The Ugly Monster
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The Ugly Monster

Playing Every Game in the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality

PEGBRJE: ‘D.M.T’ and ‘POM SIMULATOR 9000’

Sometimes the brain must not be on.

DMT is an audio-visual trip created by ArkangelAudio, an audio studio formed by Quinn Kallistic, with development assistance by Koby Wise and Cypress Reeves. Players will be whisked in to a psychedelic world thanks to their computer where boxes can make the world sing and spin.

Only needing the mouse to move (unless WASD is enabled) players will hold down M1 to run around a strange world full of massive plants, shifting colours and seemingly nonexistent gravity. Power ups litter the map, each with a signature instrument or piece of musical notation on it. Upon collecting one, it adds to the musical background to allow players to make their ambience, creating an even more strangely wonderful world with every sound added. There’s no way that I can tell to subtract audio however, ensuring that the music will always expand and increase in chaos rather than forming anything coherent.

With six biomes to find yourself in and the ability to ramp off of everything and see from above, DMT is a strange experience that many may not expect. The music alone is worth checking out for the sheer ‘out there’ factor, but the constant colour changes may turn some people off. If you love completely insane and trippy music games, this might be a good game to try out.

Note: Do be aware that there are two issues that may surface. The first is that the WASD toggle doesn’t always work. The second is that the power ups may not make any sound other than a singular note. Both of these issues can be fixed with restarts, but they may persist even past a few attempts.

I couldn’t not put this.

POM SIMULATOR 9000 is a narrative game made in Twine by d Marie, the artist and indie dev that was featured earlier with Us Lovely Corpses. This time however, there are no roses or thorns; only relationship problems and Pomeranians.

As with many of the Twine games featured in the bundle, players will click on the bolded text to continue reading onward about Diego, the 6'4 Latino who can turn in to a massive dogman with many mouths. Some interactions will bring about choices that the player will need to make for Diego, mainly centred around his relationship with partner Calliope. These decisions lead towards specific endings, giving it a visual novel-like feeling of choices and ‘good/bad’ endings which is also reinforced by the first aspect that makes this game unique; the drawings.

Twine games are usually known for their text or background images, but d Marie takes it one step further by including pictures within the story to assist with the player’s visualization. The brilliant facial expressions and soft artstyle are back and I love them all the same.

What helps POM SIMULATOR 9000 stand out is not just these decisions or the pictures, but the massive amount of worldbuilding that has been poured in to making this simple slice of life that much more engaging. On the surface it’s a whacky scenario in a rom-com that many may have seen before — ‘large man turns in to vulnerable small dog and learns to deal with his insecurities with his partner!’. Yet within the first few moments, we as the player are talked to by Diego after a major screw up where he breaks the fourth wall to explain the strange alternate world that he resides in. It is reminiscent in themes to the X-men as these strange Mushroom monsters have appeared at the same time that humans begin to mutate strange powers. This brings a lot of discussions about race and discrimination, especially for Diego who immigrated to the USA under less than ideal circumstances. He feels so out of place and has to carve out a niche for himself as this massive ruthless individual, whereas in reality he just wants to watch wrestling and be comfy.

I bring all this up because it causes that ‘surface scenario’ from above to become more of a vehicle for discussing insecurities and relationship strains, rather than being used for a quick gag. Oh sure, the joke is still there — he turns in to a Pomeranian with a scar, it’s hilarious — but it immediately opens up his fears about being small and unsafe. His partner Calliope, who researches the ECCO mutations while formerly being ‘treated’ for her autism, adds to this beautifully crafted relationship as she tries to help him realize that he’s more than just his size. It’s honestly a beautifully adorable relationship, and one that features someone on the spectrum in ways I don’t normally see in my narratives, especially mainstream ones. They both aren’t trying to push people around; only just exist and hopefully change things for the better.

POM SIMULATOR 9000 is a dorky name with a silly concept that somehow gives you a brilliantly heartfelt tale about learning to accept yourself no matter what and to open up parts of you that you may not want to. All because a big dude turned in to a Pomeranian. Count me surprised.

If you love romance and emotions, you should probably be reading this.

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Jacob Vorstenbosch

Jacob Vorstenbosch

Just a Game Dev who decided to take on the monumental task of giving an overview of all 59 pages in the bundle for Racial Justice and Equality. We keep going.