While they often fall short of sci-fi author Arthur C. Clarke’s most enduring quote, computers are strange things that very few people truly understand. They’re not far off from bits of rock that we tortured into thinking, equipped as they are with Operating Systems, driver updates and (seemingly inevitably) computer viruses. And if the average user’s over-cluttered desktop is anything to go by, then the notion of a filing system is truly lost on people.
Outcore is Windows-exclusive game about computers being strange things that takes place on your desktop. First, a black, cloudy blob appears on your screen, demanding its missing file. So, you feed it the new file that has just appeared on your screen to see what happens. What ensues is as bizarre as it is endearing and, after a very brief taster at Digital Dragons 2022 in Krakow, I am very excited for its release this autumn.
Because what ensues is a Sailor Moon-esque sprite named Lumi coming out of the cloud – a more magical name than ‘server farms’ – with no memory of who she is and no idea why she’s on your desktop. Fortunately, computers have memories you can actually plunder, and so embarks your journey to help her figure who, and what she is.
This starts with Lumi asking you to feed her another file, which you quickly find is encrypted. Fortunately, to get to the safe that appeared over the top of it, all you have to do is draw a star in MS Paint. And then you have to draw a spaceship. This requires a little bit of creativity, though for me it mostly involved trying to remember that I’m not on my work Mac – curse you, command key!
Later puzzles have you messing around in Notepad and similar Windows-native software, and, as the game progresses, interacting with Lumi in richer gameplay environments, from platformers to a pinball machine and beyond
This game is graphically and audibly simplistic, given how it’s layered on top of Windows itself, but what really gets me is the quality of the writing. In the 10 minutes or so I spent with this game, I grew pretty attached to my new ghost in the machine. She is charming, funny and endearing, and I genuinely want to see where this game is going.
Who is Lumi? Why is she living on your desktop, poking around your files? Why do you have a 2.7Gb folder on your desktop labelled “Homework”. Only time will tell.
Outcore is still very much in development, although developer Doctor Shinobi expects it to be out this autumn. If you’re ready to give the game a bash, there’s a playable demo on Steam, where you can also add it to your Wishlist and catch up on dev updates as they come out.