By Kieron Gillen on April 6th, 2009 at 7:24 pm.
Richard Monette sends news of the indie game just released by his student group Rocktopus Games. It’s called Glasshouse and it’s first-person action/puzzle game with one of the most novel set-ups I’ve seen in ages. Put in a semi-industrial/scientific setting with a generally ironic tone, you use a specialist experimental weapon to manipulate your environment to… oh, all right. It’s shamelessly inspired by Portal. But that’s no bad thing – it’s a scratch built piece of neat platform puzzling. Video and impressions beneath the cut.
Official Glasshouse Trailer from Rocktopus Games on Vimeo.
The magic techno-tool which the game’s based around is basically a gravity gun. You can either pull towards or send propelling away specific sorts of cubes. The puzzles are mostly based around getting cubes on the right platform so you can open the door – though there’s elements like sending a cube flying or constructing towers and all the similar. As such, it’s a sort of interaction that’s more familiar than Portal’s hole-in-reality gun. Some of the stuff is the improvised problems you’d do with crates in – say – Deus Ex. More fun is where things get weirder, like your gun being able to manipulate cubes through doors. Generally speaking, it’s 20 levels of cute puzzling which doesn’t over-stay its welcome. Were I to critique, their Portal inspiration and professional leanings makes them take quite a while for it to get going. You don’t get the gun until the fourth or fifth level, after it’s introduced jumping and crawling and button pressing and all that. But despite the fact they clearly understand process of introductions, there’s still fundamentals which only alienate if you introduce. As in, timed jumps in first person over an insta-death substance is rarely a good idea.
But where it gets fun is that it shows its thinking. It’s also very much a Student Game, in both the best and worst possible ways – as such, they’ve lifted the creators-commentary option from Portal where they explain their thinking. I suspect they’d have been better being more outspoken rather than the friendly yet somewhat cautious things they’ve said, but seeing what people were thinking when making a decision is revealing (For example, in the aforementioned moving platforms over insta-death substance, the idea was to introduce the green goo as one of the main things you have to avoid – with “easy” jumps over it. Which is flawed thinking because it can either do one or the other. You only know its’ insta-death if you fail the jump, meaning the jumps can’t be that easy to really serve the purpose. I failed a handful of times – which were a handful too many, y’know. Where this gets interesting is the Director’s playthrough includes a level where they talk about realising some people just can’t get the knack of jumping in first person, so removed the room.)
That’s over-hard, really, but evidence of the sort of response I’m having the game. It’s really a final-project-at-university sort of game – new creators trying to lean towards being professional, wanting to show a deep understanding of process, but only catching the surface levels (and I mean *many* surface levels. There’s a lot of craft here). As such, it’s human and likeable. It’s stuff like the levels’ titles being cribbed from student-favourite fiction – Neitzche, Pynchon, Rand – humanises it. I mean, that’s exactly what I did when I made my bedroom games back in the Amiga days – wear my bookshelf as a badge of identity. I kind of go “Bless”. Which comes across as somewhat patronising, I know, but I mean it in the best possible way.
It’s a quick play so doesn’t over-stay its welcome and – as I said – a neat, tight, considered experience. You can download the game from their site, and its’ a mere 60 Mb or so. It’s well worth doing so.