The Small Things: Specter Spelunker Shrinks

By Kieron Gillen on March 25th, 2010 at 2:24 pm.

It looks great in motion, btw. GO PARALLAX!

Within seconds of playing this Simon Parkin Special, I knew I was going to post it. And now, you’re all going to play it, because it features the best single thing you’ll experience today. The “it” is Specter Spelunker Shrinks. The execution leaves something to be desired – checkpoint positioning is off, is occasionally a bit laggy, etc – but the core wonder is just plain wonderful. The vague De Stijl art vibe is great, but the central Alice-In-Wonderland device deserves applause. There life in the indie-platformer-with-a-novel-idea formula yet. Go play! Some video follows! Yes!

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42 Comments »

  1. Quasar says:

    Played this the other day, when it was posted on the PCG blog. Very nice idea, I especially like that there’s no limit to how far you can shrink/grow. The end is rather charming too.

  2. misterk says:

    Hmm, splendid stuff- and marvel already has a super hero to take advantage of this mechanic!

    • Rinox says:

      If he managed to liberate Kandor this should be a cakewalk for him!

    • Drexer says:

      Wait WHAT?

      Marvel…

      Kandor…

      You’ve got Marvel in my DC… or otherwise, but I don’t remember any size-changer in the Marvel Universe. And I didn’t really read the releasing-Kandor DC arc, so I do not know if the Atom is involved.

      However, suing this for an Atom game would be pretty cool, specially if they played it more on his scientist and whimsical side. Kinda like Portal except with this mechanic. Although the more hardcore DC fans might be a little bit offended by the way his momentum does not seem to be conserved.

      It has to be Ray Palmer though.

    • Rinox says:

      Oops – yeah Atom is DC, don’t know who misterk was referring too then!

      (and he releases Kandor from the hands of Brainiac in The Dark Knight Strikes Again)

    • Wulf says:

      No size changing Marvel character? Wot? …wot??

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wasp_%28comics%29
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Pym

      Not to mention that there were loads of people who used Pym’s formula.

    • Drexer says:

      @ Wulf

      I say I didn’t remember any size-changing Marvel character, not that they didn’t exist. I’m mainly a DC reader, so I tried not to pronounce myself too righteous on the Marvel Universe.

      I do believe however(and like alway,s anyone can prove me wrong on this) that the Atom is relatively more famous in the DC universe than the Wasp in the Marvel one.

  3. Pemptus says:

    Wow. That was excellent from beginning to end. Whaddaya know, an original idea AND implemented very well.

  4. MinisterofDOOM says:

    The concept definitely has a lot of potential, especially if level design is good enough to provide extreme scale contrasts. This game hints at it, but doesn’t really take it as far as it could go. Refined controls and good level design could easily build a worthwhile full-length game using this mechanic. I’d like to see better realized puzzles and less trial-and-error, though.

  5. Wilson says:

    Heh, nice little game. I agree with Quasar that the ending is lovely. I too wouldn’t mind a longer game based on the same idea, though I expect the tech might need a little more work to ensure a smooth game.

  6. Arathain says:

    That was really excellent. Brilliant idea, very well implemented.

  7. SpinalJack says:

    Someone could make a version with different scale textures as the player shrinks so at first you might see a sofa but as you get smaller you start to see the individual threads in the lining and then eventually you get to ride on giant change and over bits of rubbish that fell behind the cushion. Great use of microscope images of objects XD

  8. Berzee says:

    Magnificent :-) I like how there are multiple solutions to some of the puzzles — either winding your way through the little crevices, or making one Big Man jump and shrinking as you fly.

    Checkpoints were too frequent in some places, but I never felt like they were too far apart. I like it so much :D

  9. Shazbut says:

    I’m frankly amazed at how well this is done.

  10. CMaster says:

    I expected a Warren Spector Spelunky game for some reason.

    What I got was nothing like that, but absolutely, unbelievably awesome.

  11. The_B says:

    I said this yesterday, but I’ll say it again:

    I am dissappointed it is not a alternative protoganist for free indie game Spelunky featuring a tiny Warren Spector. Opportunity missed. :(

  12. Flowerpot Wang says:

    Unity Player crashed :(

    Unless this is part of the game…

  13. mcwizardry says:

    Interesting concept, managed to finish it.

  14. Mitza says:

    Oh, my… It’s like they read my thoughts, put them all together and came up with the idea that was eluding me :)

    Great stuff, I can really see this being used from now on in many games.

  15. Vadermath says:

    Wow. This is by far the most awesome game I’ve played in a while.

  16. Rinox says:

    It reminds me a lot of And Yet It Moves, which I very much enjoyed.

