Monthly Column – June 2020 Top 3 Curiosities
Not everything has to be “epic.” This month’s Column of Curiosities happens to feature some games that get their point across in smaller ways and can be completed in a few hours or less, but that in no way diminishes their impact. As the saying goes, good things come in small packages!
A Hand with Many Fingers
After the provocative free fantasy and science fiction A Bewitching Revolution and They Came from a Communist Planet, the clever politically-minded team at Colestia turn their hands toward something more rooted in realism for their first paid offering.
A Hand with Many Fingers sets you in the position of uncovering a tangled conspiracy involving an Australian bank, international drug trafficking and the CIA – all based on actual events from the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.
Much like Her Story, the “action,” such as it is, involves research, though instead of searching a video database, you’re pulling paper documents from actual file boxes. If you’ve ever wanted to pin documents and photographs on a bulletin board and connect them with thread, like conspiracy theorists and detectives in the movies do, this is the game for you.
It’s a tribute to the developers that an activity so seemingly dry – rifling through file boxes – can be so compelling, but between the pleasure of finding connections between bankers, businessmen and secret agents and the simple tactile pleasure of rifling through a card catalog, A Hand with Many Fingers transforms the “just one more turn” effect to “just one more manila folder.”
Geese vs. Cthulhu
by Anatoliy Loginovskikh
Comedic takes on Lovecraft don’t always do it for me, but if there’s anyone capable of it, it’s Anatoliy Loginovskikh, the playful Russian developer whose style reminds me of Amanita Design crossed with ‘90s-era Nickelodeon cartoons.
Geese vs. Cthulhu combines that sense of comedic whimsy – complete with belching Easter Island statues – and frantic arcade action.
While this isn’t a time management game, the metaphorical plate-spinning reminded me a bit of games like the Cook! Serve! Delicious! series as I struggled to click on crabs – and Cthulhu himself – as fast as I could while also dragging and dropping my geese out of tentacle’s reach.
And that’s just the first level! Subsequent levels involve everything from racing to shoot-’em-up, all presented in Loginovskikh’s delightful style.
by Vincent Lade
The newest creation from Vincent Lade (best known for survival horror game Deathbloom) is a first-person horror adventure steeped in rural terrors.
While The Swine doesn’t offer a ton of actual game mechanics outside of a couple of inventory and code puzzles, it makes up for it with a slowly building sense of dread, hinting at a dark conspiracy via Tarot card imagery and glimpses of pig-masked cultists and emphasizing atmosphere over jump scares.
Just under an hour long, The Swine is a perfect snippet of a horror game, taking just long enough to build to its climax. Any longer, and the plot threads would start to fray, but as it is, it’s a solid, paranoia-inducing little experience.
And if those aren’t small and focused enough, how about some even smaller, even more focused free games?
Ego in a Coma
by KoS Studios
I can’t quite recommend Ego in a Coma for the action – it’s a somewhat clumsy hack-and-dodge platformer – but Japanese developers KoS Studios more than make up for it thematically and visually.
A sort of psychological cyberpunk thing, it reminded me of Blade Runner (which I know is an obvious reference, but it’s got the neon signs and the floating cars and everything) crossed with the gonzo madness of authors like Hitomi Kanehara and Ryu Murakami and set to an over-the-top synthwave soundtrack.
A seemingly disparate blur of art styles – a barrage of pixel art imagery during the game itself crossed with deliberately amateurish drawings during cut-scenes – makes things even more fascinating and confusing.
by Decoded Production
If you need to relax – especially after playing Ego in a Coma – try this beautifully mellow, light seaplane simulator created by students from the Breda University of Applied Sciences.
There are quests to accomplish and items to collect, but the real joy of Skye is in exploring the Impressionist landscapes, rock formations and inlets in an island cluster based on the Scottish Hebrides.
It’s not quite a casual game – you do in fact have to fly somewhat carefully – but the control system is arcade-based, and your plane seems to repair itself fairly quickly even if you clip into a rock or building, so the stakes are low and the overall experience is soothing rather than stressful.
by Okyo Games
In much the same way as Geese vs. Cthulhu, Swarm is an arcade game with a lot of in-the-air plate-spinning to manage.
This time, you’re a spaceship battling a giant stinging insect, and in between dodging attacks and blasting away at your foe, you’ve also got to transform into a swordsman to hack and slash at eggs.
French dev team Okyo Games has found new inspiration in what on the surface appears to be a very old format, complete with impressive retro neon vector graphics.
What do you think of this list? Were there any great unsung games you played in June 2020 we should know about?