The VR/flight stick/oh-my-god-I'm-in-a-spaceship approach to space games might be a particularly bloody exciting one, but that doesn't mean you need to re-mortgage your cutlery to experience the wonder of that huge expanse of darkness up there. This week's Even the Stars offers a universe of beauty, haunting emptiness and low-poly spaceships, and to experience it you won't need to spend a dime. Read on for exactly that, plus a game about falling, video killed the horror star, and a deep, deep, deep, deep sleep. Enjoy!
Pol Clarissou's extraordinary game reminds me of the beautiful MirrorMoon EP , although it's not nearly as ambiguous as that hard-won exploration puzzle game. Even the Stars puts you in a spaceship, in a spaceship's favourite place—space—complete with a warp drive to travel to distant planets or moons, and a radio to hear fragments of civilisations from the distant past. Travelling is process that starts with typing out some coordinates—the positively demonic 66-66-66 should get you started—and ends with you leaving the ship to admire an alien tree, an alien streetlight, an alien pyramid or what have you. I have no idea how many of the millions of possible co-ordinates are represented with interesting locations here, if they're randomly generated or placed there by an intelligent creator, and I'm not entirely sure I even want to peek behind the curtain. Even the Stars is a game of magical vastness, and I'd rather not spoil that one bit.
A game about jumping on and past platforms filled with houses, water coolers, sofas and tables, which can all be bashed and knocked around as you spelunk your way to bottom of the cave. The skewed perspective, the striking red walls, the odd physics of the objects as they tumble to the ground: this is a joyfully destabilising ride. It's somehow completely apt that it's accompanied by a soundtrack of "THE CONFIG MUSIC FROM 'WAVE RACE 64' SLOWED DOWN".
The 'busted videotape' aesthetic is strong in this videodromey horror, as are the deliberately awful controls, which revive Resident Evil's tank controls and somehow make them even worse. You have four arms, you see, and in order to pick stuff up—videotapes etc—you need to awkwardly fumble with the corners of the number pad, before hitting spacebar to confirm. It might sound like a complaint—it kind of smells like a complaint too—but there's a nostalgia factor to VIDdeEO's awkward 3D fumblings that fits in perfectly with its analogue, VHS look. A voyeuristic, moderately infuriating game, but a fascinating survival horror with it.
The final part of scriptwelder's terrific Deep Sleep trilogy is here, and this one expands beyond the atmospheric horror and puzzles of the previous games with novel stealth bits that make fun use of cursor input. Once again, fairly simple but pretty engaging adventure puzzles are the order of the day, along with occasional spooks achieved though an adept use of light, shadow and timing. Here's scriptwelder setting the scene:
"Here you are, at the final depth. Danger lurks behind every corner, even the Shadow People are afraid of this place. Will you be able to get back to the surface and wake up? Or will you remain here forever?"
Well, will you?
Ben of 'Ben and Dan' fame has made a short, fun Twine game that feels a lot like the Fighting Fantasy books I used to enjoy when I were a wee nipper. Mainly because it's been built in that mould, with heaps of random dead ends that see you made incorporeal through no fault of your own. There was a real thrill to be had reading FF's surprise, swift exits, I suspect because they were a ton of fun to write, and that's a feeling that comes across in Ben's game too. You'll die repeatedly in The Often-Ending Story, in a variety of ridiculous and funny ways, and you'll very likely instantly restart to see what other marvelous demises he's conjured up.