Interactive

Digital Distractions: Sleepwalking, Glitches, and Junk Mail

"Guild Game," a game based on the Italian Renaissance painting guilds (courtesy Lucas Molina)
“Guild Game,” a game based on the Italian Renaissance painting guilds (courtesy Lucas Molina)

In a new monthly series, we’re highlighting a few games, apps, and interactive digital experiences recommended for the art crowd. For September, here’s a simulation of an Italian Renaissance painting guild, a Surrealist puzzler, a glitchy Pac-Man, and the most thought-provoking game on junk mail yet.

Painters Guild

For: Steam for Windows
From: Lucas Molina

Painters Guild cleverly uses the guild system of art in the Italian Renaissance as a management sim, with you as the omniscient overlord tasked with encouraging Leonardo da Vinci to exceed his master Andrea del Verrocchio, and keeping patrons happy by delivering portraits and paintings on time.

“My goal is to portray how art was made during the Renaissance, including how multiple artists worked on a single painting and how most paintings were commissioned,” creator Lucas Molina told Hyperallergic. “As an art historian, this accuracy is important to me.”

Messages delivered to your guild announce pivotal moments like the death of Donatello (which benefits your Florence business in bringing over wealthy patrons like the Medici family), and sometimes the real troublesome personalities of the artists get in the way of your progress, like a rebellious Caravaggio. The game is much more focused on the business management than the actual visuals of the art, but is an enjoyable introduction into the 15th-century trials of managing artists.


Back to Bed

"Back to Bed" gameplay (courtesy Bedtime Digital Games)
“Back to Bed” gameplay (courtesy Bedtime Digital Games)

For: iOS, Android, Playstation 3, 4, and Vita
From: Loot Interactive

While Painters Guild is about the business of art, Back to Bed is all aesthetic, although it’s a beautiful one. Initially started in 2011 as a student project at the Danish Academy for Digital Interactive Entertainment, the puzzle game is now out on Playstation in addition to iOS and Android. Developed by Bedtime Digital Games and published by Loot Interactive, it’s a pastiche of Surrealism influences, with some whale-shaped trains and tentacle shapes thrown in for good whimsical measure.

As “Subob,” a dog-ish protector of a sleepwalking human named Bob, you prevent your drowsy alter ego from tumbling down M. C. Escher’s staircases, blocking the way with Magritte’s apples, and dodging bizarre Dalí-esque figures like disembodied lips. It might not have quite the creativity of the topsy-turvy Escher staircases of fellow puzzle game Monument Valley, but exploring the checkered floors of the puzzle boards is a visually captivating dreamscape.


Pac-Man 256

Pac-Man 256 (screenshots by the author for Hyperallergic)
Pac-Man 256 (screenshots by the author for Hyperallergic)

For: iOS and Android
From: Hipster Whale and Bandai-Namco

If you ever somehow played Pac-Man to level 256, you probably reached some stage of mental disintegration where a glitchy invasion of chaotic numbers made total sense. This “kill screen” that made it impossible to progress in the game inspired the new Pac-Man 256.

Rather than one screen, this Pac-Man is endless, with the rising numbers and letters below, and swarms of ghosts above. Previously, creator Hipster Whale did a similar number on Frogger with the infinite Crossy Road. As a sort of visually insane version of the 1980s arcade game, there are sometimes ghosts in deathly quartets, and one power-up allows your spherical yellow protagonist to shoot the specters with lasers. The game is free, although $8 buys unlimited credits to avoid ads, so you can play into the pixelated delirium forever.


Unsolicited

Playing "Unsolicited" (screenshot by the author for Hyperallergic)
Playing “Unsolicited” (screenshot by the author for Hyperallergic)

From: Lucas Pope
For: Online

No one can make bureaucracy profound in gaming like Lucas Pope, who follows his Papers, Please on working an immigration checkpoint with Unsolicited on the tedium of sending junk mail. Like Papers, Please, Unsolicited offers some sympathy for those who sign, seal, and send sweepstakes and charity requests to your door.

The gameplay is simple, just a matter of selecting the right forms and plugging in the appropriate information — something which might crush your soul slightly if you’ve ever worked on any sort of monotonous office paperwork. Pope created the game in 48 hours for the Ludum Dare 33 game jam with the theme “you are the monster,” and in your quest to reach the quotas, the seemingly innocuous timeshare offers progress into some intense bill collecting. And the gameplay compels you to go on, all for a few words that drip with managerial despair: “A striking performance. Others have noticed.”

Playing "Unsolicited" (screenshot by the author for Hyperallergic)
Playing “Unsolicited” (screenshot by the author for Hyperallergic)
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