What is the best alphabet of 2015? The RPS Advent Calendar highlights our favourite games from throughout the year, and behind today's door is...
Alice: Why shouldn't a letter E open a hatch and pop out an egg then grow teeth to eat it? And when a hopping blue foot with click-clacking toenails sprouts feathers then a fan, it seems only logical that it would start flying, doesn't it?
Metamorphabet lures you into a dreamy world, understanding like few others that digital worlds are free to be so much more playful and weird. On a tour of the alphabet from A to ~SPOILER ALERT~ Z, it offers 26 dioramas full of impossible objects and strange creatures to poke and pull at. Each scene starts with a simple letter, and from there anything can happen once you start jabbing. It's so pleasant to play with, it's as lovely a surprise when the consequences are surreal as when they're mundane.
Objects have a gentle resistance and squishiness, which is delightful at times and a bit grotesque at others. It's lovely when a garden's flowers (whose petals turn to ghosts if you pluck them) rise to cradle a guitar, pushing it back up slightly as you manhandle it. Tugging on a monster's tongue and stretching its musical teeth is... still lovely, but also a touch gross. It does gentle grossness very well.
I hugely enjoy that such a surreal world still follows logic when it wants to, whether it's a feathered foot flying or discovering that violently tugging on a tree's tongue branch will jiggle the adjoining table branch and make the breakfast atop it slide off and crash to the ground. I laughed for ages when I went inside the igloo atop the iceberg to discover children playing with a ball, which I inflated to pin them to the ceiling.
Metamorphabet is funny and charming and delightful and looks beautiful and sounds great and can I stop writing now? FACT: Metamorphabet has the finest and best-realised world of any game released in 2015. FACT: It's better than Fallout 4. FACT: My favourite bit is teasing a mystified ostrich with an orange.
John: I've loved Vectorpark's work since first discovering Windosill in 2009. Patrick Smith's animation is like a visual cuddle, even when it's at its most peculiar or twisted. And I think it's never been better than in Metamorphabet. Windosill has, perhaps, a more coherent flow, and I dearly wish to see what could happen if Smith went further in the direction Park took him, but Metamorphabet is his imagination most alive.
It's a game that makes me want my son to hurry up and grow old enough to start learning letters, because I cannot wait to sit and watch him play with all the silly surprises, enjoy the yucky gross bits, and start to see how letters form words. But in the meantime, it's a game I'm happy to play myself, delight in, explore, from an entirely adult perspective.
Go here for more of our picks for the best PC games of 2015.