Sprinter [official site] is the first game by one-man-act Light Step Games. It's a top-down runner "with minimalist art style and maximum story" in which you both control your character and manipulate the world around you. As you slip by the obstacles unseen, the sound effects blend in with the ambient soundtrack. The result turns the frantic action into a soothing experience - at least in theory. It's just been released.
Sprint on for a trailer and some words about the human story behind the game.
I could listen to that trailer all day.
Sprinter plays like a rhythm game: press the right buttons at the right time to progress. There must be an amazing sense of flow to be achieved, when everything comes together: the button presses, the music, the speed. But the difficulty may make the experience frustrating, rather than soothing. The only review up on Steam right now reveals that between you and the smoothness of the trailer lie a huge number of retries, and that the levels are so short because you need to build muscle memory to pass them.
If you need a reason for running, some vignettes will tell you who, what and why, although there isn't much to be gleaned about the plot except that it touches on "an intimate family story."
The game's website also links to the Tumblr of Idris, the game's author. In his only two posts, liberally sprinkled with cute pictures of red pandas, he paints in broad strokes his struggle with development, focusing on the human side rather than the technical details. The story starts in 2013, when he left his previous job with high hopes of achieving success with his own game. But his ideas are too ambitious and impractical, and after a year he still has nothing to show.
"The scope of my ideas in the beginning were larger than life. I would live out some ill-fated fantasy by quitting my job and creating a game that would make a wave in the industry, with a narrative that spiralled and inspired, and gameplay that provoked visceral reactions from every wide-eyed, jaw-dropped gaze it caught.
"How do you accept such ludicrous ambitions with a straight face? The answer is actually pretty simple; you possess enough arrogance to convince yourself it’s completely possible, and get straight to work before you catch sight of the mistake.
"So I did just that, jumping onto a treadmill, running twenty miles a day, all in service of this out of reach ambition. Building physics engines, dialogue systems, writing a complete twenty page screenplay that is now as useful as the apple core I threw away the day I wrote the first line.
The story has a good ending, obviously, but I appreciate the honesty that animates Idris' account ("this is just a truly horrifying experience, even though I love every second of it."), and I'm sure the read could help some other struggling dev out there. Making stuff is hard.
Sprinter is out now on Steam for Windows, Mac and Linux. It's got a 20% launch discount until March 3rd, so the game will set you back £4.47/$6.39/€6.39 now.