Prepare to serve the empress in With Those We Love Alive, to serve the whims of gravity in The Gears Don't Grind, and to be served a meal of slimy treats in Hugo's House of Horrors. You'll be doing a lot of reading, walking, shooting and jumping in this week's roundup, so be sure to outfit yourself appropriately.
The Gears Don't Grind by Ben Allen and Arayan
The gears don't grind, but your teeth might while you're playing this super-hard minimalist platformer. Compared to other super-hard minimalist platformers, Gears most closely resembles VVVVVV or Fred Wood's Love, thanks to its iconic, simplistic art style and retro colour palette. The gravity mechanic recalls Tez Cavanagh's game as well, although it works a little differently here. Every time you leap or fall from the side of the screen the gravity shifts – one moment you might be walking on the wall, the next you're dancing on the ceiling. (Oh what a feeling.) The functions of the left and right cursor keys are frequently reversed, often necessitating a spot of neck-craning to maneuver yourself about.
Dr Love by Cellusious
Dr Love is a twin-stick shooter because, well, what else could it be? I suppose it could be a match-three puzzler like Dr Mario, or a fictional London GP like Eastenders' Dr Legg, but I'm happy with the shooty Dr Love game we got. The twist here is that you're shooting blocks, most of the time, blocks that drop from the sky to either a) crush you like a love pancake, or b) get in your motherlovin' way. Blocks have differing properties, and it's not long before jerk enemies introduce themselves as well. The way the game progresses seems a little random for my liking, but this is a fast and furious and pretty enough shooter that maybe that doesn't matter all that much.
With Those We Love Alive by Porpentine and Neotenomie
The figure of the empress looms over this sumptuous, destabilising bit of sci-fi that filters childhood trauma through a pulp sci-fi/fantasy lens. Porpentine's vocabulary, turns of phrase, and mastery of Twine continues to impress, but it's Neotenomie's lush, embracing soundtrack that ties everything together. As an indentured servant in the palace of the brutal Empress, you'll construct strange armour, ethereal ornaments, and gruesome weaponry, as your subsumed past slowly creeps back into your life.
Orthoclase by Andrew Dawson
Sometimes you need a virtual island to retreat to and saunter about on, and Andrew Dawson's Orthoclase is better than most. There's nothing to do here but stroll, and look, and absorb, and appreciate, and it's a good way to unwind if, for some reason, you don't own your own private island in real life. I was a bit disappointed to find that I couldn't swim off to that distant landmass over there, but what can you do? *Starts furious e-petition demanding that Dawson add it in*.
Hugo's House of Horrors by Robot Parking and David Gray
A wonderfully cheeky bit of interactive fiction that takes David Gray's 1990 adventure game Hugo's House of Horrors and adds new writing over the top. It's a little like a game version of the brilliant Bad Lip Reading YouTube series, which uses clips from shows like The Walking Dead and implements new, hilarious dialogue that matches the lip-syncing perfectly. Robot Parking's poetic, silly, and sweary new words complement (screengrabs of) the original's pixel art rather well – I like to think that they've never even played it, and that they're improvising a new scenario on the spot.