Hitchhiker: a journey into the unknown

When sitting down to write a review, I usually begin by making a list of all the points I want to cover. They might be simple things such as the way the graphics reminded me of another release; or more complex subjects like story connections and meaning.

I’ve tried to do this with Hitchhiker several times now but it’s impossible. After completing Mad about Pandas’ latest release a couple days ago thanks to a review key from Plan of Attack, thoughts about how it made me feel and what I think it was trying to say are still swimming around in my head and they’re as hard to pin down as the narrative itself. It’s difficult to put into words but don’t take that as a bad thing: this has possibly been the most interesting gaming experience I’ve had in 2021 so far and I think it’s going to be with me for a while yet.

Hitchhiker is one of those titles where it’s difficult to go into detail without spoiling what makes it special. I tend to roll my eyes when I see that sentiment expressed in reviews because it always comes across like a cop-out, but this is definitely a game which needs to be played to be understood. You step into the shoes of a young man who hitches a ride with a different character in five episodes, before things turn mysterious when you realise they all know you in some way. More about that later.

At first, the title seems like a hitchhiking simulator where you can’t do much outside of conversation except examine a few objects inside the car and look out of the window. There are a few puzzles which need to be solved to progress: for example, at one point you’ll be guessing the answer to riddles posed by the radio DJ and then later, rewiring a light to get out of a tricky situation. Although they aren’t overly challenging, they do provide a nice, occasional break from the story.

But the story is where the power of Hitchhiker lies. You’re a young man with no memory of who you are and where you’re going, and the only thing for you to do is hitch a ride to hopefully reach your unknown destination. The first person you meet is a raisin farmer called Vern who’s happy to chat to you about his life. Over the course of the next 40-minutes however, it becomes clear that not everything is as seems and you start asking yourself whether you can trust this man and his words.

Why do you feel as though you recognise each of the characters but don’t remember them? And how do they know so much about you and who you really are? The next rides are just as intriguing as the first with Vern and, although it’s difficult to say who my favourite driver was, I found myself drawn to Sayed due to the backstory hinted at in conversation. Each of these people are curious in their own way with individual personalities, beliefs and desires that they may use to influence you.

Hitchhiker, video game, car, ride, man, Vern

I didn’t get the impression that the options selected during discussions with the characters did much to change the following dialogue, because each response was vague enough to answer any of the questions asked. This fits in wonderfully with Hitchhiker’s atmosphere though. It’s as if you’re aware the drivers are pulling the strings during these rides and, although they appear amiable on the surface, you can tell there’s something each of them is trying to hide from you.

An interlude during each ride gives some insight into their backstories. These are depicted in totally different visual styles from the Firewatch-like graphics of the main game: for example, one is told in black-and-white hand-drawn pictures while another is communicated through old View-Master images. I found this switch jarring at first but, once I understood that these stories-within-a-story were told from the other characters’ perspective, the style was perfect.

It’s design choices like this which make Hitchhiker feel something like a hallucination. It’s almost as if the other characters have stepped into your dream during the main narrative and you’ve visited theirs for a short spell in return during the interludes mentioned above. Other visual components such as guiding fireflies, moving mustard bottles and even tumbleweed balls with staring eyes add to the impression that not everything the protagonist witnesses or is told is the truth.

In certain sections of the game, it’s obvious that certain assets have been reused: scenery repeats outside the car window and the drivers all have the same way of fidgeting and checking out their surroundings. I couldn’t tell whether this was due to budget constraints or intentional design – but I’m going to go with the latter regardless because it worked. It seems to replicate that feeling of dreaming and noticing objects or people you recognise in situations or places where they don’t belong.

I must admit that I wasn’t sure what to make of Hitchhiker immediately after completing it. Several possible explanations are given for the protagonist’s memory loss and potential destination but pulling the threads of truth out of the narrative is challenging, and you constantly change your mind about what you believe during your playthrough. No definitive conclusion is given at the end of the game and this isn’t usually something I enjoy; I’d rather have all the answers handed to me than an open-ended story.

