CONQUEST

Space is the glorious new frontier for mankind, according to billionaires that’d rather fuck off to space than to spend less than one percent of their wealth fixing things on Earth. Space exploration is a common sci-fi game topic, players taking off to the stars, checking out cool planets and fighting aliens, going after the romanticized ideal of space travel that’s been ingrained in our popular culture.

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However, Conquest, by Outlands, is not that ideal. You don’t share in the glory of exploring and settling on worlds, like people than stan for Elon Musk thinks he’ll allow them to do. Rather, you’re just a laborer, doing menial work while the cool spaceships fly above you.

You walk around a low poly environment, geometric structures towering above you, an overall abstract aesthetic defining the alien world. However, you’re not exploring, you’re just doing your job in the limited space afforded to you. What is the purpose of this area? For what great purpose was this land settled for?

Commercial burials, of course. You work under Deep Space Burials, maintaining a deep space graveyard, this strange land just being used as a commodity. Graves dot the land, with electronic screens broadcasting names and final words, which is some impractical high technology crap that reflects the “innovation” that Silicon Valley is always striving for. Of course, being impractical, these screens glitch out and you have to fix them as one of your duties.

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You can read the graves, because really, it’s not as if you have anything better to do. The graves mention great struggles, new lifeforms, but as an average joe, it’s insignificant to your working life. Sometimes the epitaphs are funny, some dashing, but some of them are reflective of what space imperialism has done. One grave curses the constant need for expansion at the expense of taking care of what’s already there, while another mentions that war against and conquering of an alien civilization screwed their society over. Even the planet you’re on is a victim of imperialism, subjugated to the whims of commercial interests.

And as for you? You’re expendable. You are a mere Intendant working the graves, many others having come before you. In fact, looking at the graves of the Intendants shows that none of them are properly named, just numbered. Maybe you’re an android? That’s apparently a thing in this universe, but regardless, it showcases how disposable you and others like you are to the march of “progress.” If Intendants were androids though, Conquer is probably a more sincere android story with a social message than Detroit: Become Human.

Anyway, Conquest is a short contemplative walkaround game. This was a bit of a downer, so I promise to write about something more happier next time.

SUFFER (demo)

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It’s been a while, but I’m finally looking at another game in my inbox. Today we’re looking at the demo for SUFFER, by Anarchy Softworks, a one-man studio.  The title screen might not give the best first impression, being some busty ninja lady on a fuzzy background, but stick with me here.

What is the story in SUFFER? There really isn’t one. SUFFER prides itself in being a retro styled shooter, just sorta throwing you into a demon infested world. Thematically, anarchy is the name of the game, mixing in anti-capitalist imagery with cops being a frequent enemy alongside the demons, while WWII era propaganda posters from all sides of the war dot the land to set up a general anti-authority atmosphere. But it’s also a game that appeals to the more generic notion of anarchy, which is to revel in chaos and fuck shit up.

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Facets

Alyssa lived her life under the oppression of a magic wielding evil empire and watched as they took everything from her. And so, she rose up against the empire, fighting in memory of those she lost, their hearts united as one against the empire of the Guardianship! Alas, Alyssa has been captured by Guardianship goons and they’re trying to wipe her mind – but as soon as they let down, she’ll harness the power of friendship and defeat them! Truly, she is an ideal JRPG heroine!

It’s a shame that you’re playing as the villains in this story.

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Facets is a game made in RPG Maker 2003 by John Thyer, where you are the JRPG villain. You may ask me, “Dari, aren’t you friends with John?” Well, I am, but he playtested my game Fishing Minigame 2 and gave honest criticism, so I thought it’d be fair to do the same.

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Door (Demo Version)

 

 

Door is a game by svgames, with a demo up on itch.io and a full version of the game available on Steam for $6.99. This article is based off my impressions from the demo.

You start out surrounded by four doors, though you can only go through two of them for the demo. Each door leads to a set of doors with a basic puzzle to figure out which one to go through, and that one leads to another set of doors and so on and so forth. This is wrapped up in a colorful, simple environment with atmospheric music.

Puzzles start out simple, with panels saying stuff like “go through X door” and the doors will have placards. It’s initially straightforward stuff like simply going through the door with 1 on it when told, then going through a door with a circle on it if given the same hint for a set of doors with shapes on them. Later puzzles are more complicated, requiring you to pay more attention to the environment.

Going into this game, you may expect that it’s one of those puzzle games where you build up knowledge from previous puzzles to solve later ones. However, the puzzles in Door are largely self-contained or feel like puzzles that can stand on their own without the others. For example, there’s one puzzle with multiple signs, with the first saying that some signs lie. This sets up the expectation that you may have to figure out which signs tell the truth in the future. Turned out though, this rule only ever applied to this puzzle and all the others ones are legitimate.

