Ever wonder what it’d be like if you took that strange pregnant mother sequence out of Yume 2kki and turned it into an entire game? Well, good news, you creepy, creepy bastard, this post is for you!
FOREST OF DRIZZLING RAIN, 2013
Because those of us who have never been to Japan have decided it is very glamorous, games like “Kirisame Ga Furu Mori” worm their way into our hearts very easily. With classic Japanese and pseudo-Japanese puzzle horror tropes like ballsy schoolgirl protagonist, cutely gangly and submissive but still somehow badass male love interest, unexpectedly grisly rape-related monster backstory, clean up the house before you go out puzzle, and gender-balanced cast so everyone can be paired off romantically no matter how improbable the odds, the quality of the game itself takes a backseat to our new OTP and the fact it’s also a manga.
For this reason what the horror game lacks in finesse of game design it more than well makes up for in Zerochan wallpapers. In “Forest of Drizzling Rain,” the recently orphaned Shiori takes a trip back to her childhood village to relive some of her family’s history. When she encounters the mute eccentric local museum manager Suga, however, she’s informed that Azaka Village neighbors the forest home to a malicious spirit called Kotori Obake, who targets children and apparently young university-aged adults.
He warns her to never step into that forest, the entrance of which is incidentally right next to the museum where they’re staying, but don’t the rules of plot-writing make bad listeners of us all?
I’d like to go on a miniature safari and shoot down the many elephants in the room. First, the translation is not very good. Its strict adherence to the game’s original script creates a lot of awkward verbal tics shared by the entire cast, who themselves are now English grammar contortionists. Japanese artefacts persist throughout (e.g. pictured above, the use of “onee-san”), muddling puzzles and crucial plot info, and all this more in the head-scratching style than in the endearing manner of cryo-freezing you together with some English beef.
Secondly, while the mugshots are cute, Stardust’s overworld character sprites are very not very good. Many are speckled with stray pixels that sparkle like a tiny glitching candle as your character walks hither and thither. Their thickly outlined shapes resemble a stretched out play-doh man with gangly pipecleaner limbs designed to club an octopus. Child sprites are more humanoid in appearance but still look inherently wrong; they have the consistent thickness of a marshmallow tilted just slightly backwards.
As for gameplay experience, “Forest” follows a fairly linear key-door-plot point progression, its only logical challenge being the cryptic clue which splits the story off into five endings. The title makes great use of an almost childlike minimal soundtrack composited from DOVA-SYNDROME and Taira Komori works full of unnerving synths, chromatics and sparse percussion. The chase sequences are some of the best I’ve seen in a while, though I couldn’t help but feel the rest of the execution is lacking and shows for a lot of wasted potential. From an objective point of view, “Kirisame” plays like a watered down “Mermaid Swamp.” From a Suga point of view, Suga is in it!!! Oh em gheee! Kawaii OTP 4ever so play it rite nao!!
STRAY CAT CROSSING, 2014[notification type=”alert-warning” close=”false” ]EDIT 9/12/15: The complete version of “Stray Cat Crossing” is available for $2.99 on Steam.[/notification]
A good rule of thumb is to be afraid of games that boast they are influenced by Ib, Alice in Wonderland, or the Nightmare Before Christmas — or all three, as the case may be — and not for the right reason.
“Stray Cat Crossing” was released as a fairly short demo Halloween 2014. It’s the product of the combined efforts of programmer Jetpackgone and Flash pixel artist Jurlo, about a red-haired woman who gets stuck in a surreal house that looks a little like a public bathroom while chasing after a feral cat which is never to be seen. (For the record, she doesn’t find the jetpack either. RIMSHOT!!) She encounters two… sentient… things collectively referred to as Babyface, probably because they share one baby face between them and some other face, and speak in slant rhymes or otherwise just repeat words for reasons beyond the capabilities of my explaining gland.
What follows are a few basic puzzles to do with solving some riddles using the objects in the same two rooms. “Stray Cat Crossing” is certainly a cut above the artistic standard, and the characters have a little sound for the typewriter effect on their dialogue, a fact I was most excited about, which shows you why you should listen to me and my opinions.
However, the demo doesn’t reveal to us much about any upcoming story. It seems to start in medias res, if that’s even possible, and even the obligatory horror game expository diary entries only serve to make things more ambiguous. Why are Babyface and Babyface hanging out in a bathroom? Who is the protagonist, for what purpose are they chasing a non-existent cat, and why does it matter? If I were you, I’d wait for a more complete version of the game to make its entrance before trying out “Stray Cat Crossing.”
Also, as a brief aside, the authors claim the game is not actually about abortion, despite the excessive themes and imagery to the effect towards the end of the demo.