Alphaland is a game where you are helping your friend test his new game. The new game is a platformer which the author says you can just “walk across the tiny test level and collect the power-up”. It quickly becomes apparent that there’s more going on here. Part of this game is discovering the mystery of what’s happening, so go ahead and jump to the “play now” link if you’re interested at all. It’s a quick game to play and fairly easy.
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You manage to glitch through the boundaries of the game world into what looks like corrupted memory. As you explore the new land you begin to see messages from someone written on the walls of the level. Messages such as “Who am I?”, “Hello,” and “I am Awake.” You find two powerups, one which destroys certain types of blocks and one of which is a duck that lets you jump really high. The platforming gameplay is pretty standard here, but that’s not really the focus.
The levels also contain puzzles written in the same cryptic way as the messages, which logic gates that have to be passed by satisfying conditions. What conditions? It doesn’t say, it just says “0 > 12” and you have to make the number go up to 13, for example. What would normally be fairly mundane becomes fun through lack of an explanation.
The cryptic messages written on the level eventually give way to a full on monologue from the game as you progress through the various levels. This last part of the game is the most fascinating to me, because the game is communicating directly with you. The level also manages to control your attention by making obstacles easier when it wants the story to move ahead more rapidly. It’s a fairly clever metaphor for storytelling in gaming, the story literally is the game.
Talking Points: Have you ever felt like a game was having a discussion with you? Was it more a monologue or a conversation? Have you ever had a game intentionally just drop you into something without explaining it?