Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Games you must play: Small Worlds

The AVClub's "Sawbuck Gamer" is a column highlighting cheap/free videogames--mostly flash games. It's a great feature, and it's made me realize that if you want to see people actually doing conceptually interesting things with the concept of gaming--actually pushing the boundaries beyond the usual "bigger, flashier" business--flash gaming is definitely the way to go. There aren't too many genuinely idiosyncratic auteurs in commercial gaming--Tim Schafer and Shigesato Itoi are the names that come to mind--both because of a general lack of imagination and because of commercial restraints. When people suffer from neither of these problems, the results can be breathtaking. As in Small Worlds, which is just...stunning. You need to play it: there's no "challenge" in the traditional sense, you can finish it in a half hour--but if there's ever been a commercial game this simultaneously gorgeous, horrifying, and heartbreaking, I sure don't know about it. I know that may make me sound like a pretentious goon, but this game is really, really something. You will NOT feel that your time was wasted.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous pontificated to the effect that...

Have you ever played Braid? It sounds like it might be up your alley. It was ported to the PC; you can get it online for like $10. It tries to tell an allegorical story, but I think it is most effective as a mood piece. The hand-painted 2D visuals are gorgeous, and the soundtrack is hauntingly melancholy. And the puzzles are mind-blowing.

SK

12:31 AM  
Blogger GeoX, who is here to stay, like it or not. pontificated to the effect that...

You know, I probably ought to. I think the reason I haven't so far is because the designer seemed kind of insufferable to me, and I felt quite certain that the story would annoy the hell out of me. Should probably still check it out, though, for the price.

5:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous pontificated to the effect that...

Yeah, from what I could discern, the designer is kind of an ass. The game is really pretty, though. The story is very sweet at the beginning, but unfortunately, toward the end, they start trying to turn it into some kind of annoying allegory. But the final level features a shocking plot twist, which is conveyed in a very unconventional way (it has to do with the game mechanic; there's no way to really describe it without giving it away).

Although I dislike the allegory, I have to say, the visuals and soundtrack are just beautiful. So, I would still recommend it.

SK

10:47 PM  

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