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So after playing Leave Home, Number 006 in hermitgames’ oeuvre, I thought I was ready
for anything. But I was wrong. I... I can’t even pronounce this. It’s like an NES password
blew up. The kind without vowels so you can’t just type in **** **** and giggle. Quarth-fill?
And it’s a... snake game. One of the most basic forms of game ever. Included on just
about every phone, the old laptop I used to have, and pretty much every CS 101 course
known to man. I’ve never been much of a fan of the style, but hermitgames went and
did something magical to it... he turned it into a weird, free-floating DOCUMENTARY. Kinda.
The basic gist is that you’re a snake-like thing, trying to consume dots while avoiding
running into either walls, lasers emitted from green dots, or yourself. Your control
is relative to the head of the snake, so if you’re moving “down” the controls kinda
invert. Every dot extends the length of the snake, and fills up the black box in the bottom
right near the score display. Once that fills up, a part of the plane you’re currently
occupying falls out, and you can pass through into... a previously unrealized space. Here
the idea’s the same, though your movement in 3D is a little more free. (By about half,
I’d say.) Collect enough dots in this mode and you can again escape to an exterior zone,
which may or may not have the same dimensions as last time. It’s constantly-altered, modular
sequences, the kind of which may be familiar to folks who enjoyed Leave Home. Of course,
there might be secret exits off of the plane, certain squares that just need the body heat
of something or other to open a path to... whatever the heck this is.
What it is is a kind of abstract documentary, chronicling the history of this particular
form of game. From the rise of Pac-Man to Tron’s light cycles, this snake actually
manages to travel through its own lineage in a dimension Sonic Generations couldn’t
even dream of. And then it’s back into the artifice, for a couple more stages of action,
followed by a return to the Apple II subspace for some more information. There’s edutainment,
buzzword of well-meaning parents the world over, but that doesn’t do this thing justice.
This is much more in the vein of Eternal Sonata, a fully-formed RPG experience that occasionally
diverges from its fantasy narrative to detail the life, times, and music of Frederic Chopin.
It’s informative, while not sacrificing minute one of gameplay. Just like Leave Home,
it’s a game with a story... that’s not really part of the game, though despite this
detachment (or, perhaps, as a result of it) that message is made all the more powerful.
Enough to make a film nerd weep. My little debased medium is growing up.