The Moneyless Gamer 003a: CLARITY

The Moneyless Gamer 003a: CLARITY

Less a mass experiment than a ga–brzzzzt tkkkk. Welcome to the flipside of Dungeon’s coin. If you haven’t played Dungeon yet, this will mean nothing to you. (Go here to read about it and play it.) Unless you’ve finished with/given up on Dungeon, do not read the below.

…Done?Clarity1Then, allow me to gift you this: Clarity. Now go and play that.

Done? Clarity is the companion piece to Dungeon. You will, hopefully by now, have seen the Rosetta Stone and the number you got stuck with. After a little mental stretching, maybe you can see the trick being pulled. Possibly you got 01- making the game’s very first jump impassable. Or 03, Slippery Physics, which makes the already punishing platformer run like the floor is black ice. Or my personal favourite, 08- Annoying Sound Mode. Every step you make rings out an irritatingly shrill beep.

Basically, from various angles, ways of making the game harder. Which is interesting enough- seeing how much people will persevere with something when it’s deliberately broken. Or deliberately more annoying. The expectation-baiting 09, which switches the names of levels ‘Piece of Cake’ and ‘Leap of Faith’, is a good example of a subtle way the game switches up the experience using the Dungeon’s simple but special idea: the text across the top of the screen.

It was the text which drove me to keep going with the game. As I mentioned in the last article, I got 07. That’s Artgame Level Titles- meaning the quite simple narrative being told up top was switched to a series of more abstract phrases and descriptions. This reveals something interesting about me, I think: perceived ‘artyness ‘ and obscureness to decipher (see Braid) can draw me quickly into a game, perhaps even when the rest of the game isn’t perfect. But even without arty titles, the game pulls a few clever tricks- sending you winding back through the same set of screens, spelling out in their new order “It Wasn’t … Me … It Was … Me … It Wasn’t … Me”. It’s a lovely use of the form. Bravo, chaps.Dungeon4The text is a strong way of telling a (pretty throwaway) narrative, it becomes clear. By running alongside rather than stopping the gameplay, it’s perfectly unobtrusive. But it also enhances the way you play- you start to look at each level in a particular context, particularly when given the arty level titles. It neatly condenses an archetypal story- the hero’s journey- through the use of these text prompts. Two screens, which are exactly the same but with the second slightly harder are called “The Long And Winding Road”, parts I and II, sum up an entire game’s worth of story. There’s never any question of what’s going to come next. But the clever way it’s told keeps you wondering, keeps you playing. At least until you realise you’ve drawn 06 and the middle levels are impossible and the story just stops.

And then you go online, and try to work out why everyone else has been able to finish the game, and are saying different things to you. Even trying to describe a level becomes difficult (“‘Pussyfooting?’ What level is that? Looks like ‘A Man Is Sad Upon Society’ to me, mate.”) And this is where it becomes impossible to fully appreciate the effect of the Dungeon/Clarity pairing, without a large group of people. Almost as interesting as the game itself is the chaos wreaked here, on the tigsource forums. Watch as people realise there’s an inconsistency, go to ridiculous levels to prove the game can be finished, and finally start to pin down the mystery.Clarity2An interesting intellectual exercise, then. But perhaps I’m looking too deeply. I’ve compared this to the magic tricks of Derren Brown, but perhaps it’s closer to the urban mayhem of Tyler Durden. Or the naughty schoolkids at the back of the class. Dungeon wreaks mischief, sits back and giggles at the results, until its older brother Clarity steps in and shows people they’ve been had. Ever feel like you’ve been cheated?

(No.)


Article from Gamersyndrome.com

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About the Author

avatar Writer, blogger and gamer* extraordinaire Alex Spencer. Find me on Xbox Live as Digforfire, or on the net at www.alex-spencer.co.uk