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Album Review

 Into Dreams

Written by: Zack

Into Dreams is the latest album by Epson, an artist who has released hit after hit in the late-night lo-fi scene. With vaporwave like this, you want the entire album to be an experience, one track blending seamlessly into another. The smooth jazz and R&B beats create the feeling of walking downtown after a long party. You’re tired from the night’s festivities, but you have a spring in your step. 


Album Art By: EPSON

Right off the bat, we have what is easily the strongest track in the album, “VCR Melt”. As the title suggests, this song is a melty, ooey-gooey slope of slow R&B beats that open up to a ballad of beautiful synths, all while sampled vocals phase in and out. They are recognizable, but just before you can fully recall the song it fades away like a long-forgotten memory. VCR Melt effortlessly guides the listener into the rest of this album. 

This is not to say that this opening track does all the heavy lifting. The sampling and consistent production throughout gives the listener a great transition into songs like “Space Jeep” and “Epson 93-95”. What this album is, above all, is an experience reminiscent of classic vaporwave — capital “V” vaporwave if you will. 

At the end of the night, that’s where Into Dreams is trying to take you. Tracks like “Captain Midnight” are reminiscent of classic artists like Infinity Frequencies and Mindspring Memories while tracks like “ⓡⓔⓛⓐⓧ ⓡⓔⓜⓘⓧ” feel almost like Lux Elite B-Sides. With Into Dreams, the listener is transported into this world of hazy, smooth synths and distant drums. What Into Dreams is trying to sell you on is the holistic experience of late-night delights. Pun absolutely intended. 

However, some might find the thematic cohesion of this album a negative. People love singles, and aside from VRC Melt and the album’s closing track “Deja Vu”, the album can’t really be picked apart. With most of the tracks being under two minutes, listeners might find it hard to tell the difference between tracks like “Which Wayand “Memphis Socks.  

To that point though; why would you want to pick apart individual tracks? I mean, this album is clearly meant to be consumed as a whole, and leaving tracks out is ultimately cheapening the experience. Like leaving the pickles out of the burger you ordered from the hole-in-the-wall diner downtown. Just like this record, it gives you savory satisfaction. Just eat the damn pickles. 

Into Dreams offers a reliable late-night lo-fi experience that harkens back to classic vaporwave aesthetics. While some listeners might see this as a relatively safe release with few extraordinary qualities that might help it stand out from the sea of classic vaporwave sounds, this Epson album is still a solid choice if you’re aiming to recreate that nostalgic feel.


Self-Checkout Unlimited

Game Review

Self-Checkout Unlimited

Written by: C A S I N O  

It is hard to say whether or not walking simulators should be considered games. After all, there is no such thing as losing or winning in these sorts of games and most of your time will be spent holding down the W key on your keyboard to move forward. As such, they need to make up for their lack of actual gameplay with striking visuals, a proper mood-setting soundtrack, and an engaging story that has the player coming back for more. The question is, does Argent Games’ “Self-Checkout Unlimited” tick off all the right boxes?

The game starts off with your faceless and silent protagonist waking up in an empty, mid-90’s indoor mall with no obvious way of getting out. It is up to you to explore this strange embodiment of American consumer culture and to find your way out, though the game makes it very clear that not all is as it seems with posters telling you “Rapture is giving up the need to control” and reminding you  “Nothing that you see here was, is, or ever will be real.”  Directed by the friendly voices coming from intercoms above head, you go on a journey of self-discovery and self-reflection to find out who you really are and exactly what it is you are supposed to be doing in this big scary world of ours.

If it sounds deep, that is because it is, but also it is not. It is like looking down into the depths of a giant pool that seems to have no bottom… only to jump in and discover that what you thought was an endless abyss was actually only about two feet deep and now your legs are broken. Throughout the game you go to various stores, each with its own purpose in helping you discover your true self, but the game never seems to get to any kind of point. It tosses around a lot of deep sounding words and phrases, but at no point did I feel like they had any kind of meaning to them.

Furthermore, there is very little interactivity in the game. There are a couple of very minor puzzles, but most of the time your tasks involve walking from point A to point B and occasionally placing object C into spot D, and the above is only done in the context of progressing the game forward. It seems like such a waste to have an entire (albeit rather small) mall at your disposal and for there to be so little to do. There are only five outlet stores which are open to you in this place which exist solely for the purpose of progressing the story forward. The others are closed off and kept in darkness so you cannot even go inside to have a look around.

What the game does get right, though, are the visuals and sound design. Clean and polished tile floors reflect the lights that shine overhead, the constant babbling of the grand fountain in the middle of the shopping center, the barely audible Muzak that plays from unseen speakers. The soundtrack is completely original to the game and was produced by Mr. Zunino, along with beloved vaporwave producer desert sand feels warm at night, who provided the music for the more abstract parts of the game. The Stores and small size aside, this place feels like the proper abandoned mall that fans of 猫 シ Corp. keep dreaming about. Furthermore, as you go along your quest you will be transported to other settings that are staples of the vaporwave genre such as an indoor swimming pool and a seemingly endless parking lot.

All in all, “Self-Checkout Unlimited” really nails the aesthetics, but with a price tag of eight bucks and a shallow experience that only lasts for around an hour, it is a damn shame that the developers could not do more with i

Argent Games


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