Pixel Perfect: Today I Die

By John Walker on May 6th, 2009 at 9:59 pm.

I'm sure she's just sleepy.

You may remember I Wish I Were The Moon, a game delightful both for its romantic simplicity, and the correct grammar of its title. Creator Daniel Benmergui has returned with a new, and quite astoundingly beautiful game, Today I Die.

Perhaps I’m feeling particularly flaky today, but the first time I was able to make a change to the game’s short paragraph, a warmth buzzed through me. The two-to-three minute long game takes place in a tall, RPS-screenshot-size-breaking, column, with a block of text suspended at the top. You play a girl, floating in water, surrounded by gently rising jellyfish and two angry piranha-like creatures. Everything else that happens is yours to discover.

It’s abundantly detailed, despite the simple pixel design and brevity. Playing with everything is rewarded, and it’s accompanied by some really lovely music by Hernan Rozenwasser. There are, as is the way of Ludomancy games, at least two endings to find, each telling a different story. And that, for me, is the key to this digital amuse-bouche: it sings of narrative, of how our entire life story can be altered through deliberate, conscious narrative choices. By the end I was properly moved.

If you appreciate Benmergui’s work you can make donations at his site. There’s a few financial incentives for the generous, with $27 buying you a credit in his next game, all the way up to $995 for a uniquely made version of I Wish I Were The Moon, with characters designed to your own whim, and a new ending of your own choosing. For those slightly more frugal, any amount donated will get you access to downloadable versions of three games, IWIWTM, Storyteller, and this latest, Today I Die. You could just donate nothing and still receive them, but that wouldn’t do, would it?

PS. Rather splendidly, there’s a lovely note on Today I Die’s page:

“This game is ad-free thanks to an unusual individual.”

Thanks to IndieGames for the spot.

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71 Comments »

  1. Rob says:

    That was the most inspirational game I’ve ever played. It put a big smile on my face.

  2. YouAteMyCheeto says:

    Yo Rob, did you play The Majesty of Colors? RPS did a piece on it back in January I think. Definitely worth playing.

    http://www.kongregate.com/games/GregoryWeir/the-majesty-of-colors

  3. Alex says:

    What seems like a wonderful piece, made MASSIVELY INFURIATING by the pernickity ‘run away from the evil jellyfish’ bit. GRRR.
    (I acknowledge it’s all the more frustrating because I feel the need to help that girl, which is impressive. But still, shitty design there.)

  4. unclelou says:

    Lovely.

  5. Okami says:

    This was just plain beautiful. I’m not a person who is easily moved by any kind of media, but during the end, when.. nahh. won’t spoil it for anyone. But I did feel desperation and anxiety and fear of loss for a short moment and that’s not easily achieved.

  6. Theoban says:

    That was brilliant. I gave it a go, gave up, was about to come back here and stomp around like an angry Stegosaurus.

    Gave it another go, worked out what I was supposed to do, was swept away by the beauty. Everything this guy does touches me. Anyone doubting games as a modern, emotional, adult experience should see his stuff.

  7. John Walker says:

    Alex – I honestly didn’t have a problem like that.

  8. Ben says:

    very nice, but I feel really stupid as I cant see how to get any other ending!? Played it twice now…

  9. Okami says:

    @Alex:

    WARNING ZOMG SPOILERZ!!

    The run away bit is really easy. They can’t come past the five air bubbles. You just have to arrange these air bubbles around you, and wait until you get the “free” verb.

  10. DeliriumWartner says:

    SPOILERS

    I got to a bit with psychotic dark murmaids chasing me endlessly and gave up. I don’t know if I missed the point but that bit was insanely hard.

    Edit: Ah, apparently I did miss something, although I couldn’t see any bubbles at that point.

  11. Ishy says:

    I’ve seen a way to get one ending, are there others…?

    EDIT: Found the second ending, actually like it better than the ‘obvious’? one. As Gap Gen said, it’s a different path right at the end.

  12. jalf says:

    Oooh, it’s nonlinear… There are at least two endings… Maybe more.

  13. Pijama says:

    …Damn right, it is lovely.

    And to make a point: yesterday I finished Bioshock. This has moved me much more than that million-dollar hightech game that was sunk in praise.

    I wonder why.

  14. Gap Gen says:

    OK, I found a second ending (the difference is right at the end).

  15. Mr Lizard says:

    That was wonderful. Thank you.

  16. Filipe says:

    Elegant and simple. I’m a fan.

  17. Sinnerman says:

    I think that this is great. Leaves me wanting something more open and complicated where I have more words that can be replaced at any one time. I want to go off the tracks and explore more.

  18. maybenexttime says:

    Lovely. Changing the phrase to something which makes poor falling girl happier- that brought a big smile to my face.

    Although -

    (spoilers)
    I couldn’t find anything to do with the word ‘beauty’. “Free world full of shades today I swim” …

  19. Pijama says:

    And I am trying to find a second ending… Unless that I did already and didn’t realize?

  20. loci says:

    “most inspirational game I’ve ever played”

    bit ott…
    it had a wee bit of charm, lets leave it at that

  21. Igor Hardy says:

    This was superb. I liked it much more than IWIWTM. Indeed it reminded me of The Majesty of Colors. The atmosphere and gameplay in perfect sync.

