Manhattan may have an okay assortment of cultural institutions, but in Secret Habitat, a free game by Manchester-based indie video game developer Strangethink, users navigate an island that’s home to 99 small museums. Their algorithmically generated buildings are filled with similarly populated exhibitions of glitchy abstract art.
The hallucinogenic game is set in a landscape whose soil is a gradient of neon blues and pinks — where leafless, turquoise trees sway like they’re made of Jell-O (or mimicking the movements of a wacky waving inflatable flailing tube man) and small pools of water glow a toxic-looking yellowish-green. The museum buildings are intensely sober and somber by comparison, with their slide-like ramps and heavy walls looking like a fantasy collaboration between Carsten Höller and Tadao Ando.
The exhibitions inside feature randomly generated wall art that ranges from smears of color à la Gerhard Richter to works that look like Wade Guyton’s inkjet printer works. Accompanying sound art pieces that users can toggle on and off in each gallery provide a similarly random, but often improbably complementary, accompaniment to the visuals. Perhaps most entertaining of all are the mad-lib titles, which often serve as the punchline to the visual joke of each successive mini-exhibition: a piece that looks like a garbled barcode is titled “Ill Stiff”; another that resembles a blurred version of a Monet lily pad painting is called “Behavior River.”
Exploring Secret Habitat’s surreal landscape and surprisingly believable randomized approximations of contemporary abstraction is a remarkably smooth experience. And, unlike most museums, all the exhibitions change every time you visit.
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