By John Walker on April 29th, 2009 at 11:42 am.
Vectorpark (Patrick Smith), creator of 2007’s wonderful Feed The Head, offers a gorgeous new downloadable Flash game: Windosill. It’s the gentle tale of a small toy car, quietly trundling its way through a series of screens, each requiring exploration and interaction to discover a small white cube that will unlock the next room. This begins in what might well the shelves of a child’s bedroom, but very quickly enters the amorphous reality that makes Smith’s games so distinctive.
Windosill is certainly more coherent and intuitive than Feed The Head. The latter is a sublime and surreal experience, where abandoning reason leads you toward change. Windowsill is more reminiscent of 2005’s Park, but with a much more straightforward sense of progression. It’s closer to puzzle solving, but still requires a dream-like logic to understand.
Clicking on objects in the world has them display their behaviour, and when revealed you can begin to apply it practically. So, for instance, you might see a blob-shaped tower with a ball on a stalk coming out of the top. Tug the stalk to ring a bell and a bird’s head appears from a window. There’s a cloud near the tower, so click on that to create rain. The rain makes a puddle, which if splashed in enough will reveal a worm. Give the worm to the bird (making sure to fight with it a bit, stretching the worm out as the bird pulls back, showing off the physics really nicely) and the bird will reappear with the cube in his beak.
The real joy is in the details. Move your car back and forth, and the bird will follow it around the screen with his head, tugging the entire tower along with it. Once it has the cube in its beak, the bird will follow your cursor, his huge black eyes conveying a ridiculous amount of enthusiasm. There for just one screen, it bubbles with character. There’s so many other lovely moments to share, but the pleasure is in discovering them for yourself.
Many familiar character and shapes from previous Vectorpark games appear. For instance, there’s a cute reference to Feed The Head in the opening screen with a collection of jointed legs and a bouncing ball – something that will make sense to anyone who’s seen the astonishing keepy-uppy in my favourite moment of FTH.
The quality is constantly stunning, Smith seeming to be a stage ahead of others with his neat, detailed Flash creations. The tangibility of everything, the sense of weight and gravity, elasticity and rigidity, makes the creation so much more satisfying to play with. It’s enormously cute, and in this case surprisingly simple.
Smith has chosen to make Windosill the first game he’s charging for. The first half is free to download, the second half quickly opened up with a Paypal/Google Checkout payment of $3 (£2.10). For such a low price, it’s pretty hard not to want to throw money at the guy for his beautiful creations, despite the game’s brevity.
Windosill is adorable – it’s more toy than game, and delightfully so. While I think Feed The Head is a more remarkable experience, it’s certainly less coherent, and while Park is more intricate, it’s also much less playful. However, check them all out, along the mobile balancing game, Levers (talking of which, can anyone get past the god head bit?).
Big thanks to both Eric Dixon and Lisa Evans for linking this to us.