We previously covered There Is No Game, when it was a brief tidied up entry to a gamejam. And it was splendid. Now it’s a completely new full game, bearing the same central conceit: it absolutely doesn’t want you to find out that it’s a game. And I cannot under-emphasise at all the scale on which this is utterly brilliant. This is one of the best games I’ve ever played.
I was already immediately won over before I’d even started playing, when in the mix of its demands that I immediately quit (which I had to due to a resolution change issue, and it awarded me a Steam achievement for doing so), ludicrously over-sized Quit button, and imploring of me not to play, it popped up this screen:
What follows is a barrage of ideas, brilliantly delivered, and each and every one spoiled by description. So with apologies, I shall tell you one very brief sequence from the start, during which the game was still trying to keep me out with hefty signs demanding “THERE IS NO GAME” while its narrator berated me for persisting in trying to play:
The T fell off its second heavier attempt at blocking signage, and after I broke a supporting rope it was holding itself up by a large helium balloon. By repeatedly picking up the heavy metal T, and dropping it from on high, it wobbled the screen enough to cause a mute button to gradually appear, then fall to the bottom of the screen. Clicking it caused the narrator to stop speaking and let out frustrated “MMPPH MMMMPH!” sounds, until he brought his own cursor on screen to unclick the button. A few back and forths, the narrator increasingly angry, had me snatch his cursor away with mine, and use the pointy arrow to pop the balloon. The sign was down!
Just look at how many great ideas are packed into just that paragraph. And this is minutes in, after the game has already devolved into a momentary Break-Out clone and a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. And it keeps on coming, all splendidly accompanied by the furious French-accented blustering of the omnipresent invisible narrator. This game is many hours long, and it never slows down, never stops being astonishingly inventive, shifting gears, genres, moods, modes…
And then… argh! Argh! I want to tell you so many other cool things! Like how there ends up being multiple… No! I can’t! Oh this is agony! All the things I could say that would have you respond, “OH MY GOODNESS I’M BUYING THIS RIGHT NOW!” are also things you’d never forgive me for spoiling. Look, I’m going to burst if I don’t give a few of the squillions of examples, so if you trust me, stop reading right now and just buy it. This is straight into contention for my GOTY, and
So suffice it to say this
game sorry, not-game, contains lines like, “Things are becoming more and more unusual. It’s even begun raining croissants.” And there’s the best 90s LucasArts spoof I’ve ever seen, and God knows I’ve seen a lot of bad LucasArts spoofs. Seriously, it could have been drawn by Larry Ahern himself it’s so damned perfect.
It then starts spoofing other genres, including one with a boss fight. After I lost it a first time, there was the obligatory return (controlled by the character in the game, not me, because remember, there is no game), the boss started up his spiel again, and perfectly the narrator bellowed “OH SHUT UP, JUST FIGHT!”
I’ve laughed out loud SO many times playing this. It’s a wonderful satire of gaming, while being a wonderful not-a-game in its own right. At one point I genuinely applauded the screen. I’ve also sat with my mouth gaped open in absolute shock at how brilliant some of its ideas are. Oh my goodness, the dollar sign. THE DOLLAR SIGN!
And then it’s capable of so much more than just throwing gags at you. There’s depth here, extraordinary depth. It’s much, much bigger and smarter and carefully thought through than you could ever imagine at the start. This is something utterly exceptional.
This is 2020’s Pony Island, only it dwarfs that extraordinary game in terms of scope and scale. It’s hilarious, inventive, and like nothing else you’ve ever played. This is GOTY material – I find it hard to imagine I’ll play anything else this year that matches it. And yet no one’s heard of it! This has to change. Buy it, play it, and then you won’t be able to help tell everyone you know to do the same. I’ve held back on spoiling so, so much here, and I desperately want to talk about the events in the second half of the game, but I won’t. Just buy this.