Taking a closer look at games on the fringe
This week, we play “Assimilation” a game with no genre listed but which Jordan describes as a “stealth platformer with survival horror vibes” (Blake is skeptical at first of the “stealth designation,” but he comes around). We talk about the many pop cultural reference points of this games machine dystopia, including Blade Runner, Robocop, Inception, and Star Trek. We also talk about how the game combines mechanics from different game genres, with varied results: platforming and stealth, collection and survival, and so on. Also, Jordan breaks the game.
Follow the creators on Twitter: @jestersheepy
Play the game here: https://jestersheepy.itch.io/assimilation
Aug 25 2019
This week, we play as amphibious investigators in “Grace Bruxner Presents: The Haunted Island, a Frog Detective Game” (it’s a mouthful). We talk about how this game borrows from the classic adventure game formula, as well as how it manages to be so consistently funny. It’s just all around a lovely game. If you are a person who loves joy, you should play it.
Find the game here: https://fisho.itch.io/haunted-island
And follow the creator on Twitter: @gracebruxner
Feb 03 2019
This week, we play Karlson, a zany action-platformer-shooter by Dani Dev on Itch. The slow-motion shooting bits prompt comparisons to My Friend Pedro and John Wick, and we talk a bit about why the platforming sections feel so volatile. A question about optimal crouch key bindings prompts debate.
Find the game here: https://danidev.itch.io/karlson
And follow the creator on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/DaniDev
Feb 02 2020
This week, we explore “Black Room,” a dreamlike exploration game by Cassie McQuater about trying to use an old trick you learned from your mother to help you fall asleep. We talk about the way this game uses the browser itself as a game mechanic, as well as the history of gender representation in videogames. Blake claims that he doesn’t know what the meaning of “pop-up” is anymore.
Find the game here: https://cass.itch.io/blackroom
And follow the creator on Twitter: @cassiemcquater
Feb 10 2019
This week, we play “Tales from Off-Peak City, Vol. 1,” the newest game from Cosmo D. Like all his games, it’s weird-- in the best way possible. We talk about the music, Cosmo D’s vision, anti-capitalist games, deindustrialization, consumerism, sex noises, and horrible pizza toppings. Blake says that the game reminds him of a film, which Jordan successfully guesses on the first try. Not sure what that says about us.
Find the game here: https://store.steampowered.com/app/1129920/Tales_From_OffPeak_City_Vol_1/
And follow the creator on Twitter: @cosmoddd
Feb 23 2020
This week, we play a student game called UNDEFEATED, in which you play as a superhero who beats the shit out of bad guys. We talk about how the game feels arcade-like even though it isn’t arcade-style, which leads to a long digression about how the context in which a game is played affects its design. We agree that the boss fights are extremely tricky, but applaud how fast and punchy the game feels.
Find the game on Steam: https://store.steampowered.com/app/1116960/UNDEFEATED/
Follow the creators on Twitter: @undefeated_game, @UMA_hero_16, @kelu_alfheim39, @wolfboy_1210
Aug 18 2019
This week, we play the Haunted PS1 Demo Disc 2020, a collection of games by various creators that evoke the PS1 era. It’s an impressively diverse collection of games, featuring killer bees, clockwork gods, psychedelic cats, and Finnish sauna-men. The experience prompts Blake to wax nostalgic about demo discs of yore.
Find the game(s) here: https://hauntedps1.itch.io/demodisc2020
Mar 08 2020
We play something a little bit different this week: AI Dungeon 2, a text adventure game by Nick Walton that experiments with machine learning in order to create an infinite game-space. We talk about how this “game” is just a joy to play, even when it spits out nonsense. Our discussion turns to text genres, natural language processing, porn (naturally), and biased algorithms. We also read quotes from our favorite playthroughs: impersonating the president, getting stoned in the woods, exploiting the peasants, and encountering a very confused gunman.
Find the game here: https://www.aidungeon.io/
And follow the creator on Twitter: @nickwalton00
Dec 22 2019
This week, we check out a new kind of object of discussion for the podcast: “Make it Juicy,” a game/presentation designed by Lonebot that demonstrates how to make a game more “juicy” without fundamentally altering its mechanics. After a brief discussion of what exactly game juice is, we speculate about whether juice is simply “better” or if it can actually alter a game’s theme in concrete ways. And Jordan talks about alien refuse, for some reason.
Play the game in-browser here: https://lonebot.itch.io/make-it-juicy
And follow the creators on Twitter: @Mati_Ernst, @Itamar_Ernst, @Patacorow, @_JasonLord_
Jan 13 2019
This week we play Dead Sector, a student game that Blake describes as the “Dark Souls of Deadspace.” We talk about how it combines ideas from both games, as well as which ideas complement each other and which ones feel more dissonant. We admire the game’s art and animations. Diegetic interfaces are complemented. Blake says he “loves to hand ass.”
