The Indie Game Website February Newsletter
Hello, Jason here, the editor of this wonderful site. Our second ever newsletter is a little late because things have been a bit hectic here, but I’m still very happy to present the work of these three extraordinary writers to you. Please make sure to share it around with your friends if you like it, and let’s all just pretend it’s still February or something, okay?
Wander through your own surreal dreams in DREAMDISC – Khee Hoon Chan
What is it about the heavily pixelated textures of Playstation 1 graphics that makes it so effective in conveying foreboding atmospheres? Perhaps it’s in the rigidness and angularity of its low-poly structures and artefacts that vaguely resemble the physical spaces of real life, but somehow with an aberrant tinge–a sense that there is something deeply wrong with this universe, but you can’t quite put a finger to what that is.
This sense of trepidation is reflected in the eerie dreamscapes of DREAMDISC, a brief first-person exploration game that lets you meander through five environments, including an empty room, a deserted beach, and an utterly barren forest. Clearly inspired by the bizarre cult game LSD: Dream Emulator–which is a tapestry of eccentric, unpredictable environments inspired by a developer’s vivid dreams–DREAMDISC is also an unnerving snapshot into the inexplicable dreams of its creator, Adam Pype. As you wander across these locations, the crunch of your footsteps reverberating around as if bouncing off the walls in a tight hallway, you may be haunted by the striking absence of bodies and movement in them–a recontextualisation of familiar places that are usually teeming with life.
Yet, there’s still some odd comfort to be found among these scenes. On the game’s itch.io page, one player has shared that they have also experienced the same, inscrutable events in their own dreams. It probably just proves one thing: that these otherworldly happenings are simply reminders of our human psyche, only just buried in the endless depths of our subconscious.
You can download DREAMDISC for free here.
Tangle Tower and the joy of stuff – Jay Castello
Tangle Tower has been compared favourably to Ace Attorney, a game series I have not stopped hyperfixating on for almost fifteen years. And it is a fair association. But beyond the twists and turns of the murder mystery and the catchy soundtrack, where the two games overlap most strikingly is in their clutter.
Investigate any backdrop in Tangle Tower, and you might find evidence to help you unravel the crime that occurred. But you might also just find stuff. And if you do, you’ll still learn plenty, about the world and about detectives Grimoire and Sally. Before you learn about anything else in the game, you learn about these two, their personalities and relationship, through how they talk about things: a birdbath, a bench, weirdly big mushrooms.
And the same goes for the other colourful characters who populate the mansion. You can get to know them a little by asking about themselves and the day of the crime. Show them something to react to, and you might get a hint for your investigation, but more likely you’re just going to get a sense of who they are. The musician, Poppy, for example, will break into poetry about any one of her friends and family, given the chance.
Clutter and character might be at the heart of any good mystery adventure, but it’s combining the two that makes them really shine.
Heart of the House Works Because It Embraces Your Fear – Ty Galiz-Rowe
Nissa Campbell’s Heart of the House is a gothic horror interactive fiction journey to a mysterious village overlooked by a haunted castle. The game is steeped in the tropes you’d expect of the genre, including ghosts, amorphous hallways, and plenty of dark family drama. But it works as an incredible horror experience because it actively embraces the fact that our imaginations are capable of creating scarier things than any description ever could.
As a choose-your-own-adventure story, Heart of the House allows players to take command of how the plot will play out. Everything is in your hands, from how you react in a given situation, to what you wear, and even your pronouns. By allowing players to guide the action, Heart of the House creates a custom horror experience. Pairing that with its evocative, yet just-vague-enough descriptions, Campbell was able to create something truly special.
No playthrough is ever quite the same, as there are always choices at your fingertips, and new ways to encounter the dark secrets this town has beneath its surface. And through its choice and descriptions, you get to decide what kind of fear you want to experience. The game is tailored to your tastes and your anxieties. You decide what scares you; Campbell’s exquisite writing just guides you down the path you’ve chosen.