Austin Breed did a number on me last year. His short, nightmarish Ludum Dare project Covetous was one of the highlights of 2010, a remarkable achievement for an experience in which you don’t really do anything. I thought it was about time to go fondling his other projects – and there are quite a few. I’m not going to cover everything published under the Breed brand, just some that I’d like to bring to your attention.

Thoughtful Themes of Faith

Most of his anti-game projects are expressions of simple themes in an interactive medium, more experience than game. I was attracted to a number of his works which congregate around the theme of faith.

Good Fortune makes the point that the way to improve your lot is not to sit down and hope it will all get better but go out there and make a change. It’s a soapbox piece about self-reliance. It’s clever, but you won’t spend more then a couple of minutes fiddling with it.

Then we move onto Have Faith which offers you two alternatives – complete the game using the obvious, easy way or take a punt.

The problem is, if you decline the quick win, you don’t actually know if there is an alternative solution. Breed may just be messing with you; he didn’t hand-on-heart salute-the-flag promise that, yes sir, there is another solution to the game. How long will you search for it before your faith gives out?

Again, this isn’t a game you’re going to have fun with, it’s just the digital delivery of a sermon on life. Even if you’re not going to enjoy yourself, Have Faith is worth starting up just for the off-kilter music.

Breed’s latest, A Mother in Festerwood, is a lot more gamey than his other art pieces and also closely aligns game mechanic with theme.

Festerwood tackles the parental conflict between keeping your children safe and allowing them to become independent. You play a mother who can keep her son within the safe confines of the house or let him out and about to explore Festerwood… which is filled with giant spiders, dragons and bloodyhellwhatisthat. I hope you don’t feel too bad when your three-year old wanders away from the house and doesn’t survive his first encounter with a bear.

Some will find the game unfair, because it largely hinges on luck. But then, that’s the point. When do you trust your children to look after themselves? When is it their life, their story? Give it a go. You’re sure to find yourself biting away your fingers hoping your son will come back alive.

Thoughtful Themes of… MAGIC PINK MAN

Despite all this artistic food-for-thought, the game I spent the most time on is Magic Pink Man 2. There are no challenging new mechanics. There are no grand statements (unless you count the pointless apparel in the in-game shop). It’s buggy, derivative and often frustrating. But I loved it, like a beautiful woman who laughs a little too loudly at the restaurant.

Magic Pink Man is merely okay, but it’s sequel has a strange, broken charm with a vibrant, catchy set of background tracks. Even though it’s a few years old it is still worth a spin just for the title sequence. Trust me. Look into my eyes, I would not lie to you. And if you manage to defeat the infuriating evil magician you’ll be treated to a bizarre yet refreshing, realistic take on the Happy Ever After.

So there you are, given the choice between a jaunty, bugged-up Zelda clone and someone sculpting away at video game art, the stupid clone wins every time.

The world is an unfair place. But the Magic Pink Man always knew that.

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7 thoughts on “A Night With Austin Breed

  1. Oh these sound great HM. It’s been a while since I dug into a few arty indie games. I’ll be back as soon as I’ve played them, which could be sooner or later, but I’ll definitely be back.

  2. I just hope they diverted you long enough to forget about Portal 2. Just for a little while.

  3. Heh, did you ever get around to grinding enough lemons to buy the shoes or the hat? I don’t think I would have the patience for that.

  4. Yes. I looked pretty damn swish in my hat and shoes when facing the evil magician. (I actually got frustrated with the final battle and so wondered if the apparel had magical properties or acted as a shield. Nope.)

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