Home Gay Gaming Greasemnk++ — Gay Wrath Given Violent Flesh

Greasemnk++ — Gay Wrath Given Violent Flesh

by Edwin Chris
Cyma faces down body horror and strange machinery.

“Pride month is over, time for LGBT wrath month,” was a jokey meme in 2017 that has found some endurance still to this day. Evocative of both the real world anger queer people feel at their continued mistreatment, and many of our natural desires to use comedy to mask dark truths, it’s not a surprise that a joke/not-joke like that caught on. “Gay wrath” is also the centerpiece of Greasemnk++, a 2023 release by fotocopiadora, and it is anything but a joke.

Originally a prototype made for the art collective DOMINO CLUB’s “Metal and Flesh” game jam under the title “Greasemnk,Greasemnk++ is a violent, disturbing, and strangely empowering sci-fi horror RPG that perfectly captures the scrap for survival against systems designed to keep the queer in line. To get a real sense of Greasemnk++‘s world, it’s perhaps better to look at DOMINO CLUB’s own mission statement:


DOMINO CLUB is interested in: small tools, web tools, low-tech tools, ditherpunk, low-poly, sustainability, narrative-heavy experiences, digital spaces, dark matter, web 1.0, DIY, piracy, remix, being gay & doing crimes, goofing off, zines, skeletons, glitches, little guys, hole

The main context menu for Greasemnk++.

Greasemnk++’s low poly 3d mixed with stark colors give it an unquiet, acid-damaged look.

Bring it to me, and then I’ll show you a good time.

Greasemnk++ opens with Cyma. Cyma, an assassin using a cybernetic battle suit called a “monk-frame,” has recently had his mid-term memory wiped in order to complete a kill—standard procedure in this dystopian techno-wasteland for top secret missions. But Cyma’s told that, despite this procedure, his mission isn’t top secret. Some of his memories remain, albeit scrambled: leather straps, thrusting hips, acid-damaged memories of a life before, and words guiding him to a box behind the counter.

Don’t sleep on it, man, the voice from his past says. They’ll get you, too. Bring it to me, and then I’ll show you a good time.

When Cyma lands in an undisclosed location, all he has is his suit, his wits, and an operator in his ear yelling at him to stay on mission: find the killer machine, and destroy it. The killer machine, however, is a clone of Cyma, his “machine half.” Cyma doesn’t seem particularly terrified of doing battle with this machine-clone—and the mission isn’t top secret, according to the operator. So why did they wipe his memory?

A difficult game that still respects your time

If that seems like a synopsis that contains spoilers, it isn’t: the player, much like Cyma, crash lands into Greasemnk++‘s undisclosed location as disoriented as he is, and is quickly machine-gunned the above information by the cold, distant operator that serves as his foil. Cyma stumbles through the inhospitable landscape on a mission to fight an enemy that he’s inexplicably tied to in ways his operator doesn’t want to go into detail on, by the orders of an organization he’s fairly certain doesn’t have his best interests in mind. Any queer that grew up in a Baptist Church in the 90s probably felt the same way listening to anti-gay sermons. Many today, I’m sure, feel the same way about the heteronormative systems that dominate queer lives.

RELATED: Our Favorite Gay Games of 2023 (And Why Games Will Be Gayer in 2024)

Greasemnk++ is not a long game nor an expensive one, and you really owe it to yourself to experience it first hand without spoilers. It’s challenging by every definition of the word: it’s a cyberpunk horror as unafraid of throwing Cyma to nightmarish enemies as it is unafraid of throwing the player into incredibly difficult combat. A perfect run probably takes an hour or so, but rest assured: you will not be perfect, and you will die. And the “worst” part is, you’ll know you deserved to, because the mechanics of combat are tight in a way that makes Greasemnk++ a cut above most other experiences you’ll have with a game this year.

