hk screenshot 1 cropped
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There’s an upcoming game about exploring a dystopian city as a cat

In October of 2015, French duo Koola and Viv released a screenshot of a cat sitting in a dark alley, silhouetted by a hazy red light as the sun filtered in from some unknown opening above. This scene is the first glimpse of the as yet untitled “HK project,” an experiment in third-person exploration that promises to be a pioneering influence on the genre of “cat adventure videogame.” Early glimpses of gameplay send our feline protagonist across pipes and up air conditioner stairs, to its end goal of talking to a bunch of robots, probably. Though the creators haven’t said…

Nomanssky2
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No Man’s Sky finally revealing its mysteries when it launches this June

It’s been a little over two years since ambitious space exploration game No Man’s Sky, with its “planet-sized planets” and “universe-sized universe,” was first announced back in December of 2013. Since then, the game’s trailers and various press showings have been great at capturing the imagination, but haven’t exactly shown us too much of just what this game is about. What’s there to do in this massive universe? What sort of creatures and people live in it? What’s this all leading up to? As with J.J. Abrams and his mystery box, part of the excitement of No Man’s Sky comes…

NORTH
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Experience the difficulty of seeking asylum in a beguiling virtual city

That NORTH is about the current climate surrounding mass immigration is about as obvious as a sledgehammer to the face. It’s coated in 80s synth-pop sci-fi as if to cover it up but there’s no denying it. You are a person in an overwhelmingly foreign city. You must learn the customs of this new culture. You have traveled from the south, escaping its lakes of fires, crossing a harsh desert, and arrived here where you hope it’ll be safe. Subtle this game’s allegory is not. Mind you, the creators at Outlands (who also made the politically-charged Dämmerung) aren’t necessarily trying to…

Lieve Oma
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Look out for this beautiful tribute to sweet, caring grandmothers

“My grandmother is probably the most important person ever to me,” writes illustrator and game maker Florian Veltman. This text appears on the website for his latest game—it’s to be called Lieve Oma, the Dutch for “Dear Grandmother”—which Veltman confirms to me will very much be framed as a letter to his grandmother. But rather than have us stare at an inked page, Lieve Oma gives us an autumnal forest to explore, in which we play a young girl who goes mushroom picking with her grandmother. Lieve Oma originally started out dedicated to the people in our lives who give us…

Timruk Screen shot
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Timruk explores the layers of historic violence beneath its beauty

Pages contain bodies and blood both literal and metaphorical. Illustrations and text occupy a confined world of disarray, littered with skulls. Among this is the beauty of rain falling and of bright wallpaper colors. A world where your hands are not your own. This is a world of contrasts, the world of Timruk, the world of Somewhere. Studio Oleomingus is simultaneously in the business of beauty and violence. Its latest game is called Timruk, which is a fragment of the larger upcoming videogame project Somewhere, following on from the studio’s previous off-shoot, Rituals. All these games have in common a thematic basis in colonial India but Timruk…

Firewatch
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Firewatch: Come for the beauty, stay for the eeriness

Firewatch gets it. Beauty alone isn’t enough to carry an experience. There needs to be some grit, a bit of dirt, conflict even, to elevate a videogame (hell, any piece of art) from the whimsical to something more. I have a problem with 2009’s Flower and 2013’s Proteus precisely because there isn’t anything to offset that serene beauty, their new-age hokum. But in Firewatch, no matter how gorgeous that sunset or night sky is, there’s always a thick sense of dread. Something to unsettle you. Something to make you tense up. I’m not talking bump-in-the-night, Blair-Witch, voodoo nonsense either. Forget…

Eastshade
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Eastshade will let you paint its idyllic landscapes as you explore

Hark, another open world, first-person game in which you traverse picturesque natural environments! That is both slightly unfair to Eastshade, a PC game that is currently in the making, and factually beyond reproach. Eastshade, as with many games before it, is all of those things, but it is also endearingly meta. You play as a painter who wanders through natural vistas in search of inspiration. That shouldn’t be too hard to come by, as the game offers stunning visuals, but there is still the not insignificant matter of framing. As you go about your business, you can stop to paint…

SCORN
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Now this is a videogame worthy of Beksinski’s haunting paintings

If you look upon the mournful, decaying figure sat atop that webbed plinth above and don’t immediately think of Zdzisław Beksiński then you aren’t familiar with his work. And if that’s the case then you might not fully realize the appeal of Scorn, the videogame that this concept art informs. Time to change that. What Beksiński did with bone haunts. He was a Polish artist, best known for his many paintings, especially the gothic fantasy that dripped from his brush during the 1970s and 1980s. But Beksiński’s gothic fantasy isn’t like any other: forget about crows, full moons, and vampires. He rarely spoke…

Californium
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Californium brings Philip K. Dick’s vision of the world to life

“Life in Anaheim, California, was a commercial for itself, endlessly replayed. Nothing changed; it just spread out farther and farther in the form of neon ooze. What there was always more of had been congealed into permanence long ago, as if the automatic factory that cranked out these objects had jammed in the on position.” —Philip K. Dick,  A Scanner Darkly, 1977. /// Dimensions merge in Californium like pools of spilled ink on paper. Each one is given a predominant color so that they easily contrast—it makes the strange effect lucid if not any easier to get your head around. A cold, austere blue…