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RE:BIND

Browsing category: Reviews

You open your eyes and the first thing that fades into view is a small white fox. Before you can react to this fluffy sight it spots you, fleeing in fear. You now find yourself alone in a pale landscape dotted with abandoned structures with no sense of direction or memory of how you got here, so you turn to the oldest navigation aid known to man, The Sun. When you look up for it, an alarming realization sets in as you finally notice the impossible… the life-giving Sun slowly orbiting a small pillar right next to you, smaller than ever.

You look down to where the fox was and find a note with an introduction and your first clue. It seems you and the elusive critter share a goal: Finding a way to escape.

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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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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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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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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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One more job shouldn’t have mattered. I’d killed nobles before. You could float a whaling ship on the high-born blood I’ve spilled. Another nobles steps in to replace the last one. All equally corrupt. Why should an Empress be different? 
But she was. 
I watched her bodyguard’s face as they took him away. Dead eyes. I knew I’d pay for this one, and maybe I deserved to. A storm was coming that would shake apart everything I’d built.

– Daud, Knife Of Dunwall’s opening narration

At the time of Dishonored’s release there was a consensus among many who’d finished it that the story was missing something, and Corvo’s nature as a silent protagonist certainly didn’t help to reduce this impression.

It wasn’t until I had spent time with the well-received Knife Of Dunwall DLC that the game felt anywhere near close to the vision promised by the original release of Dishonored. I didn’t exactly think that DLC would change much beyond adding a few extra hours to the game, padding out the world a little, and tweaking some mechanics, but I was very wrong.

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(Content Warning: Themes and Implications of suicide, death, depression, traumatic events)

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.)

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Franz Ferdinand got a little Avante Garde in their later years..

A few years ago, I fell in love with the new wave of absurdist visual novels and playful experimental indies that threw you into a mineshaft of underground internet culture, littered with call-backs to unfamiliar cinema, and obscure jokes sourced from message boards or video services outside of the west like NicoNico.

Remix culture titles introduced their audience to a new cultural pantheon gilded with drama that often managed to pull at your heartstrings and immersing you in a narrative deeper than the comedic tone. Sonoshee’s (@sonoshit) Critters For Sale left me reflecting on the framework established by earlier visual novels Dog Of Dracula and its sequel that heavily leveraged the same style of satirical commentary.

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