Wednesday, 23 July 2014

A Dark Room

Created by Doublespeakgames

2 hours 

Haven't written for a bit, was starting to worry that I wasn't really finding any games worth blogging about until I found this gem from doublespeak games

Taking minimalism to new heights - this is the first screen for "A Dark Room":

You start the fire. You try to keep the fire going. You need to get more wood to to keep the fire going. There is no telling where you are or what you have to do apart from just keep stoking the fire. The room gets warmer. Suddenly a stranger hurtles through the doorway and collapses in the corner. It is freezing outside apparently. She does nothing for a while as you find you need to collect more wood, a new option appears for you to visit the forest outside. When you have gathered more wood, the person has thawed and says she can build things, and if you build more things, people will come.

This is the beginning of a seriously EPIC adventure in text form. You have no idea what is coming next but as you figure out the game's rhythms and try to balance your resources, you slowly become obsessed by it, collecting things you don't know the use for (yet) and consumed by a burning desire to build and learn more things.

I'll give you some carrots for perseverance. 1 - there is a map. 2. If you play your cards right you'll see the stars. 

From zero to space hero in the most minimal way possible. This is evolution at it's finest. JP :)

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Garbage Dreams

Created by Duane Dunfield, Mai Iskander, Jeremy Bernstein, Kevin Kulp, Sean Nadeau, Alex Court

10 - 15 mins (but you'll probably need to play more than once and have good mouse skills)

Ok, hands up who knows stuff about recycling? Well, I know that I throw my paper, plastic and glass into an opaque bag and Mr Trashman takes it far far away from my conscience never to return. And that's all I need to know right? Even if I'm ignorant of why recycling is important, how recycling happens and what its limits are.

Fortunately for the likes of me and my conscience there's Garbage Dreams, a promo game for the 2009 film by Mai Iskander that seeks to increase our knowledge by pitting us against the recycling powers of the Zaballeen (
Arabic for "garbage people") who live and work in the world's largest garbage village. 

You start with one neighbourhood, one factory and one hungry goat, and the objective is to expand your business as much as possible within 8 rounds. You have to stay within budget, make the right decisions with regards to upgrades and expansions, and then have quick mouse skills to recycle the right waste within the given time.

Immediately I was forced to learn about recycling in order to progress; I learned why I couldn't recycle things like coffee cups and plastic bags and found myself investing in education, and found it more profitable learning to recycle a greater variety of things rather than a greater volume of things. 
Also it became quickly apparent that each neighbourhood around Cairo had different characteristics and therefore had different costs to maintain and develop.

On the outskirts of Cairo, Garbage Dreams gives us a window into the way of life of the afore-mentioned Zaballeen. For centuries they have recycled a whopping 80% of the waste they collect to become the most efficient recycling community in the world. Unfortunately their livelihoods have been threatened by privatisation of the cities recycling services. Cairo has given contracts to companies that are only recycling 20% of the city's waste and leaving the rest to landfill. It's a situation which is ongoing and the Zaballeen waste system has since received international recognition as a model to follow.  

Be patient with this game. It's hard and it's not immediately rewarding. However I think the knowledge of recycling you gain, combined with a community under threat, along with a wider message of consumerism and privatisation makes it worth including in this blog. It's certainly unique, and I don't think a more in-depth game about recycling has ever been made. Enjoy - JP  

Monday, 10 March 2014


Created by Dyl

Music by Broove

2 mins 

This is ALZ, a brief but moving encounter with a world of ever increasing confusion and gentle but horrible suffering. Warning: spoilers ahead so if you want the full experience play ALZ now before reading on.

I thought it would be better to write a little more - I'm actually feeling slightly choked up as I write this, and I have no experience of people with Alzheimers (did you get the clue in the name?) The poor guy! It's amazing how I got from "lah dee dah, what's going to happen" to a dejected "...oh..." in under 2 mins.  

This is not a game. This is not interactive art. There's nothing to do here but join in with the sad story of someone losing his mind. It's important to say that much of the pathos created is because of a fantastic soundtrack by Broove, who I will shortly be asking to join my music library :)

In the words of the author - "have a forgotten, but hopefully not forgetful, experience". - JP

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Momiga (The Most Minimal Game Ever)

Created by Rogerio Penchel

2 mins (more if you're not very good at pressing one button) 

See this screenshot above? That's the most un-minimal screen in the game. Most of the time you'll see this:

Ya, deal with it. The reason why I've included Momiga is because it's actually very fun and eminently re-playable. An immense achievement for a game comprising of one button and one dot. Should I tell you what happens to the dot? Nah, let's keep it minimal :)

Monday, 24 February 2014

The Asylum 

(Psychiatric Clinic for Abused Cuddly Toys) 
Created by Parapluesch

About 2+ hours (unless you're a psychiatrist) 

This is a very, very dear game. One of my friends works in psychiatry and I just watched her laughing her head off as she was told that cuddly toys have no defence against the violent tantrums of their owners in a dysfunctional lonely world, and then I watched her methodically try to diagnose the mental health problems of a traumatised stuffed snake. And suddenly there you have it - the most realistic sim I've seen of psychiatric therapy that exists on the net, and it involves sock puppets, crazy toys, cuddly drugs and fluffy dream therapy.  

