Look at these four people. All of them thinking they’re about to have fun and watch a meteor shower. One of those things is true. The meteor shower will come, the sky will light up but fun? No. Tonight, these four intrepid individuals will be having…MINUS FUN. Aside from Lou, the chap in glasses on the left who actually has a pretty great night.
The first in a series of ‘Pixel Pulp’ games from LCB Studios, Mothmen 1966 is the first in a series of Pixel Pulps. These are retro, text-based adventures which, if you grew up in the UK at the same time I did, will make the words ‘Ceefax and Teletext’ pop into your brain. Created by novelist Nico Saraintaris and artist Fernando Martinez Ruppel, the series is off to a great start and two more games are due in in the first volume, Varney Lake, and Bahnsen Knights.
Mothmen 1966 sets a high bar for its successors. You jump between three characters; Holt, the gas station attendant with a fondness for Civil War weapons, Lee, a history student with a fondness for being paid to help Holt build Civil War weapons and Vic. Vic is Lee’s girlfriend and she, and you, get pretty uncomfortable with that pretty fast. The tensions in their relationship are further heightened by the fact it’s the night the Leonid meteor shower hits Earth’s atmosphere. Lee wants it to be romantic, but paranormal investigator Lou knows different. And so does Holt, who in the game’s opening chapters receives a visit from mysterious Men in Black…
Saraintaris throws everything at the wall and it all sticks. In the space of the 4-6 hours runtime you get; Mothmen, alternate human species, the panspermia theory, the Men in Black, secret civil war technology, possession, zombies and alien abduction lore. It’s all presented with the right level of straight face too; not quite Mothman Prophecies but certainly unafraid to go grim when it wants to. There’s a nice line in dialogue too and Saraintaris’ motley cast of characters are all well realized and interesting. I especially liked Lou. I’ll give you a moment to act surprised.
Martinez Ruppel’s art is wonderful, exuberant and blocky and somehow tense and fragile all at once. The game feels tense and the low-tech nature of the puzzles heightens that. A closing gunfight feels vastly tense and complex even though its literally just a game of angles. An early confrontation on the highway feels clammy and dangerous, the world suddenly changing for player and character alike. Script and art and gameplay all combine to give the game a caffeinated pulp feel that’s really fun.
There are road bumps. One puzzle is unusually difficult because of the graphic style and there’s a sense of a lot of big ideas being slammed together at a couple of points but that’s a minor quibble. Mothmen 1966 a game with a unique style, a unique voice and I look forward to seeing what the team do next.
Mothmen 1966 is out now for Switch, Playstation 4 and, Xbox, PC and Mac
Check out LCB’s itch.io page, including the visual novel Shark Riders too.