RE:BIND

Browsing category: Indienoculars

Not for the faint of heart.

(CONTENT WARNING: Graphic depictions of suicide, discussion of suicide, strong themes of self-loathing and depression.)

Down was a hard game to play despite its easy, enticing presentation. There’s no jump scares, no monsters to fight or even any puzzles to contend with. But there is a visceral reflection on one’s baggage and traumatic history, something that Warden admits is inspired by her own struggles with anxiety.

There are themes and locales that will likely read similar to environments in Silent Hill 2, namely the narrow graveyard with foggy autumn weather. Warden successfully executes on the oppressively isolating macabre atmosphere which serves as a backdrop for the narrative’s exploration of self-harm.

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(CW: Implied Cannibalism, Themes of Animal Cruelty)

It is astoundingly rare that I find a gameplay loop this compelling in any title, commercial or otherwise, yet Dan Mullins has managed to deliver something so mouth-wateringly enticing that it’s impossible to resist.

Known for Pony Island, Mullins is an experimental game designer that produces juicy Ludum Dare entries that push the boundaries of presentation and remind us what Game Jams should strive to accomplish.

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For some of us, Chaos will always be our element.

A Knight’s Fee by Anders G. Jensen is one of the more compelling entries I’ve seen emerge from the Global Game Jam. What’s fascinating is that a talented character artist has chosen to make not one, but two games where they intentionally obfuscate the vision of the character as both a mechanic and a service to the atmosphere.

Compared to Blind Samurai, A Knight’s Fee is arguably the more playable of these two titles. Blind Samurai helps to establish the initial concept of having to rely on audio cues in the face of reduced stimuli which cause the game to feel quite spartan. This approach, however, pays off in how A Knight’s Fee manages to immediately establish a thick visual ambiance with adrenaline bleeding into the scenery in every direction.

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An average London night, wandering around after a bender at the pub only to be confronted by an angry football hooligan.

Simulations and immersion are like peanut butter and chocolate, or hazelnuts and ganache if you prefer. They’re lovely things when separate and go shockingly well together in a classic genre born out of experimental titles in the 90s.

Dillon Rogers is no stranger to the genre and decided, after working with New Blood on DUSK, to embark on his own homage to the Looking Glass greats.

We sat down for a chat about his London-fog flavored stealth shooter Gloomwood:

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A rough night, one of many.

Bird Of Passage arrives from the same metaphysical pedigree as Glitchhikers or Kentucky Route Zero both in aesthetics and execution. All three games follow a minimalist approach with dialogue driven by the momentum of inference, built around the whimsical framework of Magical Realism. Sidewalks covered by slick sheen, a lonely street light, blurry out of focus reflections that accentuate pastel taxis coming together to illustrate a long journey into an endless night wandering the Tokyo suburbs. Space Backyard has given a superb performance in capturing the plight of a listless wanderer.

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Part interactive fiction, part audio drama, part exploratory game. In the Pause between the Ringing is a fascinating journey into the ontological impact of colonial occupation and resource exploitation through the lens of magical realism. Not only exploring what it means to be seized by hostile corporate overlords, but the ensuing effect upon a language, a culture, and the places that form in its wake.

Commissioned by the Victoria And Albert Museum’s Design/Play/Disrupt program, Pause is a bleak reminder of the not-too-distant past, when the English and Dutch crowns extended their tendrils across every continent and encircled the world. At the core of these imperialistic ambitions was economic innovation and exploitation of natural resources without any regard for the local populace.

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A little taste of Texas in Detroit

FILTHBREED By Borja Zoroza

The grim facade of a warehouse built from rotting wood acts acting as a shroud for a horrifying secret; walls bleeding from years of cigarette smoke, and the bump in the night you wish wasn’t real. FILTHBREED immediately pulled my focus into this dark world, reminding me of my years spent playing the Condemned franchise.

The most enjoyable facet of the game is how it never gets in the way of the horror. Its straightforward delivery of gameplay has you into the meat of it within minutes, allowing you to stay focused on your sleuthing, sifting rotten paper notes reminiscent of flesh for clues to what nightmares unfolded here. You’re forced to put your weapon down to interact with objects, a clever, simple mechanism that helps foster a sense of vulnerability and unease.

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Drip-drip

Rainstorm EP is a cozy little collaborative piece by Jake Grizzly Pierce and Jakey Mumfie. Its soft pixel rain soothes the spirit with tunes you find buried inside various objects. It’s a game that asks you take a small moment out of your day, put work down, and interact with something that doesn’t overly demand your attention.

It’s a gentle massage for the eyes and ears that relieves some stress and helps to center the player. Tiny pieces of world-building comments help build its atmosphere both during and after discovering tape collection hotspots. Muddled visuals give way to short, varied audio vignettes crafted with love, leaving a feeling that this is less a game, and more of an artistic jam session.

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When I was younger there was a strange atmosphere to exploring the internet, the heady sensation of an explorer standing on the edge of the world. You could find the most fascinating places to delve into and map out through obscure web forums, conversations with friends who would drop mysterious locations that they had discovered themselves in your lap, or even a spiraling web of Wikipedia notations.

It was on one of these early web-dives that I, entirely by chance, came across Knytt Stories, a seemingly little known game series by Swedish developer Nicklas Nygren (@Nifflas on twitter). The series had multiple fantastic main entries with countless pages of fan-made content that I spent the next month playing through, one after another.

Knytt Stories, or geocities? You decide.

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With some larger pieces in the schedule for next week, we wanted to take some time and showcase a few smaller indies we haven’t had a chance to look at previously.

TAKANARIA – By Crownbird
We give it a COZY out of ten.

TAKANARIA is genuinely worth finding a break in your day for. It’s a little free project released on Steam by solo Japanese Indie developer Crownbird. It focuses on its simple premise of a botanist visiting a deserted island for research. Despite having no larger deeper plot TAKANARIA exudes such an earnest sincerity with a wonderful characterization of both its inhabitants and the environment. A rich soundtrack and seaside soundscape facilitates a relaxing stride across the island with a day/night cycle and echoes of festivals past.

There is a familiarity evocative of early 2000s JRPGs present here that helps fuel the sense of nostalgia and rediscovering old memories. I found myself smiling at all the care and effort put into the delicate details for such a small game.

Part Urban-Exploration, part romantic field trip on a forgotten Mediterranean-style island, TAKANARIA is a lovely experience that will brighten up anyone’s day. If you’re hungry for more details, Crownbird has an interview over at GameSpark.

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