I wonder how many of you have played our Live Free Play Hard correspondent Porpentine's games. I've just finished playing her latest: Ultrabusiness Tycoon III, and as usual, I grinned at the jokes, smiled at the references, and was very moved by the end. Come with me now, on a journey through time and space...
...To the world of ULTRABUSINESS TYCOON III.
This is a text-built world, of course - Porpentine works mainly in RPS's craft: game words. She says, "I’ve finally finished porting and cracking an old edutainment game from the 90s." You do get a distinctly 90s feel from the start:
WORLD GEN PARAMETERS
ROMAN (Deluxe Edition Only)
ARCOLOGY OF TERROR (Deluxe Edition Only)
JURASSIC (Jurassic Edition Only)
ATLANTIS (Wet n' Wild Edition Only)
You generate a character who will be a high-powered businessperson, and you go seeking your one million dollar fortune. It's a world of weapons-grade potassium, bees of various demeanour, and quite a lot of puke (which it turns out you can't monetize). In order to proceed through the world, you must earn your one million to go through the Mammon Gates.
What becomes apparent is that this is not only an exploration of a 90s shareware game, but it is an exploration of the sentimental (and sometimes not so sentimental) trappings of our childhoods, the time when our computer games came with boxes with characters on the front that we never saw in the final game, graphics that didn't quite function or teased us with their obscurity, hiding their real meaning. Of particular note is my favourite part of the whole game - which is, in typical fashion, a small non-interactive sentence hidden in the web of words that Porpentine pressed into my heart, as if it were cookie dough into a cutter.
"You jump around in the elevator on top of the other passengers. They don't react."
How I feel about my entire life playing games is in that sentence. The attempt of the player to interact, and being unable to, or the feeling that the NPCs should be reacting but aren't, and the ability of the player to do something absurd to amuse themselves... The catharsis of having no one respond. They don't need to. Just all my feelings are caught in this one pure linguistic net. I love games, don't you? I love them.
But this game is even more metatextual than that: and in order not to spoil it, I would ask you to spend some time with this one. It's a frame within a frame within your computer monitor, and Porpentine is speaking directly to the little usses. The smaller ones inside us. The Russian dolls inside who never grew up.
You should play the game now. You can find it here. It is as all her games, free.
If you would like to read something else I wrote about Porpentine's work, I poured my heart into this little piece over at PC Gamer.
But this is my favourite game of hers, of all time. Enjoy.