"It's nothing but clicking on things and making numbers go up."
It's a biting criticism, a shot commonly fired at some of the most popular games out there. A more charitable parsing of the statement and its implications might reveal a kernel of truth about its target — perhaps the game's narrative or thematic trappings were so uninteresting that the player was left to engage with a palette of fairly bland mechanics — but, all too often, it's a careless reduction thrown at a game that is earning more attention than we feel that it should. And, all the while, numbers go up in these games, in all games, as experience levels, kill counts, and rankings accumulate on leaderboards everywhere.
Nevertheless, there are a number of games that pivot upon this reductive position to provide satirical commentary about the medium and specific types of games, such as RPGs, that emerge from it. Invariably, many of them call out to the allure of progression mechanics with their title: Progress Quest, Progress Wars, etc.
A surface-level reading of Parameters, a Flash game created by Yoshio Ishii, might lead you to believe that it easily fits into this group. Luckily, the game's quirky and somewhat obtuse mechanics offer something different and, perhaps, more fulfilling upon further inspection.
You may recognize Ishii, the primary developer for NEKOGAMES, as the creator of other Flash micro-games such as Cursor*10 and the Hoshi Saga series. In many of his works, Ishii incorporates the full interactive scope of the mouse, requiring gestural input combinations or treating the mouse cursor itself as an avatar in the world. Much like a WarioWare micro-game, he also tends to conceal his mechanics from the player, requiring the player to think on their toes and discover those mechanics to solve a puzzle or proceed.
Both of these tendencies are at the forefront of Parameters' longer-form play sessions; after of a terse introductory prompt in Japanese — which can be switched to English by clicking a button in the bottom right — the player is dumped into a screen full of boxes with numbers and left to figure out the mechanics, all of which are driven by copious amounts of mouse-clicking and numerical foot-shuffling.
So, as a nod to the game's mysterious nature, I shall leave the description of the game at that and simply wish you good luck ... and happy clicking.
Some further questions for discussion:
- Were you able to complete the game? If so, what was your fastest time?
- Did the mystery surrounding the mechanics enhance the experience or put you off from the game right away?
- Do the dynamics that emerge from the game's mechanics offer any commentary on progression-based elements of other games?
- For those that have completed the game and continue to chase faster times: how do you feel the game has evolved over your play-throughs?
[size=9]That's right, it's nothing but an ... uh ... arcane arrangement of boxes and symbols, whose meanings are barely explained at all?[/size]