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Like what the fuck

The problem of puzzles being self-contained is that it leads to some puzzles with solutions that seem to come out of left field. A notable one is the puzzle whose hint is “door number ERROR,” whose answer is to always go through the fourth door, which seems like a nonsensical progression from the previous doors and in fact seems nonsensical in general, because there isn’t much in the room that hints at the answer being the fourth door. There were some puzzles that I thought were nice, but they get mixed in with some annoying puzzles, some of them giving little to go off of.

Part of my annoyance stemmed from the fact that picking the wrong door locks you off from moving forward or back, forcing you to reset at the beginning of the chain of puzzles. Locking the path ahead is something I get, but the game keeping you from going back is annoying because you can’t go back to re-examine your choice or surrounding environment to see why you got it wrong.

I actually did think about getting the full version of the game, though. I thought that maybe some of these issues were addressed in the full game and $6.99 felt like a fair price for a puzzle game and hey, I need to play more puzzle games. However:

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I don’t know if it’s a false positive or not, but my computer is already crummy enough, so I’m not taking my chances.

From looking at Steam, the general consensus on Door is mixed, which is a consensus that I agree with. If you plan on picking up a puzzle game, I recommend checking out the demo to figure out if this is something you’d be down for.

TYPOCRYPHA – An Interview/Postmortem

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Typocrypha is an experimental typing JRPG visual novel about social and cultural alienation. Armed with the Typocrypha spellcasting device, a young member of the EVE-IRIS Counter-Demon Force confronts the demonic forces of the Evil Eye, an unknown enemy whose gaze is felt everywhere – including in themself.

I would have liked to write about it, but also, Hughe, the game’s lead developer, is also my friend, which would really cloud my judgement. I even made him fanart for his birthday, dangit. But I thought, hey, since I know him, I should hit him up to answer some questions on the game.

And so here we are today with an interview that’s also effectively a postmortem on the game and the experiences making it. Hughe’s responses are joined by James (producer, programmer, writer), Valentino/Tino (designer, programmer, writer), Herman (artist, animator) and Paige (artist). Many of these responses are pretty long, though I found them insightful and hopefully, you will too.

On the questions regarding the future of the game, please note that as the game is still in development, things may not be set in stone.

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Type Knight

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I have something special coming up, buuuuuut it’s not ready yet. So until then, let’s check out something vaguely related to that. Today we look at Type Knight, a game by chaikaDev. It’s a typing game where you play as a knight that fights skeletons and wizards through words. That’s pretty much all there is to it.

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Skeletons shamble toward you with words hovering above their heads to type out. It starts out with small, simple words, but later waves throws in longer, harder words that can trip you up. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you can actually type out “bomb” to clear the screen, which I think is a cool addition. Every proper kill increases your score and consecutive kills increase your multiplier and it all keeps going until you die.

Every few waves you run into a boss encounter, who types out their own words to hurt you while you have to blitz through their series of words to take them down. These encounters are my biggest problem with the game because, at least in the game’s current state, you’re pretty much guaranteed to take damage, as the list is long enough that you’re typing not to prevent damage, but to mitigate it. To balance this out, I feel that the boss’ list of words should be shorter so that a reasonably good typist can get through it without getting hurt or provide ways of blocking damage – like at the very least, bombs should interrupt the boss’ attack.

You can create custom games, though only a few options currently work. You can import text files for the game to draw its dictionary from, which can actually make the game harder (not necessarily a bad thing) because it may end up throwing in case-sensitive words and punctuation. You can also edit what keys the game is now allowed to use; so if you take out all the vowels, the game will just give you a bunch of words with “y.” Outside of the custom mode, you can also switch to using a French dictionary, which opens the way for this game to use different languages that’ll make it more accessible.

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On the aesthetics of the game, I think it’s nice. I actually really dig the background, I think it looks neat while not being too distracting, nor does it mix in with the white text. There are fog and rain effects, but if those are too much, you can change their intensity. The music is okay, though I noticed that around the fifth wave, the music cuts out, so it may not be looped properly. Overall, pretty serviceable.

Type Knight, as it currently stands, is simple – perhaps too simple. You never have to type anything beyond single words and there’s just the one enemy type. However, the options in the custom game menu indicates that different modes, items and difficulty options are considered. Type Knight has some good foundations so far, but the addition of those things and more variety, I feel, will greatly improve this game.

7-in-1 Morning Toast Mega Pack

I’ve mainly played visual novels for the past few weeks and I do love them, even though it makes me “a weeb, a gamer and a fucking nerd all at once.” But sometimes, I like to sit down with something more arcade-y, so I decided to hit up something I saw in my feed a while back.

The 7-in-1 Morning Toast Mega Pack is by Morning Toast, a developer that mainly dabbles in Pico-8. The mega pack is a collection of arcade games that they have previously released in one package, plus a game that they haven’t released before.

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We Know the Devil

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I’ve had We Know the Devil sitting around in my Steam library since 2016, which I probably got from the Halloween sale that year. I kept putting off playing it since that’s what anyone with a large Steam library does, but I thought, “hey, I’m doing this Pride Month thing, I should finally get around to playing it.”

