This is the one hundred thirty-fourth entry in the Scratching That Itch series, wherein I randomly select and write about one of the 1741 games and game-related things included in the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality. The Bundle raised $8,149,829.66 split evenly between the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and Community Bail Fund, but don’t worry if you missed it. There are plenty of ways you can help support the vital cause of racial justice; try here for a start. Lastly, as always, you may click on images to view larger versions.

Another random selection from the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality is fading into view with a wash of ambient synths. It’s HubWorld, by jeremyulrich, and its tagline in the bundle reads:

Interact and explore.

I think I should be able to manage that.

HubWorld is a peaceful and relaxed first-person exploration game. The only option in the options menu is a volume slider, which is a bit disappointing because HubWorld uses mouselook, yet fails to offer an inverted mouse option (as so many games fail to do). It also seems like mouse sensitivity is higher in the horizontal direction than the vertical direction. But this hardly matters, because HubWorld is a very short and simple thing.

Upon starting the game, players are dropped into a field full of tees and flowers, and let loose to wander around. It is bright and colorful, with a lo-fi pixel art style, yet given a dreamlike quality because everything beyond a very short distance is slightly out of focus. As if the player suffers from myopia. The soothing music, made up of ambient synthesizer drones, aids this feeling. The most obvious touchstone is Proteus, but HubWorld is much simpler than that, with smaller areas to explore and lacking the connection between the music and the environment. Yet the feeling of playing it is similar.

After wandering around for a bit, players can press the left mouse button to advance to the next level. There are four of these in total, and like Proteus they are nominally associated with different seasons. But there are other changes as well. The second level replaces the bright and cheerful sun with a more subdued but still majestic moon, and a bit of rain. The third might be a winter scene, but the pink sky and pink trees make it hard to be certain. And I’m not sure what’s going on with the fourth level.

The musical tracks that accompany each level are only about a minute long, after which they fade away and only the soundscape of gentle rain or waves hitting the shore remains. This seemed odd at first, but really there’s not that much to see in each stage, so the fading music acts as a gentle affirmation that yes, it’s OK to move on now, if you like. Perhaps my only complaint (aside from the lack of an inverted mouse option) is that there isn’t actually much interaction in the game, despite what the tagline claims. I found a few mysterious and semi-hidden things in the different levels, but was unable to do anything with them. I was also disappointed that I could not approach the cute little ducks in the ponds, finding myself blocked by an invisible wall near the waterline.

But it’s hard to complain about these limitations in such a short and simple game. HubWorld absolutely succeeds at creating a blissful mood, and it’s a lovely way to spend a few minutes, checking out the beautiful scenery and listening to the calming music and ambient sound. It doesn’t need to be more than this. If a few minutes of relaxation sounds good to you, give HubWorld a look. If you missed it in the bundle, it’s sold for whatever price you like, including free. The short soundtrack, also composed by Jeremy Ulrich, is available from Bandcamp for $1 as well.

That’s 134 down, and only 1607 to go!