Quick Thoughts On: Mussel

I have no great love for the CRT monitor. They’re fuzzy, bulky, and attempting to move them is like transplanting an electronic whale. Still, emulating the way games used to look on them has become a popular graphical style among smaller retro inspired games, curved edges and flickering scan lines fueling nostalgia as of you’re still sitting on the floor blowing into a cartridge.

It’s not a look I have any affinity toward, but Mussel makes it work through sheer power of presence. A pixelated Gradius-esq sidesrolling shooter, it abuses its CRT inspired visual overlay to where I couldn’t help but become transfixed as I watched the game nearly implode on itself. The screen shakes and flashes violently with every enemy killed and shot fired, power-ups distorting the image into chaotic incomprehension as enemy and player alike begin to ghost onto the screen, as if the game is trying to wrest itself from the clutches of technology and spring to life in front of you. It’s overwhelmingly intense and captivating even to the point of obscuring the things you’re meant to be avoiding, yet I couldn’t look away and hoped the game would never calm down.

Mussel’s outrageous, self-destructive style is so in your face that I almost forgot I was even playing a game, which is fine as as a shooter Mussel is perfectly enjoyable if not especially deep. Every card has been played into the game’s digital rampage of flickering pixels, and in this case it’s a single trick well worth investigating, putting fellow would-be CRT replicants to shame with its unfiltered ode to image degradation.

"Quick Thoughts" is a subset of my normal reviews for smaller games which might not fit into a full review but I still have something to say about.
Mussel was developed by Jonathan Whiting and is available for free on itch.io.

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