Playing with the short games of French creator Armel Gibson is a bit like interacting with a music video. If you're like me and you spent hours of the 1990s falling down weird late-night rabbit holes of shape and sound on late night video blocs, you should look into his works.
USS TLANCY is billed oddly as "kind of like a battleship dating sim without dating." It's ridiculously simple: You languidly swing the mouse around to aim your battleship guns at tiny planes and click to fire torpedos at other watercraft. But it's just slightly offbeat — a serious-looking Tom Clancy flaps his jaw at you and suggests you destroy an entire fleet, and the stubborn violet color palette seems highly at odds with the author's Cold War inspirations.
It's the music (apparently created by a COM TLANCY) that makes USS TLANCY worth recommending, though. Playing with headphones, the simple, repetitive action becomes inexplicably engaging. You start to feel like you're leading some kind of bright purple bullet hell symphony.
Gibson's 2013 game Gulag Paradise was an entry in a French homebrew contest with the theme of au travail (work). If I wanted to go all critical interpreter, I'd call it a commentary on the labor that popular games often demand, alongside the illusion of choice. But it's a simple typing game with multiple endings that depend on the player's interaction with a sort of work camp counselor/slaver figure, who looms vaguely scribbled against the surreal and beautiful sunset.
Again, it's the gentle flow of the game and how it's paired with high-quality music that makes Gulag Paradise worth experimenting with — something about it draws you in, makes you nod your head slowly alongside the simple movements of your hands.
What are Gibson's games 'really about?' It doesn't seem to matter compared to the confluence of your senses across these games that feel like songs. If you have a few minutes today, these little works are free and worth playing with.