'Pinstripe' Makes for a Lovely Hell

Thomas Brush's talent is in creating compelling worlds through images that are both whimsical and haunting in equal measure.


Publisher: Armor Games
Price: $14.99
Players: 1
Developer: Thomas Brush
Platforms: PC
Release date: 2016-04-24

Thomas Brush excels at creating worlds.

I first encountered Brush's work some number of years ago at Newgrounds. I found his two short platformers Coma and Skinny especially compelling because of the strangeness of their worlds and the quirkiness of these games' overall sensibilities.

Each of them are often both whimsical and haunting in equal measure, and his full-length follow-up to those initial Flash games, the recently releasedPinstripe, shares that same quality.

Like Brush's other games, Pinstripe seems interested in transitions from one state of awareness to another. If Coma and Skinny both concern sleep and waking, Pinstripe is more concerned with the dawning of revelation and the possibility of reaching a redemptive state. In that regard, there's a change in some of Brush's presentation from the ambiguously symbolic to a more straightforwardly told allegory. While a player walking away from Coma and Skinny may come away with a sense of the obscurity of many of Brush's symbols and characters, Pinstripe reveals its purpose and themes quite clearly by the time that it's over.

Brush borrows here one of the most common tropes of video games, the need to rescue the girl, in his story of a father who chases down a strange and sinister figure called Pinstripe who has abducted his daughter, Bo. While love may be a motivating factor for this mission, this iteration of “saving the princess” is not characterized by romantic interest, of course, but instead by the love of a father for his daughter -- and, perhaps, the obligation that entails. That obligation becomes more apparent as the backstory of Ted, the game's protagonist and a former minister, is fleshed out, and his need for proving himself as a good father and protector becomes altogether clearer.

As noted before, though, Brush's real talent is in creating compelling worlds through a marriage of whimsical and haunting images and sounds. Pinstripe's version of Hell, which is the landscape where the game takes place, is more often weird and curious than it is horrifying. It's populated by odd characters with strange motivations and bizarre charms.

The gameplay itself involves some mild puzzling and mild platforming. Like his other games, the mechanics themselves are minimal. As a result, the game is easy to pick up and has a breezy pacing and difficulty.

The game is worth playing simply for the sake of seeing what odd new character or places Brush will present next to the player. Brush has a knack for representing the intriguingly strange through his unusual visuals and through unexpected dialogue and just plain, old moments of oddity and the absurd.

Pinstripe is a more polished and complete work than anything that Brush has created to date, and I hope that it foreshadows his continued commitment to the creation of lovely strange worlds.


From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Net Neutrality and the Music Ecosystem: Defending the Last Mile

Still from Whiplash (2014) (Photo by Daniel McFadden - © Courtesy of Sundance Institute) (IMDB)

"...when the history books get written about this era, they'll show that the music community recognized the potential impacts and were strong leaders." An interview with Kevin Erickson of Future of Music Coalition.

Last week, the musician Phil Elverum, a.k.a. Mount Eerie, celebrated the fact that his album A Crow Looked at Me had been ranked #3 on the New York Times' Best of 2017 list. You might expect that high praise from the prestigious newspaper would result in a significant spike in album sales. In a tweet, Elverum divulged that since making the list, he'd sold…six. Six copies.

Keep reading... Show less

Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

Keep reading... Show less

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.