Download the demo here: https://deadsector.itch.io/deadsector
And follow the creators on Twitter: @TheDeadSector
Dec 15 2019
In this week’s episode, we play Museum of the Saved Image, an explorable museum of desktop clutter by itch.io user “flan.” The game takes us on a tour of all the saved images from the creator’s desktop over one period of time: Facebook conversations, memes, photos with friends, and pictures of lemons. We talk about characterization, senses of humor, and ARGs. Blake reminisces about funnyjunk.com.
Find the game here: https://flan.itch.io/museum-of-the-saved-image
Jan 26 2020
This week, we play “Oh, Snake!” by Henning Koczy, an interesting take on the endless runner genre, with a snake-inspired twist. We talk about how the mechanics of this game promote a new and different playstyle for the genre.. Blake reminisces about endless runners of yore.
Find the game here: https://anomalina.itch.io/ohsnake
And follow the creator on Twitter: @statelycoach
Apr 05 2020
This week, we play about Kaiju Super Datetech, a game about building a giant robot to go on a date with Godzilla. We talk about tactics for building the best Kaiju-love-machines, as well as how the platformer format makes the shape of your robot inevitably comical and childish. Blake tells us about Lego magazine.
Download the game here: https://powerhoof.itch.io/kaiju-super-datetech
And follow the creators on Twitter: @powerhoof
Jan 27 2019
In this episode, we play Neon Boost, a speed-based parkour game built around wall running and rocket jumping. We talk a bit about the nature of rocket jumping as a mechanic, and why it might produce some mechanical dissonance by its very nature. We also talk about how much we appreciate the, uh, “wonky shit,” to use Blake’s technical term, that the game allows you do. The episode ends with the revelation that our hosts disagree about whether “videogame” is one word or two.
Find the game on Steam: https://store.steampowered.com/app/1057850/Neon_Boost/
And follow the creators on Twitter: @PlayNeonBoost, @montyrell, @jramonespinosa, @bernieltartas
Jul 07 2019
This week, we play Remnants, a melancholy exploration game about an abandoned world by June Flower. We talk about how the game plays with genre and tone, as well as its impressive background art, which was drawn from the ground up, pixel-by-pixel. We baselessly speculate about background lore. Blake spots a Dark Souls reference.
Download the game here: https://june-flower.itch.io/remnants
And follow the creator on Twitter: @juneflowa
Feb 16 2020
This week, we play Initen, a game about using sound to rejuvenate a desolate landscape that was designed by a team of students at Supinfogame Rubika. We talk about the game’s visual style and visual influences, and in that respect we’re both impressed by what a team of students were able to produce. The game’s sound puzzles prompt us to chuckle at Jordan’s tone deafness, and also rant about a CERTAIN sound puzzle in a different puzzle game.
You can download the game here: https://initen.itch.io/initen
Feb 17 2019
Things get super c h i l l in this episode about Becalm, a short and relaxing game about sailing through a colorful seascape. It’s a visually incredible game, which we talk about at length, before concluding that this is one of the few games that actually deserves the description “meditative.” Then, without any evidence whatsoever, we speculate about the evolutionary origins of why certain colors and noises are calming.
Download the game here: https://colorfiction.itch.io/becalm
And follow the creator on Twitter: @colorfiction
Feb 24 2019
This week, we check out another game from Cosmo D, whose game Off Peak we awarded an Edgie to last year: The Norwood Suite, a musical exploration game about the titular Hotel Norwood and its many strange inhabitants. We talk about how this game’s surreal level design makes you feel lost even as the charm of the characters somehow makes you feel at home. Jordan encounters a puzzle that puts his tone deafness to the test. Blake explains why the connection between the game’s music and its dialogue is incredibly rad.
You can buy the game here: https://cosmoddd.itch.io/the-norwood-suite
And follow the creator on Twitter: @cosmoddd
Mar 03 2019
Have you ever wanted to know how to be a tree? Well, if so, good news, because this week we play a game that teaches you 16 different ways to do just that. In this unusual take on the platformer, you take control of a fractal tree and control its shape by altering the angles of the individual branches. We start by struggling to even define and describe the core mechanic of this game, before talking about each separate branch (haha) of the narrative, each one more surreal than the last.
