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Sea Salt – B’urpy Fhtagn

Unearthly.

Don’t mess around with unmentionable Elder Gods From Beyond Time and Space. You’d think that it would be easy to not pray to the unnameable Old Ones. But, no. There’s always some cult leader willing to worship Chthulhu or Hastur or Dick Cheney* or something. It never ends well. Best case scenario is that the dark god manifests squamous tentacles and pulls you into the stygian abyss beyond the stars to be tortured in unblinking wakefulness as the universe decays into to chaos and once universal heat death comes after billions upon billions of years you will remain always wakeful and ever aware of your failure, alone in your cosmic madness. Worst case scenario… is worse than that, I suppose.

In Sea Salt by YCJY you play as one of the indescribable great old ones bringing hideous punishment down upon your gibbering followers. See, the people of this town have been worshiping you, but now their High Priest has refused to sacrifice himself. And for his loathsome cowardice you must punish all the people of the town. Even the babies.

To properly punish these fools you summon a swarm of various hidious Lovecraftian horrors. Tenebrous acidic worms. Fish people summoned from the cyclopean depths. Cultists shrieking with madness. Eldritch skittering horrors of all sorts. You have some control over your swarm, but you can only control their general actions. You point at a towns-person and your swarm will attempt to do the rest. It’s not an entirely unique mechanic, I know I’ve seen it used a few times before**, but it makes a nice change of pace from the usual top down adventure game. And, it’s satisfying to send a swarm of crabs to tear about some poor soul. The drawback is that your control lacks nuance. You critters will sometimes not attack the enemy you want and will have occasional path-finding issues. These imprecise controls force you to think differently about how you handle a situation.

Unfathomable.

The graphics are your standard 16-Bit Indie Tribute with a fun Lovecraftian twist. Pixelated gore is always funny. The backgrounds and cut scenes are lovely and evocative of a misty night in a New England town when a monstrosity crawls up from the moldering depths to prey on the unwitting townsfolk. My only complaint is that sometimes the mist and darkness make it hard to read the screen, which can on occasion make it difficult to properly rend your prey.

Overall, I found Sea Salt an enjoyable game. It’s not without it’s flaws, but if you are a fan of the Mythos and cool non-Euclidean Indie games then you could do worse than spend some time with this one. Go on. Buy it. I command it. Don’t make me come up there and rend you.

Unstable.

*So much for unnameable.
**There was this Roman Centurion themed game a few years back that I cannot remember the name of. Great Old Ones like myself grow forgetful.

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Hacknet – The Ultimate Multiplayer Game?

Yes. Yes, it is. You can go back to watching cat videos now.

Still here? Oh, so you want reasons now. Fine. I’m down to clown. Hacknet, the hacking simulation game, was released a while back, but they just released a new DLC (which we didn’t make it too) and the dev is a super cool dude, so @curttheinvert and I decided to finally take the game for a spin. (Apply foreshadowy music here.)

 

20170507-Hacknet-2
Hacket – Most Visually Stunning Game Ever. (Okay okay, cheap shot)

 

Hacknet doesn’t look like much. I’m just going to get that out of the way right now, because it has like everything else going for it. It has interesting and challenging puzzles, a rich, in-depth storyline with lots of twist and turns, and most importantly, it doesn’t hold your hand through anything after the first 30 minutes or so. It also makes you feel like a frickin’ badass…

Until you see one tiny bump in the road, or happen to look away from the screen for a second to moisten up your dry cracked hackeresque eyeballs, and promptly forget all of the text commands you need to get through the next crucial phase in the game.

This is where Player Two comes in. Player Two, in this case @curttheinvert, henceforth known as Backseat McHackery, simultaneously acts as a driving force of stability, who, if taking notes, gently informs you of your failed life choices while reminding you that nmap is the network scanning command, while getting out their phone and shouting World Star just to see how you’ll collapse under the pressure of a shaky steadily-growing faux-Soviet-fonted timer.

Damn you @curttheinvert. Damn you straight to hell. And also I love you.

Also, screw that timer font. Yes, I know that I have 30 seconds left, you don’t need to scream it in red. Like who would set up their own computer terminal to put more stress on them in tight situations?

But somewhat more seriously, Hacknet feels like a completely different game in multiplayer, and it’s all for the better. The story is complicated, and while it doesn’t assume you’re an actual hacker (#SUBSEVEN4LIFE), it often tells you how to do something once, and only once. You can have notes open on the side, but these take up system memory (really dude, like 300k of memory just for a basic text file?), which may leave you with not enough memory to finish whatever task you may have at hand. Having another set of hands to write these things down and help remember other important facts is incredibly useful.

It’s also incredibly entertaining to hear to grown men try to keep their calm as they type commands into a little box that keeps warning them that they’re growing closer and closer to some unspecified punishment. I mean, I don’t know what happens when you fuck up in Hacknet, but with ol’ BsMcH screaming “Click the box. No the box! CLICK THE FUCKING BOX OR I WILL DESTROY YOU AND ALL OF YOUR UNBORN CHILDREN!” I don’t ever want to know. It’s a hint of extra realism, that really brings that tension home. It’s kinda like that part of Resident Evil, where you take your character through the L shaped hallway for the second time, and that dog comes through the window and attacks. I remember playing that at like three in the morning at my friend’s place when it came out. His parents were away and we had it up like super loud. Like, look at this video, but picture a bunch of people screaming when the dogs come out.

