Fallen London is a game that’s probably sucked more hours out of my life than, well, any other videogame ever. Yes, even No Man’s Sky or Left4Dead can’t hope to compete with it as we’re talking a game I’ve been playing most nights for yonks now.

Partly it’s because I am nothing if not an ageing goth and Fallen London’s the closest a videogame has ever gotten to fitting in perfectly alongside my music tastes (please videogames – less Tim Burton, more Bauhaus), partly it’s a comfort thing because I can log in from bed, have a little bit of an adventure, then nod off or crack open a book or whatever.

Mainly though, I keep coming back for the writing. It is so b____y good (which is lucky for a game that is entirely words really). For a few quid a month, I get one (extra) story each month to play through and I can count the ones which haven’t quite done it for me on one hand. An exceptional hit rate by any standards and one that speaks to the talent Failbetter have been able to rope in to contribute over the years.

(I have a sekrit mental wishlist of people I’d love to see have a pop at a story because, basically, I’m greedy and would have everyone whose writing I adore in games write me a Fallen London story if I could)

One of the things that I find remarkable is after all this time playing Fallen London I must have read some passages in the game an absurd amount of times (sometimes multiple times a night if I’m knackered and just doing a bit of lazy making a number go up), I still enjoy reading those passages. Nothing has me going “oh, not this” or glazing over and stuff that made me smile an age back, still makes me smile now.

There’s been times when I’m exhausted, my brain residing in some sort of chemical toilet or whatever and I can’t bring myself to even play something I enjoy this much. It doesn’t bother me so much because I know that when I get round to feeling better, I’ll have accumulated a bunch of new Fallen London tales to play through. Best kind of reward for being able to drag myself out of a crappy malaise.

Mind, I’m not the kind of person able to roleplay a character easily. I’ve never really been able to inhabit someone or something else in that way. Any games that ask me to make a choice are going to find me pressing ahead with whatever choice feels like the one I’d make.

I appreciate how much the writing, the multiple interweaving stories, of Fallen London accommodates that every bit as well as someone who has the ability to not be themselves for a while and with purpose. I don’t think I’ve even once felt like the game pulled the rug from under me, ever felt like a story cheated me from a choice I’d (like to imagine I’d) make in a particular situation.

It’s quite the balance to maintain! Especially over this many years, this many stories, and throughout that time I’ve changed a lot! Still the contributors to this videogame and Failbetter in general always seem one step ahead.

It’s a wonderful thing to exist and so many times over the past while I’ve been thankful it does.

It's too roughly drawn seagulls, held by two hands, being made to kiss each other.

With a big thank you to autocorrect for trying to change “area” to “rear” whilst I wasn’t paying attention. Bad autocorrect, naughty. That’s something else entirely.

My dear old nan, bless her soul, used to say to me “Rob”, “Rob love, you haven’t lived a full life until you’ve popped two seagulls in a basket to see if they can truly love each other” and whilst she was absolutely correct, she forgot to mention just how difficult it is to put a seagull in a basket.

THEY KEEP FALLING OUT, NAN. THEY KEEP FALLING OUT.

I don’t really want to say too much about Hot Seagulls In Your Area for fear it might somehow take away some of the magic but it absolutely cracked me up.

As if the idea of having to get a bunch of seagulls to smooch each other wasn’t silly enough, everything about the game leans into that silly from the writing to the minigames to the art. I’d barely gotten as far as weighing the love compatibility of seagulls up for the first time before being reduced to giggling mess. And somehow, it managed to keep working on me the more time I put in.

It’s a little bit Foddy-core (though without the punishing element), a little bit point and click and all ridiculous. It’s great and just the tonic given this year and everything.

Grab it on Itch.

There’s a lot of things I really enjoy in Captain Forever Remix. The way it transforms a curious retro styled sci-fi experience into a sister vs brother game is most definitely the biggest but ultimately, I’m also always going to be a sucker for really pretty things and Captain Forever Remix *is* really pretty.

It doesn’t really come off too well static but the spawn in sequence is a blink and you miss it nice touch, especially when you zoom the camera in. Then there’s who you fight. I got into a fight with a dog and lost. It’s not the first time but I think it’s the first time since Saboteur on the Speccy that it felt a bit like I’d just embarrassed myself. That’d never happen with cats, you always know you’re onto a losing streak with them.

It’s all done with a very playful This Is Make Believe On A Saturday Morning thing which lends the whole game a really joyous tone even whilst your carefully built modular craft is trashed by a goldfish. It’s probably worth mentioning that it has some great looking explosions too.

Captain Forever Remix is out now and is pretty much everything I’d hoped it would be. It paints a very human face on a previously cold and clinical videogame and in doing so makes it all the better.

Originally published March 2015. Captain Forever Remix is now on Itch too.

A screenshot from Byte Driver. It's a black and white racing game done in the style of a Vectrex game. The mountains in the background are lines, the road is a bendy line, the car is also made up of lines.

Byte Driver is a neo-vectrex vroom vroom videogame. The vroom vroom is important because Byte Driver is speedy in a very specific early eighties arcade/home computer kind of way.

It’s a game where every turn is a really wide turn, every straight a chance to try and go fast without crashing into a mine, some bullets, or something videogamey.

You go forward, you go fast. You take a turn, you go fast. Vroom Vroom.

Sometimes, you slow down to hack a car and then you have to make a choice really fast. Hacking a car throws up a menu with some goodies to choose from, which is so far so videogame, except you’re still in a car going fast. That’s still going fast whilst you try and choose whether you want to upgrade something or cadge some energy in order to survive, in case you weren’t managing to keep up.

Without energy, you won’t be going fast any longer. You won’t be going anywhere because it’ll be game over.

Here’s a quick video to show how it works:

Yeah, yeah, I died pretty quick there, you can stop laughing now.

Byte Driver is available on Steam and Itch in exchange for some money. Needless to say, I enjoyed it.