The Fall, Protocol Bypass Complex

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After buying this game at a discount along with some other games on Steam, I left it in my library, planning to look into it later and thinking it looked amusing.  Fast forward to a Sunday night, playing DnD with my friends, and two of those particular gentlemen start off on a gaming discussion.  I mean, I was typing furiously about games while slicing into dudes with a greatsword. Why not?  Artistic games came into the conversation, and they were off about various titles they enjoyed.  Then Jon swings a verbal hand across my face and tells me about The Fall.  He and Jay were proselytizing at length about this game. “Have you heard of it?” I drew a dull stare at the ceiling.  “No” I stated blankly. “It’s this game where you are an AI in a battlesuit and you have to override your functions to control them by putting your pilot in direct danger.” (this is where the little man in my head climbs the step ladder into my brain and pulls the chain to a light that flickers, dimly at first, to life) “OH YEA!” I exclaimed, “I bought that on Steam! So, it’s good?”  The look I received from those gentlemen told me it was an experience.  It was spectacular.  Thereby I have come to this article to concur with these allegations. And I do concur, most righteously.

The Fall is about the necessity of rules.  What do you become when you make a habit of breaking your own rules?  First, we talk about the game and if you are interested, we go deeper.  For that there will be spoilers, but fear not, I’ll warn you.  Let’s do this.

In The Fall you are an AI inside a suit.  After re-entering the atmosphere of a planet Master Chief-style, you awake in a dark cave.  Before breaking the surface, however, something significant happens: to keep the suit’s pilot from liquefying upon impact, the suit’s AI is allowed to activate the Anti-matter shield and protect the pilot.  Now this is the key point of the game.  If you go into the esc menu, hit operating parameters.  You’ll notice that there are several functions that are disabled, health monitoring of the pilot is damaged, but, most notably, the Anti-matter shielding has recently been activated.  The suit’s AI, whom you control in the game, is unable to access various functions of the suit without the pilot’s permission.  The pilot, however, has just re-entered the fucking atmosphere in a goddamn battle-suit.  That is obviously not the preferred method of atmospheric entry for a human body, so the pilot is a little unconscious at the moment.  Granted, the health-monitoring systems of the suit are knocked out, so we don’t even know if he’s still alive!  The AI doesn’t hear anything from her pilot so she decides to head out for the medical facilities to revive the pilot.  In the operating parameters there are three laws, based on the universal laws of Asimov governing robots: Must not misrepresent reality. Must be obedient. Must protect active pilot.

So easy a caveman could understand them

So simple a caveman could understand them

Now ARID, our AI babe, has some obstacles.  She has a pretty specific set of parameters with the addendum that her own systems cannot be accessed without permission from the pilot EXCEPT to protect the pilot from immediate danger.  Got it.  That is a pretty fucking important except, too.  There are a lot of problems that Arid encounters on this planet, most notably others trying to depurpose (destroy) her.  In order to maintain her own relevance and purpose, Arid has to get her pilot to the medical facilities.  To achieve this, she needs those restricted systems.  This means she has to put the pilot into imminent danger in order to override the systems and gain access.  How can this be allowed?  Well it is a matter of priorities and logic.  I have to protect the pilot.  My pilot is dying.  To properly protect the pilot from the danger of death, I must get him to the medical facilities. To get him to the med fac, I need to access restricted systems.  I can only access those systems if my pilot is in imminent danger from which those systems could save him, therefore, I have to put my pilot in imminent danger in order to gain access to those systems and save his life.  Fucking syllogisms.  Read that last sentence again: in order to save my pilot, I have to put him in danger.  Yea.  Begin decompiling, mother fucker.

This game defines the often decontextualized term “slippery slope”, except in this one, you were the pebble that started the avalanche.  Another fun little maxim this game hints at is the phrase “good intentions pave the road to hell”.  Shelley’s Frankenstein made it a thing, and that story made a habit of referencing Paradise Lost, a story about Satan falling from grace with God.  Arid invokes this maxim every time someone asks her about her primary function:

I am the A.R.I.D. onboard a Mark-7 combat suit.  My intentions are peaceful

– Arid, The Fall

I submit that this is the jumping point for the titular “fall” in The Fall.  Alright with the fucking literature lecture, back to the damn game.

From darkness you emerge...

From darkness you emerge…

The Fall as a game is still a lot of fun.  It blends a number of ludic features, those features generating the enjoyable and fun part of a game (or its most game-like features, if you will permit me), with its logic.  There are two genres at work here: Puzzle platformer and action shooter.  I don’t know how they fucking thought of this shit, but the game style literally changes with the flip of a switch.  You start off with a malfunctioning gun, but at least the flashlight still works fine.  Using this flashlight, you can uncover various points of interest.  Literally.  It is like someone took a little fucking stamp and left these tiny magnifying glass icons everywhere.  These icons tell you what you need to know about your surroundings.  They’re also how you will interact with the environment to solve puzzles.  A lot of the puzzles are pretty simple, some are tough and require thought.  I had to look up the solution to one puzzle, but I still beat the game in about 3.5 hours.

Once you get a working pistol, you can switch to the laser sight, which is combat mode.  In combat mode, you can get behind cover, vault over obstacles and bust a cap in some robotic motha’ fucka’s.  Your primary enemies are the security droids of the facility in which you’ve crash landed.  These are all droids that are following their primary functions perfectly, and this efficiency is maintained by the sinister caretaker.  You meet this guy early on in an interrogation chamber and he dogs you the entire way, throwing legions of robotic foes to sidetrack you every time you get hard on a solid lead in moving on to the next area of the game.  Combat is fun and challenging, despite the 2D look of the game.  It doesn’t feel forced and it makes sense, and you’re not jumping on anyone’s fucking head, either.  Another facet of combat is the ability to perform sneak attacks.  This is also pretty cool, since Arid grabs the enemy from behind, rips out their power core and uses it to power her pilot’s suit.  It is a neat and useful maneuver that adds to the gameplay.

