Critters For Sale: Snake

PC, Mac, Linux, demo

I had hoped this demo version of the forthcoming Critters For Sale would have been slightly longer, but I’m hooked in either way. In fact, in its brevity ( about twenty minutes if you go back and find the possible deaths) it almost feels like a satisfying surrealist short. Which is to say, this a game about being invited to an impossibly structured nightclub by Michael Jackson, in the year 2033.

In one of what looks to be five chapters, you play as Sergei, a 27 year old man living in New York, who is woken in the middle of the night by a text message. From the King Of Pop. Assuming it’s a friend messing around, you can choose to go to the club (or stay home…) and try to find out what’s going on. Although that certainly isn’t something you’ll accomplish here, and from the superbly strange way it’s all presented, I’d be surprised if it’s achieved by the end of the game proper.

I suppose this is a text adventure, by most measures. From that late ’80s era where some graphics were appearing, only interactive in the most limited of ways. Here the pointillist art shimmers in and out, sometimes merely suggestive, other times completely clear and oh my goodness that actually is Michael Jackson. It’s all threatening, nightmarish, the monochrome presentation only adding to the sense of unreality.

I’m just so taken with the atmosphere of this. It’s so scratchy and uncomfortable, like it’s hewn from ancient evil glyphs. Also there is dancing, and evil demons, and whatever you do, don’t lie to Michael Jackson.

The full game is due out this June, and I’m so interested to find out where it’s heading. I’m hoping there will be more to this chapter in the final version, especially given elements like the key you can find. Five lots of something this short might feel too little to be a satisfying arc. But yes, wow, this is very worth a look, especially for free. Do be warned, it’s packed with naughty words, and despite the black-and-white dot-based art, there is some pretty graphic violence in there. Pretty graphic violence made from pretty graphics violence.

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