environments and hauntingly sombre sounds, She Dreams Elsewhere by Studio Zevere (seriously, go give them a follow) is, without a doubt, one of the best RPGs I’ve played in recent memory, and I’ve only played the first twenty minutes of it. You play Thalia, a black woman getting through her days trying to cope with social anxiety, mental health issues, and bizarre dreams that plague her, dreams that, eventually, bleed into her reality. The apparently waking world becomes less of an escape from the nightmares, eventually turning into merely another avenue for them to intrude upon her every moment.

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FTL – by Subset Games
PULSAR: Lost Colony – by Leafy Games

The typical experience of FTL is exploding in space moments after you finally discover the key pivotal item to make that new experimental ship build snowball through the rest of the game. It’s brutal, unforgiving, and ultimately so bite-sized that it compels you to keep playing for hours on end. It’s the unrelenting tension of being hunted across the galaxy, barely making it from waypoint-to-waypoint while your engine huffs fumes, begging for even the dream of a full tank. The metal hull groans, pockmarked by laser burns and penetrated by the sharp teeth of a federation drone still poking through the fuselage, making you wonder if the life support systems will hold for one more desperate jump.

The criminally underrated Pulsar, on the other hand, is more about ensuring that new crew member you picked up at the space station isn’t actually a youtube troll in disguise, threatening to rip out your engine components while you aren’t looking to please his unseen audience of twelve year olds. If that wasn’t bad enough, imagine a prolonged session of hurtling through the galaxy at light speed in a boat that’s on fire, and your entire crew is cats using VOIP with webcam microphones, also, the cats are on fire. Welcome to the outer rim, Commander, otherwise known as the 11th circle of hell, Space Hell.

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RUST – by Facepunch Studios

RUST is a game that manages to continually evolve mechanically where others would simply settle for a new character or class. Every update continues to dream big and boldly go where few survival games have gone before, seemingly running uphill on its way to the summit of Immersive Sim mountain rather than settling for the comfortable plateau of competent PVP and crafting mechanics.

After receiving multiple updates adding vehicles like hot air balloons, boats, horses, and eventually a set of aircraft, the dev team has finally shifted into full gear with a modular car update now being roadtested on the staging branch. Where RUST was once a quirky Age Of Conan-meets-Fallout, it now seems dead set on pushing the pedal to the metal and achieving Mad Max-esque scenarios while leaving competitors like Fallout ’76 in the dust.

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In Somnio – by Jan ‘Jam’ Malitschek

There’s something really exciting about experimental titles in the indie scene that pull on lessons from film, even as it becomes increasingly difficult to classify their genre in terms of gameplay. Most would probably consider a release like In Somnio to fall under the ‘walking simulator’ or exploratory adventure category, but simplistic vernacular that reduces an experience to such crude classification fails the artistic significance of the work.

In few other mediums do we define their genre by their basic building blocks the way we do with games, it would be absurd to refer to the notion of ‘moviefeel’ or to ground our expectations of a radio show’s content by the particular microphone they used. There are exceptions to this, the found footage genre brings to mind handheld cameras or go-pros as a storytelling method, but this is comparable to how we would think about a painting: is it a watercolor, oil based? Both of these examples serve as framing for the audience, but we judge the artwork itself by its thematic substance and stylistic intent. In Somnio is an example of a game that continues to push the edges of the medium, blurring the line between interactive media and film-making, leaving us in critical territory where we find ourselves unprepared despite years of traditional games analysis.

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Wide Ocean Big Jacket – by Turnfollow & published by Tender Claws

I like demos, especially when they’re self-contained narrative slices that compliment the core game. Wide Ocean Big Jacket takes more of an excerpt approach with theirs, an appropriate choice given the narrative oriented gameplay. It’s not quite a visual novel, nor is it an adventure game, or even a walking simulator, in fact it feels more like chatting with an old friend on a nice stroll through the woods, and it has some of the more believable writing I’ve come across in an indie game lately.

So let’s step out and enjoy the nice weather with Meryl & Alan, shall we?

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Starstruck: Prologue – by Createdelic

I’m not sure what I just played, but it’s brilliant.

We try to avoid doing comparative analysis, yet it seems impossible to pull Starstruck apart from it’s obvious influences: Part Earthbound, part Little Big Planet, part Scott Pilgrim, with an added dash of…….. Gitaroo man?? Katamari?? Truly a sublime cocktail of inspiration. It’s rare to see a game bold enough to dive head first into the experimental spirit that defined both the Dreamcast and the late PS2 era, let alone one that does so with such finesse.

Come down to earth with us as we explore the wonderful world of… Neighborhood.exe

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Through The Fragmentation (Demo)Máté Pribelszky

A mysterious note, a stranger in a car park, and an insidious disk with dark secrets. Oh yeah, right, and everyone is some kind of bird.

Fragmentation exists at the fascinating intersection of adventure games and immersive sims. So get those gears turning and ready up for some intuitive sleuthing, you’re going to need to keep your head straight if you want a clean way out of this tangled web of conspiratorial intrigue.

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Eden – By The Missing Mountain Team

Somewhere hidden within the depths of every writer’s imagination is a place, far beyond the perception of human eyes and the grasp of their meager arms. It is a place someone cannot touch, cannot hear nor taste, yet a creative man can see it, feel it, somehow impossibly know it.

Once you have been to this place, to show anyone else is to perform an oblique ritual, to tread a dark and winding foggy path that goes far beyond the confines of your comfort, to transform yourself into a doorway through which unknown things can reach our world. You must ask yourself if this queer drive, this strange muse, this siren song, serves you or only itself, a question with an answer granted only to those willing to complete the journey. [Some spoilers follow]

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Video games and the automotive industry have a long history as digital dancing partners, or perhaps friendly hotrod racers forever running in parallel with one another. This friendship is, in fact, older than many of us who grew up with video games themselves, from the most obvious iteration of racing games through the years, to the downright unlikely bizarre crossovers such as the LucasArts / Chrysler (yes, you read that correctly) demo disc in 1996.

But how often do we hear about this history or take the time to preserve it in our communities? And what exactly does video game preservation look like? Is it a simple matter of dusty hardware in a museum, or can it be something more, like a living digital exhibit? Leo Burke set out on a mission earlier this year to embark on his own interpretation in the recently released Auto Museum 64.

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