Cave Story

For a game that is mostly talked about in terms of influence (having kicked off the indie developer revolution, or at least made a significant dent into that reality) than gameplay these days, this was... really quite nice! The core gameplay feels incredibly good and polished, and the parts of it that felt dated (a four-boss gauntlet with no saving in between to end things, for example) I don't think are really ascribable to the "indie" nature of the game so much as the tendency in the last five or so years to emphasize ergonomics and tight gameplay loops. (This is why Celeste was so good; incredible difficult and incredible ergonomics came from a fundamental sense of respect for the player.)

What is enduring to me about the game is the setting and aesthetic. Everything feels like — well, perhaps calling it a dream is a cliche. Maybe a fable? A slightly off-kilter bedtime story. The game does such an excellent job with hints and implications and, yes, vibes. The dialogue and settings and pixel-work is sharp enough to be evocative but sparse enough to let you fill in a lot of the blanks yourself, and what I came away from the game with was a since of having gone someplace in particular, not unlike waking from a particularly odd and lucid dream.

10/10/2021
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