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.
Browsing category: Indienoculars
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
At first glance, Spirits of Xanadu isn’t quite the same as Good Morning, Commander‘s previous entry, King Of The Wood which built a functional allegory for the premise of Bladerunner. It was an insightful, simplified meditation on taking a synthetic life as an impactful moment for the player, as well as a stylistic bedrock for Spirits Of Xanadu to build upon.
As a spiritual successor, Xanadu may come across as a clumsy shooter, but this is an intentional, stylistic choice. The clunky combat incites a sense of dread, serving both to set it apart from the genre of walking simulator and to maintain a healthy level of tension.
Zamboni Simulator was a particularly memorable entry in the Philosophy Game Jam that took place earlier this month. It’s a fascinating portrayal of a man’s psyche threatening to swerve off course as he slowly pieces his life back together, and a reflection on resisting temptation and impulsive behavior.
Intruder doesn’t really strike me as well-known despite the warm reception it has gotten from developers. It’s not often you ever see it mentioned or cropping up on twitter, which is a shame considering how forward thinking it is from a design perspective.
We’re a big fan of Immersive Sims at Rebind (I can’t think of many critical analysis sites for games that aren’t) but the genre is very under-represented in the multiplayer department. Because of this, it’s easy to think of Intruder as a Counter-Strike or SWAT variant.
SuperBoss has put in a lot fore-thought into the balance of their game through unconventional gadgets and mechanics like security cameras, mirrors, and the ability to be knocked off balance. If anything, the game has a lineage more in line with early rainbow six entries’ emphasis on finite tactical considerations, or games like Due Process and Project Reality spin-off SQUAD.
I can say so many things about this heart-wrenching, mournful title. It is a truly touching narrative of nostalgia and the way in which interpersonal resolution is put off until it’s too late.
The first thing to catch the eye is the outstanding visuals and the immense level of overproduction at play. YangBieng’s (@YangBieng) Nimaruroku (English title: “206”) is exceptionally well made, doubly so for being a simple but compelling bottle game.
The protagonist is established on the familiar foundation of a student living on her own and struggling with a relationship on the rocks. As you progress throughout her preparations for the school day, you get to take a moment to reflect on how every detail of her morning routine is a standing reminder of unfinished business.
(Mild spoilers past the next image.)