“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” – Maya Angelou
Angela He is a talented artist and game developer who has been regularly and consistently releasing beautiful, heartfelt games on itch.io (and other platforms) since 2017. Previously reviewed titles missed messages and a new life were no exception, providing emotional and relatable experiences upon a backdrop of stunning artwork.
There are currently a dozen titles published by He with most being available for free or on a ‘pay what you want‘ basis. The selection includes a 2.5d portrait maker, an awkward greeting simulator and a curiously preemptive game made in 2017 about a plague breaking out in 2020, however, the following games are some of the real highlights.
NOTE: Some of these games deal explicitly with sensitive topics such as mental health and domestic abuse as well as subjects of a sexual nature.
You Left Me
You Left Me was created within 48 hours for Ludum Dare 41, the game jam had the theme ‘combine two incompatible genres‘ which He addressed by mixing visual novel and point and click game genres with the juxtaposing narrative themes of psychological horror and humour.
The game tells a relatable and heartfelt story about coping (or not) with the loss of somebody close. This is set against moody and emotive artwork in Angela He’s signature style and complementary music.
A single playthrough will take around five – ten minutes or less but five different endings provide a decent amount of replayability. A sprinkling of more jovial moments occur to contrast the heavier themes of the game, largely in the form of interactions with the protagonist’s cute, one-eyed cat!
I Woke Up Next to You Again
I Woke Up Next to You Again is a short interactive romance novel and psychological thriller about more than just a one night stand. It will only take around five minutes to play but has four different endings to add to the overall experience.
I Woke Up Next to You Again alludes to modern noir titles such as Jessica Jones with its jazzy but climatic piano music and ominous sounds. This is suitably teamed with artwork that is almost entirely in black and white, including a particularly evocative cityscape and some stunning portraits that are typical of He’s work.
The game has a somewhat sinister feel to it with its focus on an unhealthy and addictive relationship and relatively dramatic possible plot twist for such a compact narrative. It deals with a specific but relatable situation that is undeniably difficult to navigate, drawing on the personal struggles and limitations of the protagonist. There is the potential for the player to reach both upsetting or empowering conclusions but the journey will be intentionally (and appropriately) uncomfortable.
He Beat Her
Another game made to a 48-hour deadline, He Beat Her was Angela He’s entry to Ludum dare 39 with the theme ‘running out of power‘. The player is rendered virtually powerless as they take on the role of a lawyer whose client has been accused of abuse. With the verdict only 5 minutes away, there is little time to decide what to do, find the truth and ensure justice is served.
He Beat Her addresses some serious subject matter and forces the player to explore all possibilities through a range of moral and immoral choices. It features the expected stunning artwork of all He’s games and uses a simple soundtrack to help build atmosphere.
The game is controlled via initially confusing text input dictating the actions of the protagonist, for example, ‘grab‘ followed by ‘purse‘. This provides over 235 possible choices that lead to 42 paths revealing the truth of the case meaning there is plenty of playtime to be had despite a single playthrough taking mere minutes.
“I think the best stories always end up being about the people rather than the event, which is to say character-driven.” – Stephen King
All of the above games are short, free experiences that are instantly recognisable as the work of Angela He, an artist, game developer and something of an auteur with most of her games including her signature charming art style and recurring selection of heavy themes and emotive subject matter centred around the personal, day to day experiences of the characters she creates. I’d happily recommend any and all of her titles, especially as even the priciest among them will only cost $2.99!
For more themed collections of free game reviews, take a look at the following articles:
Three for Free, Short Games by Dreamfeel – Five Free Games that Attempt to Tackle Mental Health Issues – Free Indie Games to Play in 30 Minutes or Less