But it’s now a few days later and I’ve changed my mind yet again. Although I still haven’t deciphered everything and some questions remain unanswered, I think I’ve figured out most of what has happened to the protagonist – at least my version of what has happened to them. Giving a firm conclusion to Mad About Panda’s project would have removed some of that surreal feeling, and it’s thanks to some superb writing and voice-acting that I’m still thinking about it a week later.

While Hitchhiker won’t be to everybody’s tastes thanks to the way it tells its story, it’s a game I’d definitely recommend to fans of releases such as Kentucky Route Zero and Virginia. It took me on a journey into the unknown and it’s one I’m not going to forget for a while.

Dear diary: journals in video games

I’m so used to being on my laptop nowadays that picking up a pen feels weird. Although I haven’t forgotten to use one yet, writing anything by hand is unfamiliar and I’m sure it takes me far longer than it used to. Watch any of our Shadowrun RPG sessions where keeping notes is a must and you’ll see what I mean.

I’m sure I’m not the only person afflicted by this struggle with penmanship. We’re always within range of technology and a large part of our life takes place online, meaning we’re usually more at home with digital than physical mediums. We celebrate birthdays and other milestones on Facebook; share our opinions on world events and politics on Twitter; and record our careers and promote our professional skills on LinkedIn. There are even some of us who are crazy enough to keep a digital journal in the form of a blog.

The Painscreek Killings, video game, journal, diary, handwriting

If we’re likely to turn to a keyboard over a notepad then, why are older forms of life documentation still frequently used as items within video games to tell stories? They might be more common in games like point-and-clicks and RPGs but such objects can appear in any genre. The smallest handwriting samples might be sticky-notes on the side of a computer monitor or a shopping list stuck to a fridge with a magnet; and when you discover a hidden diary, you know you’ve hit the narrative jackpot.

It’s something I’ve been mulling over since playing The Painscreek Killings last month, an excellent 2018 release by EQ Studios. This murder-mystery simply wouldn’t exist without journals, letters and newspaper articles. The developer tried to mimic real-world investigations with their project so there are no hints or quest markers for the player: instead, you’re reliant on the information you can glean from these objects and must translate it into leads to be followed up on.

Of course, this game takes place in an American town in 1997 and focuses on a crime which happened two years earlier, so physical documents don’t seem at all out of place in its world. Back then there wasn’t a computer in every home and not everybody had access to a personal email address or mobile phone. But would The Painscreek Killings have worked so well if its setting had been more modern? Would it have had the same impact if the diaries had been replaced with forms of online communication?

I’m not so sure. Digital documentation might have been able to carry the gameplay but there’s just something about a handwritten journal within a video game which makes the player feel more connected to a character. Because of how private they are in nature, we’re aware we’re holding an item which comes as close as possible to reproducing how a person thinks – plus there’s the added illicit thrill of reading something you know your eyes were never meant to see.

Answer Knot, video game, diary, journal, handwriting, Uncharted, Nathan Drake, Shambhala

There’s also the chance to discern part of a character’s personality through their writing – the way they form the letters on a page, pace their sentences and structure their paragraphs. It’s far easier to do this when you can see their scribbles than when an email or text message is all you have to go on, for example. The language used for such communications is shorter, more to-the-point and standardised, and you learn nothing from an Arial font which could be attributed to absolutely anybody.

As well as giving us an insight into a protagonist’s thoughts and behaviours, journals in video games are used in a few other ways. In Answer Knot by Naraven Games they’re a way of showing the past: the voice messages left on the answerphone show the current state of a relationship while the diaries show its history. Some of the entries also inject a little comedy through Easter eggs – for instance, there’s one which mentions a trip to Shambhala, where half the temples were blown up thanks to a bizarre ‘treasure hunter’.

In Return of the Obra Dinn by Lucas Pope, you spend more time within the protagonist’s ledger than you do in the game world itself. Using the evidence recorded within in it – a manifest, sketches of the crew and a map – along with a healthy dose of observation and logic, you must figure out who each person is to fill in the empty pages and solve the mystery of the abandoned ship. It’s easy to assume the notebook would take a backseat to the game’s magic watch, but it is in fact vital to the central mechanic.

