Your Weekly Video Game Phil: ‘The Almost Gone’ and ‘Urban Flow’

Every week, Fanbase Press Contributor Phillip Kelly plays and reviews a handful of brand new independent video games, all costing no more than $25. Why?  There are a lot of indie games out there, and if he can help you, curious reader, to parse through the selection with even a little more knowledge, then, by god, he’ll die content.

Note: The price tags listed are at time of purchase which may have been during a limited sale.

The Almost Gone

A warning comes at the front of this new release from Happy Volcano and Playdigious - in that it deals with some pretty heavy subject matters - so if you have some level of trauma in your background, just know that it may drudge up some unhappy memories.

I personally have dealt with depression, and this game gets about as close to representing that trapped, unwanted feeling as you can get. The fact that it’s portrayed in a puzzle-box, escape room format allows us to confront those feelings and memories at a distance, almost like you’re working through them as you solve the puzzles of the game.

Essentially, the character wakes up in her home. She feels like she is in her teens, becoming a young adult, grappling with who they are and how they came to be who they are. Only no one is there, and everything is portrayed as a dream version of itself. As you explore the room-scapes, you uncover personal details about yourself, your family life, and your family’s history. Who is she, and what has happened to her?

There is another warning at the top of the game: to wear your headphones. I played with headphones and also using my sweet speaker system, but if you don’t have a sweet speaker system, then I can see why they recommend headphones. A huge part of this experience is the white noise, the background ambience, and the subtle shifts in music and sound effects. The game design itself is such that each section of a room comes to life in a tall, 3D mock-up of a mono-colored backdrop that you can spin around to see different walls and find hidden things; it is really simple and beautiful.

Final word: A resounding yes. The subject matter is heavy, but it’s a beautiful, haunting experience. The escape room-style puzzles are involving, but never impossible. I’m sure if I had played this at a different point in my life, I might have been turned into a sobbing mess. But here’s the thing, and I’m not a psychologist or a therapist, but I’ve been reading a lot about how games, board games, tabletop RPGs, and video games can actually help us deal with trauma just like movies, TV shows, or books can allow us a sometimes much-needed emotional release, a catharsis that we otherwise might be having difficulty finding in day-to-day life. Somehow, working through puzzles in a game that is dealing with depression seems like a healthy confluence of ideas.

Price at Time of Purchase: $11.99
Initial Release Date: June 25, 2020
Genre: Mystery, Escape Room, Narrative, Exploration
Publishers: Playdigious, X.D. Network Inc.
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Android, Steam, macOS, Macintosh operating systems
Developers: Happy Volcano, Happy Volcano BVBA

Urban Flow
There are 100 levels in this Switch-exclusive game, and I could have sat there and played until I died of starvation. We all have experienced horrific traffic. We all know how frustrating it can be. We’ve all wanted to make it work better. This is literally your opportunity.

You play god of the traffic lights, switching them from red to green and back again, making sure the flow of traffic continues, because if you don’t, those cars will get frustrated and go on their own. That’s when accidents occur. Too many accidents, and you lose.

This is all about hand/eye coordination. In the fist 21 levels, there were six-lane intersections with roundabouts and trains with ambulances and tanks, and it is up to you to keep the flow going. Let me tell you, when you find the rhythm of the intersection, it feels good.

Final word: Buy it. There are so many puzzle games that look and feel exactly the same. Urban Flow from the ground up is a different experience and challenges so many parts of your brain while remaining absolutely chill. Part of that is due to the slick, jazzy cadence of the music that plays over the cityscapes. When you find the flow between the two, it is truly magical. Plus, there’s a four-person, multi-player mode that if I had someone to play with, I’d be all over it!

Price at Time of Purchase: $11.24
Initial Release Date: January 26, 2020
Genre: Puzzle, Simulation
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Publishers: Baltoro Games

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