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I HAVEN’T found much time for gaming lately, being rather distracted by the summer. But playing video games in the evenings has helped me ignore the fact that this weather is all thanks to the giant multinational companies trashing the environment and governments doing absolutely nothing about it. But at least they’re all getting rich as the planet burns down.
Who knows what inspired Swedish developers Villa Gorilla to mix pinball and 2D metroidvania platforming together? Their debut game Yoku’s Island Express is a revelation.
You play as Yoku, a cute little beetle newly arrived on Mokumana, a volcanic island populated by anthropomorphic animals in need of salvation. Some malevolent force is attacking the islanders’ god, causing much upset, and the island’s new postie Yoku is the only one up to putting a stop to this. But Yoku can’t jump.
Luckily, pinball flippers are scattered all over Mokumana and the huge ball tied to Yoku can be used to fling our six-legged friend around with reckless abandon.
If, like me, you haven’t played a pinball machine since the 1990s, then you might struggle at first to fling Yoku exactly where you want. Until you get the hang of this, exploring Mokumana can be extremely annoying.
But stick with it, because this game is special.
When nerdy electrician Harper Pendrell stumbles upon a woman dying in the street, in German indie-developers Backwoods Entertainment’s point-and-click adventure game Unforeseen Incidents, he finds himself embroiled in a crackpot conspiracy involving a diabolical illness, a giant corporation and greedy politicians.
Untangling the conspiracy and solving its puzzles — challenging but never rage-inducing — is great fun because of the assortment of weirdos and crackpots Harper meets along the way. The bizarre humour had me laughing out loud on many occasions and Unforseen Incidents' comic-book graphics are endearing.
But at times I did feel that the game’s whimsical nature jarred with the seriousness of the conspiracy, which involves the deaths of thousands.
Far: Lone Sails is a 2D, side-scrolling puzzle game developed by Okomotive. You play as a nameless character on a desolate planet, presumably Earth, where civilisation seems to have fled some sort of catastrophe.
Players move across the desolate wasteland by piloting a large ship-like vehicle — a sort of steampunk train-bus hybrid with a sail. In most games, this just involves pressing a single button, but in Far: Lone Sails players need to move their character around the ship to press the accelerator and push the brakes, periodically releasing steam from the engine so it doesn’t overheat and managing the fuel reserves. It’s mentally challenging work.
That might not sound all that enthralling but, trust me, Far: Lone Sails is beautiful on so many different levels. After a challenging night keeping the train-ship going, I watched the sunrise atop a hillside over a scene of wind turbines and, as Chris Searle-approved jazz music jingled along in the background, I felt a warm fuzzy feeling gripping my heart.
The first time I turned the game off and went back into the summer heat, all I could think about was getting back to the journey. And then I began to worry how the game’s apocalyptic beauty could be a premonition of our own future.
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