Now let’s jump to Gone Home by Fullbright, a narrative release made even more emotional thanks to the way it handles diary entries. Discovering a scribbled page from your sister’s journal hidden around the house triggers a recording of her voice – incredibly fitting, seeing as your character would be likely to read those words in her head in her sibling’s tone. It makes the game extremely touching as you can both see and hear the feeling in Sam’s writing, even though you never once see her in person.

Gone Home, video game, drawer, letters, notes, read

Emails and text messages may have started to creep into video games but I doubt we’re going to stop seeing diaries and other handwritten documents any time soon. They provide a way of giving us a deeper insight into a protagonist or getting to know a character who isn’t present. As written by Andrew King in an article for USgamer: “The journal, then, is as fitting a tool for the video game protagonist as the gun or the sword; a tool designed not to do violence but to cope with the violence one inflicts or receives.”

Looking back over my notes for our Shadowrun sessions, it’s easy to tell whether we had a good or bad game just from the way my writing slants across the paper. Some scribbles are half-formed ideas about plans to attempt in the future, others are big fat question-marks, others are successes shown by crookedly-drawn stars. Each page is a reminder of challenges and victories, and this is what I think of when I see diaries in video games.

The Painscreek Killings: following the trail

Many people found themselves turning to video games to help them through the COVID-19 lockdown. Whether to fill the extra hours, forget about what’s happening in the real world for a while or stay in touch with friends, gaming has been a gift over the past six months.

Although I’ve been fortunate enough to continue working, doing so from home and not having to spend four hours commuting each day has meant longer evenings to dedicate to more games. I’ve now managed to finish 27 titles since April – way more than I’ve been able to get through in recent years. That’s not to say I’ve completely enjoyed that time though. As I wrote at the end of July, gaming was starting to feel like it was becoming another job and the stuff I was playing just wasn’t inspiring me.

Thankfully, I recently found the game to pull me right out of that slump. It was one I’d had on my wishlist since July 2018 after it had appeared in my Steam recommendations one day, and then bought on a whim as part of this year’s summer sale purchases. My other-half and I decided to install it a few weeks ago when we were looking through my library for something to stream and realised we both fancied another detective title; and it has ended up being my favourite gaming experience of 2020 so far.

The Painscreek Killings by EQ Studios takes place in 1997. As young journalist Janet Kelly, you’re sent by your editor to the abandoned town of Painscreek to investigate the mysterious circumstances surrounding the murder of businesswoman Vivian Roberts in 1995. You know you’ll find an interesting story to publish, based on the information released by the media, but what you don’t count on is just how many secrets the inhabitants of this place were hiding. There’s also the small fact that someone seems to want them to stay hidden.

At the beginning you find yourself locked out of the town and your first task is to find a way in. Fortunately, the door to the Sheriff’s office is open and it would be silly not to have a snoop around. Your search a key to the padlocked gate preventing entering Painscreek, along with several documents which help set up the narrative in front of you: a newspaper article about Vivian’s death, another about suspect Scott Brooks, the murder report and the Sheriff’s diary. There’s also a handy flashlight and map to pick up.

At this point the game feels like a walking simulator – but it goes beyond these mechanics by making the player think for themselves. The developer has tried to mimic real-world investigations so there are no hints or quest-markers to hold your hand. Instead, the story is told through items such as diaries, notes and other everyday objects, and you can explore wherever your investigations take you. We kept a pad and pen close during our playthrough so we could note the leads uncovered and follow up on each of these.

The Painscreek Killings, video game, path, driveway, house, mansion, Roberts

That’s not to say you’re stuck in Painscreek until you’ve uncovered all the evidence though. You can leave at any time by taking certain paths out of the town but your editor will still expect you to provide the name of the murderer, the weapon used to kill Vivian and a photograph for the front page. Depending on your actions, how far into the game you are and the choices you make for this final decision, you might be fired by your boss, receive letters from concerned citizens or worse: leave the real killer forever unmasked.

