Games I've written about for kritiqal.com, whether in reviews, impressions, or some combination there of.
"The world of Agata Nawrot's Karambola is one of anthropomorphic vegetables undergoing immense duress. Consumed by negative thoughts (personified as eerie rectangular birds), they are found wallowing within bars, on rooftops, or floating through a fogging marsh on a block of ice. Through bizarre hand-drawn characters and a charming soundtrack, Nawrot explores depression in abstraction."
"Expand intentionally refrains from putting forth much more than its art and atmosphere, and this can at times cause the experience to feel exceptionally lonely and empty. But that same stripped down approach makes it that much easier to lose yourself in an experience purposefully designed to never break until it has shown you all it has."
"As an idea, it is easiest explained by demonstration. Four Sided Fantasy's genius, however, lies not in understanding how it works but in realizing, as the game progresses, how little you actually do understand. There is a constant, expert tension in how Four Sided Fantasy drip-feeds you new ideas which are then layered onto the same basic concept of walking off the edge of your screen and reappearing on the other side."
"Killing Time at Lightspeed (2016) is ostensibly a game about social media, but in truth, it's a game about losing touch with the people you care about."
"BUY2BILLIONFOLLOWE had to release when it did, as the universe was metaphorically and literally burning to the ground. It needed an audience striving to feel connected to a world that seemed increasing alien, who would accept anything that helped them feel less alone. It needed, in short, people who had been hurt."
"Gardenarium is a pastel love song to perhaps the internet's most beloved art form: the animated gif."
"3AM doesn't attempt to stretch beyond the immediacy of itself, to be more than a simple game about making a cup of tea, and that is what I find so remarkably endearing about it."
"From all fronts it would appear Life of Pixel fails to find its footing. Its historical pursuits lack nuance, its visual replication proves inauthentic, and beneath all its appeals to nostalgia there is little to find but an overwhelmingly ordinary platformer, becoming then indistinguishable from so many other pixel platformers."
"Though it might have taken me too long to recognize Ink as its own game, it was a distinction worth making as Zack Bell's mess obsessed creation is among the most enjoyable platformers I've played in quite some time."
"Read Only Memories is beautiful in its willingness to embrace its most earnest parts. Cyberpunk as a genre seems obsessed with the grimy underbelly of technological utopias, social disorder among megacorporation overlords, and the dangers unregulated scientific breakthroughs create for humanity at large. Rarely is it even discussed that maybe there's room within cyberpunk for more than government induced terror and futuristic narcotics. Where, if I may be so bold, is the cute side of cyberpunk?"
"Oases is a delightful and enthralling capsule of creativity and nontraditional game design, so simple in its structure and yet so fantastically expressive and powerful, and for just a moment I was allowed to put my stress out of mind and simply float along the wind as my senses went wild."
"Plug & Play is delightfully bizarre in ways that are as unsettling as they are endearing."
"I don't think I'll ever forget the moments which really spoke to me in Shelter 2, like getting caught in a sandstorm and frantically looking for my cubs, or stumbling upon a giant herd of elk as my cubs were beginning to starve. But Might & Delight has greatly deluded them by placing them under the weight of mechanics which never grow past their primitive first impression, and too much time searching for something which doesn't exist in its huge world."
"Shelter is an astoundingly unique pilgrimage through a gorgeous papercraft world, with a masterful score that affects every moment of the game. It's over in just over an hour and will likely leave you with an empty feeling after the credits role, but I think this was what the developers wanted."
"The Next Penelope could have so easily been great simply iterating on its most rudimentary levels rather than trying to reinvent itself with each stage. It's a game in need of an editor, or at the very least a brutally honest playtester, to be there to reign in an admirable but overzealous ambition which is ultimately The Next Penelope's downfall."
"Taking Super Hexagon at face value would be missing the point. Its simple graphics and controls hide an incredibly challenging and addictive game that only gets better the longer you play it."
"VVVVVV's vision is so strong and consistent, that even though the experience lasts only a few hours it was so incredibly fun and well put together that I never noticed the short length as I was simply having too good a time getting my ass handed to me again and again. That's probably a peculiar way to recommend a game, but VVVVVV is something of a peculiar game, coming out of essentially nowhere, putting blisters on my fingers, and making me curse and rejoice over and over while what can only be described as the best music to ever enter your ear holes played in the background."
