Thoth isn’t here to make friends

Thoth works on certain illusions. A static screenshot would make you think this twin-stick shooter is more in line with Jeppe Carlsen’s previous game—the rhythm-based, minimalist platformer 140 (2013)—or that your dot in Thoth is kettled in against mean squares that look like descendants to Geometry War’s (2003) shapes. Thoth may only have a few matted colors at a time, but it is very loud; a mouse that roars. it invokes stages of fear Those squares, and many other bad shapes, are 3D in a 2D world. The way they float appears more like a gelatin warble, or a figure…


Smokestacks and metalwork: The industrial horror of videogames

In the most famous scene in Fritz Lang’s cinematic masterpiece Metropolis (1927), the protagonist, Freder, descends beneath the film’s urban dystopia to find a great network of machinery being tended by nameless, uniformed men. Steam columns, the clouds of this underground microcosm, rise and fall all around as the brass soundtrack mimics the percussive thronging of industrial noise. Freder wanders aimlessly through this metallic maze, looking onwards, terrified, at row upon row of men all operating levers in perfect automated symmetry. As the horns reach their background climax, an eruption of smoke and gas tears through the metalwork and throws…


Climb a mystical mountain in a game based on Tibetan Buddhism

In Tibetan Buddhism, the space between death and rebirth is called bardo, a liminal period containing six—or four, depending on the source or scholar—different states, experienced in phases from birth to death to rebirth. This “limbo” is a journey in multiple senses, both to a spiritual conclusion and to a physical resurrection. British developer Blind Sky Studios explores this in-between space in Mandagon, a freeware game released earlier this week on Steam. As detailed in a blog post, Mandagon was born as the personal project after one of the team members suffered a death in the family. The game shifted…


Inside dares you to escape

Sign up to receive each week’s Playlist e-mail here! Also check out our full, interactive Playlist section. Inside (PC, Xbox One) BY PLAYDEAD Playdead appears to have taken some lessons from Limbo and the many emulators that came after it. Focusing on atmosphere and a mounting sense of dread, Inside is a journey into the grayness of the human condition under surveillance. You are a boy, you are hunted, you are observed, you are sacrificed, again and again. While more mechanically forgiving than its predecessor, Inside is cruel to its players in a way few other games have ever dared to…


Inside wants to devour you

Everyone who has ever played Éric Chahi’s Another World (1991) remembers the “Beast.” Emerging from a pool of water, you see a four-legged silhouette perched menacingly on a nearby ledge. The creature then exits to the right. On the next screen it appears momentarily in the background, but you’re distracted by the poisonous worms crawling towards you. By the third screen you may have forgotten about it altogether until crossing an invisible threshold triggers it to appear. It snarls. You run. It chases you. But you didn’t run soon enough, and it catches you, kills you, and sends you back…


See a beautiful black-and-white world unfurl as you move

Stroke is a new short game from James Coffey that plays a bit like a movie theater roller coaster ride. You know the sort: short vignettes that advertise the brand of the theater right after the previews finish but before the movie starts. These shorts are known for their over-the-top nature and flashy effects, with coaster tracks being made out of licorice or popcorn kernels exploding in the distance as the cart swings by. There are many different versions depending on which theater you visit, but the one factor linking them all together is that something is always moving in…


Meat Boy, Mario, and the perfect platformer jump

“What actions are ideal in a jump curve?” asked Playdead level designer Martin Fasterholdt to a sizeable crowd for his panel at the Game Developer’s Conference. In a discussion that stemmed from Fasterholdt’s own master thesis, the “You Say Jump, I Say How High?” panel explored the varying degrees of the best and most dynamic of 2D platforming jumps. His primary examples for the talk being the frenetic Super Meat Boy (2010), the classic Super Mario Bros. 3 (1988), and the precision-driven Limbo (2010) from Fasterholdt’s own Playdead (a game he claimed he was incidentally “too young” to work on…


The Witness gets the Limbo treatment

Just as photographs generally look good with a black and white filter, no matter the subject matter, it’s become increasingly apparent to me that stripping a game of its textures almost always produces a cool effect. One of the artists working on The Witness seems to agree—she was able to produce these moody screenshots by tinkering around with the game’s depth editor, turning the usually bright and colorful island into a stark and foggy shadowland. The obvious comparison here is to Limbo, Playdead’s gloomy grayscale platformer that borrowed its look heavily from the sharp monochrome of German expressionist film. It’s…