The Freeware Works of Modus Interactive Games

Today, we’re looking at the freeware games of Modus Interactive, a developer whose outfit is mainly walk-around games defined by lo-fi aesthetics and horror. I originally wanted to only play SPIRIT by Modus Interactive, but it ended up being really short. So, I ended up looking at the rest of their freeware work. The developer has also made a larger, commercial game called Sanguine Sanctum, which I hope to check out at a later date.

SPIRIT–

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SPIRIT– sets you on a ghost hunt… well, I assume that’s what the creepily garbled text in the description says. This game actually offers a version that can be played in VR – however, I don’t own any fancy headsets, so my experiences are based on the non-VR version.

You start out in a lo-fi park, tree sprites and weird machinery surrounding you. You hear static and buzzing around you, from no discernible source. You step away from the noises and search for your trusty ghost-hunting tool, a sort of screen that lets you peer into an alternate world.

And then you see what the world really is. Through the window you see the sources of those awful noises are the ghosts, just watching you from the other world, mostly similar to your own but with corrupted, visceral textures.

You don’t actually hunt ghosts in this game, you just sorta watch them, which I feel would disappoint some people. I think it’s an interesting horror game, though. The concept of peering into a different realm on top of your own gives this sense of unease. Nothing jumps out at you or attacks you, but they’re all watching you. You’re always being watched, but you would never know unless you watch back.

Maybe there’s another realm to our own, where we’re being watched by our own ghosts. Silently. Constantly.

Empty House

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An empty house sits in an empty land. And that’s all there is to it.

Semi-realistic textures are distorted through filters, bizarre coloration making the mundane feel alien. Empty House follows a similar idea to SPIRIT in that looking through glass offers a different perspective of the world, the world from inside the house being distorted.

It’s much simpler than SPIRIT, though I really like the look to this game. It’s got this cursed found footage vibe that I really dig and something that I’d want more of in my life if I wasn’t so squeamish.

PC_001

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In PC_001, you play a game within a game where you’re trying to escape from the tower. And honestly, that’s all I’m going to really say about it, because the game’s main conceit is something that you’ll stumble into and talking about it will ruin it. While less atmospheric than the other games, PC_001 makes up for it with a neat premise.

Siren Head

Siren Head was made for The Haunted PS1 Jam, which is a good fit for Modus Interactive considering the rest of their work. It has a bit of a narrative, though it’s no less mysterious, especially when you come face to face with the eponymous creature. The creature is honestly pretty cool, being an extension of a mundane yet always jarring regular occurrence. It’s real short but it’s also the one that I want to see more of. The other games feel like they’re long enough to convey what they needed to convey, but I feel that there could be more to play around with in this game. I want to see more of this majestic monster.

Neko Yume

On the subject of haunted PS1 games, there was also a game jam that celebrated LSD: Dream Emulator’s anniversary, with Neko Yume being Modus Interactive’s contribution to it.

While there are a few horror elements, Neko Yume is generally just a surreal romp through dreamscapes of goofy cats. While textures act wonky, Neko Yume captures the feel of LSD: Dream Emulator’s areas, with worlds obscured by low draw distance and revisits having slight variations (be it different textures, NPC changes, etc). Like Siren Head, it’s something that I’d like to see more of.

Furthest Reach

Furthest Reach steps away from the soft lo-fi horror to go with some sci-fi with a twinge of horror. You travel in a small spaceship, scouting out planets in between periods of stasis.

After every FTL stop (assuming you put the right amount of time on your stasis), you’ll pull up alongside some planets. You then hop onto the ship’s cameras and fire some drones toward the planet to analyze them. Watching the drones just whiz by from the window and your monitors is a neat effect.

After that you… turn the FTL back on and go back to sleep. Well, you’re just out here doing science. not going on grand space adventures. It’s a really lonely journey, your only company the stars and a variety of electronic loops.

Twinkle Witch ~save the sweets!!~

How about that Deltarune? I played it, you probably played it, probably a good chunk of the internet’s played it – which is why I won’t be talking about it! I usually try to avoid talking about extremely popular indie games because I’m all about bringing attention to lesser known ones. So, I decided to take a look at something that was floating around during Halloween that I thought looked really cool!

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For the Halloween season, Jocelyn Kim brought us Twinkle Witch ~Save the Sweets!!~, a cute em’ up. Twinkle Witch is sleeping in on Halloween when, alas, three fiends decide to take candy away from the local village! The kind witch doesn’t want the children’s Halloween to get ruined (and wants to make Crystal Witch happy), so she sets off to fight the monsters responsible!

The game is presented in a small window, graphics mimicking old shmup games. As a cute em’ up, the art style is bright and cutesy, with the standard monsters having this “ugly cute” vibe to them. Tying the cute Halloween aesthetic together is the jaunty chiptune soundtrack. It carries this mood of going out trick-or-treating with friends and just having a good time, which is a mood that I feel is underrepresented in Halloween media.

Twinkle Witch is divided into horizontal stage sections and vertical boss battles. The stages are super straightforward, with the stage’s local enemies charging at you. Aside from flight patterns, enemies don’t pose much threat, since they don’t shoot bullets. With each stage only having one enemy type, there is little variety.

The game does get harder if you try for score. For whatever reason, these fiends have stuck candy caches into clouds. Shooting clouds causes the candy to bounce out for you to catch. Suddenly those flying formations of enemies seem much more dangerous, blocking your valiant efforts to catch the candy. The game also gives you a shield that lets you ram through enemies, though you won’t gain candy from defeated enemies.

While the stage sections are super simple, the boss battles are more involved. While the enemies of the stage enemies seem to kinda be minding their own business, the bosses and the enemies they summon actively gun for you, making the game more frantic. Dracula in particular uses some unusual moves that makes for an engaging climax.

