It was only recently that I found about the wonderful site itch.io, where some of the strangest games I’ve ever seen reside. It didn’t take long for me to realize that developers on itch seem to carry a different mindset than the big developers on Steam. Rather than making games that try to appeal to everyone with long tutorials and forced RPG level systems, the games I played are about expressing the thoughts and feelings of the creators as purely as possible. This means that some people won’t get much out of these games while they hit all too close to home for others. Here’s the first few I’ve played based off some recommendations and using the “top selling” order.
Mechanically there’s not too much to The Falling Sun. All you do is type out pre-determined phrases as fast as you can before the sun goes down. It only takes a few minutes to play and the phrases range from melodramatic to stupid and funny at times. Towards the end it actually got me a little tense as I tried to finish just one more sentence. Reminds me of those games from my middle school typing class.
Kindness Coins wasn’t quite what I expected. Like with most of these games I went in with no prior knowledge and in this case it lead to a beautiful little moment. The game is just a ten minute little visual novel about a girl who’s friend dragged her along to a party to hang out with some people, and ends up finding a cute someone to spend the evening with. The description states that it’s supposed to be like a harem VN from the perspective of one of the girls and during the small exchange with [male protagonist who isn’t the protagonist] it certainly shows, but it doesn’t do much else with that. I would love to see a longer game that screws around with that idea a little bit more, but the characters and art that are present are very neat.
I knew going in that this one was going to be rough for me. I came out to my parents only about a year and a half ago when I told them I was into guys, and the event is still burned deep into my mind. Reading the description told me it was a “half true game about half truths” with the personal story of someone’s coming out. Said “half truths” manifest when the story can ever so slightly change depending on what choices you make. Simply speaking the only thing you have to do is come out to your parents, but when the character sat down with his mother I almost immediately got tense. I carefully read every line and soon began to realize that my experience was not all dissimilar to his. The parent asking if your friend was gay, then asking why you spend so much time with him, and then the question. When it came up I completely froze at my desk. The options were available to click but I couldn’t do anything except listen to the clock in the background. I felt a pain in my chest that I haven’t felt in that year and a half and every moment from then on was a struggle. Even when I checked Twitter on my phone just to not look at my computer screen I still felt extremely anxious. Much like Gone Home I really have to wonder what a comfortably straight person would think of this game. Do they just feel empathy? Can they relate the event to something they had to divulge to their loved ones? I don’t know. I appreciate the game for what it does, but I was certainly not happy to relive that event.
I have never worked in a call center and I hope that I never have to. David Gallant did though and this was the hell he had to endure day after day. Even with the MS Paint art and basic voice acting I could still feel anger rising in me as plodded through the caller’s questions. Maybe it’s just because I don’t do well with unhappy people through some kind of social anxiety but it was downright excruciating at times. Mechanically I felt it could have done a little more like typing to fill in the fields of the form to add that extra layer of mounting anger but I (enjoyed?) it nonetheless.
On the surface Glitchhikers is a game about driving home late at night while occasionally picking up some passengers who chat with you for a bit. For some people that’s all it will ever be. For me though it was seeing an experience of how another late night driver feels. Being that I work during the evenings and get off when it’s pretty dark out I’ve done quite a bit of driving home with the headlights on and in time have grown some fondness for it. Technically I’ve always liked driving but it was only when I started working the same job for months and months that I started getting very introspective during it. I think a lot about where my life is right now and what I really want to ultimately do with it. I think about what I realistically can do with my life to make some money and move on. I think about being close enough to someone to share the thoughts I have on the road. I try to think about anything but going home to the hard realities of the world. Glitchikers tries its best to encapsulate some of these feelings with it’s dark road, odd radio personality, and passengers that ask you very philosophical questions about love and life. On a basic level it succeeds in this, but the more I think about the more I realize that it just can’t replicate the real thing. It can’t let me feel the tension in my fingers as I grip the steering wheel, or replicate the familiar sights on my ritualistic drive to the gas station after work. It can have music on in the background that sounds near silent next to my deafening thoughts. It can hopefully let some people sit back and think about themselves for a little bit. And it can, in the end, let you skip your exit to take the long way home. I like the long way home.
I would also suggest that you read Javy Gwaltney’s essay on the game. He reconciles about how it reminded him a different time in his life and how he sometimes misses the long nights on the open road.
Itch.io games aren’t for everyone and I honestly think that’s great. Most of the titles here resonated with me a lot, and some others didn’t, but I like knowing that they’re all for someone out there. If you ever become tired of the extravagant triple A releases of the month or just need something so completely different from anything you’ve ever seen check out itch.io. You won’t be disappointed.