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Browsing category: Reviews

“Now where did I leave those damn keys…”

You hear something out of the ordinary from the hallway, or rather, you hear nothing – definitely not ordinary. Thank God you were in the kitchen when you didn’t hear it; with a blade fast at hand and a veritable lifetime of experience chopping vegetables, you head out into the mansion to see what’s making all that silence

These are the first few tentative steps into the beautiful nightmare that is Phantom Rose, a procedural turn-based adventure card game by developer makaroll. If my flawless riffle shuffle and love of Lisa: The Painful are any indication, there are two easy ways to win my heart: card games and complicated but rewarding status effect systems, both of which Phantom Rose provides in droves.

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Harken back, to the era of floppy disks and shareware, when a gallon of gas only cost you a $1! Hear me, and yearn again for the days of billboard sprites, the fidelity of 16-bit graphics! Be whisked to the golden year of 1996, and imagine (if you can) a game built on id Tech 1; the original Doom engine, hacked and slashed to serve the needs of a FPS/RPG hybrid. In this fantasy, picture it being… I don’t know, perhaps, high fantasy meets low tech? And behold! You are picturing Strife!

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Over the last few years, we’ve been seeing a surge of interest in the rendering styles of late-90’s consoles: the PlayStation, Saturn, Nintendo 64. It provides a framework that allows for lo-fi titles to come across as more polished rather than seeming lazy, doing wonders for plenty of solo developers out there. Low poly counts, tiny textures meant to stretch and blur to accomodate CRTs, leading to smaller, self-contained games that allow for a greater breadth of artistic expression to reach fruition. From this, dozens of microindies have emerged making a name for themselves as trailblazers of this new frontier of visual nostalgia.

Enter James Wragg (@LovelyHellplace) and their latest release, Penitent Dead, made for the Haunted PSX Gamejam. Unlike a lot of the other entries, this title is not so much an out-right horror game or thriller, but more so an exploration of space and time.

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Amongst the loping slopes of the valley resides a message. Scrolling over it reveals microprose, a small story wrapped up in atmosphere and emotion lasting maybe 120 characters. It’s the kind of fragmented storytelling native to Twitter, jumping into an interaction or story far removed from most of its context. Things are quiet, a lull between songs. You ruminate a bit and begin scrolling on to another place, another mood.

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In the far-flung future of 2XXX, humanity uncovers the Spheres, objects that grant them massive technological advancement. From there, they discover alien lifeforms throughout the galaxy, forging interstellar alliances. Certain races that interact with the Spheres gain abilities and powers, which come in handy as a new alien race invades Earth, prompting these superpowered Guardians to leap into action and protect us all.

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Your AR overlay provides the next lines, “I have a recommendation for you.” The AI counseling partner, Eliza, tells you to suggest that the client try performing some breathing exercises and to ask their doctor about some conspicuously name brand medication. “Have a wonderful day,” the script prompts, “Goodbye.” Another successful session, granting you a boon of experience points and a few medals to add to your AR profile. Your rating isn’t great, but you snagged a $5 tip, so at least there’s that.

In this near-future snapshot of Seattle from Zachtronics’ new game, Eliza, you play as Evelyn, a worker in the ever expanding rhizomatic gig economy. Recently contracted to serve as a human proxy for the AI-power therapy system of the future (the titular Eliza), Evelyn ventures adrift into a world she helped build but that she feels deeply and troublingly disconnected from. Previously one of the leading engineers on the project, Evelyn left the company creating Eliza, Skadha, behind her, only to return to see what her project has become in her absence. What follows is a harrowing tale about the value of human connection, the troubling state of what the mental health system has become, and how we can try to better the world for one another. Writer Matthew Seiji Burns paints a picture of a world not quite dystopic, but more reflective of our own current societal state and the path that those at the top of the tech industry are leading us towards at a worrying pace.

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Part Worlds Chat, part Broken Reality, theclub.zone is an intriguing exploration of the strange wacky side of virtual worlds, but one that has been done better- kind of.

Primarily known for their comedy collaboration with Rick & Morty creator Justin Roiland, developer CrowsCrowsCrows recent entry into experimental digital media is a little more up Rebind’s alley than their usual fare.

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IV drips pulse, carrying anesthetic down the tube, through the needle, and into the bloodstream of your wife. She lies beneath lamplight, her breathing slightly irregular, but it should be okay, her vitals are stabilizing. You have to put her under, again, to get through the study. In the two beds besides hers are your other subjects and colleagues. One an archeologist, the other the neurobiologist whose research brought you here. On the monitor, the process fills progress bars as sense-data flutters along the wires, cris-crossing between workstation and subject.

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We’ve previously covered Sonoshee‘s (@Sonoshit on twitter) Critters For Sale: SNAKE, a unique episodic take on the visual novel genre through a fresh perspective riffing on pop culture and to which shows no signs of stopping with the new entry GOAT.

Goat keeps up the intense visual style that made the original so compelling, despite going from a hotel to a desert the aesthetic remains fully intact and just as vibrant as ever. What has changed is the tone- Goat is an origin story of side characters from the first episode, and by the very nature of said character follows suit with a more dramatic presentation.

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