Deconstructing Games

Over the weekend, I played Little Inferno and DLC Quest. Both are basically assaults on recent gaming trends. (Warning: there are some TV Tropes links after the break, as is appropriate for trope-tastic games like these.)

Little Inferno combines “cute” and “slightly disturbing” in a send-up of social media gaming, although you could extend the critique further. It has all the necessary features of your next Facebook gaming hit: almost no gameplay, catalogs of items to buy, waiting times for each, combos and achievements, a friend with whom you can exchange gifts and messages but never directly interact, and the pointless destruction of time and money to check off virtual tick boxes and accumulate otherwise worthless virtual currency. This last bit can make the metaphor a bit anvilicious, and it is explicitly stated in the later acts. Little Inferno only minimally qualifies as a puzzle game, but it is visually compelling and has an entertaining story arc and a message to tell. Combo discovery ranges from obvious to tedious or annoying, but this is not a Theory of Fun learning game, so feel free to have a spoiler list available. The final, hidden combo unlocks a surprising conclusion for a sandbox-y game.

DLC Quest is a more blatant parody, as the name implies. You must buy (using in-game currency) upgrades like “moving left” and “not clicking 10,000 times to get something required to complete the game,” along with cosmetic items. It also takes a bit of time to mock familiar game cliches, achievements, unnecessary violence, balance after pay to win, the need for everything to have zombies and/or brown “realistic” graphics, and a few aspects of internet culture. The gameplay aspects are again rather simplistic, although I was surprised to see that there are hidden achievements for speed runs, and I am not sure if that is a concession to actual gaming or further mockery of anyone who would be a hardcore player of a game that mocks games. It is very short if you are not trying for 100% completion and/or speed run practice. For the central message here, I would recommend Upgrade Complete or Upgrade Complete 2; if you want to mock fantasy RPG conventions, Kingdom of Loathing is an internet classic; if you want a bit of both as a talky platformer, try DLC Quest.

: Zubon