I thought it was about time I wrote something again for Rock Paper Shotgun. Right now you can read my Wot I Think about Portponky's difficult yet brilliant puzzle-platformer, Recursed. I've been playing this on and off for a few months.
If you found Inception’s dream within a dream within a dream too difficult to follow, you’ll be hopeless at brain-shredding puzzle game Recursed by Portponky. In Recursed, you can easily find yourself inside a room inside a room inside a room… while, uh, carrying the room you’re in.
I recently admitted I didn't think I was going to play this one and I've not gone back on that. That's why Shaun Green, who has done work for RPS and ran Arcadian Rhythms for five years, has stepped in to write about that noisy new kid on the rhythm game block: Thumper. At least I think he has, because the opening line of his essay is---
How do we write about Thumper (Drool, 2016)?
Many writers have opted for hyperbole and impressionistic description, deploying jagged sentences like brush strokes and needle jabs as they attempt to portray their experience: velocity, violence, vigour. This does convey something of how the game feels, but it's not what I want to write.
Yet despite my many and various opinions about Thumper I couldn't decide what they should cohere around. The writhing, chrome-plated visuals? Its deliciously understated industrial soundtrack? What it makes of its relatively low-key gameplay verbs?
I didn't have a satisfying answer until I looked at my Twitter timeline and saw a discussion about death, about failure. The elephantine space-beetle in the room when it comes to Thumper is how hard it is. So yes, we need to talk about difficulty.
On Monday, I tweeted that while Thumper (Drool, 2016) looked and sounded great, I had already decided I wasn’t putting myself through that. I didn’t want the stress.
The next day I put myself through THOTH (Carlsen Games, 2016), a twin-stick arena shooter with an important twist. Normally, shooting is the act of cleaning. Not here. In THOTH, shooting is the act of making your life fucking worse.
Side by Side is a video series on local multiplayer games. This is the second series, episode 5 of 10.
- This is a co-op title for the Nintendo Wii U
- The car horn is adorable
- "Whoa whoa whoa whoaaaaa we got a little bit close there"
- Nicklas "Nifflas" Nygren of Knytt Stories worked on this title with KnapNok Games
If you enjoy the series, please like our videos and subscribe to our channel.
Watch the video here or direct on YouTube.
I completed the first-person thriller Asemblance (Nilo Studios, 2016) in a few hours but what had started out as excitement morphed into frustration and eventually liquefied into a bitter soup of dissatisfaction.
Like Cradle (Flying Cafe for Semianimals, 2015) which I discussed recently, it marries interesting ideas to some big flaws. But it has a lethal problem which cannot be fixed: something that’s vital to enjoy the game is not included in the purchase price.
At one point in ANATOMY (Kitty Horrorshow, 2016), a door opened by itself.
It happened at 10 o’clock at night and I needed to put head to pillow soon. I wasn’t alone and the house was not particularly quiet. The whoosh of a toilet tank refilling. The clomp-clomp of neighbours jogging up and down the stairs in what sounded like metal boots. The reassuring whirr of a computer fan.
Yet I was absolutely terrified.
I thought: absolutely FUCK this game. I had no urgent need to find out what existed on the other side of that door, to let ANATOMY drag its ragged, rusty claws through my subconscious.
I shut the computer down.
Electron Dance reader Ketchua brought Cradle (Flying Cafe for Semianimals, 2015) to my attention many years ago and something about its look stood out. Its release last year seem to go largely unnoticed although Adam Smith gave it a glowing review on Rock Paper Shotgun.
Cradle is gripping, featuring a complex sci-fi story that is serious and unexpectedly bleak: but holy Jesus it has some problems.
On the theme park island of The Witness, you solve puzzles. Solving puzzles leads to more puzzles. Keep working. Keep digging. Keep solving. Again and again and again. But this process cannot continue forever. Where does The Witness end? And why?
At last, it is here: The Unbearable Now is a spoiler-filled interpretation of The Witness (Thelka, 2016) that’s been months in the making. It is laced with a few choice expletives, but definitely no gore. Or nudity.
Watch the film below or direct on YouTube.
