We brave the dirt and tarmac of 60’s and 70’s-era racing in art of rally before venturing into an exploitive workplace sitting on top of a monster-filled dungeons in Going Under. Yes, IndieGo #23 undertakes some perilous pursuits that might have you shouting profanities at your PC.
art of rally, Funselektor Labs, $24.99
Vancouver-based developer Dune Casu isn’t interested in competing with staunch rally simulations like DiRT Rally and WRC FIA. Instead the one-person studio of Funselektor Labs crafted a title that has more sophistication that most arcade-style racers. But it still shirks the hours of practice needed to remain competitive of most authentic-looking rally titles. More importantly, art of rally (yes, all lower case) doesn’t require a high-priced racing wheel for enjoyment; a controller will do just fine.
The stylized look centers on the fundamentals: the road, your car, and just enough environmental scenery to provide context. art of rally aims to capture the spirit of the sport’s golden era, a span that aficionados will say, spans from the late 1960s to the establishment of Group B in 1982. If you like outrageously fast and charmingly angular (although unlicensed) cars like the Lancia Stratos and Renault Alpine, the barrier to entry is quite modest. And given the game’s skillful programming, the level of gratification is elevated.
The game offers stability, ant-lock braking, and oversteer assistances, adjustable damage modeling, as well as five levels of AI intensity. But just as important is the ability to select from eight different camera settings. These range from a lofty drone-like point-of-view that permits you to see far into the distance to a lower-slung perspective that’s closer to what a driver might see. Yes, you’ll have a visual advantage, especially over hills, but this helps offset art of rally’s dismissal of co-drivers.
Tackle the game’s career mode and you’ll race within six groups and across five locations (Finland, Germany, Japan, Norway, Sardinia) which each offer about a dozen stages. It’s here, that art of rally’s minimalistic approach shows its merits. With rudimentary scenery in each locale, like tall pines in Finland or blooming sakura in Japan, the emphasis is always on the next curve rather than the scenery.
This is rally pared down to its most fundamental element: careening as fast as possible down a winding road, while riding the razor’s edge on control. Here, patches of straightaway embolden you to take the next bend with as much momentum as possible. Stripped of the customary extras, its easier to fall into that highly-focused mind state where everything else is pushed past the peripheries of perception. Opinions may differ, but Tatreal’s infectious EDM soundtrack could also help push players into that state of racing Zen.
Recommended for: Racing fans burnt out on stanch simulations.
Going Under, Aggro Crab, $19.99
Although games from large publishers routinely demonstrate technical prowess, their plotlines often play it safe. Fortunately, subversion can be found in the intermittent indie game like Going Under, which offers one of the most searing takedowns of corporate tech cultures found in the medium. Players assume the role of Jackie, a new intern at Fizzle which is a carbonated beverage/meal replacement being pushed by juggernaut corporation Cubicle.
What follows is a rapid-fire succession of cynical corporate jargon that feels like a millennial update to 1999’s Office Space. While boss and employees all seem indoctrinated by the fear of losing their jobs, Jackie serves as the lone expression of rationality. As such, she hesitates when she’s told to kill a monster lurking in the basement. Venturing forth, it’s evident that the aggressive creatures roaming through the neon-hued underworld are the remnants of botched startups. While it’s revealed that Fizzle’s marketing and PR is all AI-driven, an unpaid intern is doing all the dirty work, removing failure from the collective consciousness.
Smartly, not everything is allegorical and the jokes about avocado toast and the hopelessness of attaining benefits simmer as you move through a trio of environments that represent gig-economy recruiters, the latest cryptocurrency, and a dating app. Naturally, the sendup of corporate culture is punctuated by showdowns against literal bosses who are as harsh as your last performance review. Deftly, the writing never comes across as whiny or petty, instead offering a skillful skewering of unchecked capitalism, as seen through the eyes of an average worker.
While the action doesn’t quite match the success of the script, it’s certainly no slouch. Each run tasks Jackie with navigating from room to room in a procedurally generated workspace. Here, the instruments of productivity, like staplers, pencils, and giant pushpins are accompanied by more traditional weapons like crossbow and spiked clubs. Gratifyingly, Jackie can carry several at a time, switching freely between them, and is even able to toss them at foes. Making contact with an enemy puts them in a stun state, which makes fighting single opponents stress-free but things can grow tense when confronting several creatures. Occasionally, adversaries occasionally drive mini-cars, which can be appropriated and used to run over their brethren, which is persistently fun.
Like any roguelike, there’s the occasional risk-reward offer. Optional challenges will measure your performance, offering rewards for doing things like defeating a roomful of enemies as quickly as possible. Then there’s the Hauntrepreneur, a literal vampire who provides perks at the cost of elevating the difficulty of the game. Although you’ll earn ability-boosting skills across each run, Going Under is fittingly tough. Fortunately, the game extends several togglable options which can temper the level of difficulty. Too bad actual corporate life doesn’t offer enough of these.
Recommended for: Anyone who has worked in the tech sector, players who enjoy a transgressive script.