Electron Dance

Electron Dance Highlights


Every Click Has Meaning

I shared some videos of Townscaper (Oskar Stålberg, 2021) on Twitter a while back because I was quietly impressed with it. It was like the Canabalt of creative games: clicking was building.

Townscaper took care of all the detail bullshit so, regardless of where you clicked, everything remained coherent. Click on top of a house? Let’s make the house taller. Click next to a house? The single house becomes a bigger house - well, unless you’ve changed the colour in which case you get separate houses.

I wasn’t planning on picking up Townscaper when it slithered out of the primordial early access soup because I didn’t think I’d get too much out of it personally. But the launch price was so agreeable that my gut ached with guilt; I nudged it into the Steam cart and the deed was done. I expected Townscaper would be a good fit for my daughter, who was recently diagnosed with terminal Minecraft-addiction, so the purchase wouldn’t be wasted currency even if I got bored after about 30 minutes.

I got bored after about 30 minutes. But that ain’t the whole story.

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Puzzleworks, 4: Secure

Here's a short, clever PuzzleScript game called Secure by "Toombler". It's one of those PuzzleScript games that asks the player to work out the mechanics with no guidance. Zarawesome (Guilherme Töws) thrust it into my Twitter feed.

Nutshell: A clever twist on Sokoban, but you might get lost along the way.

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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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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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SNKRX Is Way More Fun Than I Expected

SNKRX (a327ex, 2021) is an unusual snake-shooter hybrid released today. It popped up on Twitter in the last couple of weeks and I was smitten with the visual madness in which I couldn’t help but see a little Holedown.

Now it has some UI crimes to answer for but SNKRX is really compelling. It's lo-fi, lo-price and lo-pronounceable. The developer has described it as an “arcade shooter roguelite” but - and perhaps I’m too oldskool at this point - I’m not sure you need the word “roguelite”. But, hey, the marketing bods out there would probably disagree. Actually, they’d probably tell the developer to call it a “roguelike” because no one gives a shit about calling anything a “roguelite” and then I’d probably start chanelling my inner Raigan Burns about the sanctity of game taxonomies.

But let me tell you what SNKRX actually is.

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Goodbye Cruel World

Developer droqen is most famous for the endless vertical scrolling platformer Probability 0 released in 2012. Okay, fine, if you insist, it’s actually Starseed Pilgrim from 2013 he’s most famous for. I wrote about that game without spoilers, with spoilers and then I made a short movie about it (without spoilers).

On April 1, 2021, he released the game Cruel World which was commentary on cryptocurrencies, abusive to players and only on sale for 24 hours.

Today, it’s back on sale again, some players interpret the abusive design as meditational and I’m not even sure if it is about cryptocurrencies any more.

Welcome to this week’s edition of “the author is dead”.

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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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Side by Side: Season 5 Deleted Scenes

Side by Side is a video series on local multiplayer games. This is a bonus episode for the fifth series.

Due to the pandemic, Joel Goodwin of Electron Dance and Gregg Burnell of Tap-Repeatedly haven't been able to meet up to make a YouTube series they love, nor Side by Side. We're sorry for this.

But Joel had always planned to put out a "deleted scenes" episode for Series 5 (if you remember, we did say there would be a "bonus episode in January") and he kept putting it off because he was working on another film which was "important". Fortunately, he has come to his senses and realised his excuses have run out of gas. Enjoy the moments that were not included in the series simply because the episodes were already long enough. Even if most of them feature Daka Dara.

Bonus fictional game currency for anyone who figures out which Season 5 game does not appear in the deleted scenes.

If you enjoy the series, please like our videos and subscribe to the Side by Side channel.

Watch the video here or direct on YouTube.