But at no moment did we consider leaving early (although I almost did once by accident). Every lock opened, code cracked and document revealed was a breadcrumb leading us on in an investigation we wanted to see through to the end. The further we progressed, the more we uncovered about the individuals who lived in these now-abandoned houses until we realised just how tangled and deceptive their lives were. This was no longer a case of simply murder; it was far more complex than that.

This made The Painscreek Killings an excellent game to play on stream. Everybody in chat joined in by discussing what each clue could possibly mean, the lead we should follow up on next and possible theories surrounding Vivian’s death. Shout-outs here to Will from Geek Sleep Rinse Repeat and Destiny (partner of Ian from Adventure Rules) for all their help, plus props to The_Ghost_Owl who came up with a theory about one particular plot point which ended up being spot on.

There was only one negative point about the game, and I say this with my tongue firmly in cheek. At the start you find out that the town’s population has been steadily decreasing since the murder and that the location is going to be auctioned off very shortly. This explains why almost all the items in each house are packed into boxes – but why did everyone decide to leave their diaries out in the open for anyone to find? And if we were able to discover the clues and follow the trail to the killer, why couldn’t the police have done that back in 1995?

Although we joked about this funny oversight, it didn’t bother us: the story was such a good one that it almost seemed insignificant when compared to how much we enjoyed the title. For three afternoons and around 16 hours of gameplay, we totally forgot about everything else. Even after we’d found out who the murderer was and submitted our findings to our editor, we jumped straight back in because there were a few leads we hadn’t yet followed up on and we wanted to uncover every single little secret that we could.

Speaking of the ending, it was tense. I made a joke about my palms sweating because it felt as though the killer was watching me from a dark corner and then had to hand the controller over to Pete because I was so anxious. A few reviewers have said that the final section of the game is out-of-place with what comes before it but for me, it really worked. The level of tension has been building steadily throughout our investigation and it was fitting that it would reach such a climax.

Forget the victim’s murder – the real crime here is that The Painscreek Killings hasn’t had more attention since its release in September 2017. I’d never heard about it before it appeared on my Steam recommendations back in summer last year and now I’m kicking myself for waiting for so long to get around to playing it. If you’re a fan of narrative-based titles, detective stories and solving mysterious cases, please do check this one out as soon as possible because you’re going to love it.

I’m so pleased that EQ Studios are working on their next project. There’s no release date for Scene Investigators just yet but what has been revealed so far sounds great: it’s set in a near future where reported cases are downloaded in a construction room so they can be re-examined, and it’s your job as an investigator to analyse each scene and uncover the truth. The official website advises this is going to be a game for anyone who’s a fan of detective films, the true-crime genre and escape room puzzles.

I’ll meet you at the crime scene.

Ghost on the Shore preview: let’s investigate the s**t out of this

The element I’ve always loved most about video games is their ability to tell amazing stories. Walking simulators are therefore titles I enjoy, although they’re not to everybody’s taste; sometimes I just want to be swept up in a narrative and follow the characters on their journey.

Marie’s Room was an entry in the genre which caught my attention a couple of years ago. It may have been free on Steam but there was an awful lot of quality evident in it, and the highly-polished visuals, great voice-acting and lovely soundtrack gave the impression I was playing something created by a team much larger than two people. When I heard that the duo had formed a studio called like Charlie and Application Systems Heidelberg got in touch last month with a kind off of a key for the demo of their next title, I jumped at the chance to try it out.

In Ghost on the Shore, players step into the shoes of a young woman named Riley. She heads out in her sailboat seeking adventure and finds herself stranded on a desolate island after a storm, but she’s not entirely alone: somehow, a headstrong ghost named Josh finds his way into her head. You’ll get to know him as you explore the crumbling ruins of the homes of the people who used to live here and, as you put it all together, you’ll discover how the island’s history led to Josh’s death.

