Welcome to I’m Still Talking About… My 2016 end of the year feature where I find ten games that defined the indie game scene for me this year.  These aren’t the best games of 2016, they’re not the must-plays, they are the games that have refused to leave my thoughts, the games that got under my skin.  For better or worse, these are the games I’m still talking about.

There are times when I want games that are comfort food.  Those kinds of games can vary from person to person, for me they even vary mood to mood – most often I find them in the form of big, sprawling open-world RPGs.  Then there are games like Quadrilateral Cowboy, the games that challenge your palate and disrupt your tastes.  Aesthetically the game plays much like the other recent entries from Blendo Games – characters have tiny torsos and giant, block-like heads, the atmosphere is aggressively strange and almost dreamlike.  

But there’s something that is more substantial to Quadrilateral Cowboy.  The game isn’t weird for the sake of being weird. It’s a game that revels in showing off how outside the box it can be, but it keeps in line with a uniform art design that is as engaging as it is bizarre.  There’s something uniquely tangible in Quadrilateral Cowboy, I described the world as dreamlike and that’s because as off-putting as much of it is, there’s something is almost familiar and comfortable about it.

At the core of this strange little game is a wonderful puzzle design that pushes you to constantly remember what you’ve been taught and apply it in fun and creative new ways.  Quadrilateral Cowboy is never complacent or interested in letting you simmer in the same mechanics for a stretch of time.  Blendo is constantly throwing new ideas and concepts at you to see if you can keep pace.  If you can, you’re in for one heck of an unforgettable experience.

Is it really THAT good?

When your biggest complaint about a game is that it isn’t long enough, that’s actually a good thing.  Yes, Quadrilateral Cowboy could stand to be a little longer, it could marinate in it’s creative gameplay designs a little longer than it usually does, thrusting you from moment to moment in a pretty wild ride, but it never gets old or stale.  Especially with puzzle games, there is a tendency for them to stretch out their playtime by revisiting the same puzzle concepts time and again, failing to introduce something new.  While I think Quadrilateral Cowboy could stand to be a little longer, it does a great job of keeping you on your toes.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Quadrilateral Cowboy is how the game revolves around the work your character does on a computer, while you play on your computer.  It’s a design concept that isn’t too far removed from last year’s Emily is Away, where your familiarity with the interface of a computer is used to make you instantly comfortable with the game’s design.  What’s even more fun is that, while I don’t think Quadrilateral Cowboy could actually teach you how to code, it does remind me of fiddling around with the MS DOS operating system, trying to pull up files and issue commands.

There’s an experimentation and playful element to Quadrilateral Cowboy that really helps it work.  You can feel Blendo prodding you to mess around with the items you have available to you as you slowly work out the solution to the presented problem.

Okay, that sounds alright.  But what is the real reason I should play this game?

The bizarre nature of the off-kilter world really comes to life in strange and wonderful ways.  In between missions, designer Brendan Chung fills your time with simple world-building exercises, missions start with little moments of character building.  Quadrilateral Cowboy’s elevator pitch (solving cyber punk puzzles with computer hacking) sounds alien and like high science fiction, but Chung does a wonderful job of keeping an eye on the small things that bring the whole project together.

Then there are the times when the game just blows itself out and plays for the gonzo oddities.  There’s a couple moments when I could only sit back in my chair, shake my head, and whisper, “What the fuck?”  The confidence that Blendo Games has in its off the wall moments is beautiful and it rewards the playful moments of the game with strange and wonderful oddness.  These two elements work together to create a dynamic that is certainly unforgettable.

So you’d recommend it to anyone?

Quadrilateral Cowboy is certainly an acquired taste and far from the kind of game that I could give  blanket recommendation to. It would be easy to say that it’s a game for the PC crowd and leave it at that, but it’s also a game for those who are looking to take a break from their comfort zone.  If you’re familiar with Blendo’s frantic storytelling and fantastical worlds, then maybe you’ll feel right at home, but my guess is that this will be a new experience for many people – and you need to be in the right mood for it.

About The Author

The Glorious Predecessor

As I write this, I am listening to Striking Matches and eating a blueberry muffin. The music is good, the muffin is even better. I dance when I drink and have been known to occasionally free-style rap, none of which benefits society.

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