- Futilitris, Twinbeard Studios
- Braid, Number None
- Sokobond, Hazelden & Lee
- The Talos Principle, Croteam
- Full Bore, Whole Hog Games
- The Last Mimzy
- The Karate Kid
- Terminator 2: Judgment Day
- Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
- 2001: A Space Odyssey
- The Matrix
- The Witness Consciousness - Vashishta Cave Talk With Anand
- MBSR Widening the Circle Video
- Worakls "Toi"
- N'To "Trauma" (Worakls Remix)
- Fauré Requiem Op.48, Angus Dei (perf. by The Sixteen)
- Worakls "Salzburg"
- Edvard Greig, Peer Gynt Suite No. 1, Op 46, Anitra's Dance (perf. by Metropolitan Philharmonic Orchestra)
- Edvard Greig, Peer Gynt Suite No. 1, Op 46, In the Hall of the Mountain King (perf. by Metropolitan Philharmonic Orchestra)
- b.lakes "Cemetary Walk"
- The.madpix.project "Bad Chick"
- Edvard Greig, Peer Gynt Suite No. 1, Op 46, Death of Åse (perf. by Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra)
- Howlround "A Viewless Sea"
- Mikael Fyrek "Bathing in a River of Discordant Music"
- Push-Pull "Liquid Mountain"
- Lecyr "Luminautore"
- Teho "Ade"
- Rémy Bourgeois "Nostalgic Memories"
- Rémy Bourgeois "Few Minutes of Us"
- Boris Brejcha "Lost Memory"
- Taming the Inexplicable, Liz Ryerson
- The Meaning of the Witness, Sean Han-Tani-Chen-Hogan
- The Witness: What It Means, Jeff Grubb
- The Witness - A Great Game That You Shouldn't Play, Joseph Anderson (YouTube)
The final episode of a short series on games I discovered at EGX Rezzed 2016.
And so we end where we started, with a prototype from Introversion Software.
In addition to Scanner Sombre, the other prototype they had on show was Wrong Wire, a bomb disposal game. The obvious touchstone is the local multiplayer game Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes (Steel Crate Games, 2015) in which a team of experts with bomb specification manuals have to work with the one player who has physical access to the bomb. Introversion designer Chris Delay gave me the impression it was a bit of GAH! moment when Keep Talking came out as this prototype was already under way!
Still there should be little to fear. Keep Talking is a party game while Wrong Wire is a single-player puzzle game.
When I sat down, I didn't realise that the previous player had rage quit leaving me with a fiendish bomb as my "tutorial". I thought, bloody hell, this is hard and there are no instructions at all. Once I figured out there was a restart button, all was well.
Wrong Wire was a hand-crafted experience rather than procedurally-generated. Each level posed a different threat and it made me wonder how far the prototype could go, because it didn't seem like a procedural mash-up of the elements on show would produce something necessarily interesting. That is, it came across like the amount of work invested in each level's design was disproportionately high compared to the amount of time you might play it.
Despite some fiddly issues with the controls (no NOT AGAIN, why does clicking here open the little glass door, I was reaching for the wire!) the prototype was an enjoyable series of puzzles to play through. I was definitely more wedded to Scanner Sombre, but I wouldn't be upset to see Wrong Wire on release down the line.
That's the end of this year's Rezzed series. Thank you to those who have been along for the ride!
Interested in the other games I dabbled with? Check out the series index!
The sixteenth episode of a short series on games I discovered at EGX Rezzed 2016.
I'm not sure there's much to say about OASES.
A damaged plane is diving and then disappears through rainbow rings into darkness. The plane emerges--
--and then Shaun Green wrote in the comments for my entry on Fugl:
Seemed to either procedurally generate levels based on the associated music, or have a bunch of predefined levels that matched up, and you flew a light aircraft around these environments. I liked it, found it quite soothing and pleasant to try and rake my wingtips through little balls and blobs of colour.
I mean, yes, thank you Shaun. That took the wind right out of my wings a little too early.
It's described as kaleidoscopic elegiac ''flyscape'' and I guess that works. You get to fly around a fantastical space for a bit in a lazy, languid fashion - more like swimming than flying - with music and colour your companions. Maybe you'll see giant hands or giant trees. Maybe flowers. There is no crashing, there is no collision. Go on, try. Try to touch something. The plane will just go straight through like nothing was there. And you can play again and again, with a different beautiful flyscape each time.
When I played at Rezzed, it only explained itself after I'd been through the experience once. I wasn't going to mention it here, to allow you to go in cold like I did. Except if you go to the itch.io page for the game, its inspiration is printed right there for all to see. Shaun also mentioned it in his comment. And Kotaku wrote about it. But I'll continue to be coy regardless. You may find the message uplifting or trite but even if you're of the latter persuasion, it won't take away the loveliness.
OASES was developed by Armel Gibson, Dziff and Calum Bowen; it can be downloaded from itch.io right now.
Interested in the other games I dabbled with? Check out the series index!