Here at Checkpoint Gaming, our team is filled with queer contributors. We always love to champion and celebrate the games that are queer, are made by queer creators, tell a queer story, and/or feature queer themes. So, we’re kicking off a monthly feature highlighting a queer game each month. What better way to start things off than with the Melbourne-made Cyber Paradise?
Cyber Paradise is a 2D roguelite adventure that has players exploring a digital realm with a cyberpunk, neon coating. The player controls Hayley and must jaunt through this realm, uncovering memories of a deceased dog by the name of Mini. This will in turn eventually revive the furry friend, bringing joy to the main character Hayley but also the populants of Mini’s cafe, home to many a regular, including Mini’s owner Samuel.
I first became aware of Cyber Paradise on the PAX Aus 2023 PAX Rising floor. Stepping away from my hands-on with the demo, I was awestruck by how responsive and fun the minute-to-minute gameplay already was even in its alpha state. Each time they kill an enemy, Hayley receives a buff or perk, represented by a card. Before long you’ve got stacks upon stacks, aiding by expanding your damage output tenfold, turning your original single jump into the potential for a quadruple jump and so on. There’s even the bizarre; you can have a small shield made up of floating dogs orbiting around you, hurting enemies that come into contact with them and preventing you from damage. Or a parry that comes in the form of petting the digital representation of Mini that’s running around with you, briefly popping up a shield when you do so. Adorable.
The art is also striking, having that retro-style CRT filter over everything to further highlight just how distorted your dreamlike situation is. The enemy designs are incredibly varied and this is potentially a symptom of the game being in alpha and not yet having final designs down pat. I almost want some of them to remain though. Why exactly are you fighting enemies that resemble little mushrooms that have big Maplestory enemy energy? What’s the deal with those animated scribes of paper you’re tackling? I don’t exactly know but it works in that disjointed dream way.
Cyber Paradise is being developed by DDmeow Games, a wife-wife development team based here in Melbourne, Australia. Having a run-of-the-mill cyberpunk story would make it challenging for a game to set itself apart from the crowd. Telling said story and setting it through a queer lens is the very thing needed to pique my interest. Half of the narrative is told to you via Mimi’s uncovered memories. The other half is through catch-ups at Mimi’s cafe where you’ll get to chat with the regulars, strengthen bonds, and the like. These include what is described by the studio as both “pet-centric and light-hearted queer dialogues”. But one of these examples is the awkward, endearing, and queer panic one can have with another where they fear something they say is misconstrued or rejected. Something like what I’ve got for you below.
DDmeow Games being a wife-wife developer telling this story with queer themes has its own unique advantages. Being queer and collaborating with another queer person, let alone that individual being your significant other, is eye-opening. Suddenly your work with another being is on the same wavelength. Ideas flow that wouldn’t if you were working with someone of a different background. I say this and speak from experience because I’m queer, a creative and a writer. So is my partner. The times we have gotten to work together on pieces, bouncing ideas off of one another… they coalesce into real and beautiful art. That’s something I want to experience and feel when I finally play Cyber Paradise when it releases later this year. I want to see how all these promising, gorgeous, queer puzzle pieces fit together.
The very reason I wanted to start this queer games highlight feature with Cyber Paradise is that there are some genres and ideas that queer people just get more than anyone else. Cyberpunk is a big one, a genre all about the future and transhumanism and how anyone can be the person they want to be. A very real, queer, and trans theme. It’s a genre important to me, so even when the giant studios tackle the topic and, despite maybe being well-intentioned, kind of miss, it stings. We need to hold on to the queer creators tackling the hard topics and tackling them right. They need to be championed and regarded as the representation we all should be striving for. For the love of all things queer.
Cyber Paradise has a demo available now on Steam. It’s worth your time and a great tease of what’s to come when it releases sometime in 2024. Stay tuned for future queer game highlights from us here at Checkpoint.