Some time ago, while chilling out in the Snesploration Podcast Discord server, as one does, I was streaming some Playstation games because we were all bored. Then the sometimes-host and also co-host of Hinge Problems, and overall Good Guy Rudie said, “hey Ramona, play Lattice!” My reaction was probably a lot like yours. “What the fuck is Lattice?” He said nothing. He only sent me a link to a lonely Google Drive folder that said RATTICE.ZIP.
The reasons why Rudie wanted me to play Lattice so bad was because he wanted to see if I could decipher what the game was. He couldn’t figure it out. Nobody else he showed the game to could figure it out. Now it was my turn to be confused.
It’s no wonder he wanted to show me this game. It’s fucking weird. Lattice manages to be both a game in an easily described sub-genre, and also a game that defies explanation. You fly down a series of tubes and rails, you shoot things, you pick up power-ups, you avoid obstacles, seems reasonable at first. It doesn’t sound any different from something like Tempest 2000, or even other PSX games like N20 or Internal Section.
Then you start to notice the changes pretty quickly. It’s not a straightforward shooter, you have to find keys by riding different sides of the rails you’re on. Every so often, an enemy will randomly appear and freeze you in place until you remember to use the “free-look” button to aim and shoot at it. The levels look linear, but are actually mazes. Confession: I have not been able to finish level 3 because the maze got way too confusing for me to figure out.
While this is all happening, keep in mind that you’re flying along at over 100 mph. Enemies and obstacles are oblong geometric shapes. There’s a constant flashing of lights and explosions. Things pop out at you immediately, giving you about half a second to react. Trying to navigate a wireframe map that you can only see a small part of. This fast, surreal game with a pounding EDM soundtrack. This is not your usual “trippy” game. After a point, it stops feeling like a game. After a point, it feels like the game equivalent of dissociating at 3 A.M. The feeling of your brain proceeding to shit itself and lose control of its cognitive reasoning. Everything is faster. Everything is brighter. The Fight Or Flight reflex is kicking in, but your body won’t respond. Nothing makes any fucking sense anymore.
And after all this, it hits me: this not your normal “weird” Japanese game. You know, the kind where if you could actually understand the language, you could decipher things pretty quickly, and the “mystery” becomes a “curiosity.” The slow, dawning horror of remembering that Rudie can speak, hear, read, and write Japanese fluently. He lives and works in Japan. Any mysterious video game that you or I can’t understand is most likely mundane for him. Rudie sent me a copy of this game because he couldn’t figure it out. It had to be sent to me, the resident Weirdo. The person who has lived and died by these one-shot Playstation games made and forgotten about before some of the people reading this post were even born. My brain is burning and patches of white are forming around my peripheral vision and the guy who speaks the language and understands the culture is confused and nothing means anything anymore.
Lattice is the one and only game made by nousite, inc. (capitalization as found). They still exist; you can “like” them on Facebook, even. nousite, inc. made this game, then dropped game development, moving into web design and then into app development for mobile devices. This only creates more questions than it answers.