We Happy Few thinks you should maybe go off your meds

Among the many titles shown off as part of Microsoft’s press conference on Monday was We Happy Few by Compulsion Games. The demo opens with the player character looking up from a candy apple red microfiche reader and straight into a giant clock that reads FRI 9 OCT 64. Meanwhile, he is muttering in an English accent over what sounds like remembered screams and emergency announcements. All of this is to say very quickly that We Happy Few is set in a dystopian England with a strong Fallout-esque retro-future vibe. To top that off, I was delighted to learn that the…


Overland is the road trip from hell, but it’s okay, there are dog friends

Finji showed off a new trailer for their upcoming game Overland yesterday as part of the PC Gaming Press Conference at E3. In order to be both accessible and complex, Overland has pared the tactics genre down significantly. It plays out on a series of nine-by-nine grids, where your squaddies have around three health tops, can usually perform two actions per turn, and—whether it’s a machete or a medkit—can carry only one item at a time. There’s a lot of tense counting out steps Each turn feels like a puzzle—how will we keep quiet and still collect the gas we…

Mu Cartographer

Mu Cartographer imagines beautiful, alien archaeology

As analog technology tends to do, our old tube TV died a long and drawn-out death. In the run-up to its final croak, the knob that controlled the volume also turned it on, and in order to get it to display any picture at all, you had to slowly bring the knob to the point at which it would click on, wrench hard to the left, and then back to the right. Usually it wouldn’t work, and you’d try again. When the picture came into focus, you’d have to adjust other knobs to bring the colors into a reasonable palette and…


Michael Brough has another tricky labyrinth for you to survive

Michael Brough excels at designing systems that are simpler than they sound—better understood through exploration than explanation—and his grid-based games keep getting smaller and more complicated. In Imbroglio, his latest, your little dungeon-crawler has two health counters in the form of hearts and diamonds. Hearts are damaged by red monsters, diamonds by the blue ones, and you can do damage to their hearts or diamonds if you’re standing on a red or blue weapon tile respectively. In some of Brough’s previous work—like 868-HACK (2013) or Zaga-33 (2012)—you gain abilities by collecting them during play, but in Imbroglio, they all start…

Future Unfolding

Future Unfolding’s team wants to randomly generate hand-designed puzzles

In his recent book Spelunky, Derek Yu writes about the process of designing his 2008 (and 2012 remake) game of the same name, and often refers to the difficulties introduced by the decision to generate levels randomly. He describes trying to make sure that every time a level is generated, it is new, challenging, and solvable: “The game’s first priority,” he says, “is to make sure that there is a path from the entrance to the exit that is traversable without the use of bombs, rope, or other special equipment.” Spelunky generates its levels with templates for rooms and patterns for smaller…


A videogame that’s also a poem about someone else’s dreams

Popularized by the 122 tape-recorders scattered across BioShock’s (2007) sunken city, the audio-log is a device for dispensing story details in voiceover to a player who might be more absorbed by shooting baddies. Audio-logs allow for writing to be integrated into a game which otherwise would not support the story formats we’re already familiar with through text or radio or film: usually they are unobtrusive and not integral to the experience. This is not always true: in Gone Home (2013), the audio-logs represent pages of a diary, and are not just the central way in which the story is told, but…

Wood for the Trees

Lose yourself in the looping puzzles of a beautiful low-res forest

The first paper note in Wood for the Trees asks: “don’t you just love reading notes on lamp posts?” Images and icons present in other first-person Unity games like Slender (2012) or Andrew Shouldice’s Hide are on display here too. The same note makes reference to “a missing beloved one” addressed by some of the internal monologue, also presented as text on the screen. Built in two days for the 35th Ludum Dare game jam (the theme of which was “Shapeshift”) Wood for the Trees is pervaded by the awareness that it isn’t a game of entirely new ideas—but it’s better…

Steam Controller

People have figured out how to get the Steam Controller to sing

The player piano was a big deal in the early 1900s—if you could afford one, you could hear piano music in your home as performed by the machine itself, reading off rolls of punchcards pre-loaded with popular tunes. These early digital music devices fell out of fashion as the analog phonograph reproduced music more accurately and more cheaply. The modern MIDI file is its own sort of punch card, designed to be used with a wide variety of digital instruments. The files are highly compressed, but can produce a fairly accurate rendition of the original song when spit out through…

Wireframe church

Wireframe church looks like a videogame’s debug mode made real

Ruins force the present to live right next to the distant past. In Rome, traffic passes by the Colosseum, which has mostly survived and been restored, but sites such as the Circus Maximus are obvious because of their absence. There are no cafes or shops on this enormous oval, and it’s surrounded on all sides by a uniform and evenly-sloped hill that suggests human labor, but the open park is all that’s left to suggest there was something there. One imagines the spaces that used to be present—stadium seating, booths for the wealthy—stretching up beside and above them. In ruins,…