Deep mechanics with hidden secrets

Though Greasemnk++ is a turned based RPG, every battle from the start feels like a struggle for your life. The game accomplishes this by carefully constructing a rock-paper-scissors system of sorts with Cyma’s weapons: his “Main Weapon,” which starts off with his blade, deals high damage, but can be evaded or interrupted. His “Auxiliary Weapon” has high accuracy and can interrupt high mobility targets his blade can’t hit, but ammunition is in short supply. And then there’s “Guard” and “Extension” which give Cyma various defensive skills to deal with the terrifyingly strong enemies Cyma finds during his mission, and also throw certain enemy patterns off balance.

This system, when combined with the fact that Cyma can rotate equipment on the fly during battle, means that he is capable of dealing with any threat with careful planning and patience, but the smallest slip up—be it not taking careful note of enemy patterns, or simply not planning out equipment usage properly—could result in the brutal end of a run.

To say much anything else about the plot is to spoil the direction and triumphant climax of the game, so you might want to skip to the end paragraph after the next two images.

Michael tells Cyma, "There are so many things neither of us knows how to say with words."

Michael and Cyma confront each other.

Violent and Queer

If you’re questioning why this game is termed “gay” after reading the opening paragraphs of this review, it’s important to note that Greasemnk++ is significantly more explicit about its queerness than I’ve indicated. The heart of Greasemnk++ is found in Cyma’s struggle with the nature of his mission, and trying to understand the desires of the machine-self he’s pitted against, an entity named Michael. You see, Michael—reportedly a bio-print wandering around in a monk-frame without a body or conciseness to guide it—has gone rogue, and is trying to define life for himself. He’s an incredible character, both tragic and terribly, terribly powerful, and in a game full of twisted body horror and government overreach, Michael’s descent is perhaps one of the most frightening and impactful moments I’ve had in any 2023 game, queer or otherwise.

Cyma asks the Operator to identify a hostile creature.

Great question, Cyma.

Blood-splattered fever dream

I have a lot of praise to heap on this game because Cyma’s tooth-and-nail crawl through the oppressive, droning environment of Greasemnk++ not only deeply effected me, but entranced me enough that I did multiple play-throughs to see if it has multiple endings. (It does, according to the developer, but the means of which to get them have thus eluded this reviewer.)

I love Greasemnk++ a lot, but it has some notable faults that we should address. It’s a game with a static save system—Cyma has to login to consoles scattered throughout the environment, some inconveniently placed, and I think there is a least a portion of playtime could’ve been cut down without the hike back and forth between encounter-to-save-point. This is not a game that would have been made less difficult by either fast travel to the last save point or just a free-roaming save system. Ultimately, the save system wastes time more than it adds suspense.

It is also worth noting that the narrative and content of this game is visceral, non-linear, and decidedly not for everyone. Greasemnk++ is a blood-splattered fever dream that leans more David Lynch than it does Ridley Scott, and those seeking clarity over an emotive experience are probably better off playing a different game. Greasemnk++ is for a very particular type of player, with a very particular type of energy they need to let out. Despite its short run time and a series of plot-threads that beg for further exploration, Greasemnk++ fulfills is a queer rebel yell of rage far louder and far better than anything else I’ve played this year. Here’s hoping for Greasemnk+++.

You can purchase Greasemnk++ on itch.io.

PROS:

  • Oppressive sci-fi/horror world rendered in a simple, powerful style
  • Very cool, very gross monster/machine designs
  • A feeling of dread that grabs you by the throat instantly, and won’t let go until the end
  • You really should try out every piece of equipment you get. (You know, for fun)
  • Exploring the above will reveal new gameplay mechanics so interesting you’ll want a second save file
  • Once understood, the game only takes around an hour or two to beat
  • Punishing difficulty that never feels unsolvable
  • Engaging, varied, and interesting battle system that stays fresh throughout the entire play-through
  • A randomized item mode for the truly masochistic. Good luck!
  • Michael
  • Cyma
  • Nightwish

CONS:

  • Save point layout and scarcity gives some artificial difficultly to a game that really doesn’t need it
  • Far too interesting and rich of a universe—and system mechanics—to be left at this small of a playtime

Overall Score: 90/100

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