It’s a bit of a miracle that Limbo and Inside haven’t spawned more clones. Not only have Playdead’s platformers been critical and commercial successes, they’re also “platformers” in the barest of senses—most of Limbo was running to the right and occasionally dragging an object, and while Inside’s themes elevated it to new heights it was still the same game at its core.
Little Nightmares is the first game I’ve played that really feels like a Playdead clone, though. Not only do you play as a small child who loves running to the right of the screen, but Little Nightmares features the same over-the-top imagery, the same surreal aesthetic that makes Playdead’s games so interesting despite their rote mechanics.
And in some ways I like Little Nightmares better. It’s more coherent, its monsters grotesque in ways that sometimes evoke Spirited Away. Like Playdead’s games, there’s not much of a challenge here—but that’s not the point, is it? You’re just here to run right and enjoy the ride.
I don’t really know why Bandai Namco pushed Get Even out to die. I didn’t hear any hype, any marketing, anything at all really, and then it dropped the week after E3—probably the worst possible time for a game to launch.
Get Even is pretty interesting, though. It’s part adventure game, part detective story, part psychological thriller, with a bit of shooting thrown in. You play as some sort of mercenary, reliving your memories, and most of your time is spent creeping through and scanning environments with your phone—checking for blood with a UV light, photographing evidence and the like, piecing together smaller mysteries to hopefully explain your own circumstances.
It’s bizarre, and definitely fits in that effervescent “Flawed B-Game” category. But it deserved better than being dumped on Steam among a hundred other releases that week.
The Sexy Brutale
The Sexy Brutale’s title isn’t doing it any favors, especially in this day and age, when Steam is flooded with “adult” games. I think I missed this one the first time around because I assumed it was a very different sort of experience.
But on the advice of a friend I checked it out and wow, I’m glad I did. You’re a guest at a masquerade ball where all the guests are being murdered, and it’s your job to figure out whodunnit in each scenario. The catch? The party is trapped in a time loop, and resets every twelve hours. You’ll walk around, make notes on who was where at what time, who might have committed the crimes, and then retain that information when the loop resets. Then it’s up to you to prevent the murders.
Like a grisly version of Groundhog Day, you might say.
It’s a wonderful idea, with even better art and music. Ignore the title and try not to worry about friends seeing you playing something called “Sexy Brutale” on Steam. It’s worth the sidelong looks.
Great VR games
Last but not least, I want to take a moment to call out some of the best VR experiences I’ve played this year.
Giant Cop is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. You play as a giant police officer, fighting crime from your perch a hundred feet above the city. Mostly you’ll arrest people for smuggling cabbage, where “cabbage” means “marijuana” and “arresting people” means “picking them up and throwing them into a futuristic trash can prison.” It’s full of low-key humor and ‘70s vibes, and I dig it.
Wilson’s Heart is one of the few VR games we’ve actually taken the time to review, mainly because it’s one of the few VR games that feels like an actual, full-length experience. At around 8-9 hours, with Peter Weller voicing the titular character, Wilson’s Heart takes you through basically a B-horror film—creepy hospital, classic monsters, black-and-white aesthetic. It’s a bit overlong at times, and none too revolutionary, but definitely one of my favorites this year.
And then there’s Star Trek: Bridge Crew, the fulfillment of many nerd dreams. You’ll take on the responsibilities of either Captain, Helm, Tactical, or Engineer on the Enterprise, coordinating with three teammates to solve various galactic crises. The only problem? It works best when you have three friends who also own VR headsets, which I imagine is a very small niche. Still a great concept, though.