RE:BIND

Browsing category: Indienoculars

I could really go for an iced latte right now

In the face of a canceled connection after a long flight, a frequent flyer has a hard time mustering the energy to be upset. It’s a predictable defeat in a long series of missed appointments, lengthy bus transfers, traffic jams, cab drivers taking their sweet time, and overwrought business meetings. Each year, you spend more and more for less and less in return; at least, that’s the message explored in Brownie Cove, an experimental piece from artistic trio Sand Gardeners (@BrownieCove, @OldLoths and @Zephyrraine).

Pedantic flight attendants and grumpy travelers swirl in an ever-shifting tempest of idleness, waiting for the faint glimmer of hope that they won’t have to book hotels in a town they never intended on visiting. Between small talk and trivial factoids in response to questions you never asked, there sits a look of resignation on the face of every single one of your fellow passengers, the surly acceptance of inconvenience in bulk quantity.

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Content warning: themes of self-harm, suicidal ideation, artistic depictions of self-harm.

Divination by Mojiken Studios is a refreshing take on the visual novel, crossed with an unconventional courtroom procedural. Taking place in a futuristic society where robots and humans live side by side, due process is dependent on the centralized arbitration of a networked AI named “MOTHER”. MOTHER, overwhelmed by the singularity of omniscience, then finally succumbs to madness, sending out a final nihilistic message before ceasing to exist. When the shock subsides, regulatory authorities step in, mandating the installation of anti-suicide protocols in all synthetic lifeforms.

Divination establishes robots as meaningful compatriots to their human counterparts, seemingly capable of emotion, though without the introspective intuition by which humans navigate those emotions. The turmoil in the wake of MOTHER’s untimely demise calls into question not only the notion of AIs’ sound judgement, but many of the city’s denizens’ very own sense of self and purpose. It is a story of waking up one day to sudden, traumatic self-awareness, immediately being forced to rationalize the paradox of free will in a system where many have lived assured lives in fixed roles. Does the termination of MOTHER’s oversight merit abject despondency, or is it an unprecedented opportunity for individuals to reassert themselves in a functionally homogenized society?

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I’m here to see the sights, not to steal!

We’ve all happily been spoiled by the kind of gigantic AAA releases that make parkour style platforming a dream, but Minimal Raider by
Tim Hengeveld (who seems to be more known for experimental point-n-click narratives) makes for a pleasant light afternoon snack of getting back to basics.

Aside from a few of my own shortcomings in grasping the controls (I managed to miss the tooltip for dropping from ledges, instead opting to test my character’s tolerances for falling) Minimal Raider is a simple and enjoyable experience with lovely pacing. I am rarely too comfortable with the idea of 3D platforming, especially since depth perception can be an issue when navigating iffy corners or the tight timing of a deadly trap, but Minimal Raider manages to keep the stakes at a reasonable setback of merely being teleported to the last checkpoint.

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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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Hello to you too, friend!

The crisp refreshing taste of a fresh pear hitting your tastebuds, while the winter wind bites your face. Good Morning, Drifters by @lowpolis is an exercise in appreciating the little things and the picturesque memories we make with friends.

With no dialogue choices, linear paths, nor open worlds to explore for mysteries or tragedies, it would be a disservice classify Drifters so crudely as a “walking simulator” when it politely asks you to engage, instead, as a passive observer. It is so often that we find ourselves as passive actors in our own social lives, crippled by the same anxiety that has befallen poor nervous Dandelion. Drifters is a game that emphasizes the connections that you make with people, where activities are framed simply as a delightful backdrop.

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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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Unambiguously, I am grateful for this. It wasn’t always this easy, though…

In 2019, to pan for gold in an endless river of free Web-playable Unity releases, one can simply query itch.io. A decade ago, however, there was no such bounty. In fact, in 2008, Unity was only about three years old, and its expansion beyond Mac exclusivity was still fresh in the memories of those who were paying attention at that point. One had to actively seek out releases akin to those that make up today’s cornucopia. Discovery was far less centralised, much as it was for self-released music before Bandcamp made a name for itself (The story of how game soundtracks gave Bandcamp a significant popularity boost is for another time). Back then, it certainly felt as though a larger proportion of discoveries in “neat little games” came by chance, word of mouth, email, or one of many diverse aggregators.

Of course, to be clear, the engine doesn’t strictly matter. Naming Unity is rather: first, to evoke the meta-genre of “neat little games”, by way of the rapid prototyping such platforms permit; second, the setup to a coincidence of microcosmic scale. Unity Web games these days compile to something that can run natively in the browser; back then, it was the now-deprecated Unity Web Player, akin to Flash Player. Enter the “neat little Web-playable Unity game that turns out to be something truly magical”, hailing from a decade before you had a constant stream of that. Enter a path to popularity characteristically idiosyncratic of the era, a game that held top place for a month in, get this, Apple’s Dashboard widgets directory. Enter… Mars Explorer.

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The original Moon Patrol was a 1982 arcade game from Irem, likely best known for introducing parallax scrolling [1]. The player operates a buggy, which drives through a sidescrolling landscape while jumping or shooting from its dual cannons, simultaneously firing above and in front of itself. Between jumping and shooting, the player is equipped to take care of myriad lunar dangers, such as UFOs, boulders, or pits. It’s quite fun (and readily playable to this day anywhere from the Switch to MAME), although, being an arcade game, it’s obviously designed to be hard in a way that extracts maximum coinage from patrons.

Rather unremarkable as a still, though you can see parallax scrolling in action here.

As with many arcade titles of the time, it found its way onto just about every 8-bit home computer, including the Apple II, the Commodore 64, the TI-99/4A, the TRS-80, and even the IBM PC. However, again, just like its arcade contemporaries, every single port was awful. 37 years later, however, thanks to video gaming’s rich culture of nostalgia, it now has a good home computer release! Enter Yok‘s Moon Patrol.

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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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