Confession: long ago I futzed around and created a few RPG Maker games. They were never anything too complex and usually involved me trying my absolute hardest to avoid ever having to use the battle system. I was always more interested in the scripting part, triggering events that moved the story forward. In my case, since they were never intended for human consumption, most of the plots involved simple fetch quests that culminated in a final “boss fight” with whichever of the premade sprites looked the coolest. Also, the soundtrack was mostly from the CD “NOW That’s What I Call Music! Volume 5” because I am a horrible monster that should never be given even the smallest semblance of power.
This was before games like Yume Nikki changed my perception of what was possible with that rather primitive toolset. I never really thought to create anything other than the most generic medieval RPGs at the time. Perhaps it’s for the best. I don’t know what my young mind, filled with nu-metal and Kajiu films, would have come up with, though now I have to admit that a part of me wants to return to that world and try again. Games like Stray Cat Crossing only serve to make that urge even stronger.
Playing as a young woman that offers scarf to a freezing stranger, you soon find yourself in a rather strange house in an attempt to meet back up with her. What follows is a brief, but very colorful journey through a morbid surrealist wasteland. As a lover of morbid surrealism and an above average appreciation for wastelands, it was right up my alley. Though often being weird and creepy is more than enough to get a pass from me, there is a consistency that I wasn’t quite expecting; the presence of logic in a world that inherently didn’t have any. Though at points the game would just throw something horrible at you, it never felt cheap, even in like of the obvious engine limitations. That’s the sign of a world created with care, I think; the feeling that it all existed before you ever became a part of it. Every Lynchian nightmare that I encountered, in its own strange way, made sense.
That’s not to say that it wasn’t full of surprises. The very nature of telling a story like this, especially in moments that are intended to incite fear, requires a bit of keeping the player on their toes. I think that’s where using RPG Maker is actually an advantage, since the format is so familiar, you have to take a step back when new and interesting things are done with it. I have to admit, on some level, it’s inspiring, not just because of how playing something like this can fuel my own creativity but also because we’re in a place where games like this can finally be viable.
As someone desperate for a 2 hour experience to cover his weekend, I was already pretty happy about it.
The price point sure as hell didn’t hurt.