New platformer wants you to know the environment is screwed

Sign up to receive each week’s Playlist e-mail here! Also check out our full, interactive Playlist section. Even the Ocean (Windows, Mac) BY ANALGESIC PRODUCTIONS Even the Ocean is a warning. It’s a game that wants to raise awareness of the human impact on the environment and for its players to spread its message. Its fictional world needs to be balanced by light and dark energies, and due to an imbalance brought about by power-hungry politicians, that world is accelerating towards its end. You play a power plant engineer who is tasked with trying to restore the balance and hopefully saving the world.…


Hyaline plans to bring more empathy to the survival game genre

A collection of game creators from Australia are trying to build a new planet. Nothing as expansive as No Man’s Sky has promised, but instead taking cues from survival games like Don’t Starve (2013) to create a world that is as dangerous as it is beautiful, and full of life that you can’t just hack your way through. Producer Rose Morgan has been working on Hyaline—the planet, not the game, though it will spring from the same world-building effort—for the better part of 10 years. According to the game’s website, it’s a “super-Earth that orbits a G0 star,” with rocky rings…

Abzu WhaleShark

Don’t hesitate to dive into Abzû

When I try to picture what the ocean depths must have looked like near England’s Jurassic Coast, 300 million years ago, I picture something like Van Gogh’s Starry Night (1889). I picture a space of stillness but also turbulent life, things moving ceaselessly in the restless dark; I picture everything swirling, vortices upon vortices. What I picture undoubtedly derives from my encounters with what seems to have been the region’s primary resident: the ammonite, a snail-like prehistoric shellfish with a shell in the shape of a swirl. Ammonites were everywhere in this place. If you look hard enough, you can…

Pokémon Kanto/Johto map

Fear not, Pokémon will save the planet

Pokémon has a complex relationship with nature. It’s among the most explicit and enthusiastic depictions of natural history in kid-oriented pop culture, but environmental educators begrudge its popularity. The series gains species while our planet loses them, and that somehow feels like a bad trade—it leaves a sour taste, though it’s far from obvious that it’s a trade at all. In a sense, Pokémon’s value as an environmentalist work is something we can only see now. Climate change has touched every part of the planet, and economic development in some of the most biodiverse regions of the world is inevitable.…


Samorost 3 is the best adventure game in years

In a cabin near Walker’s Lake, in Mississippi, there’s a piece of driftwood that looks almost like a wolf’s head. From another angle, it appears as some bizarre sailing vessel, and from another still, it has the look of an alien weapon—perhaps a hybrid of a gun and a club. I remember turning it over in my hands as a child, curious as to why anyone would place an oddly-shaped piece of wood on a table as a decorative object. I hadn’t thought of that bit of ornamental flotsam for years, but it suddenly appeared in my mind when I…


Revisiting the enduring horror of Far Cry 2

The Far Cry series has always dealt in discordance. Those hyper-saturated blues of travel agent brochures and the high-contrast greens of the indigenous flora, deliciously juxtaposed with the hyper-violence you were enacting on screen. It’s the calling card of the series, that contrast; travel fantasies gone wrong. But Far Cry: Primal, out in a few weeks, eschews that trait of the series in favor of a more muted palette. Its world is one untouched by pop culture aesthetics, it gets back to the dirt we supposedly rose out of in the hope that a retreat into our prehistory will rejuvenate…


The Joy of Nature

Right now, Paris is hosting the United Nations conference on climate change. It’s the 21st session to be held since these events started, and the 11th meeting since the Kyoto Protocol was agreed in 1997. These events tend to be underwhelming—a smattering of watery half-promises and spurious statistics—but this year there’s increased scrutiny following the global protests of last September. Three hundred thousand people took to the streets of New York while concurrent marches were being held across cities such as Berlin, Lagos, Johannesburg, Seoul, and London. And this November, the United Nations weather agency warned of the new “permanent…


Awaken a neolithic civilization in Monument Valley creator’s VR debut, out today

Living in the Bay Area, Land’s End for me is the overly windy cliffside overlooking the chilly, probably densely-polluted San Francisco bay. For critically acclaimed Monument Valley creator Ustwo Games, Land’s End is something else entirely—a quiet, meditative VR game that was released today. In its Samsung Gear VR debut, an ultra consumer friendly and portable VR-headset for those with Samsung phones, Ustwo Games has crafted a surreal, completely hands-free experience. With the Gear VR, Land’s End gives players the opportunity to navigate an ancient and beautiful world, said to be inspired by isolated regions from across the world, including Iceland,…


The first few minutes of Below shows the start of a legendary adventure

Exploring the depths of a cavernous island, a tiny warrior rigorously battles their way through the unknown, struggling against a stream of enemies. The story of a small hero up against a dark scary world isn’t a new concept, but it’s a powerful one. In Below, this concept is put into practice, and the promise of the adventure of a lifetime is dripping in the atmosphere created by dark colors and wide shots of the world around the character, reduced to a pinpoint of light against the vast backdrop. Below is a roguelike adventure title, where exploration and survival go…