"I like Freedom Fall quite a bit. It's an interesting twist on platformers with a smart tongue and a great soundtrack that feels just long enough despite its brevity."
"199X constantly borders on an epiphany it can see but not touch. Through its bold obliteration of the fourth wall it attempts to question not only how we view the agency we hold over our video game avatars, but also how we fit into the larger social system that often has more power over what we do and how we act than we ourselves. The boldness with which 199X asserts itself grants it a lot of leeway in arriving at what it wishes to say and how, but through these possibilities it fails to hold on to any of the ideas which have been hastily unpacked and mixed together."
"I'd have recommended picking up The Hole Story for the sake of supporting a great program alone, but I'm ecstatic to be able to wholeheartedly endorse it as just a super fun and charming game in its own right. It's cheerful and refreshingly and is sure to have more cheese related puns than anything else you'll play this (or any) year. What could possibly be better?!"
"The way Treeker is designed – with little pockets of interactivity stretched out across a wide landscape – causes it to feel very small and disconnected from itself. There's no continuity to its environments, no history or life of any kind to be found among the odd floating structures and technology that's only ever there when it's needed for some mechanic."
"Playing Luxuria Superbia made me feel dirty, like I was a kid stumbling upon his father's secret magazines and proceeding to throw away my innocence. It's awkward and maybe a little uncomfortable to sit through, but at the very least I can't knock it for being anything but unique and artistic. Once you get past the erotic outer layers though, you are still left with an incredibly boring and ultimately pointless experience that grows tiresome before you bring your first flower to completion."
"Saying Beeswing moved me is easy. Calling it a work of art is reductive and redundant. There isn't a single word that can describe what Beeswing is and will mean for different people, and that's why it's so stunning and important."
"Dreaming Sarah is excels at taking something conventional and warping it just enough to feel unusual yet still recognizable. Its artwork and soundtrack becomes continually more twisted as you travel deeper into Sarah's subconscious, but always with a tinge of the familiar that only serves to put you more on edge. Gathering and using items feels traditional and expected, yet for what actual purpose I was collecting them I couldn't say. Everything is so very ordinary but also alien, like you've been here before only now it's changed and you aren't sure how. Something is so clearly wrong, but you're the only one that seems to notice."
"Where other games attempt to render each other obsolete and force you to move on to the newest release, Horrorshow's work feels as if it depends on the continued existence of every piece and how they enrich each other. It's rare that I've ever seen games be retroactively improved by the release of new ones, yet I find myself appreciating Horrorshow's work more and more as her gallery of strange and intriguing worlds to explore continues to grow."
"If there is any disappointment to be found here, it's that the teaser is but a short slice of the full game, and we still have a bit of time left to wait for that to release. That aside, it's fantastic to have finally gotten a glimpse at something I've been so highly anticipating, and even better that so far it's living up to everything I had hoped it would be. I'm often cautious about getting too hyped up for new releases in case I come away that much more disappointed if they fall short, but I'm feeling pretty safe with Jenny LeClue and now need to distract myself before I get too enthusiastic and this post turns to gibberish."
"Richard and Alice isn't the story it first appears to be. Behind the easygoing life the inmates of this peculiar prison seem to live, incredible amounts of despair and heartbreak are pressing at the gate, eating away at the humanity of those who have to bear with the insanity that has brought the world to the brink of almost complete desertion. There are no heroes or villains in this tale; there are simply people, trying their hardest to survive in the midst of impossible odds, doing whatever it takes to live another day despite how meaningless it may seem."
"Stories at the dawn is only a few minutes long. It's unclear to me right now if it's finished or will potentially be something entirely different by the time you play it. The developer might have an entirely different vision for it than what I saw tonight, but that's what I love about the space within art. With the absence of distinction what people see in it can take on a life of its own."
"If anything Metamorphabet goes out of its way to never box itself into a certain demographic. It's full of the sort of universal love and joy that I can't imagine anyone with half a heart wouldn't find at least a little delightful regardless of their age. It introduced me to what I imagine my baby niece sees and feels when playing with simple blocks and stuffed animals, simple toys becoming outlets to unleash her imagination in a world that probably doesn't make a lot of sense but is full of amazing things if only you could see them like she does."