October 29, 2009


You should go and play this right now, and then come back. It’s called Small Worlds. It’ll only take you, what, 10 minutes? 15? It’s really cool. Leave the sound on. Play it. Then we’ll talk.

Played it? Ready for spoilarz? Alright then.

This is a really damn good art game. It has a theme that it’s playing on in multiple different ways, and I think it’s effectively open to other interpretations than the one I am going to give you, which is just… neat. I love the art game movement.

Basically, I feel like the theme is that of an expanding world, and what that means. So often, in all of the areas, you start off in a very serene kind of setting, when zoomed in, but as you explore, the camera pulls back, and as the camera pulls back you see more and more of what it actually is. You start in what seems like a Space Station of some kind. A pretty space vista. Then you pull out and see the destruction and isolation and whatnot. In the same way, a winter wonderland slowly turns into a nuclear winter wonderland, and a cave turns into the innards of a horrible monster, etc.

However, the game doesn’t just stick to that mechanic to prove it’s theme. It also uses gameplay itself to push that forward, which I think is beyond excellent. The moment when you realize that you have a goal, and aren’t just exploring to explore, when you find that first little power block? The world of the game expands there. Suddenly, so much more of what you’re seeing has meaning. It’s a search for those blocks. What it means changes, much like how what you are viewing changes when you pull the camera out.

The ending, too, supports a final kind of thesis. After accomplishing your goal, you realize it was for nothing. Everything you thought was significant disappears: The music, the little dude you were controlling… all there is is a sun. Your quest, your existence was insignificant in the bigger picture. When you zoom out far enough, everything changes.

Yeah. I really liked this one. It used gameplay EXTREMELY well to make its point. Some art games, like, say, Today I Die, are neat, but the gameplay is not, you know, necessarily the important part of the experience, even though it is there? You could watch a video of someone playing Today I Die and probably get as much out of it as if you played it. I don’t think you can separate the gameplay from the whole idea and experience of Small Worlds. I like it for that.

Hopefully you at least thought it was neat, hm?

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