The Best Tunes: Devil’s Tuning Fork


Mr Smee provided the heads up for Devil’s Tuning Fork. Which is… well, striking, to say the least. It’s an Echo-based first-person indie puzzle game. Get it from here or watch it beneath the cut. When your main influences are the optical illusions of Escher and Dolphin’s echolocation, you know you’re onto something. From a team from DePaul University, this is probably the most striking conceptual indie 3D-puzzle game I’ve seen since… ooh, Narbacular Drop. It’s also profoundly atmospheric and a genuinely unique aesthetic. It’s got “Must play” written all over it. Or, at least, it’s got “Must play” written in a blog-post about it.


  1. Rob says:


  2. airtekh says:


    One to keep an eye on, methinks.

  3. Torgen says:

    Is that a Devil Bunny? And did he just pee on himself?

  4. luphisto says:

    looks pretty… downloading now

  5. Stupoider says:

    That looks fantastic! :D Thanks for pointing this out!

  6. dadioflex says:

    So… what was I looking at? It seemed like all the aural clues had a visual counter-part, eg what’s the point of the low energy sound waves to detect the unstable floor times, when these show up as “X”‘s? Where was the actual game?

    God, I doubt I’d last 30 seconds in there before giving up.

    • dadioflex says:

      Okay. Six minutes including installation. Got to the room with the rising platforms but it was pretty annoying and not very challenging.

      Still, interesting idea for free.

  7. TheSombreroKid says:

    thats amazing

  8. Jonas says:

    Oh my God that is the most incredible thing. Downloading immediately.

  9. Jakson Breen says:

    I know it sounds terrible, but I’ve had this idea before, but was in no position to make it. I, however, am very glad that someone did, and much better than I could have imagined it. D/L now, and I’m sure, if the video is any indication, that I’ll love it.

    • Snarboo says:

      I’d say you’re not alone, as I have wondered what an “echolocating” game might be like too, I’m just glad someone finally did it.

  10. NotAmused says:

    This looks like the Doom levels where you pick up a powerup and the lights all go out and your only source of light is from your muzzle flash as you stumble around the room.

  11. SmartChimp says:

    It was interesting. I beat it. I would put it more as a platformer with a twist then a puzzle game. Price was right too. I was surprised by the credits too but I guess games are requiring more and more people.

  12. faelnor says:

    Love it.

  13. hydra9 says:

    Looks great, but when I tried to load it, nothing happened. Possibly I just lack the correct sense organ?

  14. Martin Edelius says:

    Interesting idea, will not play it.

  15. faelnor says:

    Aaaaaaand finished.
    Surprisingly enjoyable gameplay.

  16. TheBlackBandit says:

    Somebody is going to buy this idea. Somebody big.

  17. Tom says:

    oh man that looks awesome.

  18. Jonas says:

    Not bad overall. It basically relies exclusively on pattern recognition, which is like the basic skill you train when you’re playing video games, so that’s interesting. Maybe a bit TOO basic though – if you can recognise which objects can be triggered and which areas may have unstable floors, you’ll have little trouble getting through it. It’s an odd sort of game where the only challenge is that you can’t properly see where the hell you’re going.

    But the atmosphere definitely makes it stand out – I wouldn’t mind seeing somebody of Valve’s calibre pick this up. I played Narbacular Drop after Portal, and I kinda hated it. If I’d played Narbacular first, I’d probably have found it a charming game built around a fun idea. I would love to see a game that is to Devil’s Tuning Fork what Portal was to Narbacular Drop.

    • Günter says:

      Agreed. This is just dull, generic plat former with a novel mechanic and nice atmosphere, but I think it could be turned into something special if you got the right people working on it.

    • Guhndahb says:

      @Jonas: I agree with you in the entirety. In particular, your last sentence is spot on.

      I played it through to the end. I definitely enjoyed it. It did made me nauseous, but even that was worth it for the novel experience.

  19. Roadrunner says:

    It looks like that level in the first Max Payne, where you’re on drugs and all spaced out.
    I find this sort of thing quite disturbing.

  20. Kelron says:

    It’s a nice concept, but there’s much more that could be done with it. This feels like a tutorial, it doesn’t do anything new or challenging beyond having to click to see where you’re going.

