Electron Dance

Electron Dance Highlights


No Hill To Die On

This is the fourth part of a five-part series on INFRA. The previous parts were Optical Delusion, The Abandoned Church and Fractures.

There’s one key section in late INFRA that attracts a lot of praise. It’s another puzzle-strewn location that Mark gets stuck in and, yet again, has to go to silly lengths to escape.

But this is a very different INFRA to the one you have known. It’s not about crumbling infrastructure but an excursion to surreal country.

Welcome to Turnip Hill.

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This is the third part of a five-part series on INFRA. The previous parts were Optical Delusion and The Abandoned Church.

INFRA was a game I misunderstood. I had fallen in love with the dream of a game I imagined INFRA to be... and then ignored the unsettling creaking coming from the foundations.

Initially, it was harmless design choices that were easy to dismiss out of hand. NPCs appropriated as an impassable barrier. An elevator which conveniently fails. An unimportant notice to go along with an important one. The endless rows of binders marked “useless stuff”, “nothing” and “random stuff”.

I was confident that INFRA was a serious game and held fast to this conviction for most of its playtime. I find this strange. Because of the mushrooms, man. The bloody mushrooms. Creak.

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Moon Logic

Moon logic is a notorious game design choice where the solution to a puzzle emerges from incomprehensible game-world logic. So instead of using a key to open a locked door, maybe you transform it into a pancake and eat it. Or you swipe a motorcycle by fabricating a moustache from cat hair to pretend to be someone who doesn’t have a moustache. Moon logic can sometimes make sense in hindsight, but often leads players into the bowels of despair.

Now in the latest episode of “games I bought and God maybe it’s time I played it, right?”, I lobbed Gorogoa (Jason Roberts, 2017) onto my smartphone and played it last week. I'm here to tell you that Gorogoa is fabulous – because of moon logic.

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The Abandoned Church

This is the second part of a five-part series on INFRA. The first part was Optical Delusions.

Mark climbs the tower in the steelworks so he can repair a mobile transceiver. Luckily, as a videogame avatar, he has a head for heights, because up there you can see everything for miles.

Stalburg looks pristine. It’s easy to forget the rot that brought you here.

The city can be an impersonal, alienating environment, living and working amongst permanent strangers. It can also be a potent stew of diversity and change. Small towns don't change, they just grow old and die. A city constantly reinvents. How can you resist the siren call of a sprawling metropolis?

Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and be blown away.

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The Update Patch Fairy

Hey, remember SNKRX (a327ex, 2021)? SNKRX has been modestly successful but it is not the same game I cackled about a month ago. SNKRX has changed.

Hold on. Let me download a patch for that sentence: is changing.

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Optical Delusion

This is the first part of a five-part series on INFRA.

I still think about INFRA (Loiste Interactive, 2016).

Over the course of eight months in 2019, I worked my way through this behemoth of a game. After an enormous Twitter thread of my progress, I wrote about it briefly and labelled it “one of my top love/hate games of all-time”, definitely right up there with NaissanceE (LimasseFive, 2014).

Why? Because INFRA was a game I misunderstood.

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The Watchtower

Suppose I could send a message back in time, to the beginning of this. What would I tell myself? It started with mere curiosity, a beguiling black and white screenshot. I could not know I was charting a collision course for obsession.

Death Crown (CO5MONAUT, 2019) absorbed me in the way “ambient strategy game” Eufloria (Omni Systems, 2009) did a decade ago. Death Crown is a pick-up-and-just-fucking-play blend of RTS and tower defence. As each battle is mere minutes in length, Death Crown nailed a personal sweet spot that offered a real sense of achievement while respecting human time limits. And the monochromatic hex aesthetic proferred a whiff of intoxicating nostalgia, triggering memories of Ogre (Origin Systems, 1986) that were burned into my visual cortex, a turn-based war game I adored but never bested.

I completed Death Crown’s main campaign two months ago, as well as the “Era of Human” DLC. That should have been the end of it: bugger off back to your digital shelf, mate. I made the mistake of pulling back another curtain, to peek at the “Domination mode”. I reeled: Domination mode was a sequence of thirty hard-as-nails levels that you had to survive with just three lives. Nice try, you bastards. Ha ha, but no.

But, sigh, I was having too much fun with Death Crown. I wasn’t quite ready to let go. It couldn’t hurt, I thought, having a crack at Domination.

Today, Steam casually declares that I’ve played Death Crown for over 60 hours. Suppose I could send a message back in time, to the beginning of this. What would I tell myself? That it’s going to fuck you up?

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Wildfire in the Hole

It started with a single tweet, a tweet downcast about a high-profile negative review of Wildfire, a game I had not heard of before. I was instantly curious: I was sure the team behind it had some game design nous. So what had gone horribly wrong?

Wanting to know more, I asked for a press key and began a journey in June which I finally completed five months later.

Wildfire (Sneaky Bastards, 2020) is a glorious 2D stealth 'em up brimming with environmental interaction. The truth is there’s substantially more to Wildfire than meets the eye.

And that, unfortunately, was the problem.

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Before The High Tide

This is the final in a series of five musings on Control. Previously: Behind the Poster, Use of Weapons, Reverse Shock and Slave to the Rhythm.

There will be spoilers.

So: you reach the final boss. It’s what you’ve been working up to. Sometimes a game sticks the landing, sometimes it fluffs it and the magic withers.

But what happens if you get there and you just don’t know how to proceed? Like that one level in a puzzle game that you just can’t best. You give it your all but it isn’t enough to get you through. The energy wanes. You lose interest. You put the controller down. Maybe you don’t pick it up again.

This isn’t what happened in Control; this is an analogy for what happened to this essay, my final post on Control.

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The Sun Always Rises

Hello. If you are fortunate enough not to have played Outer Wilds (Mobius Digital, 2019), then here is everything you need to know right now:

  1. You should play Outer Wilds.
  2. When you start Outer Wilds, you will struggle to understand why people say “you should play Outer Wilds”.
  3. When you finish Outer Wilds, you will tell others “you should play Outer Wilds”.
  4. You should not read the rest of this spoiler-rich post.

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