Video games can be addictively entertaining. They can also be ridiculously expensive, time-consuming and sometimes, just plain awful in quality. As a college student, I try to avoid all three as often as possible in my pursuit of entertainment.
As such, I will focus on computer games made by independent developers, who usually aren’t even trying to make money and tend to take risks and spend as much time as necessary to manifest their ideas.
Sometimes one person will make a game on his own and without any outside funding that’s better than those made by enormous, wealthy corporations like Electronic Arts. In that sense, it’s a little like independent film, except that you can almost always download the game in question from the creator’s Web site.
While mainstream video games are frequently expensive, time-consuming and often barely distinguishable from each other, the independent games detailed in this article will frequently be free, quickly playable and strange as hell.
What better game to embody these values than one about pushing a guy down a flight of stairs?
You heard me.
This week’s game
jet.ro/dismount for Windows/Mac/Linux
Available for free download from Jetro Lauha’s (a Finnish programmer) Web site, Dismount is a bizarre “game” that uses simple physics to allow the player to push a featureless 3-D stick-figure down a flight of stairs.
It is! The execution of the idea, however, is pitch-perfect. And that’s what makes it so damn good.
The game: The player sees an aerial view of a gray, featureless flight of stairs, at the top of which stands a gray, featureless 3-D stick-man. In the bottom-left corner of the screen is a 2-D version of the very same stick-man, and clicking on any of his limbs will project a red arrow on the actual 3-D version still standing on the flight of stairs. The red arrow indicates where you’ll be pushing the little bugger.
When you’re satisfied with your choice, you can press the “dismount” button in the bottom-right corner, and watch as the gray stick-man is pushed in whatever direction you previously specified down the flight of stairs in a comically slap-stick fashion.
The object: Whenever the stick-man’s limbs strikes against the staircase, the game adds points to your score based on which limb it was that hit and with how much force. Blows to the head are worth the most, while legs and other limbs are worth significantly fewer points.
Why it’s fun: The game uses what’s known as “rag doll physics” to determine his motion down the stairs, and his flips and contortions are appropriately and hilariously exaggerated as a result.
The sound effects that play as he tumbles down are equally golden, including a myriad of “oofs” and grunts. The end result is a strangely therapeutic kind of stress relief resulting from the fictional pain of a nondescript gray figure’s tumble down a flight of stairs.
Staff writer Jason Moses can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org