The demo seems to jump forward to a point where Riley has come to accept Josh’s presence rather than start at the beginning of the title. A good preview is one that doesn’t outstay its welcome or give too much away immediately and so it feels as though this was a good decision by the developer; players can get a real feel for what Ghost on the Shore is going to be like within half-an-hour without having to spend that time watching the relationship gradually grow between the two characters.

This isn’t to say I’m not intrigued by Riley and Josh however. Similar to Marie’s Room where I was left very impressed by the voiceovers, the same is true here and the actors do a wonderful job of showing a camaraderie between the protagonists. They’re both lost in their own way and rely on each other for support but at the same time, there’s still that small underlying suspicion about this person they don’t yet fully know. It’s hard to imagine what their meeting is going to be like but I’m looking forward to seeing it for myself when the game is released.

Although the island in the demo felt open and I was able to wander among the trees and overgrown grass, subtle highlighting guides the player down a linear path and so I never felt unsure of where I was meant to go. The journey took me on a walk through silver birches, abandoned houses and sandy beaches, with Josh telling me the things he remembered about these places and the people he used to know. In one building we found drawing of boats stuck to the wall and my companion told more about its inhabitant.

Ghost on the Shore, video game, beach, sand, shed, boat

I didn’t always have to agree with what he said though. At certain points I was given the opportunity to respond and could make a choice from several dialogue options. Although I kept it amiable during my demo, it seems as though you can form a different sort of relationship with Josh and choose to alienate him if you wish. The Steam page advises that Ghost on the Shore provides both emotional choices with consequences and a branching narrative with multiple endings so maybe it won’t necessarily have a happy conclusion.

This is backed up by a scene at a derelict school I came across about a third of the way into the preview. After seeing its name on a plaque outside, Riley remarks how she doesn’t like it; and a drawing appears in her journal with a note about how she feels a bone-chilling shiver at the sight of it. After heading further in and finding the key for a locked filing cabinet, I uncovered a 1820 newspaper article about the Crown family and how they were here to ‘dig for gold at the expense of the fine folk who inhabit these islands’.

It’s through items like this that the history of the land we’re in is told, with drawings, books and other documents scattered around the buildings and each revealing little secrets. Many of these mentioned will-o’-wisps. As explained in a short story written by a very young child, travellers could be led by these fairy lights ‘right off a cliff, or they can follow them into quicksand, or they can follow them and be eaten by a bear.’ Could there be something supernatural going on here more than Josh?

The answer to this is clearly yes. While exploring the decaying stone houses opposite the beach, I suddenly heard a child’s laugh and felt the hairs on the back of my neck begin to stand up. Illuminated footprints started to appear on the path ahead before everything immediately around me turned dark, and then I witnessed a scene between a mother and child ghost. The demo ended with Riley seeming to black out and Josh asking her ‘What the hell just happened?’

I wishlisted the game on Steam immediately afterwards. I want to discover the history of these spirits, why Josh has made his home in Riley’s head, the mysterious reason for his death and whether she makes it off the island. Walking simulators only work for me personally if I can find some way to connect to their characters and like Charlie seem to be working on a gorgeous project which is going to achieve this. Any protagonist who says the line ‘Let’s investigate the shit out of this’ is going to be one I can relate to.

Ghost on the Shore is due to be released this year so hopefully we won’t have to wait too much longer! In the meantime, give the developer a follow on Twitter or check out the official website to find out more.

Not turned on: sexual content on Steam

Last month, I admitted I had a problem. The situation was getting to the point where it was becoming unbearable and I couldn’t keep sticking my head in the sand any longer. It was finally time to admit to myself that I needed to seek help from the professionals.

I’m talking about my Steam wishlist. A few weeks ago it contained over 100 games and, instead of being somewhere useful to keep track of upcoming releases I was interested in checking out, it had become a place which was almost unmanageable. I was adding titles to my catalogue more quickly than they were being removed so its size had expanded at a steady rate in recent years, and I was worried that this increase was just going to keep continuing.