 

 

Okay, things were scarier in the 90s. Sheesh. It was a simpler time. Hacknet did made me feel this same tension though, and moreso when Curtis was in the room glaring down at my disapprovingly as I kept typing porthack as porkhack. I don’t like the idea of having a stress induced heart attack, but if I were to have one, I think this is how I’d like to go.

#SUBSEVEN4LIFE #BACKSEATMCHACKERY4MAYOR

I wonder if I could just play Hacknet instead of exercising to get the ol’ blood flowing…?

So, yeah. Curtis and I streamed about two hours of footage when he came to visit a while back. OBS was set to turn off every time I pressed the letter P, and hilarity ensued. Man, we’re terrible at streaming. This starts about 5 minutes into the game and continues through for a while. It’s not too terribly screamy, basically because we cut it as we were getting to that point. Haha. Yeah. We’re terrible at screaming.

 

 

After we turned it off, we forkbombed our own PC and crashed our server. Hilarity. You should try it, like after you save it.

We’re going to do this again the next time Curtis comes over again, probably after BitSummit. It’s going to be amazing. Go download it.

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Thumper – A Course On Emotion

Full disclosure #1: I know one of the developers of Thumper, but he doesn’t think I’m that cool. Honestly, he’ll probably think I am much less cool after writing this piece. Also, I bought the game, fair and square, even Stephanie, so no bias here. Nosiree Glob. 

Full disclosure #2: I’m currently down 3 fingers typing, so this may take a while to read. Explanations directly below. 

Steam: http://store.steampowered.com/app/356400/

 

I just woke up in France.
Thumper Intro – I could watch this for hours.

 

The first victims of Thumper’s ‘rhythmic violence’ that I personally witnessed were my left index finger and both of my thumbs. Initially distracted by the beetle’s hypnotic celerity as it spread through a kaleidoscopic array of geometric delights, I didn’t much notice that my left index finger and both of my thumbs, blistered, red, and throbbing, were barely hanging on. That is until the end of level 2 where I seized up like an arthritic crustacean on it’s way to a Floridic retirement community sauna.

In short, It’s a good game. In very short, good.

The graphics are always visually stimulating. The music is driving, it encourages progress. The control is tight. But, as I continued to bash the every bloodying stumpy remains of my two thumbs and left index finger, I felt that something was a little off. A little strange. A little wrong.

I mean aside from having the audacity to put a Right immediately after an Up.

 

TOO FUCKING CLOSE
Up + Right = Not fucking cool, dude. Can’t see what’s going on? Tell my thumbs.

 

Not cool.

But serially, let’s dissect the game a little, and see if we can’t get to the bottom of this little conundrum. There’s this cool little shiny beetle dude, and for some reason it’s on an endless winding path, responding to an array of obstacles thrown in its way by a series of somewhat spherical bosses and a seriously engraged demon. I’ma call him Sed. In order to not get destroyed, the beetle has to respond in a specific way to each obstacle. In order to defeat the bosses, the beetle has to grab a hold of a certain type of obstacle, and use it to send a pulse back up the path and into the beasts’ gaping maws. The beetle and bosses exist both in a single closed one dimensional system, yet they are not symbiotic. It’s eat or be eaten, but everything the beetle needs to succeed is right in front of it. All it has to do is follow the rules and put the puzzle pieces together, and the path will open.

The path will provide.

Of course, if it doesn’t follow the rules…

 

Ow.
YOUR HEAD A SPLODE

 

The path will taketh away… well for like 3 seconds until it’s placed back at the last checkpoint at least.

This interaction, which is indeed the very core of Thumper, is what confounds me. Let’s put ourselves into the role of the shiny ashtray or our buddy Seddy. You got this beetle dogging you, getting your minions all riled up with the thought of potential destruction and shizz, and at the end of the day, all you’re trying to do is put three squares and a few lines on the table for Mrs. Sed and the Sedlings. If this is the case, why would you set the beetle up for a win? Why wouldn’t you just throw everything you had all the time? It doesn’t make sense. Unless of course, Sed wants to be beaten.

This is why I posit to you, dear reader, that Thumper is not a game of ‘rhythmic violence.’ Violence is just the surface representation of the root cause. Thumper is more accurately a game about ‘rhythmic insecurity’ and ‘rhythmic self-fulfilling prophecy.’

Sed’s dead inside.

I’m not victim blaming, nor am I mocking actual abusive relationships. The beetle has every right to exist, and every right to be upset with the treatment it’s receiving on the path. Rather, I’m showing that Thumper is more than violence, it’s an exploration into a darker element of the human condition. What happens to an entity when they’re day in day out stuck on the same path, the game grind. What if the path does not provide?

I mean, if it’s not about strong emotions and self-doubt, why does Sed look exactly like the flower mage from Adventure Time? That dude is always screaming about his daddy issues throughout his whole appearance on the show. And, he brings things to life only only harm him…. wait… until then end when they all become inanimate again. Hmm.

 

It's not just me right?
Totally the same dude. Especially in his Level 1 form.

 

Maybe I need to look into this more.

Oh, and here’s a stream of the first two levels where I bemoan the loss of my thumbs.

 

Summary: Good game, good price, even if rhythm games aren’t normally your thing. Can produce feelings of self-doubt, but since I already had that I was good.