PEGBRJE: Guppy and Broken Minds
Relaxation and Tension
Guppy is a relaxing fishy game made by Christiaan Moleman, a solo dev and animator out of the Netherlands that has worked on a previous bundle title in Astrologaster. Unlike that very wordy title, this is a game of no words in which players are a guppy, swimming peacefully within a pond just trying to eat food and avoid things that could eat it.
Players control their guppy with only two commands: the left and right inputs from whatever device they use to play the game, be that controller, keyboard or even their phone. These two controls mimick the fish’s movement as the bending of the body to go back and forth to create momentum, like the kid’s toy Plasmacar (am I dating myself, or am I localizing myself with this?). Regardless, players want their guppy to eat and be healthy, so the majority of the game will be spent searching for small plant icons in the watercolour world to gain points. There is no ‘win’ state, so collect as many as possible before the dangers arrive in the form of massive dark fish. If these fish catch our poor guppy, the game is over as they’ve been eaten. There are lilies to break the line of sight to keep the guppy safe, but eventually one must venture out to gain more food.
It’s just a hugely relaxing game that doesn’t pretend to be anything else. The watercolour mixed with the soothing music compliments the simplicity of the gameplay, and the lack of any real objective besides ‘survive’ solidifies the need to just simply swim. Dying sucks, but I never minded as there was no stakes to worry about — I just wanted to swim with my fish friends. Speaking of which, not only can this game be played on mobile but it can also be a co-op title on the desktop. Somehow. The world is a wonderfully mysterious place. If you want to have a break from all the excitement and tension of the world, try simplifying yourself down to a fish and trying this title out.
Broken Minds is a murder mystery interaction title made by LockedOn, an indie developer with a unique art style to accompany them. In this title set in 90s Japan, players follow a 20 something named Noa Karada as she receives her parents into her apartment. Things heat up, quite literally, as a fire burns down her apartment after revealing a terrifying visage in the window. Now being stalked by someone in a rabbit mask named ‘The Orphan’, Noa hires a detective agency to solve the mystery surrounding her. Too bad they are, shall we say, somewhat unorthodox.
Like with all good detective novels, Broken Minds has players search different rooms and interact with individuals that may be connected to the crime as Noa since the detectives need all the help they can get. Interactions are usually linear, but certain interactions will be answered by the outlook that Noa decides to take on the situation. There are three options to take between Nice, Bleak, and Psychopath, forming a triangle with the connectors creating three ‘hybrid’ personalities, allowing for a total of 6 ‘personality routes’ as one might call them. These three include Liar (Nice/Psycho), Expiator (Nice/Bleak) and Puppet (Psychopath/Bleak). These 3 decisions craft the various routes that the player can go on, directly effecting how Noa views the situation she is in and how those around her view her, along with the eventual outcome of the game itself. These ‘personality’ routes also effect the evidence sections of the title as well, but I won’t go into too much detail about that.
The more unique gameplay element on display are the Logic Puzzles/Multiple Choice answers featured towards the middle/end of the game. As there are two difficulties in Broken Minds, players who wish to experience just the plot can take the ‘Casual Sleuth’ route to receive only simple questions to answer based on evidence. The other option, however, has Noa debunking certain arguments created through minigames called Logic Trains — which I decided that I could do which I can only assume doubled the length of my first playthrough. These Logic Trains involve many squares consisting of the different arguments on display, and players will select one to enter the minigame to determine what may need to be done about the argument. Some need completely debunking in a Phoenix Wright style gameplay, looking over each sentence and finding which fallacy it falls under with a bit of gambling to gain hints (or lose hints). Some arguments need to be remembered in an intriguing brain detective game called Cat’s Cradle, identifying which aspects of the brain would be used to recall certain information. There’s even the need to build arguments for the ‘Logic Train’ itself by recalling previous information. All of this is to then see which arguments need to be used as a rebuttal and which need to be thrown out, and completing it correctly awards with the continuation of the plot.
If this sounds like a lot, fear not; players can gain access to the tutorial and gameplay hints at any time from a chibi version of Noa.
What may stick out to players more, however, is the unique art fusion that’s been created. The backdrops are all in 3D, and exploration through them is reminsiscent of older titles where players move through fixed camera locations via arrows. The characters themselves are all in a stylized 2D look, contrasting the backdrop’s attempt at realism heavily. The parents especially have me just constantly reminded of works by Jamie Hewlett, famously known for his work on Tank Girls and the Gorillaz album covers. It’s the combination of jagged lines to outline specific aspects of a human that normally wouldn’t be accentuated (like the elbows) and the abstract nature of their appearances such as the crooked tie or the Mom’s really long neck. Combined with the fantastic writing and killer soundtrack, it combines absurdity with a hint of something sinister and mysterious that I just ate up instantly.
I could go on to talk about just how bizarre and hilariously inept (or are they???????) the detective troupe is, how there are more endings than previously expecting or that there are enough twists to cause a tornado, but I think I’d be here for a lot longer than I anticipated. Broken Minds gives a massive amount of indepth content to slowly sift through, with distinct characters and logical arguments running amok as you try to solve the mystery. If you ever find yourself remotely lost, or wanting to see different endings upon completion, or just general confused by some of the personality mechanics, there’s even a walkthrough pdf to assist. Oh, and there are 2 short stories as well.
Talk about sweet.
If you’re looking for a visual novel with way more interaction than expected and a plot that goes the distance, definitely give this one a try. The logic trains can be a bit troublesome, but I can assure you that the plot train never stops.
Swim like a fish! Move your tail left and right to propel yourself through the water, hide in the shade of lilies and…