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I love the cutscenes for giving a better look at the character designs; Twinkle Witch’s is extremely good.

Twinkle Witch is a short and sweet time. I wished that there was more to the experience, but it’s good for what it is and it nails down the cutesy Halloween look.

Alice mare

The Cheshire Cat appears before you, making snide comments and mocking you as you go. “Alice,” he keeps calling you, as he does to everyone, because all people are the same to him. You dismiss his nonsense and he disappears, with the inevitable promise of coming back to harass you later. You turn your focus to the doors before you and they beckon you to delve into the dreams of their occupants.

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Alice mare is a game made in Wolf RPG Maker, made by Miwashiba, translated by vgperson. I previously played Miwashiba’s LiEat games, which I thought were okay adventure games with a charming style. If the dates for the original freeware games on Vector is accurate, Alice mare was actually made before the LiEat games, so I tried going into this without preconceptions from playing them.

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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.

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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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.

An article and a bunch of games I did within an hour and a half

So I was sitting in my school’s library, waiting for my next class in a few hours. I was bored, so I went on Twitter to ask for some short games to play. I thought that maybe I should write about the stuff I played real quick to make up for the fact that I didn’t publish an article last week. Professionalism!

Spider’s Hollow

Spider’s Hollow is a game made in Puzzlescript by my friend, Far Away Times. I told them I’d get around to playing one of their games one of these days and I guess now is the day.

Spider’s Hollow is a simple puzzle game where your fairy protagonist goes off to search for her friends that disappeared investigating a small hollow. The first two levels are tutorials that introduce the game’s block pushing and the fact that walking in webs slows you down. Seems simple enough. But then the narration in-between levels turns out to be by the eponymous spider, who will start chasing her down after a few moves are made.

Spider’s Hollow is a block pushing game that’s less about clearing the way to the exit, but more about either blocking off the spider’s path or delaying it from reaching you before you get to the exit. Unless the school’s computers are screwy, there seems to be no audio, which is my only big negative to the experience. I wish that there was more content, but otherwise, it’s something short and sweet with a surprisingly bleak ending.

Winnie the Pooh’s Homerun Derby

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This isn’t a small indie game, but it’s an infamous flash game made on the orders of Disney. My friend Rasen suggested this to me and while I respect and care about him, this is the worst curse ever bestowed upon me.

Winnie the Pooh, this foolish bear, must hit a certain number of home runs as his woodland pals throw balls at him. You position Winnie the Pooh with your mouse and click to swing, with swings at the green circle being more likely to produce a home run.

Something that annoys me about the game is that there isn’t a pause function. There isn’t even a restart or quit function either, so if you’re literally unable to win, you just have to wait for Pooh’s chucklefuck friend to be finished throwing to reach the inevitable conclusion.

Alright, so here’s the thing: my reflexes are absolute shit. I actually can’t pass Piglet because I’m absolute garbage at games of pure reflex. I ended up quitting on Piglet, but I consider that a blessing. I know what’s in the horizon. I know that these motherfuckers start throwing bizarre tosses and doing King Crimson antics. I know that if I keep playing, I’ll be folded into nothing for nothing. I will see nothing but despair if I keep going. So I didn’t.

Music is nice though. It’s nice cheerful stuff, which is rather contrary to what you’ll be feeling playing this.

Anyway, check out Rasen’s podcast, We Are Finally Podcast.

The Inhumanity of Hitpoints

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The Inhumanity of Hitpoints is a text by BabylonTheGreat made for the Manifesto Jam. Like a scholarly text, they rant against the continual usage of hit points in video games, viewing it as a game abstraction that needs to go. I don’t entirely agree with their ramblings, but I also see where they’re coming from. Granted, in the comments below, they admit that this manifesto is rather utopian and that they didn’t have any big alternatives to the hit point system in mind.

Reading this makes me think about how video game lives are sort of dying as a concept in platformer games. Like, a lot of hard indie platformers opt to just give you unlimited lives instead of forcing an arbitrary limit that only makes sense in the realm of arcade games that wants to eat your money. Like god, can you imagine how obnoxious Super Meat Boy would be with a life system? Even Super Mario Odyssey has ditched its lives in favor of a slap on the wrist punishment, which is good, because the series’ continued usage of lives and such has grown to be more arbitrary. Will similar shifts happen for other genres? Who can really say??

Agar.io

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My friend Julien suggested checking out Agar.io, that multiplayer game where you’re an orb and eat other orbs to become the greatest orb ever. With my mighty steed, Future Funk, I went on an orb gathering adventure.

You guide your cell around with the mouse and you can divide and shoot your divided clone forward, which is useful for catching the small fry that’s really good at dodging. There are also spiky orbs that could split yours up if you’re big enough when you touch it. And that’s pretty much it. Just a quest to get bigger and become the biggest fish in the pond.

My honest opinion on Agar.io? It’s one of those games that’s just sort of satisfying to play, even if it’s kinda uneventful. Watching your orb grow in power and gobble other orb carries the same satisfaction as watching the numbers in a clicker game run up for me.

Eventually, my conquest to bring Future Funk to the world was ended when it was chewed up by a mass with a rose in its name, so I guess the Democratic Socialists of America hate future funk.

All Our Asias

I’m going to be taking a break from my New Year’s Resolution queue and yelling about RPG Maker games this week. In fact, instead of playing oldish games like usual, I’m gonna get with the times and ramble about another recent release.

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All Our Asias is a narrative game by Sean Han Tani, most known for his work on Anodyne and Even the Ocean (which I previously wrote about) with Joni Kittaka. It’s a story of a young man named Yuito that wants to learn about his estranged, dying father. To know who he is, Yuito signs up to go into his father’s Memory World, traveling through a dreamy visualization of his past and learning about the things he got involved with.

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