Steam, recommendations, video games

So I took control of the matter – and asked the experts within the community for their advice. After publishing a post sharing the contents of my wishlist, I received lots of comments from blogger-friends with their tips on the games that should be removed and the ones which were definitely worth playing. Alongside this I decided to start tackling some of the shorter titles I’d shortlisted once I realised that several of them were free and could be completed in around an hour.

One such release was Burning Daylight, a game which had been added to my wishlist on 20 April 2019 after my other-half had seen an article about it and thought it would be something I’d enjoy. And even though it was only 40-minutes long, I was impressed; it contained a lot of potential for a student project and I loved the way the atmosphere made the player feel as though something was incredibly wrong. Its story about society’s obsession with technology and not wanting to see the world for what it truly is was also very timely.

Fast-forward to the following week and I found myself sitting in front of my PC, confused. For some reason, whenever I’d opened Steam to check my discovery queue in the days previous, every other suggestion was one which contained plenty of scantily-clad women with bad hair, poor shoe choices and gravity-defying breasts. I couldn’t work out what was going on; why had the platform decided that I might be interested in this poorly-made digital soft-pornography all of a sudden?

Then I saw the information on the right-hand side of the screen which explained why these recommendations were relevant to me: ‘Similar to games you’ve played: Burning Daylight.’ The game had been tagged with the ‘sexual content’ and ‘nudity’ categories thanks to one short scene. You must guide your character through the red-light district in town where the outline of strippers can be seen in windows, and you pass a couple who are being rather friendly up against a large waste bin in the background.

Burning Daylight, video game, headset, virtual reality, club, strippers, windows

I’m not fond of sexual content in video games. This was something we’d discussed during a Save Point stream a while back and I was surprised to hear that many of the friends who joined is in chat felt the same. I’m struggling to formulate my reason into words but I think it’s something to do with such content being mostly unnecessary; I’ve been gaming for over 30 years now and in that time have seen a lot of releases where women are depicted as prizes and sex is used as a reward.

That’s not to say it can’t be done well when the developers put in the effort. Some titles have managed to effectively incorporate a sex scene so it’s an integral part of their story and shows the connection between two characters, rather than something that’s thrown in to titillate. Poor animation can make such sections feel incredibly awkward though and it seems nobody is a fan of sexy quick-time events (QTEs), so the whole thing needs to be very tastefully managed.

But cheap soft-porn games like those I was now being suggested by Steam? No, thank you. If they’re the sort of releases which float your boat then more power to you. But personally I can think of few things less of a turn-on than completely ridiculous story set-ups, impossibly-proportioned women dressed in nasty PVC outfits, robotic sexual movements and creepy dudes with raised eyebrows. And a note for anyone who hasn’t yet realised: the female nipple doesn’t really do that in real life.

They did give my other-half and I a good giggle for an hour or so though. After commenting to Pete about all the mature recommendations popping up in my discovery queue (and him wondering what the hell I’d been up to), we ended up falling down a rabbit hole and laughing hysterically at the Steam pages we came across. There were also a few games which made us feel very uncomfortable however, such as a 2020 release with a female protagonist where you have to ‘get her home unmolested’ when she’s left alone in the middle of nowhere with strangers.

All this because I’d spent less than an hour with Burning Daylight, a cyberpunk walking simulator that features a very brief background sex scene in which the main character isn’t even involved. Although the ‘Adult Only Sexual Content’ option was already deselected on my Steam account, soft-porn games were still able to make it into my discovery queue recommendations. It seems difficult to be able to fully block them without it having a negative effect on other titles you’d legitimately be interested in.

For example, tell the platform you want to exclude releases with the ‘sexual content’ or ‘nudity’ tags and you wouldn’t see Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Cyberpunk 2077 and Vampyr. These are large RPGs with detailed narratives, and are far removed from the titles which all seem to have names that are a variation of Hot Virtual Reality Girls along with flimsy storylines which must have been written in less than five minutes. Another note for those unaware: you can’t cure a terminal disease by having sex.

