PEGBRJE: Nepenthe and Veritas

I mean, I guess not? It’s a banger tho so you good.

Nepenthe is a surreal ‘alt-RPG’ made by the solo dev known only as Yitz. For the uninitiated, the term ‘alt-RPG’ was a term I saw thrown around a bunch during the inception of Undertale thanks to its subversions of many stereotypical tropes and larger focus on how players interacted with characters and how to complete objectives in ways not considered the norm. The term didn’t really catch on that much since subversion is less a genre defining specialization and more a presentation style to be used to reinforce the plot. I’m using it here because, well, I can’t think of much else that would describe this title so quickly. Anyways, back on track. Within this pencil crayon-coloured world, our hero of sorts awakens after being struck by lightning delivering a letter, remembering only their name as they hope to figure out what this letter even means or where it is supposed to be delivered to.

As with many of this flavour, Nepenthe is inspired by Undertale’s many mechanics in order to allow players to explore and play in their own way. The player character can wander throughout the world, only blocked by individuals that need interacting with or objects that can be removed with a certain item found somewhere else. Interactions have dialogue choices for the player to decide, which can alter how the other will respond and react as players try to find ways to learn of the world they are now stuck in. Aggravate a character enough — or run into one already mad — and players will be transported to a battle screen for combat. Combat is quite similar to turn based RPGs with the Undertale twist as players will dodge attacks when the enemy attempts to injure them while the small object representing the player is locked within an enclosed area. Attacks from the player instead require a combination of two buttons, initiated by the top and move in a counter clockwise rotation; once the button reaches the top and is within the bubble, quickly pressing the button will add power to the attack. Mess up the order or just not press a button will ruin the entire attack and at best players will do under ten damage.

Of course, that’s if we as players end up in actual combat scenarios. In truth, much of the game’s combatants can be avoided if players can cleverly figure out ways to either show their pacifism or use items to subvert the enemy. How players wish to approach each possible scenario is completely up to them to decide; even wandering randomly is a decision after all. Should one heed the words of a random individual about another, or ignore them? This of course leans heavily into the story that our little bald friend is trying to uncover and the lack of direction narrative that players must deal with. There is no way for players to ‘know’ if a decision they make is the correct one, only deal with the aftermath as it comes. Much of this is reinforced by the whimsical nature of the conversations, lacing many ‘dad’ jokes within and nonsensical stories about cookies or fish while conversing only to randomly give a clue about what players can do next. The artstyle is reminiscent of my own public school/high school drawings, complete with pencil crayon fills that give the feeling of texture across each drawing. It creates a younger, more inexperienced aesthetic but is also fitting for the whimsy and surrealism. Some may find the artstyle grating over the course of a playthrough, so do be aware that it doesn’t ‘get better’ or ‘change for some reason’ — the art is the style of the game, and it is very much integral to the aesthetic.

Combining this with a completely unexpected soundtrack full of guitars, vocals and seriously engaging progressions, and it’s no wonder why Nepenthe is named the way that it is; a mystical drug that induces forgetfulness to eliminate sorrow that takes players on a trip as it goes. If you are a fan of this interesting art and titles such as Undertale, this will definitely be one to look into. If you are worried about the difficulty, Nepenthe has a Story mode to keep combat light and easy, but I honestly found the encounters to be not as difficult as expected. Give it a whirl for a relatively shorter experience and see what confusions await.

Y’know, I don’t know what it is but I REALLY want in there.

Veritas is a escape room-esque puzzle game made by Glitch Games, an indie studio out of the UK who have quite a few other titles of the same formula. This one, however, has players awakening within a dungy solitary room with the echoes of another’s voice ringing in their heads and only one goal in mind: break free.

To those familiar with either Glitch Games’ previous works or many other titles within the bundle such as Forgiveness or Immure, players will pilot the main character as they attempt to escape from the facility they’ve been locked in. To do so, players will look for clues and find items that they can utilize on other objects or combine to create new tools that can help find ways of breaking the codes on the doors or hatches. What adds a new layer is the camera, which can be used to take pictures of anything and everything and are stored in a directory that can be referenced at any time. Certain photos will come with protagonist notes on the bottom (polaroid pictures after all have great spaces to write) which can indicate that they are more ‘important’ than others. Where this system really shines is in the fact that players can actually draw on the photos themselves for note taking, allowing them to highlight certain areas of a photo as reminders for why it was taken, or consolidate their information onto one. Since photos can be viewed at any time, this is fantastic for recollection of the puzzles, for they usually rely heavily on combinations of numbers or patterns to get through. The hint system itself is also quite clean, for it instead highlights exactly what players should be focusing their efforts on and the number of steps each puzzle requires total in order to finish. Rather than just guiding, it can help players look into certain regions while also informing them when they’ve uncovered all of the pieces and can attempt to solve.

I’d be remiss to not discuss the tone and aesthetic of Veritas, as we are once again stuck in a deranged hospital region of some kind that we have no memory of while attempting to escape. It wasn’t subverting any expectations, but it was pleasant with an atmosphere to match the dark tone. The other patients of the ward were something I wasn’t expecting to become invested in, but with the little tidbits left around within notes and computers it became hard to not wonder what happened to them. It did run a tad slow on my end, which may be a local-side issue, but it didn’t take away too much of the mood.

If you enjoyed previous escape room like titles and are looking for something a bit more uncomfortable and scary to hopefully allow you to forget about the world’s current medical problems, then this is definitely a game to try out. The studio has many other titles of varying settings that may also interest you as well.

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Just a 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.

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Jacob Vorstenbosch

Jacob Vorstenbosch

Just a 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.

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