The Indie Game Website April Newsletter
An oddball film noir game. A chill coffee break experience. And the agony of forgetting. Take a look at some of the most notable indie games this month, as covered by our talented cast of columnists:
Rupert Rabbit in: Murder, My Bunny tweaks the film noir formula – Waverly
Call it morbid, but murder mysteries are one of my favorite genres. Rather than working towards a set goal aided by information like most other games, many times murder mysteries lie in ambiguity: someone has died, now find out why. On top of this, the protagonist is fairly often a complete nobody, or at least someone who is trying to make a point about the world around us. Murder never happens simply “because”; rather, they are always centered around power that has been purposefully neglected or abused, leading up to the intent to kill. The question is, where do you start looking?
Rupert Rabbit in: Murder, my Bunny starts with an conversation at The Stupid Stoat Bar, presumably like any other. The six table tavern never overcrowds for an evening show, especially a magic act. Marcel the Magician didn’t necessarily have a great relationship with anyone at the bar, but there were enough cover fees for the bartender to let them come back. That is, until he was murdered. After that point, you take the lead as Marcel’s rabbit who was inside of his hat, investigating how the murder went down.
Rupert Rabbit is written comically but seen through a tense, noir halftone, fish-eye lens which is placed at the floor level. It creates a conversation where the less serious perspective of a rabbit detective creates a new way of experiencing the noir space. It’s a joke on noir, but that allows it to also experiment with noir.
Alveole captures the small joys of coffee break games – Jay Castello
I used to play a lot of coffee break games. Like, instead of just mindlessly downing caffeine while working, I would find something to tool around in for 20 minutes to refresh my brain. At some point that practice fell off, but I was reminded of it when I stumbled into a Steam review for Alveole that recommended the practice.
Alveole is a single mechanic monochrome puzzle game. In the centre of the screen is a figure running in a hamster wheel. Every so often, an obstacle will appear, which can be jumped over or stumbled into. Around and outside of this cardio trap are small sketches, like a pair of glasses, a cat, and a dinosaur. They give cryptic hints at what you’re actually supposed to do, changing in response to successful or failed jumps.
And that’s all there is to it. Jumping or falling in various combinations unlocks different polaroid photographs, declaring things like ‘winner’ or ‘hopscotch.’ It doesn’t demand all your creative attention, or enforce a long list of rules. Instead, it leaves a space somewhere refreshingly in the middle. Quietly thinking of combinations you haven’t tried yet, drinking coffee, and listening to the piano feels like a palette cleanser that I didn’t know I had missed.
Forgetter is a devastating look at how memory defines us – TY GALIZ-ROWE
I’ve been thinking a lot about memories lately. More specifically, about how it’s our memories that ultimately make us who we are. Plenty of popular games play with these ideas, from Kingdom Hearts to Danganronpa and beyond. But none do so as compactly or devastatingly as Sometimes Monastery’s Forgetter.
The game is set in a slightly distant future where a company has created the technology to erase the traumatic memories from the minds of now-dead artists to later be implanted into infants. The idea is that by destroying the trauma and pain in these people’s minds, they can be put into a new person who can benefit from their artistic talent without the pitfalls of mental illness, addiction, etc. that often go hand in hand with creativity.
Your character–a failed creative writer themselves–has come on board with this company to make some cash and destroy some memories. And it’s honestly as bleak as you’d imagine. You navigate the minds of two different artists, hearing their stories from their own mouths, and destroying them as you go. Each memory object shatters, leaving behind debris you can vacuum up for extra money. As soon as you have destroyed the key memories in each area of the person’s mind, it reverts to a serene, white landscape. Blank for whoever comes next.
That’s the killer thing about Forgetter. You meet these people and start to know them, while you’re simultaneously wiping them from history. You see these artists who were troubled, and flawed just like anyone else, and you obliterate them to make room for “drama-free” art. Though I’m no advocate for the suffering artist trope, I can’t imagine good art coming from people who have been forcibly sanded down. Forgetter acknowledges that, in all its bleakness.