  17. DMcCool says:

    I think its the fliudity of the size-changing that makes this work so well. Instantly brought up visions of Braid, where your super power was again totally trusted in your hands and were too the game felt like a toy to play with.
    That said its the mechanic itself (and how it makes you view the world differently) thats excites me so much. Every time I finished one of those fiddly small bits I (like most people I guess) would always go as big as I could to laugh at the how small the challenge I just completed was.
    Proportion is a wonderous thing, and the more games that play with this the better. I think we all remember Micro Machines, though taking on the same area in different sizes is whats really fun. I can remember doing that in Donkey Kong 64, Ape Escape, and that Medieval 2 game on PS1. Anyone have any idea where the trope was first used? (though I have to admit I’ve never seen it used this well. Long live the indie!).

  18. Collic says:

    Really, really cool. someone needs to make this into a full game.

  19. Feste says:

    That is one nice game. I think it works best in such a short dose, once I’d literally out-grown the previous section a couple times the idea was beginning to get a little familiar. Still, the smoothness in which it handles scale changes is very, very nice.

    It would make a very nice puzzler I think, one of the best bits I thought was getting past that tap in the opening section. I was slightly embarrassed once I realised that I could just go under it.

    And I agree that the ending is quite lovely.

  20. Lilliput King says:

    The tap was brilliant, yeah.

    Definitely got legs, this idea!

  21. Zyrxil says:

    Wow, damn clever mechanics. Valve should hire these guys to make an experimental game, “Portal IV: We’re Out of Goddamn Portals”.

  22. Ricc says:

    Wow… That was brilliant! Almost a prototype, though. I wish this idea was used in a 3D map.

  23. Lambchops says:

    Played this yesterday and thought it was very neat. Hope they do more with it.

  24. Jugglenaut says:

    Great game. Hope for more.

  25. James G says:

    Fantastic concept, neatly implemented. It certainly seems like something you could take even further.

  26. duel says:

    Such an amazing sense of scope!

    • Wulf says:

      Indeed, that’s something it definitely had and that’s what triggered my thought of metaworlds in my post below. When I saw that little ‘house’ (people who’ve played it probably know what I’m talking about) right after a checkpoint, I just stared at it and it struck me then how impressive of a concept it was, that I could shrink down into that, and romp around in it, and from the inside it would seem massive.

      Great stuff.

  27. Edawan says:

    It’s not working for me.
    All I get is the Unity logo with a loading bar, but nothing else.
    EDIT: fixed by updating the Unity player

  28. Scandalon says:

    Interesting idea, quit after not being able to properly control my jumps…

    • Wulf says:

      Oh, whoops… I see I wasn’t alone in that…

      Still, might be down to the browser rather than the game, but this is why I dislike browser embedded games (except for flash, which always seems to perform well), because it’s hard to know whether performance issues come from the game or the fact that it’s embedded in a browser.

  29. Wulf says:

    I have mixed thoughts on this one.

    The thing is is that it’s an absolutely brilliant concept, and the game was a fantastic proof of concept, but it was very rough around the edges (and I’m not talking about the visuals, as those don’t matter to me). The only thing about it that really frustrated me is that I found the the jumping a mite too unresponsive when running, and this is from someone who’s enjoyed games where the character accelerates and gets a bit slippy-slidey.

    Now onto more positive things: The mechanic was great, it was imaginative, I’ve never played anything like it, and despite some minor frustrations I did thoroughly enjoy myself with it. I dug the VVVVVV atmosphere of it all, the checkpoints and really hard challenges, that all worked for me, very much so. I also loved the ending, as that was really, really clever. I was confused when I found myself outside the level at first, wondering if I’d broke it, but when I figured things out I was grinning from ear to ear. Good stuff!

    I’d really love to see a polished up version of this, with some kind of plot and motivation attached (no matter how abstract), and perhaps some more imaginative puzzles to tax the mechanic with. Perhaps even some basic Katamari-like backdrops, because this would make for a really interesting game, perhaps Micro Machines mixed with metaworlds, worlds inside worlds and so on. Lots of potential there, lots could be done with it, and that’s a sort of game I would happily lay money down for.

    As it stands though, it’s a fantastic little proof-of-concept blighted only by some slight control issues.

    • Wulf says:

      A thought occurs: Control issues could’ve been caused by a cluttered Firefox, I have a couple of flash movies paused, and a number of tabs open, so that could’ve slowed it down. Hadn’t thought of that. If that is the case then I retract my comment about the controls being slightly unresponsive.

  30. robrob says:

    Finally figured out where the sound effects are from, it’s Knytt isn’t it?

  31. merc says:

    Most excellent

  32. mbp says:

    Absolutely brilliant game. Has the potential to be the next Portal if he builds on the idea.

    To the poster who found the control scheme awkward: Running jumps work differently in this game to most platformers. In most platformers you must run towards a ledge and then press jump at the last minute to launch yourself across a gap. In Spectre Spelunker you need to stand at the edge, press jump and then press the move key. You can actually move laterally in mid air. Once I figured this out the game became easier but it is not intuitive – I still kept trying to make traditional running jumps.

    (apologies for necroing an old post but I only just got my rps password and this is my first post!)