  21. GreatUncleBaal says:

    Holy Bat-Vision!

  22. Vinraith says:

    That’s beautiful and fascinating, though I’ve no idea if it will actually play well or not. Still, that’s just really neat.

  23. Carra says:

    Looks like a lovely concept game. And it’s free!

    I’ll have to try this out. Kind of reminds me of portal.

  24. Ade McC says:

    Reminds me of Unfinished Swan

  25. Willy359 says:

    Ow. Dizzy.

  26. Spacewalk says:

    It’s really a great concept but I had to stop playing it because I couldn’t cope with feeling like I was constantly sliding off the sides of platforms or feeling like the rooms were constantly shrinking due to the moving textures.

  27. Στέλιος says:

    This really is lovely. Wish it were fullscreen though (unless I missed something). Lovely atmosphere.

  28. TeeJay says:

    “…What if you saw the world with your ears? Devil’s Tuning Fork is a first-person exploration/puzzle game in which the player must navigate an unknown world using visual sound waves…”

    Sorry to nit-pick but isn’t this game a bit of a cop out? The concept of having to internally visualise/recreate your environment based on indirect clues and feedback is compelling but they seem to have stuck with directly showing you the environment (albeit a bit at a time) rather than requiring you to do much mental processing and interpretation of your own.

    You could have a game where ‘echo’ feedback could be interpreted in two possible ways (eg either a surface is further away or the signal is travelling through a less dense media), where signals were defracted and reflected (so you had to mentally adjust for the true direction they are coming from), where a signal gave you *clues* about what substances an object was made from, but where you had to combine several clues or take several readings from different viewpoints…

    …something like that would be far more fascinating as a game concept (It’s also the kind of issue faced by scientists in medical imaging or looking out into deep space).

    • SuperNashwan says:

      Yeah, I’d love a first person game actually based on making you wear headphones and only the presenting the environment acoustically via simulated HRTF magic. Hell, if I knew anything about DSP programming I’d make one myself.

    • Luthyr says:

      We had tossed around the idea of HRTF audio, but some of our research seemed to make the idea a bit hard to pull off. I’ve played those kind of audio clips to different people and for some the effect seems to be completely non-existent. I think we had to make a lot of compromises so that more people could play the game effectively.

    • pimorte says:

      I’ve heard of one game called “Shadow of a Shadow” that did just that – no visuals, just locational sound. Can’t find reference to it again. :(

    • HardToSpell says:

      There’s a source mod similar to what you’re describing: The Blind Monk’s Society.

    • TeeJay says:

      I didn’t mean just using sound. The ‘indirect clues and feedback’ could still be visual, just not *direct*. IE Instead of directly *showing* an object the visual clues would indirectly *suggest*… you would need to combine more than one clue to be able to deduce what and object was or where it was located exactly.

      A kind of example is in games where you have to view guard patrol routes via CCTV cameras, but where you aren’t sure where the cameras are exactly: you end up having to deduce and piece together what is going on by combining various visual clues.

      Another example is using radar or movement sensors (like in alien): you see a large mass on the screen but you can’t initially tell if it above or below, or exactly what it represents.

      Another example is uncovering spies in TF2 – there are various little clues (eg a scout mioving at the wrong speed) that you can pick up on to work out the truth – it isn’t simply presented to you directly.

  29. Adam says:

    Jesus christ, 10 minutes and I have the worst headache since… I can remember. I know I have had worse headaches I just don’t remember them, possibly due to the cause of the headaches.

    • Atalanta says:

      Same here. It’s a neat idea and I really want to like this, but I feel like I’m going to throw up.

    • Brulleks says:

      Yup, sign me up for the Vom-brigade.

      Was really enjoying it, then got to the top of that high room in ‘up’, where you have to scan for loads of barely visible bells, and suddenly felt nausea sweeping over me like a puke-tsunami.

      I’ve never got motion sickness from a game before this.

