Browsing category: Overviews

Be warned, we’re getting into spoiler territory here from the outset. Turn back now if you’ve yet to finish the game.

For you can tie me up if you wish,

but there is nothing more useless than an organ.

When you will have him a body without organs,

then you will have delivered him from all his automatic reactions

and restored him to his true freedom

To Have Done with the Judgment of God, Antonin Artaud

LUCAH: Born of a Dream, from gamedev collective melessthanthree, thrusts you head-first into a world beyond any sense of logic or understanding. Everything around you coalesces into an undulating mass of incomprehensible action; the only thing that makes sense anymore is fighting. Some of the first words that greet you in this world: ”You can’t help but feel you’ve been here before. You can’t help but feel they only want to hurt you. But you know you must move forward. You must fight.” And fight you do, pushing back against the ever encroaching Darkness that blankets the land.

This Darkness exists as an extension of the world, to a degree, leading you to press ever-forward, unable to turn back. In it, we move toward a cyclical process in which this place eventually dies, destroyed one way or another, only to return once again to its original state of being. It’s an endless feedback loop; one that seemingly betrays no signs of stopping. You find yourself trapped in this place, fighting through loop after loop, attempting to enact change to no fruition. LUCAH’s world is one destined to fall, only to rise from the ashes again and again, a dark, undying phoenix. Decay holds no permanence here.

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The yawning void stares at you. An infinite murk, resting beneath a cloud-tumbled sky. In the distance, a tower reaches out into the heavens above, a light atop it blinking. You sit beside Christian, another soul lost in the ether, like you. You call yourself Lucah, at least, now you do. The Marked One. A cursed child tossed into this realm of madness, damned to fight a Sisyphean battle against the twisting horrors that await your ever deeper plunge into this beckoning unknown.

Christian decides time is up for this moment of peace. Your heart-to-heart finishes abruptly, and they demand a fight from you. Death is the only true peace in this world, so far as they can tell. And they desperately want to be at rest, finally, entirely; to find an escape from this world is to find hope and love once again.

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(CW: Suicide, Self-harm, Vehicular Accidents, Mild Gore)

Dissolving (known in Russian as Исчезая) is a pleasant little bilingual visual novel by studio Flying Whale. Inspired by internet folk tales and post-digital-utopian cyber fiction of the early 2000s, Dissolving is a healthy dose of metaphysical skepticism.

As our zeitgeist trends towards cynicism of, and disbelief in, technological progress as a shared social project, more and more people begin to question if anyone, or anything, is at the wheel of this thing; Dissolving plants its thesis firmly in this knowledge gap, enticing you to learn more, at horrific cost.

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To engage with art is one matter, but to make yourself the centerpiece is another one entirely. Exhibitionism is an experience by Dja that ruminates on how we often find ourselves, as opposed to the art that we create, at the center of attention of others.

Art galleries have a strange aura to them, as if they’re a sort of banquet or feast which begs the question, what exactly is on the menu? Exhibitionism tackles the strange masquerade of guarding your intentions while flagrantly expressing your desires; ruminating upon the cacophony of the unusual, unique lengths people go to in order to seek recognition, even at the cost of those around them.

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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.

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Woke up on the wrong side of the track, flip the record and put it straight.

The story goes like this; any old bad trip up the strip leaves your head dizzy, wobbling to and fro like a ball on a wire stuck to an old tennis racket. Neon signs fly by, bad hangovers, and regret filled nights flash in your mind as you’re trying to sweat the liquor out of your veins; one more bad trip down the rabbit hole. Here comes a pop, and not the top of the pops, but a bang- The big one, the biggest bang, the shot heard ’round the universe.

This little number is Genesis Noir– It’s a doozy of a love story with legs like you wouldn’t believe, and you better put em to use on this gumshoe walkabout, searching in a vivid whiskey haze of questions until you find some answers.

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I have Very Complicated feelings on this.

I want to like you, Hedon, I really do. Your self-professed *squints* “Boomercore” label got a real chuckle out of me. I thought with that sort of confident self-assured swagger, you’d be the kind of fast-paced shoot’em’up experience I was looking for when other games seemed far too eager to steep themselves in opaque approaches beyond my ken. Your clean visuals, enjoyable soundtrack, and extensive lore revealed so quickly how brimming you were with creative vision and intuitive gameplay, and yet… the maps. I can’t get past the maps. It’s not you… I think it’s me. Too many secrets, too little verticality, and I’m afraid that maps from the Thief school of level design don’t always play quite the same in the Doom engine and it shows.

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A Different Kind Of Rapture

Be it East or West, the American South holds an extremely complicated cultural context, far beyond the scope of this article to explain. However, games like Sagebrush give us an empathetic glimpse into the rationale of lost people who wander towards a misguided flock in search of meaning, be it amongst the harsh sandy dunes of New Mexico or deep within the wetlands of the Gulf Coast.

With the bustling metropolises like Albuquerque, Atlanta, and Raleigh or all the way to Austin and Miami, an outsider’s perspective would understandably perceive the Southern states as a widespread, populous area entrenched with heavy emotional scars and prolific social struggles. However, outside of the busy suburbs and traffic-clogged highways, down empty unpaved country roads, are often ruins: the remainder of forgotten hopeful dreams and unspoken trauma. Through viewing the southern states as a holistic cultural entity and sociopolitical bloc, most fail to grasp the fractured nature of the South’s human element, the individuals who reside within the subtropic bayous, pine forests and dusty deserts.

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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.

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Past the Douglas Firs and golden grass untouched for years is a place of peaceful meditation, a quiet space to lose one’s self amongst strange machinery that can change the weather with the flip of a switch. ROM by Bincurl Games is a delightful experiment in audio, visuals, and conceptualization of what makes an environment natural. Evocative of the sullen atmosphere found in the works of Simon Stålenhag, ROM finds itself squarely between the artificial and the natural, the material and the spiritual, expressed only through soft tones and the howling of the coastal wind.

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