The Pain Of Not Being Able To Remember A Game’s Name

“What is that puzzle game that you play in a browser and is white objects on black, almost ASCII art but not, and it’s about pushing things and also maybe there are enemies that are static boxes that push things? And everything makes really satisfyingly crunchy sound effects and maybe it has levels but also an infinite sorta roguelike-y mode?”

From this description, do you know what the game is? Can you break this description down into chunks that you can Google for? I could not. I was out of my mind, asking everyone I knew. What game am I thinking of?

There is a good chance you know this pain. Something sits on the edge of your memory but you can’t quite pull it into focus. I was experiencing the worst kind of this phenomenon, one in which I could remember every detail of the game except the part of it that would let me find it, play it, communicate it.

I was sure it was made by someone who had made other things I liked. I thought of the puzzle designers whose work I respected: Brough? Wasn’t him. Jonathan Whiting? Not on his site. Draknek? Nope. I ask a friend, who suggests Droqen. Nil.

I am sure I first heard of it via a podcast. I search the podcast and can’t find it. I am sure we have written about it on RPS. I search the archive and cannot find it.

I ask in the RPS chat room. “Dwarf Fortress?” says Adam, before something clicks in his brain. “Oh crap – I think I might actually know the one you mean.” A breakthrough! But he can’t remember its name. “GARGH,” he says. I look out my window, past my garden to the fields and hills beyond, and contemplate rejecting modern things for life as a forest-dweller.

I am sure it was made by Jonathan Whiting. I check his website again, then search around to see if he’s made games that aren’t listed on his website. Nope. Maybe Marsh mentioned it in his feature about puzzle games? Nope.

This is impossible. I am infuriated. Its name alludes me completely. It’s not even teetering on the tip of my tongue, even as I can picture the rest of the game so clearly. Dark background, hollow white squares, little plunger-shaped shovers on one side of them.

Maybe that picture could jog other people’s memories? I open up MS Paint and draw this image:

But before I show it to those friends who are now similarly wracking their brains, I have a different idea and turn back to search engines. Doesn’t Google allow you to search the internet using an image? Yes, it does, but the results offer nothing useful. All the visually similar images are black-and-white versions of brand logos.

I scroll through pages and pages of results before I noticed there’s an option to describe the image you’re searching with. It seems hopeless, but I type in “puzzle game”.

And there it is. This image and this page. It doesn’t even contain the particular obstacle I had drawn, but it’s the game. It’s called Ending and it’s by Aaron Steed and Adam has written about it before and it was mentioned on the podcast and another friend responds to say, “Sounds like Ending?”. GRAGH.

What I feel now isn’t the satisfaction you normally get when at last able to firmly grip a previously slippery memory. Google had the eureka moment, not me, and I am still infuriated both at my brain and now at a puzzle game with a non-descriptive name like “Ending”. What’s new is that the fury is mixed with amazement at living in the future where I can draw things and the internet knows what I mean better than when I describe it in text. But I don’t know what to do with this swirl of feelings.

“THAT’S A POST,” says Alice.

Play Ending here. It’s really good.

124 Comments

  1. Xan says:

    Is it Ending? link to gamejolt.com

    For the record, Google Image Search for “puzzle game minimalist web push sokoban freeware” cracked it.

    • Xan says:

      Okay, I’m a dummy, did not finish reading before I started looking for it. And I immediately remembered the game from your paint masterpiece, but also needed to search.

  2. floogles says:

    OH MAN the agony of this! Especially if those games are from your childhood, burned into your nostalgia circuits and you never finished the game in question.

    This was so common for me (with Amiga and ancient dos games) that I ended up making a list. Image search, release lists, keyword searches and forum posts help a lot, and it is so satisfying to track them down and finish them. Most recent was Mindwalker. The one that plagues me the most is a space trading sim that allowed you to buy a caterpillar ship that kind of swam through space, it must be on PC but can’t find it for the life of me.

