If you’ve ever played a game like the Stanley Parable, or Please, don’t touch anything then you’ll know that some games aren’t what they seem.
Just because you wake up in a boring office or start standing in a room where you don’t appear to affect anything doesn’t mean that you’re not in for a treat. That’s why There Is No Game, by Draw Me a Pixel is such an appealing title.
This is a free point-and-click experience that uses comedy (and a few surprises), to keep you entertained for at least a good 30 minutes.
Despite the publisher, (and narrator’s) arguments that there’s no game at all to find here, that’s not the case. Something is going on in this title. You just might not end up with the experience that you expect.
Delightful Deception: Available for Free
Here’s the challenge I’ve got in writing this review.
Somehow, I need to convince you (my reader) that There Is No Game is worth your time. I don’t get anything from you playing it (it’s a free title, remember). But like any good experience, I want to share this title with you.
The problem is, I think you’re going to have a better experience, the less you know. So, I’m only going to cover the basics. You might have a few mild spoilers ahead of you, but I’ll try not to give too much away.
First and foremost, this game is funny.
From the moment that the narrator welcomes you in, telling you that you’re just wasting your time on a game that doesn’t exist – you’re hooked.
This is also a title designed to earn your curiosity. It’s the game equivalent of seeing a “wet paint” sign on a bench. You need to touch it and see.
Your desire to find out whether there is a game or not only gets greater as the narrator actively tries to keep you out of the title screen. You’re left wondering what you’re going to miss out on if you don’t keep pressing forward. That’s how this game hooks you in.
A Sneaky Game with Elements of Surprise
When you eventually get into the not-game for yourself, you’ll find a series of glitchy mini-events that certainly feel a lot like you’re in a puzzle game. Your sense of curiosity will entice you to explore, thinking outside of the box, and experimenting until you find something that works.
Interacting with things that wouldn’t usually do anything in your game will cause an unexpected response. For instance, if you hit the mute button, the narrator will get mad. Eventually, you can even get the narrator to start throwing stuff.
Even failing at certain parts of the game (er, not-game), leads to unique outcomes. For instance, if you run out of balls on the block-breaker mini-game, then you’ll pull one from somewhere else on the screen (like your score counter).
The things you do and the items that you collect as you travel through this collection of incomplete games all have an impact on things you do later. Each activity is connected to the next, so the whole experience feels plain clever.
Don’t worry if you get a little stuck at times. The narrator is always on hand to give you some tips, interspersed with the occasional insult. The experience reminded me a lot of listening to GLaDOS from Portal, and the whole thing feels charmingly retro.
An Unfinished Game is Still a Game
The developers wanted to do something very deliberate with this title.
The bright colors and imagery throughout the game are all there to remind you of the old-school entertainment you used to have, way back before the age of the Xbox. Plus, as you play through each mini-game, the screen will take on a slightly curved look, complete with pixelated lines.
They’re going for an old CRT TV aesthetic here, and it works.
This game feels as nostalgic as it does insightful.
Incredible voice acting makes the narrator probably one of the most appealing parts of the experience. He joins you on your journey as you experiment with each screen, showing evident frustration as you try your hardest to create a game out of the tools available.
One slight downside is that you don’t get too long to figure things out for yourself before the narrator chimes in. If you’re looking for something that’s going to leave you scratching your head for a couple of hours – this isn’t it.
Instead, the narrator does his part in making sure that this free-to-play experience is lightweight and fast-paced. The puzzles flow naturally from one to the next, each giving you something new to enjoy. It’s just a bit of a shame that there isn’t more of this non-game to experiment with.
There is a Game
There is No Game promises you from the beginning that you’re going to need every ounce of your curiosity to get through it. That’s true. You’re encouraged to let your mind run free as you jump from screen to screen, exploring unique solutions to problems.
This is a digital adventure that’s all about exploring and seeing what you can do with your surroundings. You drag your mouse around the screen, tap on things, and listen to the narrator berate you every step of the way. Pro tip: I’d recommend using a mouse for this title. Although the trackpad on your laptop will work for most parts, a mouse will come in handy.
Make sure you have your headphones plugged in – you’re going to need them – and don’t expect anything too life-changing. This is a game meant to entertain and make you smile – and it does that in spades. You’ll be left craving more unexpected delights.
The good news? You just might get them.
The Draw Me a Pixel team has revealed that they’re working on a sequel to the original There is No Game title. “Wrong Dimension” should be out and ready to download some time this year, although there isn’t an exact release date available yet.
In the meantime, you can always go and check out some other free-to-play titles, like We Went Back.