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.

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.

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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Yume Nikki – Dream Diary –

The long awaited day for Yume Nikki fans has finally come. After a decade of inactivity on the front of official works, an official reimagining of the cult classic dream exploration game was announced. It finally released Feb. 22 on Steam and as a fan of the game since middle school, I pretty much bought the game as soon as it was available.

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Yume Nikki – Dream Diary – is developed by the Kadokawa Corporation, which is largely known for developing the RPG Maker engines that helped birth the original Yume Nikki to begin with. The original developer, Kikiyama, reportedly gave input on the project. There’s conspiracy theories that Kadokawa just made the game on their own since Kikiyama is anonymous and chooses to stay that way, but that’s nonsense, considering the fact that Kikiyama’s own website updated with the new logo (it’s the first link under the first red text on the left). I don’t know, maybe next people will claim that the site was hacked on Kadokawa’s behalf.

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Yume Nikki 3D

Yume Nikki – Dream Diary- was announced, rebooting the cult classic into a 3D horror game set to come out in February. Yume Nikki‘s something that’s important to me, which you can see given how often I mention the game on here. It’s been with me since middle school and it was one of the first indie games I’ve ever played, along with Cave Story, and they were a gateway for me into this whole scene. As somebody invested in Yume Nikki and its community, I’m excited to see Yume Nikki coming out for a bigger audience in a new way.

Now, the upcoming game isn’t the first time its main character Madotsuki ran around on a 3D plane. Within Yume Nikki’s vibrant fangame community, there was an attempt to make a 3D fangame.

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Yume Nikki 3D is by Zykoveddy, who published the game sometime in 2014. Like the game it’s based off of, you explore Madotsuki’s dreams – but now in 3D! Along with recreations of areas from the original game, there’s a whole bunch of new areas. To beat the game, you’d have to seek out Madotsuki’s effects (items that let her change appearance and sometimes gives abilities) along with keys that were added to the game.

3D really adds to Yume Nikki‘s original exploration. There’s this greater sense of scale that 3D can grant that 2D space cannot, Madotsuki a tiny entity in her strange dream worlds. I think this sense of scale is best appreciated in the game’s original tower area. As you walk on the tower’s walkways, you can look up and down and you can see the tower stretch on into forever, its expressed scale making the area feel more of a labyrinth than it already is.

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Being a 3D game, draw distance also becomes a factor that the creator plays with as an aesthetic. You can see everything in some areas plain as day, while others don’t have objects come into view until you get close enough, usually in areas that’s meant to be more unnerving. It’s sort of how like Silent Hill’s fog was there to limit draw distance and wound up being part of the game’s horror atmosphere.

The areas that are recreations are pretty faithful while the game’s original areas are generally good. Some of these areas have different moods than what Yume Nikki tries to convey, like the black-and-white area feeling playful compared to the usual loneliness and unease. However, I think variety is good. It’s a dream world and dreams aren’t 100% nightmares, which I feel is something that a lot of Yume Nikki fangames don’t get.

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Now, an addition to the game that I kinda don’t like are the platforming aspects. Yume Nikki 3D grants Madotsuki the ability to jump and adds a few platforming segments to her dreamscape. My thing with that though is that they feel out of place for the game. I wouldn’t mind platforming as a thing to facilitate exploration, but when you do actually have to platform, it’s just a sudden obstacle course that doesn’t go with the game’s flow. It felt like the creator felt obligated to put these sections and I felt that they were sort of unnecessary. Doesn’t help that you can’t jump while you’re using the bicycle effect, and since that speeds up your walking speed, why wouldn’t you be using it?

Speaking of unnecessary, the keys. You have to get all three keys to gain access to a doorway. What’s past the door? Why, another locked door. To get past this one, you need to have all the effects. But if that’s the case… why even have the keys in the game to begin with? You collect them the same way as the effects, so why not simplify things and just have the effects or make the keys into more additional cosmetic effects? Like the platforming elements, it’s not bad, but unnecessary.

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A later update to Yume Nikki 3D introduced the “Isolated” DLC. Taking place after that game, Isolated is a short linear romp in… wherever the hell Madotsuki ended up in.

Gotta be honest, it’s not as enjoyable as the main attraction, considering that you’re going from an exploration game to something where you’re railroaded. The original areas crafted for this DLC also doesn’t feel as strong or captivating as the stuff in the main game. The Isolated DLC sort of looks like the creator adding his own canon to the fangame and while I appreciate the ideas, the execution felt lackluster.

So, Yume Nikki 3D‘s an interesting take on Yume Nikki. It’s certainly got original ideas mixed in, and while I think a lot of it’s good, there’s some ideas that are extraneous that sorta drags the experience down a bit, on top of having a weak follow up. You know how in Cutthroat Kitchen where the chef nails the main dish perfectly but adds something extra for no good reason and gets kicked because of it? That’s what I feel about extraneous stuff.

Still though, it’s an interesting fangame and it takes around half an hour to play through. If you’re a Yume Nikki fan waiting around for that fancy new game to show up, maybe check this out while you wait.

#21: The World

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A bunch of television screens flicker before you, erratic and colorful. You try to do something but a masked figure comes from the side to cover your view. Next thing you know, you’re thrust into reality, from the perspective of somebody walking into a room. In an instant, you’re in a false version of the room, real life pictures turning into jpegs, the bed becoming a model of a bed. How do you leave this room? Just interact with anything in it and prepare to be taken deeper into the surreal world.

#21: The World is a Unity game by lsddev. It’s a game I’ve been sitting on for a while, as I’ve been waiting for it to update so that I can get a more proper look at it. It’s available for Windows and Mac users, though this look-over’s based on the Windows experience. The game is heavily inspired by LSD: Dream Emulator, the cult classic PS1 game where you explore dreams. It is also heavily based on the dev’s own dream diary that they kept for many years, reflecting how LSD got its own basis.

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Some Happy Games: Flower Park, MORNING POST, Hot Date

Sometimes, we just gotta get our minds off of things and turn to our favorite hobbies. Let’s ignore the nihilism of Twitter to play some video games. Today, let’s look at short happy games that I played that you could try out, all pay-what-you-want (of course, it doesn’t hurt to spread the joy to developers with money).

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