  30. Joga says:

    Is anyone else getting a “Shader Model 3.0 not detected” error message? Granted, I have a pretty old card (Go 7950 GTX), but the 7900-series most certainly supports Shader Model 3.0. And I’m using the quite recent 195.39 Beta drivers for Windows 7 32-bit. My roommate (who has a desktop 7900 GTX) is getting the same error in Windows 7 64-bit, and also with updated drivers. I’d really like to try this out…

    • Luthyr says:

      There was an issue with the first release where many SM3.0 cards were failing the compilation, though this issue has been resolved and will be included in the next updated release within this week.

  31. Serph says:

    It’s a nice idea, but there’s no way that it’s playable in this form. Echolocation as a gameplay element is more annoying than fun. It doesn’t ASSIST you in any way, just hinders you. The portals in Portal were necessary for your survival and were the best part of the game. The actual gameplay is not engaging either, I got bored pretty quickly just climbing on platforms and walking over pits. Sure, it looks pretty, but having a game which you can’t see half the time isn’t very fun.

    • Richeh says:

      That’s like saying hopscotch isn’t fun because it doesn’t give you an extra leg. Limitation can be fun. It just has to be done right.

  32. Cary says:

    Supposedly something in the shader is causing it to demand some high requirements. I’m told they are hoping to have a slightly watered down version in the next patched version.

  33. Taillefer says:

    I agree with some of the other opinions here; it’s essentially a pretty way of shining a torch around a dark level. It would be interesting if it actually relied on you to build the level in your mind based on sound. Possibly not very fun, but interesting.

  34. MastodonFarm says:

    Neat. I wonder, have scientists been able to determine how much resolution echolocating creatures “see” the world in?

    • Richeh says:

      I’d imagine noise would be the limiting factor in echolocation. In a silent pool, probably pretty good. In the Yangtse river, a dolphin can barely see the boat they’re smacking their heads on. I don’t know how you’d incorporate noise into a game like this since it’s not a perfect model of echolocation.

    • Rhygadon says:

      For bats at least, the resolution of echolocation is mind-blowingly fine. (Which I suppose makes sense given that they use it to hunt tiny insects, but still.) I remember reading about one test where the scientists rigged a cave with super-fine wires stretching from floor to ceiling, and the bats would fly through at full speed without hitting any of them.

    • fuggles says:

      just as well, or else presumably the bat would be sliced – FOR SCIENCE!

  35. Richeh says:

    Not really in a posiion to play it here, but it looks kinda like a one trick pony; basically a concept game. It looks very polished in what it is, but the level design would have to be pretty special to hold it up on that alone. Fingers crossed, because I do love a good exploration game.

  36. LionsPhil says:

    “Charged sounds will only reflect off mirrors”. Um.

    I also like how apparently footsteps are completely silent.

  37. Army of None says:

    Really cool idea, was interesting to playthrough. Gimmicky, yea, but still rather fun, would like to see the concept put into an actual game rather than just minor platforming.

  38. Henry says:

    Yeah I am getting this error with a 7800 GT card.

    DirectX is up to date.

    Graphics card drivers are up to date.

    I can run other new games fine, so I guess its a problem in DTF, not being compatible with the geforce 7 series, and giving us the wrong error message.

  39. ilurker says:

    I have never been happier not to have been born a bat.

  40. no says:

    God damn, that is creepy.

    “It’s the monster! It hurts us!”…..

  41. jumbleofletters says:

    Why has no one said “Daredevil: The Game”

    On a pretty much unrelated note I once tricked a friend into thinking that a Daredevil game did exist wherein you were totally blind and had to use echolocation to locate things. It was awesome coming up with scenarios to feed to him. This was around the time the movie came out in 2003, a simpler time when people still didn’t turn to the internet when presented with questionable information. The internet really has ruined some things. Like telling your little brother that if he walked on every tile in Goldenrod City will make Celebi pop up. And when it doesn’t till hm he must’ve missed one.

  42. pimorte says:

    I feel motion sick.

    Does anyone have a list of what the arguing pair were saying? I missed a lot of them because I was using the fork at the time. :(

  43. fuggles says:

    How does this end? Turns out that it doesn’t have a save and was ruined by a woman scorned.

  44. billyboob says:

    I. Cannot. Play. This… I just can’t look at it for more then a few seconds before it hurts between my eyes