  22. dan says:

    This is the second time I’ve seen this game linked today, and neither time has the ludomancy site worked. Anybody else having trouble with it?

  23. Gap Gen says:

    maybenexttime: Really? You didn’t see which word to switch “beauty” with? Did you get a different ending yet again?

  24. Bret says:

    Neat game. Can’t figure out the alternate ending though.

    Never mind. Got it.

    Game gave me two cases of the warm fuzzies. Not bad.

  25. Inanimotion says:

    Great game!
    I was so confused at the start though.

    Second ending was disappointing since it was pretty much the same though.

  26. John Walker says:

    loci – I’m not sure he said it was the most inspirational game you’ve ever played. You might want to let other people decide their own reactions.

  27. jalf says:

    The two endings should be pretty simple to get. The options are “do something” vs “do nothing” on the last screen.

  28. Tei says:

    The game is great, thanks RPS!

  29. Gap Gen says:

    It is literally inspirational, meaning that the aim of the game is to induce breathing in someone.

  30. solipsistnation says:

    I really like the choice of the two endings I found. Without spoiling it too much, one ending kind of denies the self-sufficiency implied by the path you take to get there, and the other reinforces it. That’s great. (I know some people who would be annoyed if there was just the first, more obvious, ending.)

  31. jackflash says:

    I don’t understand this game at all. Same with the Moon one. *confused*

  32. Lim-Dul says:

    @jackflash – a small hint: look at the way some words in the poem and elsewhere on the screen light up with the same color.

  33. Luís Magalhães says:

    And this is why I visit RPS. Yet another gem of the interwebs, uncovered.

  34. Markoff Chaney says:

    Excellent! This is a great game. It’s a way of telling a story that has you interact with mechanics to influence a change on the world you inhabit. As you change things in the world, your understanding of said world also changes, enabling you to get a firmer grasp on the whole concept. Working through slightly changing conventions, always progressing the game toward its programmed conclusion (or variants thereof), one emerges from the experience changed, while having changed the conceptual world you were just in.

    The observer manipulates and modifies and then becomes manipulated and modified in turn. Excellent work. Really good play with perception, reality, understanding and, at it’s root, meta-programming of the self to transcend negativity and attachment. Thank You.

  35. Lewis says:

    That’s just lovely. It’s like the anti-Passage.

    I think I like this more, if only for the message. As poignant as Passage is, it’s cripplingly pessimistic in its inevitibility.

  36. dan says:

    I’m still the only one who the site doesn’t work for?

  37. maybenexttime says:

    Gap Gen: I can make a pretty accurate guess which word to switch beauty with, obviously, but I couldn’t find any way of moving it to the right place. I seemed to have run out of things to interact with – probably I just missed something, it was a slightly hurried glance at the game.

  38. LukasPukas says:

    Wooooo, I got there in the end.

  39. Valentin Galea says:

    Pretentious(TM)!

  40. Tailsn says:

    That played relatively quickly once you got into the groove of it. I’m not sure if I was moved as much as some of the other players, but it definitely had a soft beauty to it. I think my favorite bit about this game is that it’s not quite straightforward and thus it really gave me a nice sense of exploration.

  41. Dorian Cornelius Jasper says:

    It’s a shame that gamist snobs sniff their noses at a cute little narrative puzzle like this.

    Quite charming and not nearly as pretentious as it could’ve been. Especially the second ending–that gave me a chuckle.

  42. orta says:

    Amazing.

  43. Stromko says:

    maybenexttime: “beauty” doesn’t replace the first word or the last word.

    My first playthrough I “sort of” found an extra ending, in that I thought the look of defiance on the protagonist’s face was the ending and didn’t find the word beauty. I refreshed and then managed to find the “obvious” and not-obvious real endings.

  44. Vinraith says:

    It’s a neat little game, thanks for pointing it out.

  45. jalf says:

    @Dorian Cornelius Jasper: Huh? Which gaming snobs are we talking about? The feedback here at least has been pretty damn positive, I’d say.

  46. ylw says:

    This is so beautifully emotive.

    His sponsorship concept is great too. Did it for Auditorium, will do it for this.

  47. MD says:

    That was beautiful. Sure it’s simple, and you could argue that it’s ultimately rather trite. But who cares, it’s well done and really quite touching, even uplifting. As far as I’m concerned we need this far more than yet another ‘life is the road to death, paved with suffering’ message.

  48. skizelo says:

    Spoilers follow, I guess. Were you meant to do anything with the little dude who showed up at the end? I couldn’t find a way to interact with him, so I just threw all the bubbles at him until he went away.
    Take that, nascent love interest!

  49. MD says:

    skizelo (and this is also a spoiler, obviously): you can also bring him and the girl together. I thought it was just a matter of dragging one into the other, but maybe something else I did was part of the ‘solution’ too? Try that though, if you haven’t already.

  50. Scalene says:

    It kind of says a lot that I never even considered NOT going to that man was an option until I read the comments.

    I’m such a romantic…