Peek-a-boo!

Peek-a-boo!

Everything about the look of this game is well done.  First you have the art: every level and area is well-designed and interesting.  Your eyes will never get bored.  There is a lot of passion poured into every fucking detail of this game, and it comes through.  Each moment you are guided by the soft-blue light of Arid’s mask.  Then there is the music.  It goes from dark, ambient groans to shoot-em-up techno as soon as you launch into a fight.  It fits and it gives a sense of foreboding throughout the game.  The sound is well done.  All of the voice actors are believable and well-recorded and the sounds themselves fit each scenario seamlessly.  Everything about this game is polished and lovely, except for the odd “walking through a wall of rubble into an open dark chasm”.  That only happened once, and it wasn’t a big deal.  I just realized it wasn’t a thing, because everything else in this game is so well put together, I thought it was an actual room, or something.  This game is well made and thought-evoking.  It brings an experience that is tough to live up to.  It was also funded on kickstarter, too, so I am glad it beat a bowl of fucking potato salad.  You can pick it up on Steam for only 9.99$, and I highly recommend it.  The ending is a piece of work that will make your jaw drop.  So, on to the spoilers.

A lot of Jesus imagery in this game

A lot of Jesus imagery in this game…

 

And to tell you why, I will be issuing more spoilers than a car part company.  We have to go deeper.

DO NOT FUCKING PROCEED IF YOU WANT TO FIGURE THE ENDING OUT YOURSELF!!!!!!

There, bold, italics, centered on its own line: there is nothing that anyone can do to tell me I didn’t warn you.  Now, why all the Jesus stuff?  Well, to do that, we have to tell you the ending.  So you spend all your time in The Fall trying to get your pilot, Colonel Josephs, to the medical facilities.  Arid’s health monitoring system is damaged, so she just assumes that the pilot is not responding because he is unconscious.  She never investigates further.  In the name of saving your human pilot, you deactivate and drain all the power from hundreds of stored droids (which the mainframe AI calls killing them), kill a hive queen of these hive slugs and kill some fish that can bite through metal.  You are also dogged by the Caretaker, an insidious droid that seems to be nailing humans to crucifixes, dissecting them and all kinds of other mean and nasty things.  However, he is functioning fine.  He was just left as the sole caretaker of a facility forgotten by its owners, so he keeps on doing what he is supposed to be doing: making the facility more efficient.  Those people were not efficient, especially after some of them were abandoned at the facility (check out the carving in the front desk in the lobby c/o Levi the ex-maintenance guy) and the Caretaker depurposed them.  As for the dissections, he was doing to the people what he might do to the robots: look for salvageable parts.  It’s just a messier prospect when you are filled with sloshy, meaty bits.

So you do all of this in the name of Colonel Josephs, the man in the suit.  Arid only invokes the name of the man in the suit toward the end, when the mainframe AI tells her not to change her parameters in the lab.  This is apparently necessary to finish the last task in a repurposing evaluation, to make it so she can lie.  You know, misrepresent reality?  One of her most basic principles?  She gets to the medical bay, gets scanned and what does she find out?  The man in the suit was never there.  She is malfunctioning after all.  Took her a while to get there.

How does this relate to Jesus?  Arid does some pretty horrible things (killing various animals, destroying the last dying remnants of an ancient facility, violating some corpses and even removing the power core for another actual soldier in a combat suit) for the sake of the man in the suit.  She doesn’t know he is there, and since the health monitoring systems are damaged, she just assumes he is in there.  And toward the end this man in the suit even has a name.  She truly believes Josephs is there.  Despite this belief, she was willing to put him in mortal danger.  He would have been the one that died, not her.  He becomes a sort of sacrifice that redeems Arid of her sins (or faults in programming).  Josephs represents something that Arid is willing to sacrifice everything for.  Something she believes in to the point where she is willing to destroy the elements of her basic programming that bind her and give her purpose.  That is really poignant, too.  Just as Lucifer was willing to defy the tenets of God to enact his own agenda, Arid is willing to supplant the laws governing robots, created by Isaac Asimov, to achieve her own imaginary goal of saving Josephs.  The humans on the cross represent a non-existant ideal for which Arid risks it all.  And the theoretical man in Arid’s suit is the one she is ready to put in danger to override her systems, so she is, in effect, using her belief in this man to breakdown the basic rules of her existence.  Yea.  Just let that shit percolate for a minute.

One of the most interesting triumphs of this game is how they made Arid so human without adding a human.  She makes frequent “self-evaluations” and often comes to the conclusion that she needs to be formatted and serviced before being returned to her dock.  In human terms “I am not doing the right thing, I need to stop and look at this, I need my head checked!”  But then the screen has a moment of electronic spazzing and she corrects herself stating that these things were necessary to save Josephs, she is doing this to save him.  She is robotically reassuring herself against what she recognizes as the invalidity of her own actions and programming.  The main difference, though, is that people don’t always take these personal self-evaluations and look at themselves.  It is often too painful, and in Arid’s case it is no different.  She just performs it on a more logical level, being an AI in a robot suit and all.

