Most of us have seen The Thing by this point. But for the seven or eight people who haven’t, The Thing was a film from 1982 directed by John Carpenter about an alien in a scientific facility that goes, to use a scientific term, spastic flapjacks mental. Carrion asks the question, what if we were the giant pile of teeth and mushed up flesh?
You are a giant, tentacled thing that escaped a facility and your job is to insert yourself into various cracks in the wall to gain access to the next part of the map, like a secret treehouse club with a misinformed idea of a glory hole. You resemble the stillborn fetus of an octopus with a ridiculous amount of willpower. But not enough, it seems, to actually bring yourself to eat human flesh unless it’s pressed against your face with enough power to force-feed every baby in the world. It made for a weird sort of contradiction because the movement animation is as smooth as pureed jazz, but the minute I had to eat something, I would just have to spazz out and hope for the best.
You’ll notice that I’m still holding out giving my opinion of the game but what is there to say, it’s about 6 hours long, has a very vague plot and feels like the kind of game you’d play after a large Sunday dinner when you simply cannot be asked to do anything else. There’s just not enough here.
Another indie game that made its way is on my radar is Star Fetchers. I found this game a while back during the mid-year game drought. It immediately stood out to me for not being slathered in anime faces like those truly degenerate hoodies. I was also interested in the writing. I started a conversation with a girl scout, and she asked me if I wanted penis enlargement pills.
The gameplay can be best described as Hotline Miami mixed with German politics in the 1930s, aka, keep moving right while killing everyone in your path. That’s the German bit. You will also die, die, and die, that’s Hotline Miami. That’s it, some boss fights involve timed movement to the right along with dodging grenades or deflecting machine guns that fire so slow that
You’re a loser in a dead-end job who’s miserably depressed. You also play that same character. You are Sanyati, a woman without the ability to open her eyes. The artist having apparently taken lessons exclusively regarding Brock from Pokemon. You then meet Zambezi, a woman wearing a plastic bin liner for a top who fights gun-wielding foes with katanas who offers to take you on an adventure to the stars.
The art style is very distinctive from other art, not so much from itself because I had the most tremendous difficulty figuring out the gender of each character. Not just the one-off villains or side characters, but the main protagonists as well. I don’t know, that information might be relevant in any sex scene considering the pixel art. One thinks this would be important considering that this is the kind of game that would have no problem referencing lesbian cunnilingus.
And with that, we arrive at the point of this game. It is, without a doubt, a very artsy game. The good news is that it avoids the main problem with most artsy games. That problem being the feeling that all their flaws and weirdness can simply be hidden by the statement, “Oh it’s an artsy game.” Star Fetchers understand what it actually means to have depth. If you so desire it, all this game has to be is a sideways hack and slash with some unique pixel art.
However, if you look just a bit deeper, it’s got some sterling cultural commentary that we in the west tend to overlook. It’s making a point about America’s forgotten underclass that even the rich may find themselves a part of if they don’t keep on top of the heap at all times. It all provides a crushing weight, and two-facedness to proceedings because all you want is to not be a bum in a low wage job destined to die forgotten. The rub is that to get to any point of status involves committing several dozen violent crimes.
The game’s about as unpolished as it could get without becoming mud and the tutorial’s absolute wank, but it doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, Star Fetchers is profound, funny, and worth your time.