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The Indie Game Website May Newsletter

May brings us another three indie games to delve into—and the final installment of this indie games newsletter. Coincidentally, it’s also the best one yet. Find out what our columnists are playing this month:

Winter explores the joys and pains of being trans – Waverly

In my own experience as a trans woman, there is a recurring oblivion that appears in the space that a stolen womanhood should exist. There is not only a gap of knowledge, but a substitution with the cisnormative logics I was forcibly taught, taking its place. It ebbs, flows, and weaves itself in and out of my search for a self. In that dissonant oblivion, monsters are born that care for me and teach me where no one else did. They are monsters that exist in a state of subconscious boundaries, fears, and healing.

Winter is an interactive fiction designed/written by “CommunistSister” Freya C and Elliot Herriman. It follows two trans women as they explore their existential insecurities through their metaphorical monstrosities. The protagonist, Meredith, meets a girl with a skull for a face after seeing a reminder of a messy, romantic past. The girl’s name is Winter, and over the course of the game the two support each other as they work through their own horrors. For Winter, she is afraid for anyone to find herself attractive, taking the form of the skull. For Meredith, she is afraid of being attracted to anyone else, taking the form of a shadow.

As they find others who they are attracted to and date, they eventually returned to one another. The two girls may not be the best for each others’ temperaments, but they are also the only comfort they have in a world that doesn’t understand them. Winter’s skull is not merely just a memento mori, but also a disclosure of traumas underneath the flesh, searching for someone to help them heal.

All of these horrors and pains aren’t resolved by the end of the game, but it isn’t a game that seeks resolution. It lingers in the moments of grief and embraces them as something to care for. It’s a story about states of confidence, pain, support, trust, and understanding in flux. That’s something I find resonant in Winter. There will never be a point where you holistically understand the highs and lows of being trans, but you always have chances to heal and grow.

The Floor is Jelly Makes Platforming Fun – TY GALIZ-ROWE

I’m normally not a fan of games where “jump” is the main verb. The precision and care most platformers require is usually something I find frustrating and ultimately boring. Sacrilege, I know. All that said, if you show me a platformer with messed up, funky physics, you’ll pique my interest. 

That’s exactly why The Floor is Jelly rules. As the title suggests, this is a platformer where all of the ground around you is bouncy, jiggly blue jelly. Each level asks you to traverse the jelly to reach the next window you need to hop through, though things quickly become anything but straight forward. 

Figuring out how the physics of this game works is a genuine blast. Even when I mess up a jump, I don’t get angry because it’s still fun. How can you be angry at the physics of bouncing on jelly? Learning how to get different height bounces and how to navigate the levels that aren’t as straightforward is the most fun I’ve had with the scientific method. 

Combining the bouncy, carefree gameplay with simple but vibrant art and extremely chill music makes The Floor is Jelly the perfect little platformer to vibe to.

Cookies is a deeply spooky Floridian nightmare- Alexis Ong

Whomst among us hasn’t eaten a bunch of shrooms and had a vision of Salvador, King of the Rats, who needs to feed his people and vanquish the evil Janitor? It’s just one small part of Cookies, a lo-fi horror game by Stef Pinto that’s equal parts terrifying and delicious. Everything takes place in the Orange Grove Houses, an absolute shithole of an apartment building which you call home. You’re a down-on-your-luck drug dealer with Qanon assholes, murder-clowns, snuff film makers, and body organ traders for friendly dirtbag neighbors. You even have a vendor, of sorts, a disembodied hand with Aussie-inflected dialogue who lives in a box.

I’m not one for horror games, but the game description sold me: a Floridian nightmare that falls somewhere between black-comedy B-films and VHS slashers, with a touch of Fear and Loathing’s hallucinogenic weirdness and Twin Peaks’ lowkey brand of macabre. Cookies’ aesthetic DNA is steeped in the low-poly madness of old PlayStation 1 games, and coupled with the heavy use of flickering VHS-like film grain, it makes you downright paranoid about what you’re actually seeing on the screen (there is a photosensitive warning, by the way, so approach this game with caution). 

Despite a few bugs, and my own inability to face down a shoe-squeaking meth clown without freezing up, Cookies is charming as hell. There are ten endings—I didn’t get to a single one because I’m a coward beyond belief, but I played it more like a walking simulator. It’s an atmospheric delight; each room, each scene, is visually pitch-perfect for Pinto’s darkly funny vision, and music by Johar Ibrahim is the cherry on top of a beautifully unnerving cake.