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The RPS Advent Calendar 2023, December 3rd

Let's hit the town, baby!

A close up of Horace the Endless Bear looking at a big pile of presents with his name on, next to a plate of cookies with a glass of milk. It's the 2023 RPS Advent Calendar!
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun

It's door number three! This one leads to a night out. Can you pet a dog? No. But you can pet the rats.

It's kind of grim but very cool post-Soviet slice-of-life Neyasnoe!

Exploring the night in a Neyasnoe screenshot.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/sad3d, ИЛЬЯМАЗО

Alice0: It's your big night out! Hit up a bar, drink, dance, chat with friends and strangers, steal drinks, smoke, take drugs, get your blood pressure taken, scoff a kebab, visit a book shop, catch plague from petting giant rats seething in crumbling apartments, get your cybernetic implants checked at a back-alley clinic, drink, smoke, visit a gallery, drink, chat, travel to other districts, drink, smoke, eavesdrop on existential conversations, and pet rats. What a night! You've seen so much! Been so many places! Found so many curiosities as you poked about! Talked with so many people! Drank so much! Smoked so much! Danced so much! So why does your life feel so empty?

Neyasnoe is made by the folks behind It's Winter, 2019's objective-free slice-of-life sim which turned you loose around your grim Russian apartment complex to explore, wander, and fiddle with objects in enough detail that you could cook yourself egg on toast then flush it down the toilet, just because. Neyasnoe is a livelier slice of post-Soviet life but not a much cheerier one.

It's a first-person explorer set around sections of a grim post-Soviety city. All you strictly need do is find the point which will progress you to the next neighbourhood, the next level. But what's the hurry, what are you doing in your life that's so important? Take your time and explore. Like in It's Winter, it's not immediately clear what sort of game it is, what sort of world, nor what you can do here. Follow this surreal winding tunnel which bores through a building and you might find a strange underground waiting room with devices you don't understand. What's in this rooftop? Can I help these strangers at all? Are the consequences to stealing this? Who even am I? Will you ever find out the purpose of your three stats, Loneliness, Corporeality, and Reflexion? It feels full of secrets and mysteries even after completing it twice, an illusion so delightful that I don't want answers lest I discover quite how flimsy it is.

Exploring the night in a Neyasnoe screenshot.
Exploring the night in a Neyasnoe screenshot.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/sad3d, ИЛЬЯМАЗО

It's not a cheery game. It's exciting to explore as a player but everywhere feels tired and desperate for our character. While much could be set any time in the past 30 years, others show it's actually the future. It's an unchanging grimness. Some characters have hope or plans to change their lives and find something better, to leave the city, but I don't feel that for myself as I steal drinks and stumble around the dancefloor, a lack of hope I try to temporarily drown with hedonistic routine. I understand some folks don't want to touch anything coming out of Russia these days but Neyasnoe does at least not feel remotely glorying.

Also, Neyasnoe has a feature I want in every game: auto-dancing. If you've had a drink and walk onto the dancefloor, you automatically start pulling shapes, waving your arms wildly as you wobble around. Lovely stuff. It has some of the most alarmingly authentic first-person drunkness too, really nailing that feeling of lurching inertia. Pretty game, too.

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