The East Van EP is a collection of games from Canadian designer ceMelusine. It's full of mystic visions, mixed drinks and late night swimming. The mundane becomes magical in this series of Cool Indie Games.
Bundling up three titles, ceMelusine manages to weave an experience full of wonder. In Oracle, procedurally generated statements turn into incantations to an unknown god. Players rest by incandescent fire before getting muted glances at their future. A broken castle under the moon. An ever-growing graveyard. Oracle has a decidedly quiet and sombre look at mysticism. It is a way to connect to a greater whole, a means to commune with the larger world.
In terms of play, the game is simple. Most games in the East Van EP keep to simple core mechanics. This provides a grounding that contrasts well with the vague arcana. Play is a relaxing waltz, with just enough hints at something explosive under the surface.
Summon the Apgrod
This is no more apparent than in the collection's second game Summon the Apgrod. Working as a bartender in a nightclub, players server neon beverages to wobbling ghosts. The shift is slow to begin with. Mixing drinks feels far more like concocting potions or fantasy draughts.
As the club fills and orders flood the bar, a sense of melancholy begins to build into something louder and jubilant. Ghosts gather in crowds and music blares through the club as a stunning concert begins. Simple things like drink and dance suddenly feel like rituals.
"I try to make players feel that they are looking at something familiar, and at the same time, otherworldly," ceMelusine said. "I try to make games that make explicit a certain dream-like mood that I feel when I look at the world."
Star Swim is the latest addition to the collection. It was inspired by the time that ceMelusine and musician Kyle Yakashiro spent a night relaxing under the stars in a park. It is a game about a place. The slow drifting of an inflatable, the light glow of the moon, the vague sense that someone may be watching you.
"I try to make really good moons." ceMelusine said. "I try to make places you can go to be alone with your thoughts."
Star Swim is exactly that. A sweet late night swim that is full of reflection. As you gaze to the stars and moon, it is easy to feel small. Yet, there's a comfort that comes from paddling through the pool and dive into the water.
The games on the East Van EP are not mechanically taxing or difficult. The joy of the experience doesn't come from overcoming great odds. The games juxtapose the arcane and the comfortable, asking you to find meaning and purpose. It would be simple to write this off as navel-gazing but ceMelusine sees the power of these kinds of experiences.
"We've only just begun to scratch at the surface of what digital space can and should be. I'm excited to be a part of that explosion in understanding," he said.
"Long Live Feelings Machines!"