    And finally a plug for the reddit solution to finding “that game you can’t remember” link to reddit.com

  3. Shadrach says:

    I used to frequent the forums on Home of The Underdogs, people there used to be good at knowing that one old game you played when you were a kid and only had vague memories of. These days there’s probably a reddit doing the same thing, there always is.

  4. BradleyUffner says:

    I just spent several hours yesterday trying to remember what “Else Heart.Break()” was called. Trying to google various flavors of “RPG program everything simulation” just wasn’t helping.

  5. Kawa says:

    I recognized this immediately, but that’s purely because I’m roguelike obsessive. (The “other roguelike” you mentioned is Red Rogue, which is a beautiful piece of art.)

    Ending is also available on Android, and it’s really really satisfying to play swipe-to-move on a touch screen.

  6. Rymosrac says:

    I’m actually experiencing this right now with something I haven’t played, but remember reading about onrps sometime last year.

    Local multilayer for two people. 2d. Players start on opposite edges of the screen and are attempting to either shoot their opponent with one of a limited number of bullets or grab the flag in the center of the screen. Co troll sounded pretty sinplistic, maybe only consisting of a duck button and a button for jumping over to the next chest high wall towards the flag in the center.

  7. jrodman says:

    An old torrent site I used to visit (for old old games like c64 and the like) had a subforum/thread/whatever specifically for answering this type of question. They were REALLY GOOD AT IT.

    However, I still want to find that Amiga vector-graphics control-a-hovercar-thing first person puzzly game with fighting elements with relatively direct mouse control. I found it once but didn’t write it down. :-( Part of the problem is that I downloaded it from a BBS and I don’t think it was properly labelled.

    • thekelvingreen says:

      Armour-Geddon? Moonfall?

      • jrodman says:

        Armor geddon came out later. There was no notable HUD that I reemember, it certainly wasn’t moonfall (though this looks interetesting.)

    • Laurentius says:

      Zeewolf ?

      • bishmanrock says:

        Zeewolf was my first thought, but it wasn’t first person was it?

        • Zaxwerks says:

          There was a lot of those games based on the original Zarch on the Acord Archenemies: Zeewolf, Virus, Conqueror

          • jrodman says:

            Those games all fascinate me and I’m terrible at playing them.

    • mynicksaretaken says:

      Midwinter? Hunter?

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      Addie says:

      Resolution 101? Interphase? Wish they’d remake Interphase, you can’t shoot down too many unicycling frogs…

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      Skabooga says:

      The old Terminator game? I think Richard Cobbett did a write up for it on his Weekly Crapshoot on PC Gamer. link to pcgamer.com

    • disconnect says:

      Tower of Babel? Vaxine? Cybercon III? Driller? Dark Side? Father Spodo Komodo? Father Canabramalamer? Father Todd Unctious?

    • Geebs says:

      Mercenary? Damocles? Starglider?

    • iainl says:

      Sounds like Virus, which was the most popular of the Zarch/Lander clones to come to the Amiga. My favourite by far was Hunter, though.

    • johann tor says:

      This sounds a bit like Starglider (or Starglider II)

    • jrodman says:

      I shouldn’t have written this before going to sleep.

      I’m working through all the titles above, but I don’t think it’s there. This was a game with very simple vector graphics, very fast motion that was directly controlled by the mouse (i remember slinging my beetle mouse all over the desk trying to get my whatever-it-was to land on things.) The player’s agency wasn’t a flying thing, it was more like first-person air hockey with some kind of shooter gun out the front. Levels were short and focused and you beat them or you failed and tried again.

      • jrodman says:

        Update: none of the mentioned games are it. Most seem to be flight simulatoresque or zarchesque, and it was neither.

        • jrodman says:

          FOUND IT. Trex Warrior: link to hol.abime.net

          Felt more like a tech-demo than a fully polished game, but that was common back then. It’s worth taking around the block if you never played it.

