By Alec Meer on September 15th, 2008 at 9:31 pm.
Death in games is meaningless. Unless it also corrupts all your savegames and then sets fire to your PC. Then it’s pretty bloody meaningful. Usually it’s just an obstacle, not an impasse – and like any obstacle, it’s something you want to overcome. What if death was, for once, an aid rather than an impediment?
In puzzle-platformer Deaths, other players’ misfortune becomes your fortune. Every time you load a level, it grabs the data for the exact location of the last 50 deaths from any and everyone who’s played it lately, and duly deposits their dismembered corpses in your iteration of the game. Their lifeless flesh is your handy navigational aid.
The reactions I had to seeing some fresh pile of corpses were rather mixed. On the one hand, there’s something genuinely unsettling about it – not because it’s corpses, but because it’s faintly voyeuristic. You’re seeing someone else’s mistakes, and they don’t realise it. Right now, someone’s probably looking at my corpse, perhaps even scoffing at the fact I’d died there, fallen prey to a blatantly obvious trap. There’s something slightly creepy about that.
On the other hand, there’s a delight to seeing that small giblet-mountain. It’s a clue to your next puzzle: if there are a load of bodies in a given place, it means danger is close, so you instantly set to calculating what it could be and how to avoid it. Occasionally, the bodies can even provide physical assistance; I failed one trap so many times that the heap of my own corpses eventually blocked the sharp thingy that kept impaling me as I passed. Right now, someone’s probably looking at my corpse, and perhaps they’ve managed to sidestep a less obvious trap themselves because of it. There’s something slightly pleasing about that.
It’s not all that hard, bar the occasional particularly fiendish trap, it’s visually crude, and it’s only a six-level demo. Don’t let that stop you. According to Playthisthing (which is where I stumbled across this clever wee thing) its creator Jesse Venbrux plans to expand the game if it proves successful. Clearly it’s very basic as is, but it’s an absolutely wonderful idea, and I’d love to see it taken further. So, go play, go enjoy the sight of each other’s broken bodies, and maybe we can help persuade him to make some more. Play in a browser here, though you’ll need YoYo Games’ browser plugin thingy, or download a standalone version from here.