the artistry and psychology of gaming

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Run

Run

Welcome to Gaming on the House; don’t look down and and mind your step! Each week, we’ll be climbing the rooftops of the gaming industry to seek out great experiences that everyone can track down and play, and the best part is they’ll all be free! That’s right; FREE! Gratis. Comp’d. Unbound. Unrestricted. Zero-down. On the House!… we talk about free games here, is my point.

Many may be surprised at how many fantastic games are really out there that everyone can legally enjoy with no monetary commitment. Taking together all the flash and browser games, freeware downloads from the independent scene, speed programming archives, free-to-play business modules, and even promotional re-releases from big name publishers, there’s a never ending supply of great games new and old waiting to be played, and it’s our goal to play them all! So, if you’re strapped for cash or just waiting around for that next big release to hit retail, why not give these games a try? After all, they’re free; what have you got to lose!

This week, we take in some sun, play some old favorites, and reinterpret the meaning of a “run-on sentence”

Run

Remember: only use the Run command when the path is known.

Genre: Arcade/Farming/Winnie the Pooh Simulator
Link to Game: http://christopherwhitman.net/games/Run/
Game Info: Released in June 2012 by Christopher Whitman in its entirety online, as well as released on Desura for purchase with its accompanying soundtrack.

A consistent problem in the video game industry is deciding how best to incorporate text in order to try and convince the player to take in the story you want to relay. Plenty of games opt for text given through unskippable cutscenes like the Zelda series, while others toss a whole bunch of text at you to read at your leisure or to bypass altogether (Skyrim, Braid). In most every case, text calls for a moment of pause, taking you out of controlling your character to scan through the words provided. Interestingly enough, the same can not be said for the game Run, as here the text is actively relayed as you progress through the game’s levels. How? The game’s levels are built out of text!

Run features three modes of play, the connecting portions being a text-heavy platformer, in which the game’s setting, backstory, and plot are relayed beneath the player’s feet as you move left to right hopping over chasms, riding up elevators (also made out of words), and dodge sensory-based baddies. The writing is good, albeit somewhat cryptic, and it certainly offers a successful solution for encouraging players to read along as they play. If you remember The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and how the characters interacted with the words printed on the pages of their book, it’s a similar concept to that; only a bit more cerebral, and more along the lines of T.S. Eliot.

The other two modes feature quick arcade-like dream sequences that are completed in succession, and a short real-time farming simulator to quickly grow crops for your villagers before time is up. Each of the three modes grow in complexity as you progress onward; platforming adds hazards, arcade dreams add extra game stages, and farming adds competition. The three modes are all tied together through the game’s intriguing narrative, that of a dying colony, and a lone ludologist, who journeys in search of the sun, only to obtain sunlight for the colony through the completion of the aforementioned dream sequences. What begins as a somewhat primitive setting quickly evolves into a story with some fascinating technological backing (as well as some allusions to modern operating systems, I’d argue), making for an overarching story that maintains a great lore-based appeal while also offering a bit of gaming prose to be admired.

Do you ‘mind’ getting off the punctuation?

Unfortunately, the game’s praises are more limited to it’s playful gathering of gaming concepts, rather than their solid execution. None of the three modes of play offered in Run carry anything beyond a rudimentary level of  how their respective genres are supposed to function. Platforming is floaty, and is very easy to complete. The arcade segments (which borrow from Space Invaders, Scorched Earth, and Snake) offer the most challenge within the game where completing one portion of the screen will have a lasting impression on completing the next (an innovative concept in itself), however the lessons learned in the first stage are quickly carried through to the next ones, to which the effect of the puzzle-like completion is dramatically reduced as the game goes on. Farming stages add the variable of how many people you assign to an individual task, however all three stages can still be completed if you continuously dispatch teams in the default groups of fives.

Perhaps a minor point, but I also wish the platforming stages would have used its words to feature their meaning as a part of the platforming more in the way they are used right at the ending. For example, the phrase “arose the next morning” could have been an upwards elevator, instead of being part of a flat immobile sentence. Platform mechanics were built into the level design, so it would have been nice to see some of the more actionable words  take on a life of their own with actions to be fulfilled by the character. The language used was nice, but it could have been used more to enhance the game at hand, and not just the story being told.

Farming gets much more interesting once these shadow dudes show up.

Run offers a unique approach to storytelling and features a host of different gameplay modes (7 platforming stages, and 3 arcade and farming stages each) that are interesting to see paired together, totaling to a rough 15-20 minute playthrough in all. The text supplied is certainly worth a read for its mysterious nature and modern-day symbolism, and the changes made over time to the alternate modes further unravel a bit of the text’s mystery as well as aid in interpreting the game’s events as they occur. While it’s not the hardest game to complete, it is still an entertaining title, and is delicately embroidered with some great pixel work, fluid backgrounds and a tranquil soundtrack to sweeten the deal; all created by the hands of the game’s designer. If you’re craving a game that offers a bit more literary prowess than your average “save the princess” tale, Run may be worth a look.

One Comment

  1. Sounds great5 wanna try it soon.

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