This was meant to be a review of Deadlight. You know: XBLA game, 2D, platforming, zombies. It’s set in a series of mines, right, and you’re this little guy with rope and bombs who…
No, wait. That’s Spelunky.
I haven’t played enough Deadlight to get a real sense of it yet, see? The Pacific North-West setting is nice, though, the animation seems to have quite a lot of character to it, and I really like the ways you learn to pick up pots and throw them in case they have snakes or spiders in.
No. That’s Spelunky. Again.
Here’s the thing. You’re possibly fed up with people talking about Spelunky. Maybe I’m fed up with writing about it too. (I’m not, but stick with me.) I can’t stop playing it, though, and I’m starting to worry that I never will.
Fundamentally, that’s because Spelunky’s amazing. The thing I’m starting to realise is truly amazing, though, is that the game offers such coherence over short playing sessions. You can log in for two minutes and have a good Spelunky experience. Log into Deadlight – which I’m sure is aces, okay – and I’m still chewing through menus and logos and settling into a level at the two minute point.
We’ve spent so much time arguing about whether or not games are getting too short this generation that some of us have possibly failed to notice that short games are fucking glorious, and certain games could do with being shorter still. I’m not talking about campaign length, of course. I’m just saying that it’s nice when a game gives you something whole in five minutes, two minutes, thirty seconds – when it works to an internal rhythm that isn’t measured in hours.
Short-form gaming probably comes from smartphones, I’m guessing. As the Infinity Blade team told me, designers realised they no longer had their audience sitting in a chair for at least thirty minutes, and then some of those designers realised that was actually a good thing. Delivering a game that is rewarding for hours on end but still satisfying on a minute-by-minute basis keeps them sharp and honest as creators, and it gives the rest of us a series of adventures that can work their ways into the fabric of our lives. Spelunky does this perfectly: it has so many random elements – and, crucially so many fixed objectives to aim for – that you can spin the wheel and pretty much select your target for the next five minutes or so. I’m not going to get to the end, perhaps, but I do want to see the Black Market. I’m not going to reach the City of Gold, but I would like to get a shotgun for the sodding Tunnel Man.
So I’m sure I’ll get back to Deadlight pretty soon – but along the way, I’m going to throw a lot of bombs and drop a ton of ropes.