Joel incessantly clicking away at his laptop
Art by Marissa Espiritu

An Alternative Guide to Video Games

By Joel Vaughn

Well, the semester is almost over, it’s looking like we’ll still be indoors ‘till fall at the earliest and I’m sure many of you are going to be bored as hell, so here are some games I recommend from the Steam store.

 

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Dropsy: A Point and Click Hugventure Game 

Dropsy is sad, Dropsy is beautiful, Dropsy just wants a hug, Dropsy is a point-and-click adventure game in the vein of LucasArts classics such as Grim Fandango, Sam & Max Hit the Road and The Secret of Monkey Island. 

You take on the role of Dropsy the clown and his various animal friends as they point and click through various item-based puzzles, gain favor of the townspeople through hugs and save Dropsy’s sick dad from the evils of a for-profit healthcare system. 

Being a capital-A adventure game, most of your interaction with Dropsy’s world is from the end of a mouse cursor as you point then click to pick up items, search your inventory, and follow contextual clues for everything from hugging forlorned homeless people to breaking into a supermarket to steal medication for your dying father. 

Despite and at times because of Dropsy’s dour underlying tone, the game is an incredibly heartwarming experience. The clown's childlike wonder, the gorgeous pixel art, the favoring of symbols and contextual clues above written text and the fascinating game world all amount to a gloriously chill and heart string-pulling game to sit back and click away at. 

 

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Gato Roboto 

Gato Roboto goes back to the classics with its cutesy take on a Metroidvania. Since it’s so often taken for granted, I need to unpack the fairly esoteric genre term that is Metroidvania. For those not in the know, Metroidvania refers to side-scrolling (like Super Mario) exploration based action games that take inspiration from the mechanics and aesthetics of early Metroid or Castlevania games. 

Gato Roboto takes most of its cues specifically from Metroid II, but with the added Tom and Jerry twist of playing as a cat inside of a mech-suit facing off against a rat, also in mech-suit, as well as a variety of other animals unfortunately not in mech-suits.

In standard Metroid-like fashion, you must make their way through the labyrinthian research facility, get upgrades to the robot, square off against bosses and escape the research facility with your owner Gary who’s conveniently trapped in his ship. 

There really isn’t much variation on the tried-and-true Metroidvania formula here other than a few submarine segments. But god damn, that cat is adorable and that’s really what the appeal of the game comes down to.

 

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High Hell

Aw, yeah. I had to include at least one good old shoot-the-man game on this list. 

High Hell’s take on a classic, Quake-esque first person shooter sets you against drug manufacturing, chimp brainwashing, Satan worshiping gunmen dawning devilish luchador masks. The gameplay is facilitated through a series of small, contained, smoke break length rooftop missions that provide a heart palpitating demand for twitch reflexes and accuracy or just spamming the fire button in a general direction. I can say from personal experience that the latter option is a whole hell of a lot easier. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the simply excellent, doofy ass ragdoll physics High Hell takes full advantage of. Nothing manages to bring an absolutely giddy smile to my face like kicking down a door and landing a perfect shot on a baddy only for them to jolt into flaccidly flopping and bouncing over piles of money and cocaine bricks. It’s true bliss. 

High Hell is an easy recommendation for anyone looking for a twitchy, fast pace, level based first person shooter. Like Gato Roboto, it doesn’t do anything that new or innovative with its core gameplay mechanics but is more than worth the play due to its over-the-top aesthetics and amusingly old-school charm.  

 

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Lisa: The Painful RPG 

Lisa is one of my favorite games, but also what I believe to be one of the strongest cases for video games as a fine art form. 

To describe the game as succinctly as possible, Lisa is an Earthbound-esque RPG set in a post-apocalyptic world where everyone but men have disappeared. You play as Brad, a downtrodden, adult survivor of child abuse who’s found and raised possibly the last sexed female child in a now all male world. The game kicks off with Brad waking up from a drug addled stupor to find that Buddy, the now grown girl, has disappeared and is being pursued by various Mad Maxian gangs. 

Lisa’s subtitle, The Painful RPG, is certainly earned considering how deeply it explores the darker implications of its subject matter. Yet the game manages to pull off a continuous, pitch-black, caustic sense of humor through its writing that really carries the game along while putting the player in deeply uncomfortable positions. Where the strength of Lisa’s writing particularly comes through are the several points where the game confronts you with a choice between your own self-preservation and your party members. I should also mention that Lisa’s soundtrack is a master class in covering tones from somber, to pumped up jams, to unparalleled heights of goofiness. 

If you’re into role playing games, especially weirder and out of left field indie RPGs, you just have to play Lisa. It’s required.