By John Walker on October 22nd, 2007 at 12:11 pm.
Would be the best name for a game ever. It is, however, a description of what I spent half of yesterday playing.
Skutnik is a former architect, turned Flash animator, who spends his spare time either painting watercolour graphic novels, or designing episodic Flash adventures. It’s the latter that’s caused him to garner a lot of the internet’s attention – attention I somehow hadn’t paid beyond playing his intriguing DayMare Town a few months back.
I began with his most recent story, Covert Front – a tale about being a behind-the-scenes agent during the Second World War, investigating a deep mystery about some manner of experiments being carried out by the Nazis. Fantastically atmospheric, the scratchy, hand-drawn Flash design betrays his architectural skill, creating an excellent cartoon space in which to unravel the peculiar narrative. It’s very much based on what I soon realised was Skutnik’s trademark style – machine-based puzzles, and foraging point-n-click exploration. The two episodes appear to be only the beginning of a larger story, with part 2 – Station On The Horizon – coming out only last week.
So then I went back to play his more famous Submachine games from the beginning. There’s currently four “full-length” episodes, and a couple of shorts, which appear to have reached a satisfactory conclusion for their story. Each game is a collection of puzzles based around finding the parts and means to get various pieces of machinery working. And each builds toward telling you the larger narrative about a one-armed man, who discovers a third “karmic” arm with which he can manipulate space and time. This remains an oddly elusive concept until the fourth episode, The Lab, the longest in the series, and the most involved, teleporting you around through the familiar spaces of the previous three. Part three – The Loop – stands out as a diversion for the series, replacing the more familiar structure of discovering diary entries, left notes (there’s a lovely explanation at one point as to why all these adventure games seem to feature people who write pertinent information on notes that they then leave lying around), and mysterious devices, with a series of much more straight puzzles, building to an interesting twisty ending. It does suffer from a ludicrously over-grand opening sequence that leaves you worrying it’s all become a bit big for its boots, but part four is comfortably back down to earth.
All the games can be played directly from Skutnik’s site in Flash windows, or can be downloaded from Arcade Town. This second method means you can play them in a gratifying fullscreen, but it does mean you get the Arcade Town bloatware with it. And they’re all free. Of course, as his own site puts it, you could be feeling philanthropic and pay what you think his effort is worth.