You find yourself in a dark alley, rain splashing down on your head. From the building to your left you can see pink and white strobing lights and hear the low roar of electronic music. As you watch the window you see a man step out onto the windowsill cloaked in black. As the music plays on he leaps from the window. You look away to brace for his impact, but none comes you. You look up to see him cascade higher into the air on a pillar of light, finally landing on the rooftop before disappearing. You move further down the alley seeking shelter. You are caught off-guard when the crack of a shotgun blast and the shattering of a window echo above you. Glass joins the rain as it plummets around you. A second later a body, smashed and broken, follows the window’s remains in a shower of blood. As you look up you see a man with the head of a beast, clutching a smoking gun, staring down at you. He turns, stoically, and disappears inside. Welcome to a much darker world, a world full of hurt and bloodshed and sex and drugs. This is the dark side of pixel gaming…
So, welcome back to my continuing voyage through the world of pixel games. Say goodbye to happy go lucky wagon adventures and say hello to the sordid underworld of death, sex, and violence. To start off this round of reviews let me introduce Electronic Super Joy. Electronic Super Joy is a game in the Super Meat Boy genre of platformer where the margin for error in any level is ridiculously small. You play as a man on the dire quest to find his stolen butt. As he does so he ventures through a variety of different colored strobing worlds and bosses. The levels are unique and the game is very good at throwing you a variety of different mechanics throughout the levels to make the game continually exciting and challenging. You go along to an amazing techno soundtrack that is never dull or boring or repetitive (except maybe when you keep dying in the same level and you end up listening to the same song for ten minutes straight). Each level you make your way from point A to point B, jumping to avoid obstacles and enemies along the way. Every now and again you reach a checkpoint so you don’t have to start each level from the very beginning each time you die. As an added bonus when you hit a checkpoint you get to hear the sound of a man or woman releasing a passionate moan (for no apparent reason). Like Super Meat Boy this game has very tight controls, but to my pleasure the controls are tight even when using a keyboard, which I like immensely. This is a game filled with death, sweet, unavoidable death and yet it’s one of those games that I keep coming back to. The levels in this game are not impossible and after a little experimentation and a lot of luck you can always find your way through. At the end of each world there is a boss a strange and hilarious and just downright awesome boss who it’s your job to kill (I won’t ruin any of them, but let’s just say that there’s a reason why the game’s intro warning has blasphemy in its list). Electronic Super Joy is a game that should work on everything, and I mean that. It doesn’t take up a lot of your computer to run and it’s available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. You can find it on Steam for $7.99. Electronic Super Joy gets a (4.5/5) on my 3F Scale. NOTE: As I write this article, on the week of January 14th, 2014, Steam is selling this game for the low price of $1.59. So if you are reading this article on the week it comes out, you should totally buy it without giving it another thought. If you are reading this any other time then you can get this game for $7.99 which I still think is fairly worth it.
Next up is a game whose upcoming sequel I am eagerly awaiting: Hotline Miami. Hotline Miami takes its setting from the Miami of the 80s, a place full of drugs and gangs and death and sex, a place you can see in movies like Scarface. You play as a man known only as ‘Jacket’ who goes around killing mobsters under the instruction of his answering machine. ‘Jacket’ goes around doing so disguised in various animal masks and struggling with his own psyche. The game is shown from a top down perspective where you can see through walls and doors. You start each level without any weapons, having to pick them up off of your fallen enemies. The enemies in this game are relentless though; they move fast and will not relinquish the chance to shoot you. So this leaves you with two options on how you progress. The first is the slow and careful way, where you study the enemy’s movement pattern and strike at the best possible moment. The second way is to run in all guns blazing, mowing down everything in sight. No matter which option you pick you can look forward to multiple ruthless and relentless deaths. The game progresses through numerous well planned levels that are fun and exciting if not bloody and gory. Hotline Miami on top of its pixely graphics it has a very interesting filter that makes everything kinda grainy and warped and rainbow kinda like if you’ve ever held a magnet near a computer or TV screen (not that you should… Please don’t do that). It also has a very unique soundtrack that is at once tropical, eerie, and also very gritty and intense, which seems to fit the game perfectly. Hotline Miami is full of many different hidden gems and surprises that together make the story into something unforgettable and unique. Hotline Miami is another game that should work on most computers. Additionally it is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. You can purchase it on Steam for $9.99. Hotline Miami gets a (4.5/5) on my 3F Scale.
Now as it stands there are a lot more games that I could have covered here, games just as gritty, if not more, and just as pixely, but as it stands these are two games that I really enjoy and that I am truly passionate about. I could write about these games for pages and pages, but I won’t. Let’s just say that there’s a good chance I will return to this theme sometime in the future but for now I hope you enjoy this glimpse into those games that say farewell to polygons and embrace the simplicity of a square.