We Know the Devil takes place at a summer camp dedicated to fighting the devil. The story follows the antics of Jupiter, Neptune and Venus as they get to learn about each other and themselves in a nice coming-of-age story. That also happens to be a horror. This story is brought to us by Aevee Bee and Mia Schwartz, under Date Nighto (who was also behind Hustle Cat).

[As always, spoilered text is put through ROT13]

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Untitled Dating Sim (First Three Dates)

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Pride Month is still going on and I will not let work get in my way! I continue my coverage with Untitled Dating Sim (First Three Dates) by Nilson Carrol (or just “nilson” on itch.io). The game recommends playing this with somebody else, presumably to make choices together, but I have no one to hang out with. So anyway.

You are first confronted with a series of choices. While what you identify as is a cosmetic decision, the other choices build up to who you end up dating (though I don’t understand how the system works). Your three choices of dates are… Nilson, Nilson and Nilson. You date different versions of the game’s creator that mostly acts the same and they instead offer different situations to engage in. The artist Nilson shows off his office and takes you for a walk through an artsy park, the barista Nilson takes you out for drinks and the playful Nilson… dates you at a supermarket.

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The reason why these Nilsons are essentially the same is that the goal isn’t to date a dating sim archetype that you’re into, but to use the dates as a form of reflection. One of the main aims of the dating sim is to sorta act as a tool of self-reflection and it accomplishes this through the game’s choices. There are no branching paths to the game, there’s no secret date night to be found if you pick a certain combination of choices. Nilson generally acts the same no matter what or is written to work around your decisions. The choices you make are the choices you feel. You can express affection toward this weird geeky caricature or act cold. You can express your love for JRPGs and type out your favorite one. You can give your takes on pizza and Nilson will nod along. You are ultimately the only judge of your decisions (unless you’re playing with someone else) and they say more about you than the story.

Whether you find a connection or not is also dependent on you. After a date, you could choose to bail or go on another date. Maybe you didn’t like the first night and wanted to give it another shot, to see if you connect to this version of Nilson. Personally, the playful Nilson kinda reflects my actual relationship in some ways and honestly, I appreciate anyone that loves a good JRPG.

As one can clearly see, the visuals are photographs of Nilson and the environments themselves. I love it because it sorta recontextualizes standard visual novel stuff into a real world setting. Nilson does static poses like a visual novel character and it looks silly, yet endearing. Using photos of real locations also gives this sense of place, like, “hey, I can go out on a date with this person here.” This presentation feels personal, which again ties into the dating sim being a personal experience.

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Going through the dates lasts you an hour. In that hour, I confirmed stuff about myself like that I fucking love JRPGs and anime and that I hate cold days. It’s a simple game, but an interesting approach toward dating sims that acts as a self-portrait for the creator and yourself. It is normally $1.21, but I bought it for a price of $0.68 as part of itch’s summer sale, which is a sale I suggest checking out as an alternative to Steam’s monopoly as Valve continues its spiral into libertarianism.

Coming Out Simulator 2014

And so, we continue this pride month with Coming Out Simulator 2014. The game is by Nicky Chase, who at the time identified as a bisexual guy. It’s a personal, semi-autobiographical story of a guy trying to come out to his conservative Asian parents that you can play in your browser.

The game starts out with a meta narrative of you talking with the creator. It’s a bit silly, but it acts as a lighthearted prologue to the game’s serious subject matter. The narration is told through text message format and while I think it’s neat, I think the writing was generally too formal for the presentation. Then again, I’m writing this four years later where there’s more emojis and textspeak parlance, so what do I know? You are then thrown into the past, after Nicky and his then-boyfriend went on a date, with the boyfriend encouraging Nicky to come out.

Choices have some sway, with dialogue reflecting past choices like the mother character calling you out as a liar if you contradict yourself with your choices. However, the main story is the same. Nicky’s environment is controlling, the mother already having read his texts. The father is an even more controlling piece of shit and the only somewhat good outcome is to pretend that Nicky is as straight as possible, which also manages to be very uncomfortable. No matter what you do, coming out will be a failure.

But of course, the game is semi-autobiographical. You can’t exactly wish a good outcome on something that has already happened. And really, your choices not mattering much in the grand scheme of things is true to life. Coming out isn’t guaranteed to have a good outcome. In an abusive, conservative household, coming out may as well be a losing game, no matter how hard you wish for a different outcome. The game is an uncomfortable contrition with a ticking clock as background noise, keeping the moment as tense as it’d be in real life.

While the game is Nicky’s story, if you’re LGBT, you may end up relating to it. With my own life situation, wow, did this game make me feel awful. I mean that in a good way, but damn.  This was a very tense experience for me and had me thinking about it when I went to sleep. The game can last up to twenty minutes, but it’s an impactful twenty minutes. Just know to expect some homophobia and abusive situations going into the game.