Find the game here: https://zaphos.itch.io/how-to-be-a-tree
Follow the creator on Twitter: @aZaphos
Mar 10 2019
In this episode, thanks to the generosity of designer Max Krieger, we check out the pre-release build of CROSSNIQ+! If you’ve been listening to the podcast from the beginning, you’ll recognize this as the full build of a game that we played almost two years ago. We talk about how this game builds upon other arcade puzzlers, and spend quite a lot of time being impressed with its “y2k aesthetic.” Seriously, it’s great. Hopefully this means y2k-era visual design is coming back into vogue. But hopefully not y2k-era pants.
Find updates about the game here: https://www.crossniq.com/
And follow Max Krieger on Twitter: @MaxKriegerVG, @crossniq
Aug 11 2019
In this episode, we play the deviously-tricky “Looper,” a game about moving with or against the “flow” of looping strings. We talk about how circular, looping movement upends our intuitions about game controls, and we speculate about whether this game would be easier for people who have played fewer games. Blake compares this game to Super Hexagon, and Jordan gives us his spiel about why he loves game jams.
Find the game here: https://short-bread.itch.io/looper
And follow the creator on Twitter: @_shortbread
Oct 18 2020
In this week’s episode, we talk about Hexcraft: Eventide Sigil, an “experimental first person permadeath adventure” by Oleander Garden. It’s a bizarre game about Arthurian knights and incel terrorists, complete with complex AI and agent-based simulations. We talk about why this game is so inscrutable (and perhaps frustrating), as well as the online community that has sprung up around it to solve its mysteries.
Find the game here: https://oleandergarden.itch.io/sigil
And follow the creator on Twitter: @void_hyacinth
Oct 11 2020
In this week’s episode, we play “Moving Jigsaw Puzzles,” a game about, well… jigsaw puzzles that move! We talk about how adding motion changes puzzle-solving strategy, and brainstorm locales that would make a good moving jigsaw puzzle. Jordan confesses that his weak constitution couldn’t handle some of the dizzier puzzles in this game.
Find the game here: https://samgames.itch.io/moving-jigsaw-puzzles
And follow the creator on Twitter: @made_by_sam
Oct 04 2020
In this week’s episode, we take a wild ride through the Harry Potter franchise in Pottergame, by Kate Barrett. It’s a bizarre, hilarious game about Harry Potter, British pop culture, and J.K. Rowling’s problematic opinions about trans people. All this prompts a discussion about early 2000s media and Jordan’s age-14 disillusionment with the Potter franchise.
Download the game here: https://www.glorioustrainwrecks.com/node/11931
And follow the creator on Twitter: @thewaether
Sep 27 2020
In this episode, we play the precision platformer OCDA, about a… potato who dashes through octagons. We talk about how the use of a spatially-constrained dash mechanic produces new ideas in a familiar genre, as well as why the visual design of this game is so good. We also try to figure out the meaning of the name OCDA, before realizing that it is very obvious, and we are dumb.
Find the game here: https://kirstu.itch.io/ocda
And follow the creator on Twitter: @kirstu__
Sep 20 2020
In this week’s episode, we play “Million Ant Moving Company,” a zany swarm-simulator about ants that run a moving company. We talk about what makes the physics of this game funny, as well as swap strategies for ant movement. Jordan explains why cartoon ants are cute and charming rather than disgusting.
Find the game here: https://andyman404.itch.io/ants
And follow the creator on Twitter: @andyman404
Sep 13 2020
It’s that special time of the year again - this week is the third annual Edgies! Jordan and Blake get together to reflect on all of the games they’ve played over the course of the last year of podcasting, and grant them weird awards such as “Best Simulated Museum” and “Raddest Use of Slow Motion”. As always, your hosts find plenty to discuss in the last year of games, and agree that indeed, videogames are good.
Sep 12 2020
In this week’s episode, we talk about Blast Flock, a swarm-based, bullet-hell-esque flying game by Remy Devaux. The premise is intriguing, and we talk about what makes it fun and what makes its premise somewhat contradictory. Jordan falls for the dev’s trolling.
Find the game here: https://trasevol-dog.itch.io/blast-flock
And follow the creator on Twitter:@TRASEVOL_DOG
Aug 30 2020
This week, we “play” a “game” called the Museum of Mechanics: Lockpicking, an essay about lockpicking mechanics in game form. It’s a wonderfully unique idea, part game and part essay. We talk about the strengths and weaknesses of different lockpicking mechanics—but I think we can all agree that Oblivion’s is the worst.
And follow the creator on Twitter: @dimbulbgames
Aug 23 2020
In this week’s episode, we play Mixolumia, a take on the block-clearing arcade puzzler by Dave Makes. We talk about how the game’s primary innovation upends the logic of Tetris, as well as how it disrupts our sense of space. Jordan raves about one song in particular.
