Today’s glance has a theme. If you can work it out before I finish this sentence IT’S ALIENS then congratulations, your reading comprehension is on point.
The Outpost 9
The Outpost 9: Episode 1 is the first part of a sci-fright visual novel that uses sound and spatial awareness in ways that make you go ‘ooh’ and then ‘ahh’ and then ‘what the shit was that?!”. The first thing that’s going to hit you is the visual style, tinged in retro-futuristic neon grids and lo-fi fuzz as it is. Neon grid backgrounds, a pulsing synthwave soundtrack, sass-heavy dialogue and bold, seventies television lettering round out an aesthetic that’s equal parts familiar and deeply jarring, evoking both a sense of place and placelessness at once.
The Outpost 9’s whole ‘we’re going to float around in space for a bit and hopefully nothing bad happens’ schtick will be instantly familiar to anyone who knows their Giger from their Eisner (especially if you’ve played the 1984 Commodore Alien, which a later section of The Outpost 9 is reminiscent of), but a self-awareness of genre conventions, along with sparse but effective use of ambient sound, elevates this one above the usual homages.
You can finish what’s currently available in under an hour (and you’ll need to – there’s no saving or loading), but the way this inventive interactive fiction spins terror from little more than a few scanner blips and some gritty digital floor plans has me intrigued for what’s to follow.
Uagi-Saba uses gorgeous, hand-drawn comic art to bring to life a strangely sombre and mysterious take on the humble Tamagotchi. A text crawl introduces a prophecy, a dying world, and a creature raised underneath the surface of a planet. Accompanying the text is a huddled, alien baby. It’s design belies both naivete and wisdom. A newborn creature that looks ancient, tired, and yet, vulnerable. It’s your job to raise it, to nurture and teach it.
“Being able to create but never completely in control” is a line used in the developer’s forward to Uagi-Saba, and it’s as apt a description as any. A tutorial guides you through the basics of clearing out rooms, building what you need to gather various resources, attracting inhabitants, and keeping them happy, but there’s still a layer of unpredictably. Sometimes it feels organic, as if you can never fully shape the conditions in Uagi-Saba, more just guide them in your preferred direction. Sometimes, though, cracks in this Early Access title start to become apparent. Maintaining a certain temperature in your underground network, for example, is hugely important to to both your workers and the mystics you’ll eventually raise, but seems to follow inconsistent rules, which can lead to frustrations.
A hypnotic soundtrack that switches between plinky, hopeful JRPG whimsy and vital, citar infused ambience compliments the striking and detailed art, and they work together to create an enticing atmosphere. It’s still got a ways to go as a simulation, but much like Outpost 9, I’m excited for what comes next.