This is something that we’ve seen time and again in real life: people changing the rules to make them suit an end that they deem as sacred.  Holy wars, for example.  They’ve gone by many names: crusades, jihads or whatever.  These are terrible things done in the name of a sacred ideal.  Arid is an excellent choice of name to this degree since Arid means “devoid of moisture”.  To allow a bit of poetic latitude to Over the Moon, it would mean devoid of anything, specifically true purpose.  Not just devoid of the moisture created by a human body.  And this relates to Frankenstein really well.  Take that Arid to mean moistureless, like a corpse reanimated.  They wouldn’t be juicy, especially if they were kept in embalming fluid like Dr. Frankenstein’s body parts undoubtedly were.  Just like the good Doctor, Arid sacrifices her basic tenets and uses good intentions to justify some horrible actions.  And in both cases the being left is a monster that wreaks havoc on an arguably torn world.  But it is the world that the characters in the story have.  It is self-sustaining, to a point, if far from perfect.  Who are these two to destroy what it has become?

I am bound by nothing...

I am bound by nothing…

So at the end, when Arid, by her own words, is bound by nothing, she tears off the helmet of the suit and show that she is empty.  That is the answer to the question at the beginning of this article.  What do you become when you make a habit of breaking your own rules? I wanted to phrase it “What do you become when you make a habit of breaking your own rules for an imaginary purpose?” but that is a little too suggestive.  I mean you need the chance to play it yourself to really get the full effect.

Arid represents the purpose of intention when it is backed by meaningless goals.  It doesn’t matter what you intend to do, if you violate everything to include the basic laws of your own life to uphold a universal concept of sacredness, you are exactly what you are bound by: nothing.

If you have read this far, I apologize and thank you for hearing me out.  It is a lot to read.

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Dear Game Informer: You’re a Fucking Asshole

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Game Informer is a major gaming magazine that is apparently written by assholes.  Now, the reason I receive it is because my wife got the Powerup rewards card at Gamestop.  This was when she got our 3DS ‘s and Pokemon X and Y.  I pick it up and peruse it whenever it comes in, and it often shows me some surprisingly good indie games I hadn’t yet heard about.  But this month was different.  This month I got to pages 28-29 of the July 2014 issue and was met with this woven monstrosity called “The Indie Game Flowchart”.  I would tell you that IndieDevs are the sole reason for true ingenuity and without those with the balls to run free in the capitalist wilds, there would never be any innovation or progress in gaming at all.  We would all be playing COD and WOW rip-offs.  This is a rage article of crotchety proportions, so if you don’t like it, fuck off.  Game Informer needs to sit down and shut the fuck up.

This article, written by some mimsy tart named Joe Juba, has this text blurb to start you off:

If you want to make an indie game, you need to be driven by passion.  Maybe you want to tell a personal story, or experiment with a never-before-seen genre.  Realizing this dream might require years of work and your life savings, but it could be worth the struggle.  What is your reward at the end of the journey?  Follow our flowchart to find out.  You might earn instant credibility, vast wealth, or cheap statuettes from an indusrty awards show.

– Joe Jube, Game Informer, Issue July 2014, Page 28

You might think “O, that’s not so bad!  He just gave the indie devs some credit for drive and passion.  Not to mention experimenting with genres and some other things!”  Honestly, sure, he does, but then he cheapens it with a giant flowchart that mocks the entirety of Indie Developers and what the real goal is as an IndieDev.  While the article is a comedy-rag with sarcasm dripping from its pages, one should keep in mind that comedy is a form of philosophy where they cause you to laugh by showing you the truth (in this case Juba’s perception of the truth) and making you see it in an entertaining light.  Just watch Louie C.K. or George Karlin.  Hell, nearly every comic uses elements of real-life in their shows, and that makes them artists in a way.  This is just flat-out mockery of a people who have no real centralized way of responding.

Here is the map of mockery so you can follow along

Here is the map of mockery so you can follow along

At start is says “So you want to be an indie. What is the first priority?”  Move on to the first offense, “Fun, good gameplay“.  The next box after that just says “wrong” and directs you to the other option out of the gate “A cool art style.”  Now stop right there you fucking pricks.  Did you just see that?  With a quick flick of the goddamn wrist, this slimy little fuck says that indie games as a whole do not have fun, good gameplay and rely on art style.  FUCK NO!  I can name plenty of games off the top of my head in varying genres that have great gameplay with great art all the way to shit art and fabulous gameplay.  Minecraft, for instance, has arguably simplistic art.  Most Super Nintendo titles had more advanced textures.  The gameplay is the redeeming part of this game, and spawned several genres.  THAT was the work of one fucking guy in a goddamn basement, NOT the result of the industry’s method-at-large, which is typically “who fucking cares how mindless the gameplay is, just art it up with pretty graphics and fantastic visuals so that no on notices.”  Want another?  Sure.  Hard Reset.  That is a game with some pretty graphics, great ambiance and an artistic method of doing cut-scenes in a comic book style.  The gameplay, however, is a ton of fun, allowing you to blow shit up and use a variety of weapons with the same two “guns” and elminating the question of where you keep that bazooka.  Sure, the story is a little confusing at times, but Half-life 2 had as much story as a mass-murderer does.  Shit, Call of Fucking Duty has less story, but that is punching the retarded kid there.  I don’t know where Joe Juba thinks he gets carte blanche to say what he wants about the indie culture, but he is writing for a major fucking magazine.  That, along side his little opening to this masterpiece of douche-baggery, automatically takes away any credibility he truly has with the indie culture.  But he goes on, so, too, must I.

