When the seas boil into the red giantess of our sun, one grand monument will escape the ravages of solar apocalypse. Secure in the Humanity Memorial on Titan, future civilisations will find an ancient leatherbound tome with a thousand pages. It is the Crashbook.

A new page beckons, containing ten more games I have not played.

314/ Million Monster Militia

A roguelike recruitment sim where you build a rag-tag militia to liberate America from big boss demons. Strategically choose from 150 troop types for their synergies, because you have no control over them on the battlefield!

Crash notes: Dejobaan is involved in this one. Looks like madness. I haven’t played a Dejobaan game since the 3D bullet-hell Drunken Robot Pornography.

Windows | Steam Link | Early Access

315/ Videoverse

Relive the days of past social gaming networks and dive into this fictional video game era, where the ‘Kinmoku Shark’ gaming system and its online social network ‘Videoverse’ were still popular…

Crash notes: The visuals reminded of Digital: A Love Story, the way it taps into nostalgia for the digital connections before social media platforms took over. Got some good writeups on RPS and The Guardian.

Windows, Mac | Steam Link | Released Aug 2023

316/ Desynced

Desynced is a sci-fi strategy game with fully customizable units and behaviors. Gather, build, research, and explore the unknown. Alone or with friends, unveil the mystery of an AI on the edge of self-awareness and uncover the hidden truth in this blend of strategy, automation, and exploration.

Crash notes: Automation/factory game which has got a handful of positive reviews on Steam.

Windows | Steam Link | Early Access

317/ Barotrauma

Barotrauma is a 2D co-op submarine simulator – in space, with survival horror and RPG elements. Steer your submarine, complete missions, fight monsters, fix leaks, operate machinery, man the guns and craft items, and stay alert: danger in Barotrauma doesn’t announce itself!

Crash notes: While searching for games for the next series of Side by Side, this popped up. Looks like a bit of FTL (I’ve never played FTL) and Sunless Sea (I played that for half an hour).

Windows, Mac | Steam Link | Released Mar 2023

318/ Fortune’s Run

Explore a decaying industrial world left behind in humanity’s never-ending race to conquer the stars. Beneath its iron skies, desperate souls kill and steal for passage to the still-plentiful frontier worlds. Sink or swim in this high-octane first-person shooter with immersive sim elements.

Crash notes: This is a title Gregg brought to my attention while we were filming the next series of Side by Side. From the About section: “A classic FPS with undertones of role-playing in the spirit of Deus Ex and EYE: Divine Cybermancy, featuring the campy tone of space operas and titles like Metal Gear Solid.” And it ran into release trouble with Steam this week.

Windows | Steam Link | Early Access

319/ Mythwrecked: Ambrosia Island

You’re shipwrecked on a lost mythical island. As backpacker Alex, you must befriend the forgotten gods of Greek mythology and restore their memories. Explore the dynamic island and its story sandbox to build new friendships, solve the mystery and save the gods.

Crash notes: This was at the September WASD x IGN show but I didn’t get a chance to sit down at it until the very last minute when security told everybody to get the Hell out. Still, I had a short chat with Alex of the Polygon Treehouse team.

Windows | Steam Link | Unreleased

320/ Mediterranea Inferno

Explore the inner demons of three childhood friends on a summer retreat. Unearth secrets, fears and obsessions as you help them reconnect and rediscover themselves. A mature and treacherous visual novel from the creator of Milky Way Prince – The Vampire Star.

Crash notes: Milky Way Prince was on the inaugural Crashbook; it has a Steam review “probably the most depressing triggering game i ever played”. I need no more reasons to add this to Crashbook.

Windows, Mac | Steam Link | Released Aug 2023

321/ Hedon Bloodrite

Immerse yourself in a crystalpunk underworld where the visceral combat of the 90s’ FPS games blends with the exploration and puzzle solving of classic dungeon crawlers and adventure games.

Crash notes: Yeah, this is another one from Gregg. The sequel to the original Hedon, it is still receiving updates.

Windows, Linux | Steam Link | Released 2019

322/ Obsidian

Venture into the surreal worlds of Obƨidian…if you dare. In Obƨidian, your life is in your hands, so tread carefully. Forget everything you know about existence and prepare to be flipped on your ear. Welcome to the unknown…

Crash notes: A hyped-up Myst-like from 1997 that sold so poorly the studio went out of business. Yet it was not badly reviewed. Now it has been resurrected on Steam.

Windows, Mac, Linux | Steam Link | Released Aug 2023 (orig. 1997)

323/ Awakening

Awakening is a first person experimental puzzle game with a unique gameplay based on pattern recognition. Guide a soul that decided to find meaning by solving puzzle machines with videos. Use inductive reasoning to discover the challenges while exploring an oneiric environment.

Crash notes: Haven’t seen too much about this, but seems to use videos-in-the-world as part of the puzzles.

Windows | Steam Link | Unreleased

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7 thoughts on “Crashbook #20

  1. Obsidian!

    A friend and I jumped through so many hoops to get that game working on my Linux machine. The copy protection code checked that the correct CD-ROM was present in the drive, but something about the Windows emulation made it impossible for it to be convinced that the actual disc was truly present. In the end we had to use another program to emulate a CD-ROM drive (five of them, actually; one for each disc).

    We did eventually get all the way through it, but only afterwards we realized that MIDI output wasn’t working either, so there was almost no background music. (And we missed out on sound cues that made one or two puzzles even more difficult.)

    It’s quite hard in places, but we had so much fun. Highly recommended.

    (BTW, note that it’s not only on Steam; the people involved have also made it available to purchase as a fully downloadable game. That’s always my preference.)

