Babycastles Staff Picks: The Thrill of Combat! Randy Balma Municipal Abortionist? Mark Essen
Back in — oh I dunno, spring 2007 or thereabouts? — I visited some college friends of mine who were living in NYC and throwing a launch party for what would become TripleCanopy
. There was a bunch of stuff there, I dunno, drinks, it was at some big artist co-working space in Brooklyn so, art? There was a show by The Tourettes
and people were trashing about in the front room where that was happening. There was also a dark room in the back with some screens, and one of the screens was this game thing with really lo-fi graphics and helicopters and crazy tilting skyscrapers in the background. I played it a bunch but mostly it was plowing into skyscrapers with the helicopter. A few beers later I got into a conversation with Thomas Beard
about it, this film curator guy, he was saying yeah, this is The Thrill of Combat
, it’s by this guy Mark Essen out of Bard. You know him? No, who is he? Oh he’s a guy, he makes games. I’d never heard of him. I mean, I’d been playing games all my life, but….chess, poker, River Raid, Shining Force, Baldur’s Gate, Wizardry 8, Call of Duty, Project Gotham Racing. PC, Sega, Xbox. I had no idea about any of this “indie game” nonsense, what? who?
2012, I’m sitting in Games 101 at the NYU Game Center
and Charles Pratt
is talking about Flywrench, the Messhof
masterpiece. Abstract action game. “Best game ever made”? Yes, probably. Flywrench! So good. Who is Messhof? Mark Essen. This was after I’d looked him up online in 2007 and downloaded Randy Balma Municipal Abortionist
and didn’t even realize for 5 years that there was more than one level to it. It’s like, when you fall in love with someone, do you really wanna know everything there is to know about them?
— Ilya Zarembsky
Babycastles Staff Picks: Asphyx
Games often make us feel — or at least talk — like our avatar is an extension of ourselves. “Dude, wait up, I need to eat this mushroom to recharge my mana points.” But what might happen if a game reversed that relationship and asked you to imagine that you’re an extension of your avatar?
Asphyx, a platformer by the prolific Droqen (creator of Bennett Foddy’s favorite game, among many others), embodies one answer to that question. It’s a straightforward, generic platformer — you run, you jump. Ho-hum. Sometimes you miss a jump or a platform crumbles or you flip the wrong switch, and you end up underwater. When you’re underwater, you can’t breathe…. as in, YOU can’t breathe. You-the-player, not your avatar. The game doesn’t try to enforce this; instead it just tells you that “if you happen to die while playing Asphyx, you agree not to hold Droqen responsible, and also admit that you’re terrible at the game.” It’s a kinky cousin of Doug Wilson’s B.U.T.T.O.N. — why do you feel compelled to follow these arbitrary, abusive rules, exactly?
Also, there’s gotta be a bad joke about immersion here.
Play it for free and at your peril at droqen.com.