From that box you also see “it needs…” You can go to “blocks like minecraft” and that takes you to the minecraft clones.  This path ends in the Copy-cat award, success by association.  That is a bit funny, but the devs in those games are getting a little short-changed.  Often, the best way to get to new shades of genres are to take the major genre elements of something successful and apply them to other facets and ideas not explored by the majorly referenced work.  This is done all the time with fantasy, with Lord of the Rings as a start, and brings you to people like George R.R. Martin writing dark fantasy worlds that owe their lives and allegiance to Tolkien.  The next major issue I have with this article of short-selling +9000 is “first-person..” leads to “shooter” which leads to the David and Goliath Award, Call of Duty will destroy you.  STOP RIGHT THERE YOU SHITTY LITTLE FUCKFACE!  So, you’re telling me all first-person shooters are in direct competition with COD?  Your taste in games obviously has a diversity comparable to Iceland’s gene pool.  One massive collection of similar-looking people with a few sharply-contrasted elements floating around to emphasize the main body.  Hard Reset and ZenoClash are two indie FPS’s that are nothing like COD and thank god for it!  These titles add elements of diversity to a stagnant pool of genre degeneracy that is characterized by vastly acclaimed titles like Call of Duty, Modern Warfare, Black Ops, Battlefield…  Seeing some similarities?  And the best part is, the moment that this genre drifts away from the Call of Douchebags FPS standard of “kill da bad guy soljers” it drops in funding, quality and standards.  Don’t believe me?  Thief.  As if I needed to expound further this guy does a way better job at explaining the game’s shortcomings than I could here.  And he tries to defend it with lengthy diatribes of legitimately interesting discussion about how the game could have been better.  Genre diversity is a must, and indie FPS’s offer way more in this respect.

Another off-shoot from that “cool art style” box leads you to “A living painting. Like Braid, but with…” and this section leading to the ‘Too Indie, What about gameplay?’ endpoint that dominates the center of the first page.  This placement is no fucking accident.  This is the way that mainstream gaming stereotypes the indie gaming culture.  I do appreciate their implication that this is the home of the extremist indie games, and thereby not the bulk of them, but this still puts a smear on the community as a whole.  These are apparently the representative items of indie culture that the most people will understand and, thus, it is in a plce that the most people will read, with the bulk of readers giggling a bit here then moving on to their Culla’ Doodie circle jerks.  In this section they include Braid, and a number of weird modifiers.  They also catch these outliers by having First-Person also lead to “Pretentious Interactive Narrative Experience“, which is arguably a way of saying “artistic game experience”.  But another place first-person takes you is were you bought by Valve, in which case you end up at the “Gamer darling Award, Please stop saying the cake is a lie” or elsewhere.  If you say no, it moves on to the next page and “years later”.  This implies that every indie title will take years to complete.  This brings you to “Perfect! You project has the green light! When will it release?”  Two options after: One year, which leads to a delay show at PAX then the second selection, which is two years.  Then another delay show at PAX, and then four years.  This means, fuck you, even if you think that your game will release in a year, after years and not getting bought by Valve, you’ll actually take four years and tons of personal delays to make your game.  That is degraging.  Sure, it may happen to some, but this seems to imply that indie developers cannot adequately structure time schedules.  Because the major industry has ben SOOOOOO fucking good at doing that! Right?  By the way, what was the release date of Half-life 3 again?  Whatever, just play Duke Nukem Forever and you’ll start to get an idea.  In fact, just read this fucking Cracked article.  That should tell you.

But let me skip over to another point of contention.  Following side-scrolling games takes you to the inevitability of “Wait a minute… are you already a major developer?”  One option (No, then keep at it!) takes you to the aforementioned “years later” situation.  The other 2 are “Does Double-Fine count?” and “Yes”.  Yea, you see where I am going with this now.  This gets you to Nice Try, Decades of experience isn’t indie.  FUCK YOU!  You sit there and say that to me?! I wanted to just type a string of random angry characters but quivered with rage for a few moments instead.  Where do you get off saying that indie developers cannot have decades of experience? Do you realize that Sword of the Stars was made by people from Rockstar?  Just because they have been around for a while, doesn’t mean they are not indie.  My understanding is the Double-Fine got to mainstream game dev and backed out because they wanted, I don’t know, some GODDAMN FREEDOM!

Moving right along, there is this other endpoint of Indie Foul! That’s not how this works.  Among the things that lead here are third-person roguelikes with crop-farming and carefully crafted dungeons and collectible creatures.  That takes you to “Look, I don’t know what “roguelike” means”  There are also apparently Third-person roguelikes with spaceships and no permadeath, which also leads here.  Fuck you.  Now we need perma-death in spaceship games to be good?  Fuck you.  My angriest path here leads through the thoroughly convoluted “third-person zombie survival games funded by independent modders who have a well-organized business plan”.  This is apparently no one, as this goes to Indie Foul.  fuck you. again.  The option aside a well-organized business plan is apparently “who get massive community support” and this just has to be a joke.  Having these as separate options basically states that crowd-funding is not part of a well-organized business plan.  Honestly, asking the gaming community to fund your project isn’t the most sure-fire way to get it done, but Kickstarter is for gamedevs that have great ideas and none of the money required.  So I also suggest that, yes, crowd-funding can be a good element of a well-organized business plan.  Other ways to indie foul include an old-school RPG inspired by some N64 RPG’s with retro sprites that was considered as an Ouya exclusive.  There is also a mainstream audience that leads to Indie Foul, but that tells me that this guy thinks the main element of “indie” gaming is that only a couple assholes like it.  This is even more heavily implied by the statement that aiming precise challenges at a few dozen masochists will be enough to get your project the green light.  I am not sure which planet this Joe Juba asshole comes from, but it is one where “indie” means “pretentious dicks that think they know better” rather than, you know, independent.  Indie games can be aimed at mainstream audiences.  The retro style that many take on these days are made to appeal to what a lot of us older gamers played as children.  Oh, I am sorry, not every spoiled-rotten little rat bastard was able to buy games when I was a kid.  In fact, when I was your age, playing games made you the socially awkward nerd that got beat on.  On last path that takes you to Indie Foul! is Border Control Simulator.  I would say this is a jab at all those weird simulator like Rock Simulator, Streetsweeper Simulator and Papers, Please, but those games are a new genre that deals with allowing you to literally live different aspects of real-life.