  8. Gap Gen says:

    What’s going on with that image at the top? Also themes of slavery, dunno if that’s worth avoiding.

    • SanguineAngel says:

      The first thing that struct me about this article was that this image seemed rather barbaric

      • SanguineAngel says:

        struck!! Curse this lack of edit functionality

      • Orageon says:

        Agreed. I am actually a little bit shocked that such an image which seems slavery-related gets associated with the oh so intense pain of us poor gamers who can’t remember a game’s name.
        Kind of inappropriate, IMO. Would probably not happen with WW2-related imagery.
        Anyway, back on topic.

  9. Hieronymusgoa says:

    I fill an Evernote note with every show, movie, game and book someone suggested me or i read about it and deemed it interesting. Otherwise I would never be able to keep track of all the things which come out. As soon as I read the name I am like “Ahhhh, yes! That was the one.”

  10. Kefren says:

    I had this the other day. My most ridiculous web and image searches were for the string:
    “pc old rts supplies city missions stand lie prone 8 powers giant crab”

    • Kefren says:

      I wanted to see if it was wishlisted on GOG (their list of games people want them to start selling), since I used to love the game. Eventually tracked it down – not available, but it had already been wishlisted.

      • Kefren says:

        The game was “Abomination: The Nemesis Project”.

        • FunnyB says:

          Here you go! :D

          link to se.gamersgate.com

          • Kefren says:

            Ta, surprised they’re still charging so much – I had it on an old CD. Good chunky manual to it.

        • Sin Vega says:

          Oh man, I was just thinking of writing about this recently. It’s an old favourite of a dear friend, and I think the first full PC game I ever bought. Flawed and buggy and with lots of incomplete features, but man I had some fun with it back in the day. So atmospheric.

          • Kefren says:

            Yes, good atmosphere, and tense if you played it like UFO Enemy Unknown, trying to keep individuals alive and building up their skills. I loved putting snipers on top of buildings in prone position, and using someone else to lure enemies into their range of sight. Blam blam kibbles. The missions into alien bases were pretty tough though.

          • Sin Vega says:

            Did you know that stealth works on most monsters? e.g. The Initiates won’t attack you if you just stroll casually past them. Aside from cultists and a few others (like Kindred… kindred were fucking terrifying, that “braaak!” noise is always doom), most of them will mistake you for cultists if you walk and don’t fire.

          • Kefren says:

            No, I didn’t know that! Huh, would have been easier…

  11. Skeletor68 says:

    Right so I only ever played the demo. An isometric RTS of some kind focused on aliens planting spores in little patches for a resource. Murdering other aliens and clicking on their remains (mouse over would show a little DNA double helix) to take their traits and build new aliens. I also remember a lot of purple.

    • Scilantius says:

      Hmm, at first I was thinking of Tone Rebellion, but you mentioning a lot of purple sort of narrows it down to one, I think. Was it perhaps Genewars by Bullfrog?

      I loved that game when I was younger :) I probably shouldn’t try it now, but it still /seems/ awesome, at least!

      • Great Cthulhu says:

        Drat, you beat me to it. It sounds a lot like Genewars to me too. Didn’t much care for it myself. The only Bullfrog game in which I was disappointed.

    • Hanimalle says:

      I think the game you’re thinking about might be WarBreeds,

    • Frank says:

      Sounds vaguely like my memory of Globulation, which was a rare free linux-compatible RTS when last I had linux.

  12. bishmanrock says:

    This happened for years with me for an obscure Amiga game that eventually turned out to be called Go Kävin Go.

    I played a lot of games in the classroom, but can’t remember the system or barely anything about them, so I think those are lost to time.

    • CookPassBabtridge says:

      Yeah I had that for YEARS with two games. In my head I could just see an image but there was no name. Bits leaked back over time … “oh oh METAL… something. They had big hammers, one called a BRM”. Every google combo you could think of. Took ages but it turned out to be Metal Masters, a two player or single player game where two endlessly upgradeable and massive robots bashed the hell out of one another that I used to upset my friend with a lot by winning at.

