NEO Scavenger

When I originally bought this game several years ago, it was on a random whim during a sale. I played it for about 15 minutes, and was so turned off by the way it looks and the unintuitive interface that I pretty much immediately uninstalled it. This was a big mistake.

I recently re-installed it, determined to give it another shot, and what I discovered, underneath the (genuinely off-putting) flash game look and feel, is a game of truly staggering complexity and compelling depth.

NEO Scavenger is a game in which you can wrap a rag around your face when exploring buildings to avoid inhaling toxic mold, pry open the lock on a storage shed with your crowbar, find an empty soup can and a left shoe, and pump your fists into the air in triumph IRL because now you won’t have to worry about getting blistered feet, and you can boil the water you’ve been finding to make it safe for consumption. Now, if only you had some pants…

Similarly, no other game has ever filled me with such joy and sheer relief at finding an adult-sized backpack. Such an item enables you to carry enough wood and water that you don’t have to keep stopping every few spaces to make camp, and you can make much better time on foot towards that mysterious glow in the East!

One game, I was attacked by a feral dog, who I beat to death with my bare hands, falling down into the mud and becoming exhausted. Using a shard of glass, I skinned the beast after it died from internal hemmorhaging brought on by my pummeling. I took its meat and cooked it over a fire, overjoyed that I’d figured out how to do so. Delicious, life-giving dog meat. I used its hide to wrap around the glass shards and make a crude shiv, not knowing what else to do with it. I was then set upon by a bandit who’d heard my struggles with the dog, to whom I surrendered, knowing I stood no chance. He left me naked and near death from hypothermia. I ran into the woods and quickly built a fire as night fell, plotting my revenge, sleeping fitfully on the ground. When dawn broke, I went to the nearest building and by sheer chance, found some clothing and a crowbar. I went in search of the bandit who took my dog meat, only to find him dead near some other buildings. The wastes are cruel indeed.

If you miss Wasteland 1, if you think Fallout 2 really badly needed detailed wound dressing and immune system mechanics, this is the game for you. It would be really nice if you could choose to play as a woman, but privately I suspect that the creator didn’t want to deal with modeling pregnancy or the menstrual cycle. Can’t say as I blame him.

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