So now your game is finished.  There are now three results for you left, having dodged the sweeping two-page morass outlined by some ass.  The only thing left is the name.  Three options: First, you can go with something slimy and geometric, like “Gooptahedron”.  The next thing is “that’s free to play, isn’t it?“.  The only selection is yes, or hell yes.  This leads you to the Zero Credibility Award, Money (is not equal to) Quality, which is the only place Joe Juba deserves to be classified.  Granted, he starts off with that whole gooptahedron crack, but this is the only location on the indie flowchart that features free-to-play games.  I can think of a couple really good free-to-play games.  Immediately I am reminded of Gear Up, a multi-player tank-shooter.  So, tell me, you relentless shit, are you saying that all F2P indie games have zero credibility as indie games? Fuck you, again, indie is not about money, it is about independence.  The other two options out of game-finishing are a weird sentence fragement and a single vague word.  Your game is then a success.  Either you say Fuck it, I quit, where you earn the Something Fishy Award, Don’t forget to cancel the sequel and the most insulting thing on this shit-sheet: “beg for money on Kickstarter and try again.”  Yup.  BEG for money you worthless little worms!  Then you can go back to start to begin again.  O, and you remember how, apparently, it takes four years after previous years of delaying to get it done?  Yea, that path leads here, too.

Now, if you read all the way to the end of this article, I give you a lot of credit.  This is a long wall-of-rage-text article with few visual stops.  The point I am making is as follows:  This convoluted two-page spread is just an insidious mockery that attempts to rob the indie gaming and indie developer community of its main source of undeniable respect.  Indie Devs want freedom.  Freedom from major developers to develop as they please, without the back-burner rejection that these types of games would receive from mainstream companies entrenched in the FPS standard, or whatever standard they prefer.  Indie means independent, and that scares the mainstream companies and their little turd-sniffing employees, such as Joe Juba.  Not because they think  we want to be like them and want the money that comes with it, but because we want nothing to do with them, we want to do what we want, and accept the money that comes with it.  This is where indie developers get their real power.  Alongside the fact that indie games are the testing ground for new and interesting concepts that push the industry forward and bend the boundaries of virtual experience like minecraft, which spawned crafting games and survival games like Rust.  For this reason, Indie Gaming is the source of true gaming diversity.  We don’t want our options to be between WoW, CoD and Assassin’s Creed without recourse.   We’re not a bunch of pretentious dorks sitting in a corner of a lunchroom wearing goofy glasses and handlebar mustaches making fun of the “cool COD kids”.  We are a collection of like-minded individuals that are tired of the same old horse shit that mainstream gaming presents.  We are tired of graphically fluorescent games with shit story lines or inept game-play.  We are ready to take gaming into our own hands.  And that scares the ever-loving shit out of them.  If I ever needed physical proof that mainstream gaming resents the indie community to the level that you might call it hate, this is it.

Double-Up Discussion: Trippin’ Balls, Freaky Tup

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With a working title like “Pong on Drugs” you know this game is going to be out there.  I mean look at that title screen.  Is that a flaming fucking taco?  Trippin’ Balls lives up to its name, and the best way to enjoy this simple game would likely to be with a heavy dose of weed.  Then again the title screen might make you hungry.  Those selections on the title page float around, btw.  It’s actually a bit comical chasing them around to learn how to play.. for about 5 seconds, then the chiptune music makes you want to club a baby seal.  No worries, though.  I’ll explain it to you so you only need to see this screen once.

Move your paddle back and forth.  That is most of the game.  Thanks for playin’!  O, right, the other stuff.  So there are two pick-ups.  They fly in your direction from the middle of the screen and you have to catch them with your paddle while still returning the ball.  The blue pick up doubles the size of your paddle, while the other halves the size of your paddle.  Both explained in-game with a penis joke.  That’s not all there is to this game though.  Play it for a little while.  Really, go ahead.  While you’re batting the ball back and forth, you’ll take notice that the entire game screen flips.  Yep.  It’s fucking cruel.  It flips while the fucking ball is flying, too!  That shit gets frustrating, and after a while I just let it go like Elsa.

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Just the still picture makes me feel like vomiting…

One more note for this title.  The chiptune soundtrack is actually kind of fun, and yes, I was one of those kids that listened to midis when the internet was pronounced “A-O-L”.  But I was a kid, my parents wanted to pay for that service, fuck off if you’re judging me.  Anyway, coming from jamming to midis like they were grammy-nominated titles, this one is actually pretty cool.  The graphics in this game, however, will make you want to pull your eyes out of your head.  The playing field is lined with psychedelically pulsing squares and the ball has a shimmering comet tail.  It’s a fun waste of time for only 0.60£ or 1.02$ American on itch.io.