Find the game here: https://davemakes.itch.io/mixolumia
And follow the creator on Twitter: @davemakes
Aug 16 2020
This week, we talk about the absurd and wonderful world of Blaseball, an absurdist fake baseball league by The Game Band. The game’s truly unique format and very timely sense of humor prompts a discussion about ARGs, role-playing games, fandoms, obsessive data miners, and the Blaseball commissioner (who is doing a great job). Blake gives us a play-by-play description of one of the most notorious moments in the league’s three-week history.
You can join in the fun here: https://blaseball.com/
And follow the creators on Twitter: @thegameband
Aug 08 2020
This week, we play Lithium City, a stunning isometric (!) action game by Nico Tuason. In Blake’s words, it’s the game that you get if Hotline Miami, Hyperlight Drifter, and Titanfall 2 had a baby. High praise! Jordan attempts to play a game about multidimensional movement with a keyboard, like an idiot.
You can buy the game here: https://store.steampowered.com/app/1210610/Lithium_City/
And follow the creator on Twitter: @nicotuason
Aug 02 2020
This week, we play Horde, a physics-based zombie horde simulator by bl4st, a.k.a Paul Berne. It’s an incredibly fun and surprising mechanic, one that involves controlling an almost liquid-like horde of walking corpses—or, as Jordan puts it, an “undulating morass,” much to Blake’s amusement. The game prompts a discussion about physics simulation, flocking algorithms, and real-time strategy games of the late 90s.
Find the game here: https://bl4st.itch.io/horde
And follow the creator on Twitter: @Hardcore_c4sual
Jul 19 2020
This week, we play the Prologue to Starstruck, a wild roleplaying rhythm game by Createdelic. It’s a surreal, imaginative game about helping some claymation kids play guitar and avert the end of the world. We talk about rhythm games, the game’s surprising music quality, and its “toy-like” aesthetics. Blake is surprised to learn that Jordan plays the violin.
Find the game here: https://store.steampowered.com/app/1297720/Starstruck_Prologue/
And follow the creators on Twitter: @playstarstruck
Jul 12 2020
We play the demo of “Shady Knight,” a first person melee game that we played in its game jam version for a previous episode. In a word, this game slaps. We talk about why that is, and how the game uses clever design choices to make melee combat feel both impactful and dynamic.
Find the game here (when it releases): https://store.steampowered.com/app/1155650/Shady_Knight/
And follow the creator on Twitter: @cptnsigh
Jul 05 2020
In this week’s episode, we play Tony Hawk’s Existential Nightmare, a narrative/rhythm game based on, well, a meme. It manages to be a strangely sincere game about the cost of ambition, despite its meme origins. The game prompts a discussion about pro-skating, growing up, and the relationship of sincerity to humor. Jordan tells us where he recognizes the music in this game from. It’s a deep cut.
Find the game here: https://black-vein-productions.itch.io/tony-hawks-existential-nightmare
And follow the creators on Twitter: @BlackVeinPro
Jun 28 2020
In this week’s episode, we play High Rise, a mobile puzzle game about stacking blocks to make buildings. We talk about how this game innovates on the puzzle formula of games like 2048 and Threes, as well as speculate about the optimal strategy. Blake is very happy to have achieved the higher score. Jordan tells us about the time he played the entirety of Knights of the Old Republic on a phone.
Find the game on the app store/Google Play: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/high-rise-a-puzzle-cityscape/id1479215827
And follow the creator on Twitter: @fgrolig
Jun 14 2020
This week, we play “ペタリムーブ,” a delightfully strange game about an orange blob that moves around with his sticky limbs. We talk about what makes the movement of this game feel so fun, as well as what gives videogame avatars their personality. Jordan gets a little bit too into the music.
Play the game here: https://unityroom.com/games/petarimu-bu
And follow the creator on Twitter: @shironilnil
Jun 07 2020
This week, we play Biomass, a game-jam game based around the devious premise that all your equipment gets worse the more you use it. After geeking out about the game’s impressive pixel-art (made in MS paint!), we talk about rogue-likes and Metroidvanias and the unexpected overlap of the two genres. Neither of us was able to beat the game (but Jordan did technically get farther…)
Find the game here: https://brainos.itch.io/biomass
May 31 2020
In this week’s episode, we tinker with evolution in PlanetFriend, a game by Laura Michet and Brendon Chung. It’s an amusing planet-sim designed over the course of the Covid-19 quarantines. We talk about simulation games, this game’s sense of humor, and the fun we had tinkering with the game files.
Find the game here: https://lauramichet.itch.io/planetfriend
And follow the creators on Twitter: @lmichet, @BlendoGames
May 24 2020