      However the one that very nearly drove me to google-icide was much more obscure. It was just a demo I played from a random disk I got at a computer show, and I cannot for the life of me remember how I searched for it. But it turned out to be another “metal” name – Metal Mutant. The relief and joy when I found it was unbelievable (sorry Graham). Like beating Dark Souls.

      link to youtube.com

      Ahhhhh

  13. Jenks says:

    This happens to me pretty often with movies and music, but not with games.

    Fortunately with music you can just hum/sing until you get to the chorus and then the mystery is solved.

    • Paul B says:

      Ah, but what happens if you can’t remember the lyrics? I have one song that continues to haunt me – sometimes I wake up in the morning and find it bouncing around my head – all I can remember is the tune, and the fact it came out during the late 80’s/early 90s. I’m never going to find out what the blasted song is am I?

  14. v21v21v21 says:

    Or, the one where you have, like, a gun and, you know, shoot at people n’ stuff… Arrgh, driving me crazy… played it just the other day…

  15. JeepBarnett says:

    I had this pain trying to remember a movie and stumbled on to this site: http://irememberthismovie.com

    The community there cracked it in 5 minutes. Maybe there should be a similar service or category for games.

  16. Fenix says:

    There’s this game from my childhood I am trying to find and I have tried several forums and reddit and never managed to find it. It might have been an Italian made edutainment/adventure game which probably shrinks the number of people that have played it to a very small number :(

  17. cannonballsimp says:

    I’m still waiting for google to introduce audio searches. I’ve been stuck for months, trying to find out the name of an old, super-cheesy pop song that goes “na na na na na na na na na na na na na” in the chorus. But of course googling “song that goes na na na” doesn’t really help because there are tons of songs like that!

    • Premium User Badge

      SuddenSight says:

      There is a website called midomi.com that tries to do exactly that. It works… occasionally. Maybe about 1/5 for me.

      As for the na na song, if it is recent I would wager a guess at Honey I’m Good by Andy Grammer. I was looking for the same song myself recently, and could only remember that the chorus had na’s in it.

    • YogSo says:

      Pop, somewhat old, and with literally “na na na na na”s in the chorus? Maybe Roxette’s The Look?

    • Zaxwerks says:

      SoundHound is an phone app where you can la la la or hum the tune and it’ll find it for you.

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      DelrueOfDetroit says:

      I am going to be that smart-ass and ask if it is Hey Jude?

    • Guzzleguts says:

      Could it be a cover of ‘Hush’ by billy Joe royal?

    • Recurve says:

      Maybe Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye by Steam?

  18. Dezmiatu says:

    I keep forgetting the name of a flash game called Gyossait. I just love the aesthetic and back story, although the game is pretty tedious for a platformer.

  19. Llewyn says:

    Welcome to middle age, Graham. Over the coming years the responses to your requests for help from your ‘friends’ will move through “Graham, I’m not Adam, I’m Alice”, “Why are you asking me, I’m a traffic warden?” and “Please will you put some trousers on?” to “Where’s this man’s nurse?”

    So much to look forward to.

    Your article inspired me to hunt down the early C64 game that’s been bugging me recently. An ASCII based WW2 TBS about using a subset of skills available to your party to infiltrate and destroy a (procedurally generated?) secret compound. I could even picture (but naturally not remember the name of) the compilation I got it in. I have no idea what I’m going to do with this knowledge, but thank you anyway.

    (Yes, I’ve deliberately left out the name, some other old git might enjoy the guessing game.)

    • TheGreatBaldOne says:

      You’re not talking about Computer Ambush, are you?

    • disconnect says:

      Special Operations? I had that on a Spectrum compilation and was entirely rubbish at it.