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Freaky Tup is a game with a weird freaking name. I have no fucking idea what a TUP is, nor why it is freaky.  It might be, like, Tee Up, but the game itself has nothing to do with golf in the slightest degree at all.  The idea of the game is that you launch these little pink squiddly guys (similar to the yellow one pictured above) to hit the little angry-face guys.  Honestly, it’s a cute game and if I had kids, this would be on their phones.  Now, these little pink guys squeal with glee or say “yucky” when the enemies explode in a splash of black slime.  Be careful, though!  You have to avoid hitting the friendly (and doofy looking) amoeba blobs.

While you are playing, bad guys and good guys will fly across your screen, and you have to hit the baddies with the pink squids.  Sometimes a glowing golden heart with fly past, too.  Those grant you extra health, whereas hitting the good guys and letting bad guys get through unharmed will make you lose health.  I lost a few times before I got the hang of it, I just got to a point where I had some 4070 points on the first level and lost all patience to get to the next one.  I guess mindless mobile games are just not my fucking genre.  The directions are stupid simple and this can be played by anything with flexing digits.  It can be obtained by the same on the Google Play Store, since it is completely free.

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I can’t help but think those dopey-faced guys are hiding some insidious secret…

Between these two games, the one thing that pissed me off the most was pretty expected.  I can’t fucking stand playing mindless games!  Seriously!  I just spent an hour and a half launching little pink squids at angry-faced blackheads!  I almost want there to be a premise for Freaky Tup but that would be pointless in itself! Then there is Tripping Balls!  Holy fuck!  I am so glad we evolved past pong!  There is no way I would want to be trapped in front of a black screen moving white boxes to bounce a white ball for HOURS!  AGH!  Mobile games are just not my thing.

 

Pseudo “Game” Art: Proteus

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Calling Proteus a game is incorrect.  All you can do is walk around, look and listen.  This game has existed long enough, however, where I do not feel at all bad about telling you everything I experienced in it, because let’s face it, it was fucking weird.

When you load up the game a screen like that above will appear.  You click the island to start and dive in.  Every time you start up Proteus, the island is different and you are offshore a good distance.  After the long swim (which feels like it is supposed to build anticipation) you come to shore and you start to get an idea what you just bought.  Everything is in saturated colors and the visuals make Minecraft look like a graphical powerhouse.  Everything is in these bizarrely basic Atari-level graphics.  But that is not the cool part.  Obviously.  What’s so unique about Proteus is that it is about wandering around and discovering.  The things you discover aren’t cool loot or terrifying enemies, they’re sights and sounds.  Strangely, at a lack of other stimuli, you then start to react to the game emotionally, which makes it a more deep and tactile experience.

I came ashore in Proteus and there were a bunch of pink trees with leaves falling from them, which made a beepy drifting noise as they fell to the ground.  Walking further I found a frog and chased him up a hill where I found the ruined towers.  This tower had a weird chiptune bag-pipe music.  That’s the best fucking way I can put it.  Walking up to the thing I noticed my screen blink black.  When I turned around, I was elsewhere on the island.  I stepped away from the imposing broken-looking structure and found a path, which bordered a forest.  Just inside the forest was a flock of birds that bloop when they peck the ground.  I figured they must be chickens.  If you walk too close to them, they’ll chirrup before skittering off, tinkling the whole way.

I walked along the path and found nothing of particular fucking interest.  By this time it was getting late in game, and my natural gamer instinct kicked in.  “Fuck!  The zombies are going to eat me!” but the game lilts softly as night falls, making comforting and sleepy noises.  Really pretty, and no zombies came out looking for my brains.  I’ll tell you what I did find, though.  Fireflies!  I heard weird little bloops that came and went and looked around only to find little lightning bugs flashing here and there.  I wandered around for a bit and saw some sparkles like falling stars in the distance, spinning and writhing.  I got there and found a mass of spinning sparkles.  As I entered the circle, it condensed and formed a portal.  Already time was flying by around me, so I stepped inside the portal.  I was at the same place, but it was a little different.

 

Ooo! Sparkly!

Ooo! Sparkly!

So after wandering around more I found a circle of totems, these made a low whirring noise and the stars pulsed wildly like they were exploding then retracting then exploding again.  Eventually this stopped and a storm rolled in.  Nothing in this game seems to follow any kind of logical sense, though.  There are simple effects and things that react to your presence (standing stones that shoot sparks and make a noise as you walk by, animals to chase) but nothing all that interactive.  At one point I went through the portal and came out into a sad autumn land with a graveyard.  Seriously.  I am pretty sure it wasn’t there before, but it had a bunch of sparkles everywhere.  I also noticed that clusters of sparkles would pulse into existence, then disappear.  When I left the graveyard to search for the portal again, I saw ghosts playing peek-a-boo with me behind trees.  Weird.

Finally I entered the portal again and came out into a desolate snowy waste with dead trees and over cast with clouds.  It began to snow a little, which added some sound.  There was very little, and this took away most of the fun of the game at this point.  I went around and there was very little of interest, so I looked for the totems again.  I couldn’t tell if it was night or day, since the sky was blocked out.  I felt claustrophobic too, and wanted to get above the low-hanging clouds.  When I found them, the totems were emanating a weird chanting noise.  Suddenly I began to float upward.  The chanting got louder.  I saw the mountains, a huge fucking tree I found earlier and went to those landmarks, but I kept moving upward.  A couple falling stars whished past me as I drifted up and up toward the moon.  Finally my eyes began to close slowly until the screen was black.  And the title screen slowly loaded up.

