Cyberpunk is one of my favourite genres both in fiction and in gaming, and telling me a game is cyberpunk-influenced is a good way of guaranteeing my interest (well, that or cel-shading). So finding out that Itch.io– a game-dev community that I’ve often heard about but never really investigated- had a whole section of cyberpunk games ready to try definitely got my attention.
Here are a few highlights; mostly from the 2014 Cyberpunk Game Jam.
We’re used to seeing the heroes, villains, and morally-ambiguous characters of cyberpunk in action, but who are they when they finish work? Who populates the world away from the camera?
VA11 Hall-A, described as a bartender-em-up, lets us look at the personal lives behind the often-impersonal world of neon, skyscrapers and megacorporations.
In the prototype, bartender Gillian meets 3 characters in stereotypical cyberpunk occupations; a hacker, an AI and a mercenary-for-hire. However, through their conversations with Gillian (which change depending on which drinks you make characters and how expertly you serve them), you learn more about their world and lives.
While the prototype build is only a few minutes long (depending on your reading/clicking speed), it’s worth playing a few times for the different dialogue options. The distinctive anime-esque sprites and truly epic soundtrack album (think a slightly darker, pure instrumental Persona 4) will be encouragement enough.
The original Cyberpunk Jam Prototype is available for free, while buying the current Prologue build (at $4.99 for the build or $7.99 with the OST included) builds on the story with more characters, levels, and dialogue options as well as improved graphics and the full soundtrack. Buying the Prologue also means you can access the full game for free upon release, which creators Sukeban Games estimate to be Winter 2015.
The Last Night
The Last Night is an adventure game similar in style to Flashback on the Sega Mega Drive. You arrive, are told to hunt down your target, and proceed to follow him while avoiding police drones.
Created in just 6 days, TLN take place in media res, with no interaction, dialogue, or context. If you’re expecting a story, you aren’t really going to find it here. However, TLN excels at being a vignette; what it lacks in narrative it more than makes up in atmosphere and mood. The music, ambience, and setting could be straight out of a 16-bit Blade Runner.
Based on what’s shown here, the full version- which promises a lot of different mission types and varied gameplay, and is aiming for an early 2016 release- looks like it will be a good purchase.
Invisible Apartment is a visual novel about hacking, surveillance and the search for normality. I’ve just finished IA 1which is available on Itch.io, Desura and Steam (soon). Prequel IA0 is available on the iTunes store as well.
The story is reasonably well-written, and looks interesting, but could do with a little more character development: with only 5 characters in IA1 at this point, its fairly easy to guess how they can connect. Graphically, the static backgrounds are clean and somewhat reminiscent of Transistor. IA1 contains an always-available quicksave system, which I recommend using due to the amount of clicking involved otherwise.
It’s on pay-what-you-want on Itch.io, so it’s worth checking out even if you aren’t generally a fan of visual novels.