  2. Obsidian!!!

    My college classmate who designed his own major in video games, which was very unusual in 1992, went on to become the production supervisor on this. This was something I discovered much later, when I had gotten into video games, and I thought “I wonder what Tom Laskawy got up to?” I guess he got out of the industry after the aforementioned, and now he is co-founder and executive director of the Food & Environment Reporting Network.

    Anyway, I was sort of like “90s FMV adventure game [side-eye],” but Carl Muckenhoupt said it, “provided me with one of the most beautifully transcendent moments of realization I’ve experienced in a lifetime of gaming,” which is pretty high praise, because that dude has played a lot of games (especially adventure games and also DROD). It kind of seems like the studio was extremely ambitious about using FMV and having big names from Infocom and the wider entertainment industry (this one had a Thomas Dolby soundtrack!), and it got funding from Sega. But its massively expensive games with massive hardware requirements didn’t have massive sales and Sega pulled the funding. (It wasn’t just Obsidian, they had several games that all sold so poorly etc.)

    My classmate who had the biggest impact on games turned out to be Austin Grossman, who wrote for Deus Ex and Dishonored and according to Wikipedia pioneered the audio log in System Shock. He told me about his first interview with Looking Glass Studios where they asked him about the games he had played and he was like “well you know” and then he was like “Wait! These are my qualifications!”

  3. ¡Obsidian!
    I’ve never had the chance to play it but I’ve long known of it from the Adventure community and it always sounded intriguing. I don’t think I knew about Thomas Dolby’s involvement, that’s a draw too. Thanks for flagging that one up!

    Fortune’s Run sounds very interesting too, especially if there are comparisons with EYE: Divine Cybermancy – I loved that overambitious mess of a game with some passion, though I wouldn’t have the time for such an undertaking these days.

  4. What’s weird to me with Fortune’s Run is reading ‘featuring the campy tone of space operas and titles like Metal Gear Solid’ and then realising the other day there’s meant to be a sexual assault scene in the game. The demo I played a while back was tremendous. Surprisingly difficult and technical, but also vividly realised and evocative, and while, yes, it reminded me of Star Wars and Dark Forces, as well as sneaky Deus Ex and seedy sci-fi Anachronox, it didn’t feel campy. I really liked what I heard of the dialogue and voice work so I hope they’re able to handle that scene with some sensitivity. Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to playing this.

    For some reason I thought Mediterranea Inferno was Santa Ragione’s new one then I realised it is indeed Santa Ragione’s new one 🙂

    Hedon! So I’ve only played The Crystal Heart, which is the first chapter of Hedon. Bloodrite is the next chapter but they’re both bundled into the same game on Steam. I think it was Dominic Tarason who put it on my radar a while back, but I recently had a hankering for something a bit old school but also a bit different. It occupies a weird space between Doom and Thief, which is a space I didn’t know existed and one I apparently love being in. I read that the developer is/was an architect so while you have these sprawling subterranean labyrinths, the environments are convincing and feel organic and lived-in which gives the world so much more weight. So I think the Thief vibes come from that and the magical mechanical fantasy setting. I was surprised how involving the story is too. It’s nothing incredible, but it’s pitched and paced just right alongside exciting and varied levels and setpieces. It’s just a really confident and unexpected mix that all worked so well for me. Not to mention, Alexander Brandon (Unreal, Unreal Tournament, Deus Ex) did a few of the tunes in the game and they’re so good. Apparently Bloodrite is meant to be even more ambitious and grandiose so I’m really looking forward to exploring that!

    Obƨidian? (Just joining in. I’d not heard of it before but it looks pretty wild!)

  5. Sorry, it has taken a long time to get to these comments. I’ve taken a day off work today to deal with a ton of stuff and one of these items is… replying to comments :S

    I don’t think I’d ever heard of Obsidian before. I love the idea of finding “lost gems” but I have no idea if it is a lost gem. That is, if I play today, will it be any fun? It’s like… I played through Omikron: The Nomad Soul and I had positive memories of it but when I watched an LP series, it seemed incredibly long and tedious. (This reminds me, maybe it is time I finally played Outcast which I bought on release but never got much further than the initial landing area.)

    Matt – I did know that Obsidian wasn’t solely responsible but my Crashbook note had got pretty large, so I gutted the paragraph and all that detail was lost, like tears in the rain.

    Gregg – to be clear, Santa Ragione is only publisher for Mediterranea Inferno, it’s not technically their work.

  6. Joel – it’s a fair question! (Specifically, would Obsidian be fun to the average player in 2023.) It’s not a short game (comparable to Riven in size), and there are a number of genuinely hard puzzles. It’s harder to justify a game of this length when the number of games worth your time has increased by orders of magnitude.

    I liked Obsidian because (much like Riven) the puzzles all felt original. Scott Kim worked on Obsidian and it shows. There were no re-skinned Towers of Hanoi. (You do occasionally see elements of classic puzzles, but as ingredients of a larger system.)

    I also think the writers of Obsidian were smart to place it in a world that you expect to require lateral thinking. You never have that feeling of unfairness when a puzzle solution turns out to involve something out of left field, because the entire world is set in left field. You’re in a nanoscale dream-world of a nascent AI: you know from the start to look for weird mechanics and strange connections.

    (I also enjoyed the theme of the AI attempting to invent its own set of Nietzschean archetypes.)

  7. Thanks for the information, Brian. I did play a similar Myst-adjacent game, Starship Titanic and it was really tough with obscure puzzle solutions. Titanic has not aged well – the kooky ship is interesting but ugghhhhh the puzzles.

    I think compared to Titanic, Obsidian could probably do no wrong 🙂

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