MNG+

PC

It is a grotesquely missed opportunity not to have called this Start New Game. MNG+ is a collection of game menus for imaginary games, and to change from one to the next, it takes the “Start New Game” option quite literally.

I like to think that this is the sort of indie game horrid people imagine when they parody what sites like this write about. An esoteric piece of magical realism, in which non-existent games are implied through navigable menus, presented in retro textures in almost unintelligible colours. I love it.

There are four ‘games’ currently in the game, with more apparently planned as its development progresses. But honestly, being free, four is absolutely enough to get a great deal of enjoyment from its conceit. As I play it, which is to say as I click through various menu options seeking out new content, new jokes, new ideas, I realise just how much the menus of games are part of the game in their own right.

They’re such an important part of the process, as you bounce through all the options, tweaking and tuning a game to your ideal specifications, making sure you’ve got that VSYNC switched on, figured out how to get it running in a non-native window, or tweaked the FOV to the peculiar needs of your compound eyes. Menus at their best are comforting, letting you make this game feel like home, building your nest before you sit in it. At their worst they’re alienating, a threat to your forthcoming enjoyment as you realise there’s never going to be any anti-aliasing, or a way to move Crouch from C to the Ctrl where it should be.

MNG+ touches on a whole collection of these themes that we don’t ever stop to think about across its four never-games. In doing so, it gently pokes fun at many genres, without ever being “wacky”. For instance in Peon Caravanuses, the result of a neural network trained on a Dwarf Fortress let’s play from 2011 and Rimworld patch logs, the controls section informs you what each and every key on your keyboard will do.

l – Look around

L – Search the nearby area very carefully

m – push mug at peon

[n]

o – Show strongest odor

O – Display odor information

p – Put an item in a container

P – Temperature

Yes! Oh my goodness yes. This is why I’ve never played a true roguelike in my life. The controls.

The game patches every 0.35 seconds, with patch notes available each time you update. (In pretend, of course. But done so well.) And oh gosh the lines in there are just pure gold.

“Guests should no longer sometimes get stuck animating even when there is water nearby.”

“Added simple surgeon’s office pathology scanner. As the name suggests, it can scan both physical and biological stuff. Transplant success chances are increased by 50%.”

I genuinely don’t know if this really is a neural network trained on Dwarf Fortress and Rimworld patch logs, or if developer spelafort lost his mind and wrote 900 billion pretend patch notes, because they’re often so, so perfect.

“New scenario: swarthydreams. The old far-seeing outpost now has a camera obstruction system. Particularing the helpful repairman camel! Enjoy roaming the caravan for a bit and see what new shenanigans are in store for you!”

“The crowbar can now be used to piece those thick off-the-shelf plastic shears that have been sitting around unused for ages.”

“The number of criminal ropes is capped at six each.”

It’s fair to say the other three aren’t this elaborate, but nothing can take away from the joke when you increase the “water coverage” meter in Empires Of Idleness. Each is a different genre, wryly observing different aspects of gaming, and with so many clever ideas hidden away.

This is very smart, completely free (but you should pay if you can), and can run in a browser if you’re in a rush.

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4 Comments

  1. This made me think about Stanislav Lem’s “A perfect Vacuum” where he writes book reviews of books that don’t exist and by doing so commenting on books, literature and literary criticism.
    His review of “Gigamesh” is simply brilliant.
    (He wrote more books like that and he even wrote prefaces for books that don’t exist)

    I’m really glad someone thought about a video game version of the same idea.

    1. Not often I find someone else who’s read “A Perfect Vacuum”! If I recall correctly, it opens with a review of itself, which was also brilliant. But you’re right, Gigamesh was the highlight.

      This game does sound really interesting, I’ll check it out. I do love following patch notes for games to see the weird things that pop up.

  2. Thanks for point this out, it’s pretty great.
    Part of me thinks this game would be great if it was just Peon Caravanuses, and every time you tried to click “New Game” it just tells you there’s a new patch and you must update before you can play.
    Those AI-generated patch notes are fun on their own.

    I wonder how much work it would be to train a neural network on patch notes from The Sims…

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