According to the second law of thermodynamics, each time you click your mouse brings us ever closer to the extremely spicy but also terrifying heat death of the universe. Thus, in a valiant attempt to prolong the mysteries of life for another fleeting moment, this glance contains twice the amount of games as usual. Yes. That’s right. Two.
Ok/Normal pulls off the admirable task of steadily tearing through concurrent layers of sanity, despite never establishing a recognisable normality to begin with. To work your way through its digital hellscapes is to consider what the past looked like from the perspective of your former self thinking about the future. With its warped, PS1-era visuals, it takes an aesthetic somewhere between an art style and a marketing tool, freezes it, drags it forward through time, thaws it out, and brings into sharp, new focus. Through hindsight and art direction, Ok/Normal’s nostalgic fever dream looks more like the past than the past itself.
It’s also an absolute chore to play. As you slowly drag your floating statue around, however, you get the sense it knows exactly what it’s doing. Ok/Normal uses your own inclination to chase progress against you, utilising dissonance and level design to weaponize a lifetime of gaming experience. When your happy cloud guide starts begging you to stop playing, it feels like guiding clippy through an existential crisis. It’s inventive, subversive, and a wholly unique experiment with form that overstays its welcome frequently, but with a deliberate, unsettling confidence throughout.
Abyssal Somewhere is no less unsettling, but trades out OK/Normal’s brash antagonism for somber melancholy. It utilises similarly antiquated 3D visuals, but uses them to build rather than deconstruct, crafting an oppressive network of medieval catacombs. Every shadow writhes with despair. Every stone emits sorrow. As your rotted knight traipses through lonely, haunted corridors, you’ll stumble across fragments of poetry, and learn the history of your surroundings.
Now, I say this with no more hyperbole than my standard, charming trademark hyperbole: Abyssal Somewhere has some of the best sound design I’ve ever encountered. From the slow clinking of your armour that conveys both weight and weariness, to the creak of rusted gates, the audio is sparse but astoundingly well-executed throughout. There’s a bit of sword combat to go with your exploration, but the main draw is just spending time here, following the light from the spectres of history through the shadows.
Ok/Normal is currently on sale over at Steam, and Abyssal Somewhere is pay-what-you-want on Itch.io. They’re also short enough that you can easily get through both in the same evening, if you fancy a seriously weird evening.