Buckshot Roulette by Mike Klubnika – https://mikeklubnika.itch.io/buckshot-roulette
Super inventive take on Russian Roulette. Take 13 Tzametzi and set it into a Soviet uchronia with the underlying dread that God is against you. Mike Klubnika proves he is not only the master of intricate mechanized puzzle games but also of the horror of chance and zero-sum games (Concrete Tremor).
Void Home by Vidas Game – https://vidas-salavejus.itch.io/void-home
This is a late review as this one is thematically a Christmas game, but I can highly recommend it any time of the year. Liminal space, cosmic horror, and depravity of the flesh are offered with an incredible sense of style and pacing. The heads are a special touch I will not forget.
Both games share an idiosyncratic use of web culture jank collaged in spatial chaos. Mesmerizing and exhaustingly brilliant, especially with the 180bpm hardstyle of iPad Baby. Fetch quests in cognitive overdrive.
Basilisk 2000 by KIRA – https://akuma-kira.itch.io/basilisk-2000
I’m in absolute awe by the amount of details and functions that were put in this game engine simulator. It took me a while to properly invest myself in KIRA’s latest offering, and what an experience. It’s not necessary to dive into a single playthrough, but it really helps to fully absorb the effect of all the micro discoveries leading progressively to a horrifying realization. This is ARG territory, but lots and lots of secrets to discover, all worth your time.
nothing_matters by Ka Hin Yuen – https://store.steampowered.com/app/2260800/nothing_matters/
Keepin’ in the game engine/OS simulator – nothing_matters is a thought-provoking title attacking the senselessness of hypercapitalism: addiction-triggering algorithms, modern game design, platformization, algorithmic surveillance, grind culture, information overload, etc. The game flow is an incredible example of abusive game design, toying with our patience before violently throwing a reflection of our harsh reality in our faces.
Blank_01 by In404 – https://ln404.itch.io/blank-01
Focusing this time on the artificial cage of 9 to 5 alienation, In404 exploits an extremely minimal spatial design to its gruesome extent. The unfolding corridors of the last few levels accurately represented the flow of my typical work week.
Infobesity by zhigmund – https://zhigmund.itch.io/infobesity
Turn off the router of info saturation before your brain is fried. A short exercise that proposes a weirdly stressful take on the vaporwave aesthetic.
CORPO|MENTE by Sugary Chamomile – https://sugarychamomile.itch.io/corpomente
A delightfully sordid vision of the afterlife where meat is extended by binary cognitive limit. Brilliant writing mixed with an uncanny sense of style. Highly recommended.
Schizophrenia Simulator by ChoppyPine – https://choppypine.itch.io/schizophrenia-simulation
I’m not qualified to evaluate if this game is, in fact, an “accurate simulation of schizophrenia based on empirical data,” but I can attest it was riveting and nausea-inducing. Absolutely insane use of Unreal possibilities to generate a sensation of dissociation.
Schizophrenia by Erekaaa – https://erekaaa.itch.io/schizophrenia
A very different experience from ChoppyPine takes on schizophrenia. It’s not as troubling, but the proposed environment and interesting take on the player’s orientation are worth the exploration.
Brainstormed 2: DEATH IS NOT THE END or, HYPERPHANTASIA by MDEV0 – https://mdev0.itch.io/brainstormed-2
If we consider noise a concept for the horizon of the unfathomable that enables innovation to emerge, MDEV0 is clearly the grand wizard of noisy game design. This title is grandiose, maximalist even, in its scope. Like Deleuze’s work, be cautious of people pretending to “understand” it. I, for one, have no idea, except playing this was an encounter that forced me to think.
Silkbulb Test by Tim Oxton – https://oxblud.itch.io/silkbulb-test
I no longer bother with analog horror, but the creator’s X account piqued my curiosity. This is one of the most well-made takes on the genre, and as it is only a demo, it really made me wish to know more about the emerging lore.
ONEIRO(PHOBIA/PHRENIA) by Alexandria – https://shoebby.itch.io/oneirophobiaphrenia
A CRT channel surfing experience of small dreamscape vignettes. Sometimes endearing, sometimes haunting. This is a promising first step of what appears to be a larger project.
Dog’s World Demo by DDD Wares – https://dddwares.itch.io/dogs-world-demo
As a fan of DDD Wares since Dead End Road, having access to an early version of anything they’re working on is a gift from above. All I can say is I thoroughly enjoyed this gleefully nihilistic and ultraviolent satire of our existential hellscape. I always wanted to play Close Range, and now I can.
OTHER GAMES PLAYED
Evil West (Steamdeck) – After months of grind, I could finally enjoy the holiday to play the stacks of games I bought on Steam Sales the year before. First on the list was Evil West, a dumb mix of Teslapunk, John Carpenter’s Vampires, and Spaghetti Western. But this is positive dumb. Evil West is a perfect homage to PS2-era breadcrumb action adventure, offering various over-the-top options to dispatch hordes of bloodthirsty and blood-filled meat sacks. It’s just long enough, with beautiful scenery to paint with biological monstrosities juice.
Norco (Steamdeck) – Norco imposed itself as the remedy to regenerate my brain cells after Evil West. This cyberpunk tale of faith and corruption made me feel the same way as when I read the Bridge trilogy for the first time. I appreciated that the plot doesn’t try to explain everything, leaving just enough space for interpretation to make you wonder what it all means. As a side bonus, the pixel art is magnificent, and the team’s toying with the interface (the first encounter with Pawpaw the Ditch Man comes to mind) is nothing short of brilliant.
Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon (PS5) – I love this game to the point of completing NG+ and NG++ – and this is the definitive way of experimenting with this masterpiece. The level of customization of your personal mobile war crime, the music, the plot, and the Kantian sublime of the level design are all extraordinary. Still, the underlying From Software horror leaking at the seams of the sense of details really got me. This is a parable of energy colonialism pushed to its extreme limit that also incorporates the concept of unconditional accelerationism. This is a title I will definitely need to explore further.
Rewind or Die (PC) – It’s a Torture Star game, so you know the drill – it’s fun, ignorant grindhouse slop. But, the video store setting is accurate and on point. If you have ever worked in one or spent as much time in video stores as I did, the nostalgia will hit hard.
Forgive Me Father (Steamdeck) – Incredible style, but I was done after the second level. I don’t mind gitting good, but this was ridiculously repetitive and unfair.
El Paso, Elsewhere (Steamdeck) – El Paso, Elsewhere dilutes the original Max Payne formula to its core style-over-substance. When it clicks (especially the meaty sections), it provides this frantic mental space of pixelated bloodlust. On the 50 levels proposed here, there are at least fifteen I would have removed. But “You Keep Going” (you’ll see that a lot) because the points it makes about toxic relationships and the search for self are amazingly presented without ever being cringe or on the nose.