PEGBRJE: Can Androids Pray: Red and Mutiny Island

I rant way too long about mechs and pirates.

Yeah, I can understand that.

Can Androids Pray: Red is a narrative experience developed by Natalie Clayton, news writer for PC Gamer and occasional game developer. Featuring the writing of Xalavier Nelson Jr. and music by Priscilla Snow, we follow two femme mechas as they come to grips with the end of the world and their existential dread.

To get the ‘easy’ stuff established, Can Androids Pray: Red has players making decisions for Cort, a militant mecha who has been fatally damaged opposite of another mecha named Beatrice. Beatrice is the instigator of the interactions, as Cort doesn’t talk much on her own; instead, players make decisions based on (at least) three options to continue the conversation and push the narrative in specific ways without deviating too much from the core themes. The is the core of the game, where these choices will alter Beatrice’s reactions and tone as she pushes forward to the completion of the game within a relatively short timeframe.

This short time frame doesn’t stop the conversations and handling of themes from being extremely engaging, nor does it hinder the ability to relate to a militant robot. If you are wanting to play through, I’d suggest just hopping on down to the bottom link and playing it yourself. Otherwise… spoilers until the next game picture.

Do note: it’s called Red because this is the red variant. There’s a blue one as well, it just makes the game blue instead of red.

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As indicated by the title itself, Can Androids Pray is about two mechas coming to grips with their inevitable demise after a battle. Due to Cort’s leak, she will explode and take Beatrice with her, dooming them both regardless. This realization opens the floodgates for Beatrice to discuss all manners of existentialism and the prospect of God itself, even after initially appearing to be a standard ‘hard’ military member. As Cort, we can enable her to fully delve into these feelings leading to the onslaught of questions with no definite answer, or attempt to shut her out completely with censored profanity. Regardless of the choices made, Beatrice will still enclose oodles of information to the player about the world that they inhabited, from the existence to the virtual social space Virt to the fact that this desolate wasteland was once Earth. They never outright drop exposition on situation itself, instead allowing for Beatrice’s terrifying realizations and fear to allow for the reaffirmation of the ‘norm’ as individuals tend to do.

It was the discussion of God that really gave me the same feeling of nervous wonder and helped to cement Beatrice’s outlook of the world. Deviating from the standard tropes, Beatrice admits that she finds the idea of an all-powerful deity that cares for her terrifying, for as someone in the military she prefers others feel apathetic to her personal life, free of possible judgement or care. The idea of a deity possibly caring for her or judging her is unfathomable, especially when comparing Him to humans; does caring for everyone mean anything then, if everyone is loved? She looks at humans as an example, for to her we must feel hatred and fear in order to understand love and care. How can one who simply loves all understand this?

Her musings become even more unhinged as she unveils that most of the mecha pilots are not human — for every 1000, there are only 7 ‘organic’ humans, with the rest being AI yet not being informed and instead lied to thanks to the Virt. This compounds her already existing fears about her own reality and the existence of a God is brought into question as she isn’t even sure a God would care about an AI, perceiving her prayers or thoughts as just ‘buzzing’ to Him.

As a Christian, I’m used to normally seeing this discourse as notoriously black and white; either ‘God cannot exist because bad things’ or ‘God must exist because world too perfect’. Well, except for that one time in Spy Kids 2 (thanks, Steve Buscemi). The idea of having a fear for the possibility of being cared for by a deity and then fearing if that care and love even mattered if it was for all was something I had never thought of, nor have seen expressed often. I’m not sure if this is new or revolutionary, but it helps to establish a different nuance and pave the way for the twist that they might not even be human, begging Beatrice to ask if they even can be cared for if they are not human. It’s a lot to take in, especially after Beatrice comes to the conclusion that she needs to know if she’s human for her own sanity and closure. To do so is immediate death, for she must open the airlock of the mecha and expose herself to the toxic air, but she would be able to see the rising sun through her own eyes; presumably, of course, that she is human.

The need for answers is something we can all relate to, and being able to see God face to face is what Beatrice is hoping for. Death is already an inevitability, and if she cannot go out the way that she wishes, she’d at least want to go out with some answers. The only thing left afterwards is for Cort to make a decision herself, and find the answers to any questions she might have left.

