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Taking a night drive down the Columbia Gorge in Washington is an often mystical experience, the ambiance of cruising through heavy rain or passing moonlit pines propels you to another world. Games are no stranger to driving sequences, but developers are starting to use this as a vehicle for narrative instead of a simple gameplay set-piece.

Silverstring Media‘s Glitchhikers was a pleasantly cozy segue into night driving games. It’s a simple setup where you switch between lanes instead of focusing on the throttle, and this decision to make driving a more passive experience opens you up to explore the car as an environment of it’s own. It’s no longer a second-skin for your protagonist to get from one segment to another, but now a true space of its own.

Venturing further down the game’s enchanted interstate your vision becomes glitchy, alerting you to the arrival of a stowaway. These passengers materialize in and out of the seat whilst imparting unsolicited observations and philosophical conundrums to your weary ears. It’s a wonderful magical-realism piece that captures the essence of roadway meditation on life’s biggest questions. I grew rather fond of the dialogue system and often even goaded my friends into playing it in front of me as a makeshift Rorschach inkblot test.

A few years later, Arbitrary Metric‘s Paratopic decided to make heavy use of its own dry dusk-and-evening driving sequences peppered throughout the game. A synthesizer arrangement drifting from the radio offers up a Wendy Carlos homage and a moment of reflective respite between the game’s jump-cuts to break up the pacing. Similarly to Glitchhikers, a glance to the side would offer you a puzzling shift in the contents of your passenger seat. This visual trick helped to further the feel of a disjointed narrative delivered non-linearly from a potentially unreliable narrator, creating a sense of unease that makes you question the story’s already erratic jumps even more.
(Disclosure: Arbitrary Metric’s Jessica Harvey is a contributor for Rebind but was not involved with this piece)

But not every game has to or will utilize driving the same way; Sea Green Games‘ upcoming TRANSMISSION seems like it will offer a pure low key cruising experience. Across moonlit nights and rain-slicked roads, synthesizers illuminate your ears as the neon lights do the same for your eyes. And as Glitchhikers proved, there’s plenty of room for Proteus style experiences. If we drive to relax in real life, why not in a game?

Even without true driving sequences, Kentucky Route Zero gives the player a similar experience of a waking dream while exploring uncharted territory on forgotten maps. It’s enough to pull you into the same feeling you get chasing ghosts down haunted highways and old service roads. And at the next turnoff, you’ll never know what you might discover about yourself.

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In our previous Weekend Roundup, we mentioned that @tall_shrimp‘s Philosophy Game Jam had just finalized entrants for the voting round. As promised, we ponder the most troubling dilemmas this side of the trolley problem:

(Content Warning: Given the heavy themes of self-harm, nihilism, and death in some of these titles, please proceed with caution if you don’t have an appetite for such themes. We will provide individual content warnings per title, as some are not as heavy.)

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Pow.

Writing about games is particularly pleasant because it forces you to discover little-known gems. Games previously overlooked now become the focal point of an in-depth analysis which adds to the appreciation of the task at hand.

SYSCRUSHER is one of those gems, punctuated by lo-fi cyberpunk visuals without any reservations or ego, a style complemented by primitive synths, artificial voices, and diode-lined hallways. It comes from the mind of Maine Indie Developer Dirigo Games (@Dirigo_Games), A developer previously known for Minotaur-’em-up Depths of Fear :: Knossos.

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Virtually terrifying

Vikintor (@vf_vikintor on twitter) is a Brazilian indie developer cranking out some of the most visually haunting art I’ve seen in recent memory. His upcoming game is a Japanese inspired platformer with macabre body horror visuals easily associated with the stylings of Tetsuo: The Iron Man or famous contemporary horror manga artist Junji Ito.

Vikintor’s first game was the Virtual Boy inspired Dungeon Crawler “Ritualistic Madness”. Set up as a “found footage” re-release of an unsettling game dredged up from obscurity, Ritualistic Madness pulls you in right from the start. The straightforward design of the levels and easy to grasp controls lures the player into a sense of comfort before the horror creeps in. You realize quickly you aren’t the only thing moving in the maze, and it’s a race against time to quickly find all the keys and navigate to the exit before you’re run down.

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Don’t let this guy fool you, Doom is not a Rhythm game

Why modern mainstream FPS games flee from the demons of their forebears

Running through hallways. Low on health, out of ammo, not knowing if the next corner would lead me to the salvation of a health pack, or to a horde of demons ready to slam dunk a fireball down my throat with no way left to fight back. Haggard, tense, tired.

This was my experience with Doom in the 90s, and one I’ve found sadly lacking across the last decade of mainstream games, replaced instead with regenerating health, demons that explode like piñatas of goodies, and a misplaced sense of near-immortality. Games, unlike any other medium, provide unique experiences at the intersection of story, setting, and mechanics, but it’s a fundamental shift in mechanics across the medium that is responsible for this spiral from horror to god complex.

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Back in September of 2018, experimental cult-classic “LSD Dream Emulator” was nearing its 20th anniversary. Not content with leaving the game’s legacy as a mere bump in the night, @atime_loop decided to host a game jam in its honor titled Emulated Dreams.

Two entries particularly stood out, shane yach’s (@tipsheda) “A Game With A TV In It” and Modus Interactive’s (@ModusPwnin) “NEKO YUME”.

I recently had a sit-down with the creators for a quick chat about their experiences and inspirations.

Yesterday, we interviewed shane yach (@tipsheda) about “A Game With A TV In It”; be sure to check it out.

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Back in September of 2018, experimental cult-classic “LSD Dream Emulator” was nearing its 20th anniversary. Not content with leaving the game’s legacy as a mere bump in the night, @atime_loop decided to host a game jam in its honor titled Emulated Dreams.

Two entries particularly stood out, shane yach’s (@tipsheda) “A Game With A TV In It” and Modus Interactive’s (@ModusPwnin) “NEKO YUME”.

I recently had a sit-down with the creators for a quick chat about their experiences and inspirations. Today’s feature is “A Game With A TV In It” by shane yach. Tomorrow, we will be posting the second interview with Modus Interactive.

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Opening line of a traditional Karelian folk-tale.

Finnland, famous for inventing the Finish line, Remedy Entertainment, Mämmi, mosquitos, lakes, and most likely coming up with the original implementation of the Moose. But what you might not know them for is civil engineering safety first-person-puzzler INFRA. It’s a lovely little source-engine-intro-sequence turned conspiracy inspection simulator game by developers Loiste Interactive.

And if you’re a fan of INFRA’s frigid concrete corridors, you might just be aware of a self-described “Concretepunk” immersive sim set in the same locale as their first game, the Baltic city of Stalburg: Open Sewer

Faced with an epidemic of green fungus, the local governing bodies decide to quarantine a variety of individuals in Stalburg’s slum district, Obenseur. Complete with it’s own currency, OC (do not steal), and housing crisis, Open Sewer places you in the role of being a refugee of sorts against your own will and it’s up to you to survive the excessive troubles of daily life.

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