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Indie Game Review: There Is No Game: Jam Edition 2015

The Indie Series: reviews of the highest rated indie developed games under £10

Cost: Free

Platform: Steam, PC

Reviews: 3,868 reviews with overall rating ‘Overwhelmingly Positive’

Time to complete: 26 minutes

Similar Games: The Stanley Parable, Pony Island

Despite the name, this is most definitely a game (sorry, should I have put a spoiler alert? To be fair, the game doesn’t do this either. Blame them).

‘There is no game’ is a Puzzle game (or officially – Point&Click adventure pixel art game) that lasts about 25 minutes. Ok, I admit, 15 minutes of that was replaying the game twice to solve the irresistible urge to gather all of the achievements, however according to How Long to Beat, this seems to be the average play time.

The Gameplay

You fire it up and immediately notice they’re using a CRT (cathode ray tube) illusion. The edges are contoured slightly and the game is pixelated, a classic retro touch and a nice one.

You pick a language (French or English) and then you are greeted by a narrator. He has a soothing and deep voice, something reminiscent of an American/Russian deep voice. Reminds me of Gru from the film Despicable Me, but personality wise he’s clamouring for position with GLaDOS in Portal.

This is because, alongside the noticeably calm but deep vocal features, he suffers the same desire for human kinship, acceptance and respect. He struggles for control throughout as you explore the game and complete the puzzles, as such you can’t help feeling an element of empathy.

Following choosing the language and a few words from the Narrator you are greeted by a screen that simply displays ‘There Is No Game’, with each letter suspended as blocks in the middle of the screen.

The voice goes on to welcome you to the game, but at this stage you can’t help but find your mind is focused on one thing…

There must be a game in here somewhere. Natural curiosity has me clicking on every inch of the screen.

Boom.

One of the blocks with a letter on it shakes. Ok this is interesting, now we’re onto something.

The letter falls to the ground and the narrator starts to have a go at you. You’re ruining his introduction; you’ve making a mess of his screen. There is a sense of guilt here, the narrator after all told you this wasn’t a game, and yet here we are, finding a way to play it.

Game Mechanics

This curiosity as to whether you are actually playing a game or not, is your first introduction to clever mechanics employed during the gaming experience. The title of the game alone hones into a natural human curiosity to explore your environment (remember that children should be kept away from power sockets?).

With unashamed delight the game also feels like sticking it to the man. This isn’t a game? Watch me.

From the initial letter falling to the ground, each discovery leads to another puzzle. The aesthetics are retro and this combines with the sound track, which is also a vital part of the game. The sound is nostalgically authentic, and the narrator’s voice is clear cut. It reminds me of that pre-film amble in a Vue cinema where the narrator says ‘Hey’ and tells you to turn off your mobile and enjoy the experience.

I came away from the game with a sense of accomplishment. There are enough ‘hidden gems’ to make you feel like you have applied skill to the game. The reality being that the narrator plants the ideas in your mind before you even realise you need them. You often find yourself directed to an object or decision before it is relevant. This makes some of the puzzles seem obvious, but without this guidance you wouldn’t necessarily know what to do.

There are approximately four stages within the game, one of which is a minigame of a familiar game itself. Ultimately this means that there is, in fact, a game within a game, that isn’t a game.

Hats off to the team at Draw Me A Pixel, who have succeeded in trolling me so hard.

The Developer

Draw Me A Pixel, based in the little-known Town of Villeurbanne, France, is a video game developer on a mission to create comical Point&Click adventures.

There Is No Game was released by Pascal Cammisotto in 2015, under the alias KaMiZoTo. Pascal created the game in a Game Jam run by Newgrounds, under the theme of ‘deception’. Some of the nostalgic feel to the game is down to it being created on a HTML5 Game Engine, which is reminiscent of the old Miniclip days.

As a business they recently released a follow up to the game ‘There Is No Game: Wrong Dimension’, and they go as far as to explain a key selling point is that it is so short you can finish up and start playing other real games. This sense of humility only adds to the endearing nature of Draw Me A Pixel and their array of no games. 

The team have around 5,000 followers on Twitter and their most recent version of There Is No Game: Wrong Dimension has recently ported over to the Nintendo Switch. The original 2015 release averaged around 1 million downloads a year on the Google Play store, and was very popular on release with streamers and YouTubers for its nonsensical humour.

We look forward to seeing more from the team.

SPOILER VIDEO BELOW