      • Llewyn says:

        Bravo! I was also entirely rubbish at it, but enjoyed it nonetheless. I recall it now as being very much ahead of its time in ways I didn’t understand at 11 or so, though that’s probably just the mists of nostalgia.

  20. Laurentius says:

    Oh, I’ve got one.
    There is this game I used to play on arcades as a kid. It was a mix of sidescroleer shotem up and space combat sidescroller shootem up. There were a couple of planets like green one has jungle scenery, yellow was desert, red was vulcanic. You go from left to right, there were a couple diffrent power ups for your weapon. At the end of the level there was a boss battle, lik eon green planet that was this big dude with machette, you shoot him, he’s got this set of pattern moves so when he rushed you, you’ve got to like jump over him etc. After finishing each planet, you were fighting in your space ship a couple different waves of enemies and then move to next planet. I thought that this game also has good graphic at that time.

  21. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    There’s one I never found the name of. It’s an old game (probably played on an early pc or perhaps even commodore) I played at a friend’s house. It featured two cities/camps or perhaps just a world divided in two halves. One red and one yellow and I think it was a two-player game where each player controlled a tank of sorts (again, red and yellow).

    It was fun, and kind of reminds me of the games of Bolo I used to play with my brother although I remember very little of the gameplay of the unknown title.

    • jrodman says:

      Is this a port of Firepower? I only played that on the Amiga.

  22. morse says:

    I had a heckuva time trying to recall the game Robosport recently. Turn-based robot warfare I played with my dad on a Mac plus.

  23. Hanimalle says:

    There’s a game I’ve never been able to remember the name of despite it pretty much being my first experience in computer games.

    It was based in a hospital that you could sort of walk around ( and even get out of it by taking an elevator ) but the main gameplay revolved around the idea that you could somehow get inside your patient’s body and shoot whatever was the cause of his/her disease.

    • JamesTheNumberless says:

      Any idea when roughly it was and what the graphics were like? Did it have FMV? Was it Microcosm?

    • limpbisquick says:

      You know what’s crazy? I’ve also been looking for the name of this game, for years even. And all it took was someone else asking about it.

      3D Body Adventures

      • Hanimalle says:

        This is absolutely amazing! Thanks a lot, I honestly didn’t think I would ever find the name of that game after so many tries. I’m glad we were able to help each other out.

  24. Asurmen says:

    Not as bad as the music equivalent. At least a game can be described. With music, unless you’ve got a sample or a name you can’t get anywhere.

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      DelrueOfDetroit says:

      Especially difficult when trying to find a song made up of samples.

      • bishmanrock says:

        If you at least know the sample origins, you could search for the original song on whosampled.com, then look at the list of who sampled that song.

        If not, then sucks to be you, I guess.

  25. Whiskey Jak says:

    I had this problem for a while with a game I had only seen on a friend’s PC 20 years ago. Hours of search over the course of a few weeks and I got it:
    link to mobygames.com

    Now I’m looking for a game that I keep thinking is Blade Runner but it’s not because it is first person. You start in your “appartment room” (think 5th element) you have to collect your gun and some stuff and then head out (can’t remember clearly afterwars).

  26. JamesTheNumberless says:

    There was one time this happened to me with a DOS game, I tweeted @dosnostalgic and he got it on the second attempt. I’d recommend anyone else do the same.

  27. Premium User Badge

    Skabooga says:

    Six or seven years ago, some (Russian?) enthusiast artist made a giant digital poster containing artistic representations of various characters from a bunch of different computer games of the previous 10 years or so. I was able to recognize who most of them were. But there was one character who looked so familiar but who I also simply couldn’t place.

    I must have spent the next 8 hours trawling the internet, trying to locate her identity. It didn’t help that she was drawn in a slightly cartoonish style. The answer finally came in a small message board where a topic was set up to discuss the poster, and an informal contest of people trying to ID the various games represented.

    Turns out, my mystery person was a prostitute from the game Messiah. I’d never played it, but she had featured prominently (go figure) in the magazine advertisements for the game at the time.