Once you get past the badly drawn nurse, what becomes immediately apparent in The Asylum is the incredibly high level of depth and personality in our cuddly characters, and the Sherlock Holmes-like diligence needed to solve the mystery of their cutesy wutesy mental illnesses.  


In gameplay, tests on our furry friends do not work if applied haphazardly, also it sometimes takes time and repetition for a breakthrough to occur. This quickly brings home a sense of responsibility and commitment to the toy, and I admit I felt brilliant when I actually "helped" a toy overcome it's early 'toyhood' trauma. I now feel adequately qualified to go into an Asylum and give a few treatments here and there with my sock puppet :) 

Meanwhile it's isn't exactly clear what Parapluesch's motive is, why does this game exist? Throughout the game there are opportunities to buy a real toy as portrayed in the game, so I guess the motive could be to get people to buy cuddly toys, but the game is so deep and relatively unknown that I thought it unlikely that it's a for profit. There are crossovers with other toy projects, links to field studies, a link to a forum which had scores of "doctors" posting about treatment of cuddly toys... 

Digging a bit further into the Parapluesch website, there are diagrams on psychoanalysis of cuddly toys, you can find referral letters for each character, and even discussions on animism (the idea that non-human entities, including animals, plants, and often even inanimate objects can have souls). This is clearly much more than just a simple game. In fact I feel a bit like I've discovered some strange spiritual cult. What on earth is going on here? 

I finally googled the name "Martin Kittsteiner", the contact name at the bottom of the Parapluesch page, and found the truth. Martin Kittsteiner is a toymaker from Hamburg that thought it would be a good idea to create and sell toys with psychiatric problems that you could then solve online. There are brief articles and interviews scattered around the net in 2010 and nothing since, but the game remains and is being discovered to this day. Well. I hope Martin is doing well out of it. I'm going to order a Sly snake, or a Dr Wood crow. And never never do anything bad to it ever.

This is a great example of an idea FAR surpassing it's original intentions, I would argue that most players don't even know The Asylum is more than a web game, but many will wonder at how something so deep could ever have been created. Well now you know - Enjoy! - JP

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Treasure Box 

Created by Nanahiro Wada 

About 5 mins (longer if you can't read music).

Ever wanted to PLAY the beginning of a Monty Python's Flying Circus? Well now you can with Treasure Box, created by Nanahiro Wada. It took me a while to track him down, but I really do recommend clicking his name above and catching a glimpse of his world - it's a good world and certainly very wacky. 

Anyway I won't dwell here too much. Treasure box is exactly what it says on the tin, it also has an ageless feel that adds to the inward pleasure of this interactive visual feast. If you can't read music it might take you slightly longer, but only slightly. Enjoy the game :) - JP 

Monday, 17 February 2014

400 Years 

Created by Scriptwelder

About 10 - 30 mins

Scriptwelder's rather zen offering takes patience. 400 years of patience to be exact. You are a sort of walking Easter Island head who wakes from his slumber with the vague knowledge that some sort of calamity is approaching. A calamity that you are going to try your damned hardest to prevent... in a very measured fashion of course. And off you trot at a stone's pace to do something to save the world.

Playing 400 Years can be a bit laggy on some browsers (the best link for me was the one I've posted here) and you may find yourself cursing our hero's inability to move faster or jump but these are all tolerable conditions in order to marvel at how the game uses TIME to overcome this. Your superpower is simply to be able to wait and not die, while helping your environment develop to aid you (mini spoilers ahead). 

The first time I watched my power manifest itself, I watched the seasons whizz by so that I could walk across a frozen lake in winter. This was mildly intriguing. When I planted a chestnut and waited decades for it to grow into a tree to climb, I felt that this was rather special. By the time I was helping civilisations out of hunger by introducing crops to them, so that they evolve and build bridges for me; that's when I realised I was playing a great game. 

400 years is a unique gaming concept that hasn't been explored in this way before. The music is great too, a tinkling soundtrack that adds to the feeling of biding one's time and patience. Finally the ending made me feel that I'd experienced a mini fable of timeless and dignified self-sacrifice without expectation. Enjoy! - JP