In a post published in May 2018, I mentioned how the recommendations given to me by Steam were very hit-and-miss. Things have improved in the past two years and the suggestions are more aligned to the sort of games I want to play – hence the reason why my wishlist was getting so large. But there still seems to be a problem with categorisation. Is it that additional tags are needed to identify different types of sexual content? Or is it that the way the existing ones are being assigned to releases isn’t working?

I’m not sure what the answer is. But what I do know is that I won’t be buying My Cute Roommate or Being a DIK anytime soon.

LudoNarraCon 2020: a round-up

Although we’ve missed out on a few expos this year so far thanks to COVID-19, gaming events are continuing online. The spring edition of the Steam Game Festival took place in March with the next event scheduled for early June; and IGN are planning a Summer of Gaming too.

LudoNarraCon got there first though. Organised by indie label Fellow Traveller, the initial event took place in May last year and was hosted entirely on Steam. Forget lengthy queues and deafening noise (not to mention the sweaty bodies): here was a platform which celebrated innovative titles and replicated many of the benefits of a physical experience, but within a digital format. It was such a hit with fans of narrative video games that it made a welcome return and took place on 24-27 April 2020.

I was introduced to Whispers of a Machine after watching a broadcast by Clifftop Games and Faravid Interactive at the last event, and immediately bought the title so I could start playing it the following day. I also had the opportunity to play a demo for Neo Cab by Chance Agency and was sucked into its futuristic world of drivers-for-hire and emotional-tracking-devices; along with another for In Other Waters by Jump Over The Age, where you take on the role of the artificial intelligence (AI) rather than the controller.

LudoNarraCon, In Other Waters

That last game made a reappearance at this year’s LudoNarraCon and catching a session with the developer reminded me of how much I’d enjoyed the demo. I ended up purchasing it for myself and have been impressed so far. I love the way the controls are managed through experimentation and intuition, and the story is told through your scientific findings deep beneath the waves of an alien planet. I’m still playing it at the time of writing but there might just be a review coming in the near future.

LudoNarraCon, live broadcast, video game, Lost Words, Beyond the Page

Other games I tried for myself during the event were Lost Words: Beyond the Page and Ring of Fire. The former is being created by Sketchbook Games, a UK developer here in my very own Essex, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. Platformers aren’t usually my thing and my first impression was it could perhaps be slightly too ‘cutesy’ for my tastes; but I was persuaded to play the demo after hearing that the story was written by Rhianna Pratchett and I really enjoyed it. More about this one coming on Wednesday.

LudoNarraCon, live broadcast, video game, Ring of Fire

Ring of Fire on the other hand was far grittier and I knew I was going to love it immediately. This detective mystery is the work of Far Few Giants and asks players to keep a pen and paper handy, because the clues given aren’t always obvious or repeated. The fact that some of the characters wore masks, and that most people in 2062 London did this and had a legitimate alter-ego, instantly made me feel as though everyone had something to hide. I can’t wait to become an investigator when the game is released and figure out their secrets – post coming on Friday.

LudoNarraCon, live broadcast, video game, The Flower Collectors

Although a demo wasn’t widely available, I spent some time watching a live broadcast by Mi’pu’mi Games about their recent release. The Flower Collectors is another detective title (they seem to be having a moment right now) but there’s something about the protagonist which makes the gameplay unique. His limited movement mean he’s only able to investigate crimes from apartment and balcony, and he must work together with another character to progress the case. You can find out more about this one on Thursday.

Perhaps my favourite title from LudoNarraCon this year was Beyond the Veil by Sun’s Shadow Studios. Thanks to a love of creepy stories (although I’m too scared to play scary games on my own) and a long-time desire to visit New Orleans, this text-based horror has earned its spot on my wishlist. Although much wasn’t given away in the live broadcast, the end of the alpha build made it clear that something bad was about to happen to the protagonist – and I’m looking forward to finding out what waits in store for her. Check out tomorrow’s post for more details.

LudoNarraCon is due to return once again in 2021 and you can join Fellow Traveller’s mailing list to stay informed. In the meantime, check out the gallery below to see some of the other games that were on display. Thank you to all the exhibitors for making it another great event!

LudoNarraCon 2020 photo gallery

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