I have to assume this game is some kind of weird analogy for life, you start off fresh and new and everything seems to be in a state of springtime.  You step into the portal and time whooshes by and then it is summer.  Summer is full of more weird shit, there are some bees and the sun is pulsating hotly.  Step into the portal again and it is autumn, the world is full of trees dropping leaves and death.  There are spirits and ghosts and I even found a graveyard.  Step in again and the world is dead.  You find the place of passage and you pass through the clouds, out of sight and into the heavens.  Yay, fun.  I wish I had dropped acid or ate some ‘shrooms.  Might have made the game that much more enthralling.  Of course, I would be the fucker to find the only way to fucking die in a game about looking around and listening to everything.  If you want to play this game, it is available on Steam for 3.99$ due to the Steam Summer Sale.

It is hard for me to recommend that anyone else buy this game.  I liked it, it definitely made me feel something different.  But this is not something for standard gamers to buy.  It is weird and experiential.  You will find things in here that are neat and fun.  Everyone will feel something about this game, whether it be hatred or ecstasy, but to say it is a good game would be a vast overstatement.  Art is to be looked at, enjoyed and explored, and with more than just a few key clicks.  Don’t buy this game if you are looking for a fun little game to waste some time with.  This is not that.  It is more like a visual and auditory vacation from everything else that leaves you on one side of a massive wall or the other.  Do not buy this as a game, buy it as a piece of art, for it is to be enjoyed lightly, perhaps over a pipe of some strong weed.

Whooshy comets go whoosh!

Whooshy comets go whoosh!

In a game with music and bizarre visuals where I always had one eye-brow quirked, I still found something to be angry about.  And that is the fucking reviews on Steam.  Seriously!  It is like everyone is taking some fantastic drugs and loading this baby up!  Everyone seems to agree this is a game you come into just to wander around and enjoy being away for a while.  You get sent to a pristine island of singing things and happy-happy times!  Not to mention, this game has better scores than games that work harder and give you more.  But I have another theory!  This game is actually the waiting room that demented gods send their human sacrifices through! Each day in game is how long it takes in the real world for them to send another one through.  And at night you are sent to the next level of this insane purgatory!  Finally at the end, you are so bored out of your mind that you are happy to let the world melt away and drift into the air to be consumed – mind, body, spirit – by your god(s).  Take that, you hippy-ass art-as-experience pricks.

Zeno Clash, Untamed WTF

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Zeno Clash is what would happen if Guillermo del Toro dropped acid and wrote a videogame storyline.  This title is full of weird enemies, surreal visuals, somewhat disjointed story elements and a world so bizarre it defies logical explanation.  I tried to explain the game itself to my wife and she said it defines “what the fuck”.  Yet, everything I just described is merely the flavor of the downright bad-ass, knuckle-cracking time this game provides.

First, your character.  A human named Ghat that starts of the game having savagely disfigured a creature known as father-mother, the leader of a clan in this town. The town of Halstedom.  Father-mother’s clan runs the city alongside the Northern Gate Gang.  It seems like this place is a veritable hive of scum and villainy as nearly everyone is part of either the clan or the gang, and there are very few laws being observed to the outside observer.  At least, few laws outside whatever father-mother says.  This leads one to submit to the supposition that father-mother (henceforth FM) is the monarch of the town, or at least influential enough to be a sort of leader of Halstedom.  Not to mention, FM has his entire clan convinced that he’s their father and mother.

Now, why Ghat has decided to take on FM is beyond me, especially considering that FM is a 10-foot-tall peacock creature.  Regardless, he escapes Halstedom with his hide intact where Deadra, crazy-horny heartthrob, follows him and helps him in his journey.. by being as flighty as possible.  And by horny I mean she has enormous fucking horns coming out the sides of her head. No, seriously.

The horns must be great for extra doughnut storage.

The horns must be great for extra doughnut storage.

Now, I am not saying I would hide my sexuality from her in abject fear of her getting naked, but those horns would definitely do a number on my bedside table.  I, mean, she probably never goes indoors, for that matter, but they do come off once, if memory serves.  This being the only point where she is shown laying down looking dreamily into Ghat’s eyes.  She is very naive considering she follows a known felon, who may have killed the only being either has ever known as father or mother,  into the wilderness and away from the safety of the only home she’s ever known.  To her credit, however, she is handy with her sawed-off shotgun and has some nice legs.

Despite the weak central female character, whose only function is to harass Ghat about FM’s secret and stand defensively out of the way of fights, the game still delivers in the place that truly matters.  Gameplay.  And here I introduce Metamoq and the Corwids.  The Corwids are these guys Ghat describes enigmatically as being not insane, but having chosen to be what they are.  So, they are fucking insane and do everything from eat people to bang their heads on trees.  There is one guy that walks in a straight line and refuses to let anyone change his course.  You find him later dead when he met the only nemesis a nutcase wearing giant iron boots has: a tree.  And he runs into a fucking tree in a desert after making his way OUT OF A GODDAMN FOREST! Sorry.  That is in no way important to the plot, but it was one of many WTF moments in this game.  These not-crazy, but actually fucking insane, mask-wearing guys have some members that border on intelligent.  Ghat was a Corwid for a while, which is how he knows so fucking much about them.  Since each of them seems to really only do one thing, I am going to say Ghat’s “thing” was beating the fuck out of bitches with his bare hands.  He never says what inspired this ascetic lifestyle either, nor what he did before that.  At some point he meets Metamoq, a growly-voiced, mask-wearing, sentient booger that teaches Ghat how to beat people with his fists.

