There Is No Game: Wrong Dimension
This isn't a venue for game reviews, but I absolutely loved this game and need to talk about it to anybody who will listen.
Classic adventure games are wonderful, but they were released in a time where puzzle solutions could be painfully intricate in a way that doesn’t always make for a fun game nowadays. We’ve all read the Old Man Murray Article explaining that adventure games died at the brutal hand of adventure games.
(aside: I should start saving relics of the old internet like this just in case whatever crusty, ancient server they live on disappears all-of-the-sudden. I don’t want to live in a world without Time To Crate in it.)
There Is No Game is a classic adventure game. You’re in for 5 hours of grabbing objects and trying them out on every part of the scenery. The puzzles are painfully intricate.
Oh, but the twist!
This is a puzzle game where, by and large, the puzzles are… fourth-wall-breaking video game UI puzzles. If there is a UI element on screen at any point, you’d better believe you’re going to need to pry it out of the UI with a crowbar and use it as a piece in the puzzle.
Oh, and the UI doesn’t want you to use it. The whole game bristles with soft malice, which is a fabulous joke.
there is an achievement you can get for opening the game and immediately falling for this
The Game’s determination to keep you out only increases from there as it continually tries—politely at first, but rising in fervor as you refuse to take the hint—to barricade all traces of interactivity behind increasingly impenetrable obstacles; the more persistent you are in sticking around, the harder the Game strives to drive you away.
The puzzle design in this game is brilliant. You’ll be combing through the UI, the title screen, the credits, the pause screen, even the background music in your quest to conquer this intransigent game. it helps that the ever-present narrator in this game is (accidentally) dropping hints as you go, with more hints forthcoming when you’ve spent a little bit too long staring at a puzzle. The hint system in this game is generous - so generous that it’s almost a touch frustrating at times - it’s like game, I could have figured this out on my own, thanks - but the hints are just as clever as the puzzles, just little accidental turns of phrase in the narration intended to guide your thinking.
As an example of the hint system at play: there is a puzzle whose solution involves tickling something. And so, prior up to that scene, the game works the word “tickle” into conversation a couple of times, organically, like, so that the concept of “tickling” is psychologically primed when you finally get to the puzzle. Sometimes the part of the UI that you’re supposed to click on will gleam slightly or wave in the breeze. This game is operating on levels. I only had to click the “help” button a few times in my 5-hour playthrough. (In both cases, I had thought something was maybe broken, but had instead just misunderstood a mechanic).
There is No Game has got its game history and fourth-wall-breaking jokes on lock. It contains a joke referencing the same Old Man Murray article that I just did, and goes on at some length lamenting it’s own failed Kickstarter campaign. My only criticism here is that it decides to dunk on the easy target of terrible free-to-play games a little too hard.
I want to post screenshot after screenshot, but the game is so surprising and joyous that I’m afraid I’d ruin things.
The game is a game that is also a meta-game about games, and developing games, and fucking with games, and making loads of stupid jokes about games for that reason it feels like it was specifically intended for me.
I loved it. What a great game.