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POP

Fly a spaceship and melt your mind with Rob Lach's experimental video game

by Graham Hiemstra in Tech on 17 May 2012

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If you've ever wondered what it's like to shoot down bomber planes, race a Ferrari in a Volvo or fly a space ship while on acid, POP might offer the insight you need. The mind-bending experimental video game consists of what it calls "a series of erratic minigames" set to a steady stream of panic-inducing music. Designed by independent developer Rob Lach as an exploration in conventional game development, the purposefully disjointed experience was designed by creating the music first then running with the first game concept that came to mind. The lo-fi result feels at once nostalgic and unsettling.

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Using various controls—mouse clicks, arrows keys, Z and X buttons—the player navigates through seven "interactive vignettes" of hand-drawn pixel art, often with little to no instructions. This purposeful lack of declared objectives leaves all understanding and interpretation up to the individual, a task only made more fun by intense tunes and floods of strobing colors. As a result "Launch" ends up looking like a reenactment of the Challenger disaster, while the more manageable "Air Raid"—curiously reminiscent of one of the more memorable Full Metal Jacket scenes—only became clear after multiple inflictions of keyboard abuse.

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In "Highway" the player races a red Volvo wagon down a never-ending road in some nameless city. Coaxed on by a pounding beat, the faux chase scene feels like a lo-fi Cruising USA with a cheeky sense of juvenile design. Subsequently in "Gunner" the operator shoots down bombers with the click of a mouse as equally suspenseful beats play in the background. To add to the perfectly retro aesthetic, each "minigame" is flanked by pixelated snapshots and distorted movie clips from a bygone era.

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Lach's POP game is available through a pay-what-you-want (minimum $1) platform. For a better idea of what you'll be getting yourself into check the teaser video or head directly over to POP online.

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