Last week's Pocket Dimension wasn't to be as I was caught up in all the excitement at GaymerX. We're back on track this week, though, and I have upped the number of entries in order to hopefully make up for my absence.
The selection in this week's Pocket Dimension barely have anything in common. There are, however, plenty of hostile spaces that force vulnerability onto you. The method of turning you fragile differs, it ranging from shifting walls to hostile bodies that shoot bullets at you.
There's also an eclectic mix of textures and art to gaze at. The words I'd use to describe those include: camp, abrasive, writhing, kitsch, pulsating, and disturbing.
Why play it? As if Death Grips wasn't intimidating enough (despite the experimental hip-hop group being no more), SCARY MAZE has you chased by the monstrous barks of the group's lead, MC Ride, as you attempt to find this maze's randomized single exit.
As with Death Grips's tumultuous tracks, SCARY MAZE drives paranoia into you like a sledgehammer. You must ruthlessly gamble your life in order to find freedom from the pulsating walls and the warbling creatures they hold captive. And what a beautiful freedom it is. Finding the exit sees you fall endlessly from life and limb. Without a scream, you descend into the darkness below the maze, watching it disappear into tiny dots. The monsters stare at you from above with desire.
Play on Game Jolt (Browser)
Why play it? Playing this first-person puzzler is like trying to turn your head fast enough to see the back of it in a mirror. You constantly second-guess the level design and aim to catch it out as it pulls off another magic trick in your wake, such as the walls shifting and swapping, leading you round in circles.
What makes the trickery seem even more conniving is the fact that each wall and plinth is delineated with thick black lines. There are no fancy art assets or colorful textures hiding its design. It's there, right in front of you, in plain black and white. Yet, every time you think you're going somewhere new, you end up back in that same room for the third or fourth time.
Download on itch.io (Windows, Mac)
Why play it? Games based on memes really grind my gears (sorry). Nyan Cat doesn't deserve any more platformers, thank you. But here we have a meme game that outdoes itself more than it has any right to.
As the invading helicopter in the Skeleton Realm you charge in with the soundtrack rocking an overwhelming amount of adrenaline through your body. The skeletons dance, they do "the worm", they play trumpets with a single bony hand in the blood red sky. Each accurate click of the mouse translates as an overdressed explosion cropped by the outlines of the image. It's a '90s flavored kitsch, entirely camp, and somewhat B-movie (or is that D-movie?) in style.
And yet, this is the mightiest of gaming experiences. It enjoys its own gaudiness utterly. One of the available camera angles is just the pilot sitting proud in the cockpit. It's a cutaway worthy of an '80s action movie - the portrait of a "bad-ass". It's so jaunty that it's hard to not join in with its celebration of videogames's capacity to be absurd, ridiculous, and sometimes just unexplainable.
Play the alpha on Game Jolt (Browser)
Why play it? This is a roguelike that swaps physical enemies for the glitchy makeup of smearing textures and moribund text entries. The threat is seen, percieved, rather than felt in a health bar.
The idea is to find your way down a series of dungeons of an old computer database. You can edit all of the levels on the fly, and may need to reset the level generation if an exit door isn't produced. Yep, it's almost as buggy as its aesthetic.
It might lack excitement at the beginning. But once you find your first corrupt node, turning the solid walls into a severe paint (your vision as the brush), the appeal becomes apparent. Get lost in colliding texture.
Author's note: "WARNING: FLASHING LIGHTS"
Download on itch.io (Windows, Mac, Linux)
Why play it? Oh god, that ending - glorious. It'll probably make you want to replay the game with your new found understanding of, well, what it is you're tunnelling through.
Other than that, the rhythmic digging through mysterious soils, while a supposed apocalyptic event chases the little creatures, is punchy and satisfying. More could have been done with it in order to vary it up, but it wasn't. It's short enough that it doesn't become too tiresome in its predictability, at least.
Play on Newgrounds (Browser)
Why play it? Live the entire, lonely life of a wormhole, one conversation at a time! You'll be visited by unfamiliar vessels and quiz them on their culture, ship decoration, and their upbringing. My favorite is the space goose. It gave me an egg.
You're given an assessment of your wormhole personality at the end of the universe according to how you steer each discussion. I was a laidback wormhole so it seems that this wormhole personality test is 100% accurate (accept no imitations).
Play here (Browser)
Why play it? A wander through a series of growling and squirming dimensions guided only by the picture-based demands of the denizens. The graphics evoke the black-and-white curiousities of Mason Lindroth's strange games. It's not an invalid comparison.
Once you escape from your own bedroom to a chirpy tune, your hunt for a variety of peculiar possessions begins. It will have you grinding against the walls, hitting the X button, seeking out hidden doorways. Usually the interstitial passages are quite obvious, such as the inter-dimensional tree, teleportational 'X', and the holes in the ground. But sights like pyramids leaking syrup and heart statues growing eyes make you question the utility and biology of everything you see.
Some tedium might set in if you can't find a specific item or the creature it belongs to. You'll find little help in these realms. But that's a sidenote to what is otherwise an ensemble of videogame sounds and deformed sculptures that consistently teases your curiousity.
Download here (Windows)
Why play it? A tale of turning vulnerability on its head. You're a mess of tissue and tubing moving between walls of shocking paint splatters, hovering over still oceans of swirled black-and-white liquids.
There are bullies in these spaces that shoot at you. You're barely able to avoid taking scuffs and blows from them. You'll probably have to retread old ground as you perish over and over. But this forces you to learn the safe paths while breeding the spite that'll motivate you later.
You see, dodging across the 2D and 3D spaces is soon traded for vengeful return fire as you steadily arm yourself, both literally and mentally. You adapt to the hostile world, turning into some kind of monster in order to survive. If you need further convincing then watch the trailer.
Download on itch.io (Windows)
Why play it? Vessel is described as a "zine game" and is apparently based on "glue lyrics" (a band I'm unfamiliar with?). As with most of Jack's work, collage is used to create scenes from paper, clay, and other scraps. Uncanny models made of thrown-away bits - lips stuck onto trash - can be disturbing.
Sometimes you'll walk across time and up stairs, while other times you click through text. It's framed as an auto-biographic tragedy of a machine named vessel that was tricked into serving humanity. The result is a lot of body horror and images denoting body dysphoria. Flesh looks gory when it's not. Photographs of idealized bodies are scratched. The naked bodies of plastic dolls populate nightmares.
Jack's attention to detail (a result of hand-making every inch of his games) manages to pack a lot into the short play time. The abstract sentences and striking, animated images play with your mind.
Play on Game Jolt (Browser)