  28. shitflap says:

    Was gonna give my white whale a push, but I finally found it!
    Jetstrike for the Amiga.
    Thanks for this article, or I’d still be, occasionally, bothered by that one…

  29. Sin Vega says:

    White Bear

  30. dragonofdarke says:

    Here’s mine: an RPS post from some time ago with a local co-op game in which four players are trying to carry this nexus or huge orb to a finish point. There is some mechanic in which they must be carrying the nexus to recharge health and ammo, but they must fight off enemies that spawn in their way with some sort of laser weapon that each person can use. It’s top-down, and they’re walking on floating platforms, bastion-style.

  31. int says:

    I got one, I hope someone will know it. It was an old, PC-speaker-old that is, puzzle game. You were, I think, a spaceship which jumped around on strange pads. So basically, you jump from one to another and the previous one is destroyed. I had it on a 3.5 diskette.

  32. liquidsoap89 says:

    There was an article or two on RPS roughly a year ago about an indie game with a heavily pixelated look to it. I remember a trailer being released and the game looked very cyberpunk/dystopian. I recall a shot of a big black ship flying past, and everything else was very red. I don’t recall if it was a sidescrolling game, or if just that specific shot was. It reminded me of Gemini Rue, but it might not have been a point n’ click game.

    The title might have been one word, and I believe the developers had released a different game a few years earlier, that was moderately well received.

  33. gummybearsliveonthemoon says:

    Hmm. I might try that reddit people were talking about.

    There’s an old FPS from the days we called them “Doom clones” that I read about, never played, just curious to look at… all I remember is that you had a camouflage or illusion powerup that made you appear as a tree sprite.

    All I can think it might be is “In Pursuit of Greed”.

    • Frank says:

      You are clearly not talking about Giants: Citizen Kabuto, but it also lets you camouflage as a tree (albeit in 3D, not sprite form) — you should play it instead :)

      • gummybearsliveonthemoon says:

        I forgot about that! I loved Giants: CK. It deserved more acclaim.

    • Premium User Badge

      Harlander says:

      I remember In Pursuit of Greed! Pretty obscure, but kinda funny. You were a mercenary, and one of the characters you could be was some kinda bipedal cow person. And there was an upgrade that gave you a rear-view mirror

  34. souroldlemon says:

    I wonder if anyone knows an obscure DOS game, which i thought was called “game of war” but that seems to be wrong.
    warhammer regicide made me think of it because it was also chess-like but different.
    I’ve got the original floppies somewhere
    but they don’t last and i remember I’d managed to download it from some abandonia site but since then it’s disappeared into the wilds of my disk drives’ nested directories of zip rar zip files in nested directories of archives of folders of etc.

    • Premium User Badge

      Harlander says:

      Without more detail, I’m going to guess: Battle Chess?

      • souroldlemon says:

        Nope but thanks for trying. It looked even more primitive than those screenshots and it wasn’t chess rules and gameplay, just more like chess than like a battle in a TBS or puzzle.

    • RegisteredUser says:

      You should add more details about the actual game / gameplay.
      Archon is another chess + battle game.

      • souroldlemon says:

        Archon looks interesting, thanks for that.
        I’m a bit vague about the game because i didn’t get to play it much and wish i had and that was back in the 90s.
        The graphics was crap, there were these blue and red pieces/things on each side and it was purely singleplayer.

    • jrodman says:

      Your name makes me think of The Ancient Art of War.

  35. bobbobob says:

    I have one and it’s pre-PC. It was when I was at primary school (mid 80s) and it may have been on a BBC Micro, but it was a depressing farm-management game. You were an India family and you had a smallholding. You could plant rice or millet and then sit back and wait for the harvest. It either droughted or monsooned and one or the other killed the crop in different ways. Some of your crop you put back in to feed some animals you had. I think most playthroughs ended in death for the entire family, but this seems a bit dark for a primary-level edu-game.