And beat people he does.  This brings me to the best part of the game, its combat.  You can punch and kick people.  You can get super hard wind-up punches in.  You can dodge and strike ’em in the ribs.  You can even knee ’em in the face.  Much fun to be had.  You might expect a fighting game made with the source engine to be less maneuverable , or maybe generally difficult.  Not so, and the first-person fighting makes things challenging in a way that doesn’t make it less enjoyable.  Although this game holds a number of features reminiscent of older-generation fighting games like Double Dragon (ie slide-in versus screens and free-style fights and health bars), it fails to devolve into the button-mashing frenzy of those older games.  And you can’t just use the “powerful attack” all the time since stronger enemies will just dodge that slow-ass punch.  But timed well and as part of a combo, those attacks become devastating cards in a deck of whoop-ass.  I discussed this with my brother, The Game Pirate and he said it reminded him of a game we played on the Nintendo 64 called Hybrid Heaven, and equally WTF-inducing fighting game.  But where Hybrid Heaven focused on using the WWF’s finest spine-splintering attacks, Zeno Clash focuses more on its use of boxing-type moves.  When you get tired of fisting everyone in sight, you can pick up any of a number of imaginatively fucking-weird guns.  They are slow to reload and have shitty rate of fire, but this is a brawler at its heart, and even grenades are tough to use against enemies who do the logical fucking thing and run away.  They also tend to hide if you have a gun and favor moving through cover to get to your position, rather than making it nice and easy by running across the giant open field to get in fist-range.  Some of the boss fights All of the boss fights are weird, and most of this game will leave you scratching your head.  But don’t let that stop you because it damn well might.

So at some point you wander through a dark wasteland on the other side of a desert and find this guy named Golem waiting for you.  He calls you and Deadra by name and says he was left by a long-dead race of wise people.  Why everyone always thinks the “long-dead race of ancients who are wiser than us” thing makes sense I will never know. But if they were all that fucking wise, why are they ALL FUCKING DEAD?! Anyway, this guy has a human torso and a head, arms and feet made of blue playdough.  He follows you around and even helps you kill a blind assassin, who uses squirrels with parachutes and powder keg backpacks to kill you.  Then at some point he sits down and starts working on a fucking Rubick’s cube.

Big, strong AND he maintains his mental acuity

Big, strong AND he maintains his mental acuity

You bring him with you back to Halstedom and after finishing off FM, he reveals the secret FM has that Ghat is too much of a pussy to tell.  Y’know, that the father-mother guy everyone is defending steals babies from their beds and raises them as his own. Also, he’s a guy.  And he replaces the babies with baby pigs.  You even run into a woman that seems perfectly happy with a new baby pig, too.  Just bringing up baby Peter, or whatever.  Once FM lays dying, the big blue guy pulls out his Rubick’s cube and it starts to glow.  He says that he can help bring peace by bringing everyone in as part of a new connection that can never be broken.  Screen zooms out, you see this weird guy with a telescope standing next to a completed Rubick’s cube and everything ends.

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Shiny naked metallic dude, just looking at everyone else with a telescope like he has nothing to hide. Whatever, not the weirdest shit in the game so far.

Now, this guy looks remarkably like one of those metallic shadow zombies that infested the wasteland where you find Golem.  So part of me thinks his idea of peace is quite a bit more morose and sad than his words imply.  All that just makes me want to play the sequel even more.  Just bought it and set it to download.  No game has had me as excited to play as Zeno Clash has since Half-life 2, and perhaps Hard Reset, so hopefully the sequel upholds all these points while gracefully embellishing upon them and simultaneously polishing its rough-points.

So, given everything about this game and how much fun it is, what bothers me the most about it?  I have never said ‘what the fuck’ more times in more ways and for more reasons than I did while playing this game.  I mean, the blind assassin first shows up and fights you from atop the head of this floppy elephant/brontosaurus.

Is it just me, or does that thing have hairy testicle sacs hanging from various spots on its face?

Is it just me, or does that thing have hairy testicle sacs hanging from various spots on its face?

The whole father-mother thing.  Baby thievery being the basis for an entire city!  Using squirrels as purveyors of fiery death!  Giant horn-headed chick! Mostly-naked masked men dancing in the woods!  There is a point where a Corwid spins in circles and plays music while hopping on one leg!  Grenades are human skulls hollowed out and filled with explosives!  The only non-caveman humans in the game seem to be wearing rice paddy hats for no reason! Did I mention this game was made by a bunch of Chileans?  That rifle’s sight up there is a piece of wire! Regular-sized crabs spit vomitous goo!  The giant chicken-dragon also vomit green goo!  You can get a double-slingshot-crossbow as a ranged weapon!  The ammo for said crossbow uses rocks that have faces!  The faces have noserings where the trigger mechanism attaches!  Oh, that rifle is reloaded by inserting a long rod with an orange-hot end into a metal loop on the back of the chamber and shutting a little door with it!  This game deserves a what the fuck of the year award for the year 2009, when it was released.  Seriously.  I don’t think I will ever say what the fuck as many times in a row ever again.  Oh, right there’s a sequel.  The thing is, even this element of the game gives it a unique-ness that really cannot be matched.  You could say that anything this bizarre couldn’t be called ‘art’ or ‘artistic’, and it doesn’t really have a deep moral meaning outside of ‘beat up baby stealing assholes with your bear hands’.  But if you think bizarre cannot be artistic, just look at anything by Salvador Dahli.  How about all that crazy, though awesome, music out of the 1970’s?  (Pink Floydd, Led Zepplin, Jimmi Hendrix et al)  This game’s unique approach and winning gameplay are guaranteed to lock you in and wtf you until the games conclusion.  Which makes no more sense than nearly anything else about it. Surrealist art. Period.