Friday, December 19, 2014

Radical Playthings: Bottle Rockets, Frail Shells, I'm Scared of Girls, and More

I've kept a list of neat-o freeware games over the past eight months that I've been meaning to share with everybody, but between game development, thesis writing, and reflecting upon current events in game community*, I haven't had too much time to write about any of them. Now that the year's winding down and everybody's writing their game-of-the-year lists, I'm feeling a little pressure to write about all of the cool stuff I played this year before I get to the GOTY material.

I do intend to dedicate more of this blog to freeware indie game curation in the future. The hole left by still hasn't quite been filled (although Warp Door comes pretty close), and I'd like to do my part to help share the small, otherwise unheard-of games that are well worth your time. So, I am pleased to announce that I am formally rebooting the (bi-?)monthly Radical Plaything(s) Blog Post Series!

I intend to focus on freeware, indie, alternative, punk, political, and experimental games in the new Radical Playthings posts. I might write about the occasional twitch shooter or small commercial release, but such recommendations will be made sparingly.

Because I have so many games I want to cover this month, my commentary will be fairly sparse this time around. Without further ado, here are this month's radical playthings!

Bottle Rockets by James Earl Cox III

"Bot­tle Rock­ets is a music videogame about a mother and her daugh­ter...
It is a game to play when you feel sad."

Do you know the terror of attempting to escape a burning space station as it plummets into the earth, knowing that your effort is in vain and you will never see your family again?

Bottle Rockets give you some idea of what that feels like. For such a small game, it's heavy.

Froggy by Tetrageddon Games

"FROGGY is the legendary froggame that forever changed frogtelling in the frogindustry with its groundbreaking narrative. Many critics have heralded it as the Citizen Kane of frogs. FROGGY’s most notable achievement was the accurate representation of frogs, for which it won many frogminations in froggytainment, and PC Frogger’s Frog of the Year award. In this no holes barred froggame you frog as FROGGY, a seasoned frog veteran with a strong inner-voice but no moral conviction, surviving one day at a time on Armageddon Highway. For the first time ever play the remastered version in full 2D froggraphics!"

 I haven't enjoyed a game purely for its tone in so long. Froggy's gameplay is fairly unremarkable (eat bugs, don't get hit by cars), but the bizarre setting, stylized, quality animation, and funny writing make for one hell of an experience.

Witness death and carnage on Armageddon Highway as Froggy. Do it. 

Mouse Corp by thecatamites

"Explore a field of caves and ruins under the benign aspect of the Mouse Corp. A mysterious 3d adventure awaits your survey. It's Mouse Corp. - what are friends for?"

SPOILERS FOLLOW, but it's a short game, so whogivesafuck.
Mouse Corp is cute and sad. You lead a group of mice on an expedition, fighting monsters and collecting berries, but over time, your comrades defect. By the game's end, you are all alone, with nothing to do**. There's no game over screen. Instead, you're simply left to experience an empty world. I'm honestly not sure how I feel about it.

Download Mouse Corp for Windows, Mac, and Linux (pay what you want).

I'm Scared of Girls by Moga

"Explore the depths of death, gender, and unhappy places in this surreal action game!" 

An adventure RPG in which you play as a gender nonconforming boy in the afterlife, who must cut all ties with his past life before being reborn . Solid little story, haunting music, great aesthetics and atmosphere. The game is quite compelling.

Average Maria Individual by Alice Maz

"You are MARIA. Why are you here. What's going on. Wait is this Super Mario Bros 1-1.

Find yr girlfriend! Defeat yr enemies! Jump no higher than half a tile!

The only mechanics are walking and light conversation and the only puzzle is don't act like a gamer. (There are some cool gameovers if you do tho)

Will you complete yr quest?? Yea prolly"

Nice little subversive parody of Super Mario Bros with themes of nonviolence and queerness. It pissed off some Gamergater-y types who made some awful response games (I played one of them and needless to say it was not cut out for this list). It's pretty weird that a harmless walking simulator with a gay protagonist that got such a strong counter-response***. Crazy times we live in.

Anyway, the game itself is an interesting little thing.

VA-11 HALL-A by Sukeban Games

"In this world, corporations reign supreme, all human life is infected with nanomachines designed to oppress them, and terrifying White Knights ensure that everyone obeys the laws.

But, this is not about those people.

You are a bartender at VA-11 HALL-A, affectionately nicknamed 'Valhalla.' Although it is just a small bar downtown, it attracts the most fascinating people this side of dystopia. Keep your clients lubricated and you will be made privy to the most interesting stories."

VA-11 HALL-A is a visual novel in which you, a cyberpunk bartender, influence the story based on how you mix your client's drinks. Currently, only the prologue is complete, but the setting is intriguing, and the game's story and mechanics show much promise. 

Frail Shells by Taylor Bai-Woo

"Shells fall from the sky

Like rain on a day that's just a little too cold

Shells shatter like ice

Against a pan that's just a little hard to hold"

Frail Shells is a first-person shooter game that's more concerned with what happens after war than with war itself. It has a wonderful visual style and uses interactive mechanics to tell a story in a really clever way. It's damn near heartbreaking.

Download Frail Shells for Windows, Mac, or Linux (pay what you want).

And that's it for this month's Radical Plaything(s). A bunch of stuff for you to play that will make you feel sad or awful. Cheers.

*yes, that thing
**Unless I suck at Mouse Corp and am totally missing something.
***Hell, I even got a slight reaction for my latest game having a female protagonist, which surprised me. More about that soon.

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