PEGBRJE: Art Sqool and Mewn Base

Another double-header in the form of a cute game with space cats and a confusing artistic terror.

I am confused and scared.

Art Sqool is a 3D game that I struggled to understand in the hour or so that I attempted it. Made by Julian Glander, it gives you a professor of art in an AI, a sketchpad and tasks you with submitting art pieces within a given theme or mood. That… is it. After you submit an art piece, you’re given a grade — one that is seemingly arbitrary in comparison to the work given, as I could not for the life of me figure out the correlation of what this snarky AI was trying to get from me. The world is a bizarre poly-scape of different coloured shapes, some with eyes and some without. I submitted another piece after exploring for a bit, trying to find anything for me to latch onto, with little success.

I quit the game, confused. The art and sound direction unnerved me in its fuzz and obvious distortion. The controls were hard to execute. I couldn’t find the way to submit my art for a good 20 minutes.

It wasn’t until I did some research that I understood exactly where the game was trying to lead me.

The above article is as close to explaining what I believe to be the understanding of Art Sqool. It is, at it’s core, a game actually about being an art student, something I wasn’t entirely. The grades felt arbitrary because art isn’t something that can be graded in a hard metric system — it’s full of personal meaning and interpretation. The game’s world feels like a confusing mess of shapes and sounds because the student is in a new environment, unfamiliar to them. They have been given no serious checkpoints, no outline of where they need to go or what they need to do. All that the AI requires of them is to draw and submit. What they do with that directive is up to them.

I strongly encourage you to read the article by Jeff Ramos, linked above. Art Sqool is hard to process if you’re unfamiliar with the college arts, and the above gives a first-hand look at it through their lens. Or, you can give Art Sqool a try for yourself. By the end, you’ll have a bunch of drawings that hopefully mean something to you, rather than mean something to the AI.

Now, for something with a little less metaphor. And more Matt Damon jokes.

MewnBase, on the opposite end of the spectrum, is a 2D survival game also by a solo dev in Steve Forde. Playing as a cat in a cute spacesuit, your mission is simple: survive on a desolate planet. Similar to many survival games, you must balance your food, oxygen and power levels to survive each day, finding artifacts to research more things to craft to make life easier. Somehow, MewnBase feels like a relaxing survival game, one where death rarely occurs and the crafting is easy to execute quickly. The only threat to your kitten is mismanagement of resources, as I found no enemies on this dead rock, and you yourself quitting the game.

I usually become bored with these titles — survival games traditionally have worked best as multiplayer games when it came to my enjoyment, and singleplayer survival games are only as exciting as they are challenging and engaging. Once I’ve researched enough, the game becomes easier, and I usually find myself becoming tired. MewnBase, however, adds a simple fix to this that I truly wish more survival games would have: a date goal.

MewnBase’s real objective is for the player cat to survive for a specific amount of days, mine being 35. I wasn’t entirely sure why I was needed to survive 35 days. Maybe the rest of the cat colonists would arrive then, and I needed to have a sustaining base. Perhaps this was a Matt Damon movie but cast with a cat instead, and that was how long it would take for them to rescue me. Or perhaps it was an arbitrary number given to the player to give them a sense of accomplishment for when they reach that goal.

MewnBase’s simple tweak allowed me to fully enjoy its system, going out and collecting logs so I could survive better as I waited for the magical 35 to roll over. It gave me a goal that was enforced, but otherwise gave me little else in the way of assistance or direction as to how I did it. If you’re looking for a little shakeup in your survival games, consider adding this one to your library. It’s currently in Early Access, with a new creative mode, and may just add more to make the survival genre more appealing to someone like me.

For both of these games, check out the links below to either follow the developer or see the game pages.

https://twitter.com/cairn4

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.