I remember the first time I booted up Post Void vividly. The tutorial dumped me into a world where my head was in my hands and quickly losing its life-juices. The only way to stem that bleeding was to kill, and the only way out was through. I then ran and shot for what felt like forever beset by walls of screaming flesh, mouths where heads should be, eyestalks the size of houseplants, and hands with lightbulbs screwed on. Then I died and realized that all of that had taken place in about 3 minutes. It was exhilarating and I wanted another hit. So of course I went for another play, and another, and another. 30 minutes later my eyes hurt and I had to stop, but I knew I’d be back. I was hooked.
Post Void is an apt title on multiple levels, but particularly because the game bombards your senses like few do. Your eyes and ears will take a pummelling here as its world of acid fantasy is shoved directly into your brain. I could count the number of times I typically blink during intense runs on a single mutilated hand, and the burst of surf rock-infused guitar that greets you on each restart is a shot of adrenaline better than any espresso can offer. When I hit R out of an action game reflex and it respawned me immediately despite the game having no prompt telling me to do so I felt like the game understood. It knows what it is, what you need, what you came here for. You’re the monster and this is your horror movie. Get back in there and kill.
The word “aesthetic” gets thrown around a lot but is rarely used correctly. Aesthetics are more than a simple look; they’re a complete package that creates a cohesive whole, and hoo boy does PV have its aesthetic on lock. Played with headphones and lower room lighting the game induces flow like few can and does so almost instantly. Time seems to pass slowly as runs that take 4 minutes constantly feel like 30. It’s a surreal and bizarre experience, one that would have been the stuff of legend had it been shown exclusively at an art gallery, exhibition, or weird warehouses on the outskirts of major cities.
That said this is a game on Steam, and as a game PV doesn’t really have much going on. There’s only a handful of enemies, the levels aren’t particularly varied, and while it allows for some fast movement and sharp shooting there’s not a lot of mechanical meat on the bone. Even in accessibility mode it’s pretty hard to actually see the small enemies in the flurry of color and flashes, doubly so when said enemies can blind you and wash out the screen on a regular basis. Frustration will be a familiar sensation if you play enough to get good and your runs get longer.
Also it’s just kind of busted. Sometimes it doesn’t spawn enough enemies for you to refill your ever-draining lifebar. Sometimes you’ll round a corner into a crowd of enemies that’ll instantly end your run with two pops. Sometimes you won’t get the upgrades you need (shotgun). Sometimes you spawn into a level facing a wall and immediately get shot. Sometimes the game just softlocks. Sometimes, sometimes, sometimes. It’s certainly no ULTRAKILL as far as pseudo-retro shooters go, neither in terms of mechanisms nor polish. By the time I felt like I played this enough to actually review it I’d spent just over 6 hours (over multiple sittings of course) and let me tell you, that is too much Post Void.
So I’m in a quandary here. If I’m looking at PV as a “game critic” I can’t recommend it. It’s skint on content and what’s there really isn’t particularly tuned. Coming at it as a product reviewer it’s style over substance to the n’th degree and your mileage may vary, though the $3 price point makes it basically a non-issue. Coming at it as someone who just wants to play a cool thing? Hell yeah, it IS cool! Cool like little else! And as a piece of interactive art I find it absolutely fascinating. Games that are capable of generating emotional response are something that I’m always on the lookout for and my god does this one succeed.
And crucially, I think that’s what the devs were trying to achieve. They wanted to create a game that accomplished a few very specific goals: sensory overload by way of insanely flashy shooting, with catharsis afterwards. The fact that they have a Spotify playlist with other recommended tracks to play the game to is further proof that PV’s intended use is a purchasable art installation that just happens to resemble some familiar video game genres. Playing the game is a form of meditation by way of overload. You’ll walk from a 15 minute sit-down with your mind clear, peaceful, and quiet, or at least it’ll feel that way by contrast. What you should not do is ruin it by treating it like a regular video game, because it isn’t one.
I don’t feel much when I play Post Void anymore. The guitars no longer thrill. The enemies only frustrate. I’m numb to it all. I’ve built a tolerance to the experience that initially blew me away because I played it too much, too often. I overdosed and burned out that part of my brain. If you do play this game don’t be like me. Control your dosage. Play Post Void responsibly, possibly only on special occasions, and it may retain that magic spark for you. But it hasn’t for me, and now I’m left to look for my next fix.
Reviewed on Steam.