It goes without saying that the 30 minutes it took to play this game were profound. The ability to weave in knowledge of the world seamlessly with the fear-driven ranting of Beatrice made me invested in the world given, even if the only things I could see were two broken, soon to explode mechs. It asks questions that cannot be truly answered, and ends on a melancholic twist that only ties together a singular answer among many. If you have the time, try it out and see how you feel afterwards.

Uh ok then, shady looking promoter person.

Mutiny Island is an open-world exploration adventure made by Elushis, a solo indie developer out of Australia. Within this tale, players take on the role as a high seas pirate captain of the legendary Red Dawn at the worst possible time: the crewmate Morgan has decided to mutiny, leaving the player marooned on the infamous Mutiny Island. With nothing but their pistol and a singular bullet, players must find ways to get back to civilization, recoup the losses and find a new purpose in life. Perhaps it is taking back the Red Dawn, or sailing the seas in search of treasure without those backstabbers. Maybe it is about finding the secret island rumoured to be covered in gold. Cue the Pirates of the Caribbean theme.

It’s hard to truly explain the sheer size of this title, so I’ll start by explaining the fundamentals and how my initial playthrough went. Players start by collecting items and resources littered about on Mutiny Island, automatically using tools to collect if necessary such as cutting down trees. There is an NPC around to give a few hints (accompanying the hints that help start the game) and point towards building a raft to get off the island. Crafting is all done in the menu, needing only the required items and a ‘recipe’ of sorts (just getting informed how to make it someway usually works). Once the raft is crafted — and an unfortunate event occurs to that NPC — players can then begin to go out and explore the large and vast world.

This is where I died immediately, woke up, a pirate sailed me to Tortuga, I joined a crew, somehow commandeered the ship and then died to a Hydra.

See, Mutiny Island isn’t joking around when it says that it is an ‘open world exploration’ game, and the sheer amount of things is staggering. There are islands to explore with respawning enemies and surface loot, complete with unique hazards on the water and on land depending on the season that the player is in. Players can craft little ships, or they can utilize the loot found to purchase a beauty of a boat and hire a new crew to rival that of the Red Dawn. Use this ship to continue plundering the seven seas, finding dungeons on islands and looting them, or attacking other ships passing by to destroy them and steal their loot. Sure, that will raise the bounty level on our pirate’s head, but isn’t that the point? Sure, the people might not enjoy the presence of a wanted criminal, but what’s stopping the player from aggravating them to the point that they might attempt to trigger a fight, or just straight up kill them without even bothering to anger them! On the flip side, befriending everyone through inquiry can gain new hints to the secrets of the world, and let me inform you that there are secrets everywhere. Hidden trap doors in the floor, locations in the water, islands with crazy witches, dungeons under the feet of the common folk and even those that I haven’t found yet.

It’s almost oppressive how much there is to do, especially since Mutiny Island has has no qualms with not telling the player what is going on. It wishes to teach through experience, which I can respect — even if I’m of the kind of player to always be worried that I’m missing something, especially when I’m randomly whisked away by a ship. Thanks to easy mode and a lack of ‘hard goals’, that feeling of being uninformed slowly passed as I didn’t mind exploring as much since I would just die and be back at Mutiny Island to try again. Of course, this is a complete open world game, which means that players can change their respawn via houses, inns, and more depending on how players wish to play.

That’s the driving focus of Mutiny Island: “How the player wants to play”. There’s so much going on for players to do, and with no real objective players are free to figure out what they wish to do on their own. Become the nicest pirate ever, only looting from dungeons and evading all forms of combat to raise a glorious fleet of peace, or just straight up run amok as revenge for being ousted from the greatest pirate ship in the current age. There is so much that I can feel that I am missing, but the only way to really see is to dive in for yourself. The only thing that might stop you is some odd performance issues, but I believe that a new edition of the game came out just last week that I didn’t realize until this write up (I like to install in advance, bit me this time I guess).

Long and short, there is so much to this game that I could never cover it all, but what I did get to experience has made me weirdly hooked on the idea of taking over the seas as a pacifist pirate and buying up everything. If you have a dream of being an actual pirate and not just torrenting the latest Billy Eilish album while claiming ‘piracy 4 lyfe’, this might be exactly what you’ve been looking for. It takes a bit to get used to, but in no time the black flags will be sailing for all.