It used to be that if you wanted a truly weird gaming experience, you’d have to turn to some obscure JRPG in the deepest bins at Funcoland. Sure, lots of games throughout history have had blatantly surreal premises, even those we accept as typical. Def Jam Vendetta is a fighting game featuring musicians who only battle on the mic in real life. Metal Gear Solid is a stealth game about clones…or something (I’ve never been sure). Super Mario Bros is sad tale of a lackluster plumber with a bad sense of direction. When you really think about it, video games – in general – are mostly weird.
But the rise of the indie game has made it easier than ever to get the deranged, hypnogogic ideas from the demented heads of designers. Occasionally, a strange little indie runs rampant in the community ala Goat Simulator or Octodad, but those who have scraped the bottom of the internet have likely found even more outlandish fare.
2014 has been a pretty big year for the odd and eccentric and these are just few games that have us scratching our beards and pondering, “Huh”.
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Mount Your Friends
Don’t pretend that you’ve never fantasized about stripping down to your skivvies with a bunch of friends and attempting to create the largest possible human tower. In Mount Your Friends, you hop on the back on an unsuspecting goat and hurl speedo-clad musclemen into the air to see how high you can build your acrobatic monolith. Each limb is controlled by a different button, which makes movement complicated and silly. The game is a great for laughs in local multiplayer settings, especially for fans of jiggling male genetalia.
Purrkour (and Catlateral Damage)
These games are as strange as they are genius. Why not combine the internet’s unrelenting adoration of cats with the fun of smashing up a luxury penthouse? In Purrkour, player’s attempt to get to the highest possible point in the room while achieving optional goals like scratching up expensive paintings and claiming comfortable cardboard boxes. Catlateral Damage gives the player a two-minute time limit to destroy as much property as felinely possible. Both games are still in Alpha and can be downloaded for free: a great deal for the chance to live out all of your cat-centric dreams.
I’m from Maryland, so any game with crabs is going to appeal to me; even with a title like Vomit Crabs. Up to four-players compete for crustacean dominance in this minimalistic fighter that looks straight off the Atari 2600. For god sakes, the crabs shoot laser beams out their pincers; what’s not to love? And apparently (according to Youtube), there’s a “World Championshit” tournament that takes place in Sweden. How is this not the biggest eSport in the world?
Crypt of the Necrodancer
Crypt of the Necrodancer is actually a pretty clever mishmash of rhythm game mechanics and RPG storytelling, but I can’t quite get over the insanity of using a Dance Dance Revolution controller to play a dungeon crawler. That’s pretty weird. But it’s also super appealing and I have a feeling that Crypt of the Necrodancer is going to make buckets of money on Steam, regardless of my hang-ups. I can’t wait to upload some Earth, Wind and Fire and dance my ass off while killing some skeletons.
Badly shot claymation, check. Musical sing-song dialogue with people who can’t actually sing, check. Transgendered private investigator uncovering the truth about the overuse of autotune in the music industry, check. Dominique Pamplemouss has all of this and so much more! It’s a truly bizarre, if socially conscious, adventure game that revels in its quirkiness. None of the games on this list are for everyone, but Dominique Pamplemouss has its own particular niche. Play with caution. You have been warned.
Viscera Cleanup Detail
What happens after a space marine comes barreling through an enemy spacecraft, tearing through alien hordes and mindless drones? Well, somebody gets stuck cleaning up the mess. In Viscera Cleanup Detail, you are armed only with a mop, a bucket, and some elbow grease; having to effectively clean the entrails and body parts of an invading force. Stranger than the core concept is the fact that the game is actually pretty engaging and you’ll find yourself voraciously cleaning the blood-stained walls and floors.
In fact, you’ll probably spend more time in Viscera Cleanup Detail than you will cleaning your own damn room.
Driving alone on a long road after midnight can get a little dreamlike. The seams of reality start to show when you’re all alone trapped with your thoughts. Glitchhikers seeks to recreate this sensibility with its hallucinogenic trip down a highway of self discovery. As you travel, strange passengers will appear in the seat to your right and you can choose whether or not to engage them in conversation. These discussions start to reveal your own worldview and each subsequent rider will challenge worldview; inciting some pretty intense personal reflection. Glitchhikers might even be a bit too real for those of us who spend a lot of our nights on the road.
Any Game by Jack King-Spooner
Jack King-Spooner is a visionary artist who pushes the boundaries of what a “game” really is. His projects often feel like interactive art installations or collages that have come to life to ask vital, difficult, esoteric questions. As a fan of experimental film, I love to do the detective work that is required to understand and interface with work like Spooner’s; the challenge is incredibly rewarding, but you do have to get in the right headspace. Just this year, he’s released several projects, each stranger than the next. Sluggish Morss: Ad Infinitum is a psychedelic science fiction game fueled by mixed media and demented mini games. Let’s Go Diving is a disturbing exploration of gender identity. iwishithadanalternative is a similarly bombastic look at human sexuality using religious iconography and lewd cut-out photographs.
Jack-King Spooner’s games are not for the weak of heart. They’re not for those looking for pure entertainment. These experiences are meant to be revealing, to have layers that will be unfurled over time. Jack King-Spooner is the Kenneth Anger of the indie game world; a provocative voice that can not be silenced. If you’re looking for the strangest of the strange – but also the most brilliant – look no further.